Man Up, Mr. Obama

Mr President, everybody is talking about your address to West Point graduates. Republicans and other neoconservatives are upset because you showed an insufficient degree of blood lust. Anti-interventionists like myself are upset because you persist in keeping America in its role of global policeman. I’m aware that you Democrats seem to have a psychological need to prove you’re as “tough” or more so than the Republicans. But why? Let me humbly offer a suggestion. You can be much tougher by doing a 180 degree turn and, in the manner of statesmen from George Washington to Robert Taft to Ron Paul, renounce foreign entanglements completely.

This is, after all, one of the main reasons the American people elected you in 2008, because we were already weary of George W Bush’s constant war-making and intrusions on our civil liberties. Not only that, but you promised us “one of the most transparent administrations ever.”

Here are my top 10 suggestions:

1. End all US military operations in the Islamic world, including support of rebels in Syria and the deployment of “advisers” in Afghanistan, thus removing a major motivation for terrorism.

2. Announce an end to the use of weaponized drones, with a pledge to never again to deploy them absent a Congressional declaration of war.

3. Issue sweeping restrictions on NSA spying, as required by the Bill of Rights.

4. Close Guantanamo – not just the prison, but the entire naval base, and hand it back to Cuba, as part of an unconditional normalization of relations with that country. Release all prisoners against whom the US has no evidence, which, according to terrorism experts, would be all but a handful.

5. Announce your intention to veto any extension of the USA PATRIOT Act or the NDAA.

6. Normalize relations with Iran, and end sanctions immediately in return for thorough and frequent inspections of nuclear facilities.

7. Issue executive pardons for Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and James Risen. Terminate any ongoing prosecutions of government whistle blowers.

8. End all US aid to and special bilateral agreements with the apartheid regime in Israel. Prohibit all US arms sales until illegal settlers are removed from Palestinian land. Alternatively, all Arabs, including those in the occupied territories and refugees living abroad, should be granted full rights and equal status with Jewish citizens.

9. Abandon the “Pivot to Asia.” Support negotiations between China and its neighbors to fairly divide claims to the Senkaku Islands and mineral rights in the South China sea.

10. End all sanctions against Russia and invite them to talks between the Kiev government and rebels in Donetsk and other Russian speaking areas. Support the notion of Ukraine as a neutral, decentralized buffer state with good relations with both Russia and the EU. Recognize the annexation of Crimea as consistent with Russia’s historic claims to the region.

Contrary to the assertions of the corporate-owned media, all of these actions would have substantial public support, some of them overwhelming majorities. I assure you that if you take even one of these actions, everyone, including Republicans, will have to admit you have the cojones. Furthermore, the United States would no longer be seen as the bully of the world, but would once again be “the shining light on the hill.”

Two Cheers For Ecuador

I welcomed the recent news that the government of Ecuador has stood up to US threats of embargo if it gives asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Instead of buckling to US pressure, it canceled its trade pact with the US. Will this be the start of a trend, the way that the overthrow of the Tunisian government started the Arab Spring? Let’s hope so. As the heroic Glenn Greenwald so aptly put it, “Courage is contagious.”

Ecuador also offered asylum to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, if the UK ever allows him to leave their embassy there. On the other hand, I’ve heard that Ecuador has recently enacted restrictions on the press, and that criticism of President Rafael Correa can get one thrown in prison. If I was able to speak to Mr. Correa, I would strongly urge him to repeal this law. Creeping restrictions on free speech is an American thing. To those who doubt me, consider the accusations of ‘terrorism’ against peaceful protesters against events like national party political conventions and the NATO summit. There was also a cable company owner in the eastern US who was arrested over broadcasting Hezbollah’s television statement in this country. It’s obvious that the “material support of terrorism” clauses in Federal law are blatantly unconstitutional, yet very few dare challenge them.

To President Correa I say, please repeal this bad law, and take Ecuador in a direction opposite of that America has been taking. Many thousands of Americans are completely disgusted with our country’s foreign policy, and are sick of paying taxes to support it. If you were to roll out the welcome mat for all Americans and assure us of our freedoms and of a reasonable level of taxation, we would flock to your land, thus striking another blow against the world’s biggest bully.