By Gary Younge Guardian/UK February 10, 2013
Over the last few weeks there has been a distinct incongruity – to say the least – between the agenda Obama is promoting at home and the one he defends abroad. His justification for targeted killings and drone strikes in foreign parts. In short, the credibility of a president in challenging lawless social violence in US cities is fundamentally undermined when he has his own personal kill list in violation of international law to terminate enemies elsewhere.
The Obama administration appears to have compartmentalised its response to violence and its victims. One moment the Obamas are mourning the tragic loss of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl who attended his inauguration. She was shot less than a mile from their Chicago home while sheltering from the rain in a park. The first lady, Michelle Obama, who attended Hadiya's funeral on Saturday, said, through a spokeswoman: "Too many times, we've seen young people struck down with so much of their lives ahead of them."
The administration is maintaining a stony silence over the murder of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old American born in Denver who was killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011. His father, Anwar (also American), was an Islamist cleric – killed by a drone a few weeks earlier. When asked about the incident during the election campaign, Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and senior adviser to Obama's re-election campaign, essentially blamed Abdulrahman for having the kind of dad the US wanted to kill. "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the wellbeing of their children."
We should not be surprised. These contradictions are inherent in the tension between the position to which he was elected and the forces that elected him. He was elected to represent the interests of the most powerful and well-armed nation on Earth at a time of war. Murder was in the job description of the office he applied for and won to great fanfare. For all the claims of him becoming a great role model for young black men, he was always going to be responsible for the deaths of more innocents than Biggie and Tupac combined.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2004 and 2013 drone strikes have killed up to 893 civilians (including 176 children) in Pakistan, 178 civilians (including 37 children) in Yemen, and 57 civilians (including three children) in Somalia (while these started under Bush they were accelerated under Obama). But Obama was returned to office by the votes of – among others – blacks, Latinos, youth and the poor, the very people and communities most likely to be blighted by gun violence. Michelle Obama came to Hadiya's funeral after considerable pressure had been applied by black communities in Chicago and nationwide. Since the shootings of children at Sandy Hook elementary school Obama has led an audacious push to galvanise a majority, in the country and in Congress, for tougher gun controls.
The unfortunate timing has highlighted the discrepancy between his foreign and domestic policies, exposing them not only as hypocritical but deeply tragic. While shop windows all around Obama's Chicago home hang posters saying "Stop killing people", the man they sent to the White House is doing precisely the opposite. Having shown his ability to rally human empathy to progressive causes at home, he then fails to recognise the common humanity of the innocents he is killing abroad.
"[America can be] a moral power," said Martin Luther King – on whose Bible Obama swore in as president – during the Vietnam war. "A power harnessed to the service of peace and human beings, not an inhumane power unleashed against defenceless people." That's as true on the streets of Chicago as it is in the border regions of Pakistan. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/02/10-7 [Abridged]Twitter: @garyyounge © 2013 The