“I’m a war president”, said Bush, adding, “I’ve got war on my mind!” Well, on Thursday afternoon (April 28th) in an East Room ceremony, Obama reiterated the message of the Bush years, declaring, albeit a little less boastfully: “We are a nation still at war”.
Obama also used the occasion to announce a major reshuffling of his national security team, with new leaders appointed at defence and intelligence agencies. “These are the leaders that I’ve chosen to guide us through the difficult days ahead,” Obama said — CIA Director Leon Panetta, will move to the Pentagon to replace the retiring Robert Gates as the next Secretary of Defense, whilst Gen. David Petraeus leaves his post as the top military official in Afghanistan, to replace Panetta as head of the CIA. 1
A report by Democracy Now! questioned the motives behind Obama’s changes, reminding us how under Panetta’s leadership of the CIA there had been “a massive escalation of the use of unarmed drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan” :
“In 2008, the U.S. carried out 35 drone strikes in Pakistan. In 2010, Panetta’s first full year as CIA director, at least 117 strikes occurred. Last year, Panetta defended the legality of the drone attacks.”
We also hear how in May 2010, Gen. Petraeus, who is another keen advocate for the use of drone attacks, had secretly signed a military order that paved the way for:
“clandestine military operations in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and other places in the Middle East and Central Asia in order to, quote, ‘penetrate, disrupt, defeat and destroy’ militant groups.”
Speaking on Democracy Now!, Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA analyst and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) — click here for a list of VIPS publications — gave his assessment of the likely implications and repercussions of Obama’s appointments. Here are some extracts from what McGovern had to say:
“How can President Obama look at General Petraeus and say, “Now, how do you think things are going in Afghanistan there, Dave?” What does he expect to hear? “They’re going great. As a matter of fact, we’re making some progress. But, you know, progress is fragile, and it’s reversible.” Well, hello. What does that mean?”
“[Petraeus] knows that the war cannot be won. He says every now and then, “We can’t win militarily, and so please give me 33,000 more troops.” It doesn’t make sense. And so, you know, when the President asks him what’s likely to happen in Afghanistan or Iraq, or let’s say Libya, he’s not going to get an unadulterated answer…”
“Now, Panetta—Panetta says he’s defending the United States by shooting Hellfire missiles out of drones over Afghanistan—over Pakistan? Tell me how that works. Would some senator please ask Panetta, “How does it work? How are you defending the United”—you know what he’s doing? He’s creating more terrorists. And that’s provable by just the interrogators who interrogate people who are caught in Iraq and in Afghanistan. “Why did you come there?” “We came there because of the drones. We came there because of Guantánamo. We came there because of Abu Ghraib.” We create our own terrorists.”
To read the full transcript of this interview click here.
1 “President Obama announced a revamped national security team Thursday afternoon in an East Room ceremony in which he declared, ‘We are a nation still at war,’ and said the new leaders of the defense and intelligence agencies would help keep the country safe. ‘These are the leaders that I’ve chosen to guide us through the difficult days ahead’ ”. Taken from: “Obama Announces Changes to National Security Team” by Michael D. Shear, published in The Caucus, on April 28th. Click here to read article.