[12/29/16] President Barack Obama signed into law last week his seventh and final Pentagon spending bill, providing $619 billion to continue and expand the murderous violence of the US war machine. Spending more than the next seven countries combined, the US military is currently engaged in combat operations in at least seven different countries, while maintaining some 800 overseas bases around the world.
Obama’s signing statement was released on the Friday afternoon of a long holiday weekend, the favored time in Washington for dumping news that officials hope will escape the attention of the public. Once again, behind the backs of the American people, US imperialism is preparing another escalation of militarism and war.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as the Pentagon budget legislation is known, runs over 3,000 pages. It can be safely said that few if any of the members of the House and Senate who overwhelming approved it (in the Senate it passed 92-7) read the bill before casting their votes.
Yet, contained within its pages, along with the dry language of military personnel policies and the lucrative authorization of multi-billion-dollar contracts for new weapons systems, there is to be found a key to the real political legacy of Barack Obama, whose presidency comes to an end in barely three weeks.
Eight years ago, Obama was swept into office on a wave of antiwar sentiment based on the misplaced hopes of large sections of the population that America’s first black president, with his promise of “change you can believe in,” would spell an end to the wars and crimes of the Bush administration.
After barely nine months in office, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his supposed “vision” of a world free of nuclear weapons and for having “captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
Even as the peace prize was announced, Obama was meeting with his war council to plan a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan. He was putting in place the framework for his signature policy—the drone assassination program that has killed thousands from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Somalia and Yemen. And he was preparing what has since emerged as a $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program.
The supposed candidate of peace and change will now leave office with the deplorable distinction of becoming the first American president to have kept the country at war for two entire four-year terms. He seamlessly continued the so-called “war on terror” launched by his predecessor, George W. Bush, at the cost of over a million lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, while adding to it the wars launched under the cynical pretense of “human rights” in Libya and Syria, killing hundreds of thousands more and turning millions of others into refugees.
The bill that he signed last Friday provides the necessary resources for the uninterrupted continuation of this eruption of American militarism in pursuit of global US hegemony.
The general outlines of the NDAA were previously reported. In addition to the base Pentagon budget, it includes a $67 billion Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) appropriation, a massive slush fund used to finance US wars abroad as well as budget-busting increases to military spending. Further funds are provided for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs.
In the final version of the legislation, previously unpublicized provisions have emerged that amount to a mandate to the incoming Trump administration to continue and escalate the provocative military confrontations initiated by the Obama White House.