The real problem with Obama’s remarks

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And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

Barack Obama, 5 Feb. 2015

Somehow, given the dizzying pace of globalization, the cultural leveling of modernity, it perhaps comes as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish in their particular identities — their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. […] And most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint — no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or the Red Cross worker, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but I believe it’s incompatible with the very purpose of faith — for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Barack Obama, Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, 10 Dec. 2009

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there’s nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naïve — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Barack Obama, Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, 10 Dec. 2009

From the above quotes, one gets the impression that Obama believes militarism and religion don’t mix, but are perfectly fine when separated from each other. This, of course, is absurd. History has amply proven that the warmongers and jingoists don’t require the rhetoric of “God and country” in order to convince people firing cluster bombs at targets halfway around the world will somehow make us safer.

For evidence of this, all one has to do is look at Obama’s own administration. By lamenting the “imperfections of man and the limits of reason” as a justification for continuing the never-ending War on Terror, perhaps best embodied by his flagrantly criminal drone campaign in Yemen, he is attempting to appeal to secular, liberal sensibilities. There is very little appeal to flags and patriotism in Obama’s saber-rattling and practically zero appeals to religion. Instead we are treated to his version of “rationality” and “realism,” in which the US is a sometimes bumbling but generally well-meaning super-power that has no choice but to use drastic measures to kill the bad guys. This is liberal imperialist rhetoric at its most shameless. The reasoning Obama uses is based on a combination of lies, misrepresentations and bad logic. But because he appears to be a “reluctant warrior” who doesn’t invoke God in his war speeches, he creates the illusion that he must be waging a just war.

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