Obama’s Bombing Legacy
January 18, 2017
Exclusive: President Obama has joked he still doesn’t know why he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but his record of waging war was no joke to thousands at the receiving end of U.S. bombs, says Nicolas J S Davies.
Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war was modeled on the Phoenix Program in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s and Ronald Reagan’s proxy wars in Central America in the 1980s. It involved a massive expansion of U.S. special operations forces, now deployed to 138 different countries, compared with only 60 when Obama took office.
As senior military officers told the Washington Post in June 2010, the Obama administration allowed, “things that the previous administration did not,” and, “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”
Wherever possible, U.S. forces have recruited and trained proxy forces to do the actual fighting and dying, from the Iraqi government’s Shiite death squads to Al Qaeda splinter groups in Libya and Syria (supporting “regime change” projects in those countries) to mercenaries serving Arab monarchies and seemingly endless cannon fodder for the war in Afghanistan.
Obama’s ten-fold expansion of drone strikes further reduced U.S. casualties relative to numbers of foreigners killed. This fostered an illusion of peace and normality for Americans in the homeland even as the death toll inflicted by America’s post-9/11 wars almost certainly passed the two million mark.
The targets of these covert and proxy wars are not just guerrilla fighters or “terrorists” but also the “infrastructure” or “civilian support mechanism” that supports guerrillas with food and supplies, and the entire shadow government and civil society in areas that resist domination. …
In Iraq, the targets of such operations have included hundreds of academics and other professionals and community leaders. …
As Obama’s murderous proxy wars in Iraq and Syria have spun further out of control, U.S. special operations forces and U.S.-trained death squads on the ground have increasingly been backed up by U.S. and allied air forces. Four years ago, as Obama was inaugurated for a second term, I wrote that the U.S. and its allies dropped 20,000 bombs and missiles in his first term. In his second term, they have dropped four times that number, bringing the total for Obama’s presidency to over 100,000 bombs and missiles striking seven countries, surpassing the 70,000 unleashed on five countries by George W. Bush.
Obama inherited a massive air campaign already under way in Afghanistan, where the U.S. and its allies dropped over 4,000 bombs and missiles every year for six years between 2007 and 2012. Altogether, U.S.-led air forces have dropped 26,000 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan under Obama, compared with 37,000 under Bush, for a total of 63,000 bomb and missile strikes in 15 years.
But the new U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been much heavier, with 65,730 bomb and missile strikes in 2 1/2 years. Iraq has now been struck with 74,000 bombs and missiles, even more than Afghanistan: 29,200 in the “Shock & Awe” assault of 2003; 3,900 more before the invasion and during the U.S. occupation; and now another 41,000 in “Shock & Awe II” since 2014, including the current siege and bombardment of Mosul.
Obama’s total of 100,000 air strikes are rounded out by 24,700 bombs and missiles dropped on Syria, 7,700 in NATO and its Arab monarchist allies’ bombing of Libya in 2011, another 496 strikes in Libya in 2016, and at least 547 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.