America's First Black President Left A Legacy Of Slavery
Tragedy springs from Obama's imperial hubris and contempt for the Constitution
Barack Obama was elected president some 143 years after the abolition of slavery in the United States. As teary-eyed African-Americans watched Obama’s 2008 election night speech in Chicago’s Grant Park, none could have imagined that America’s first black president would leave his own legacy of slavery — in Africa.
However, that’s exactly what he did, thanks to a combination of imperial hubris, disregard for constitutional restraints on executive war powers, and the use of false pretenses.
In 2011, egged on by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a handful of other advisors, Obama ordered a months-long series of air strikes that facilitated a NATO-backed regime change campaign that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Rather than ushering in liberal democracy and prosperity, the ouster of Gaddafi left the country fractured, with two rival governments and various militias vying for power. Obama’s regime change marked the start of an ongoing era of chaos, with some of the greatest resulting evils inflicted on black Africans.
Those evils began during the war, as racism and Gaddafi’s use of sub-Saharan black mercenaries combined to spark widespread atrocities perpetrated against blacks who were seen as fair game for various atrocities including beatings, rapes and lynchings.
“We had 70-80 people from Chad working for our company,” a Turkish construction worker told BBC. “They were cut dead with pruning shears and axes, attackers saying: ‘You are providing troops for Gaddafi.’ The Sudanese were also massacred. We saw it for ourselves.”
One rebel group was glorified in roadside graffiti as “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin” — that being a reference to Libya’s black descendants of slaves, such as those who populated the town of Tawergha. Once home to 30,000 people, Tawergha was ransacked and its occupants assaulted to the point of turning it into an ethnically-cleansed ghost town.
In 2017 — six years after Gaddafi’s death — CNN captured a new and unthinkable dimension of misery being imposed on black people as a result of Obama’s regime change pursuits: The network aired video of two open-air slave auctions hosted in Libya. “Big strong boys for farm work,” said an auctioneer. One trio of blacks was purchased for $400 each.
It hasn’t stopped. Last month, the United Nations reported that a three-year investigation found “arbitrary detention, murder, rape, enslavement, sexual slavery, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance” have become a “widespread practice” in Libya.
Obama’s War Power Hypocrisy
As a candidate in 2007, Obama was clear-throated about the limits of presidential military authority, telling the Boston Globe, "The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
However, as president, Obama betrayed those assurances — and violated his oath of office — by ordering the Pentagon to carry out bombing attacks on Libya without congressional authorization.
In a frontal assault on common sense, Obama’s administration disingenuously asserted that, since the engagement was limited to bombing and Libya’s military was in no position to retaliate, the United States was not engaged in “hostilities” and thus the War Powers Act didn’t apply.
While the intervention was championed by the likes of Hillary Clinton and National Security Council “humanitarian hawk” Samantha Power, many others in Obama’s administration opposed it, including then-Vice President Biden, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, national security advisor and deputy national security advisor.
According to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Obama’s decision to plunge into war in Libya was essentially a toss-up. “The president told me that it was one of the closest decisions he’d ever made, sort of 51-49,” he told Yahoo News.
Or course, as Candidate Obama had unequivocally explained, it wasn’t his decision to make.
That Obama’s decision lacked conviction — and ended up being disastrous for so many innocent people — underscores why he should have adhered to the Constitution, which requires that the deliberative, representative bodies of the House and Senate make war decisions after public debate.
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As James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.”
It’s doubtful that Congress would have given a green light. A Pew Research poll published a week before Obama ordered airstrikes found that 63% of Americans felt the US did not have “a responsibility to do something about fighting in Libya,” and 77% opposed “bombing Libyan air defenses.”
Obama’s “51-49” characterization of his Libya decision is damning in another way. “This is nothing less than a confession of a war crime,” argued Scott Horton in Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. “The president was admitting that he launched an unnecessary, aggressive war, a crime under American law as well as…international law.”
Another Intervention On False Pretenses
In addition to violating the Constitution, Obama’s Libya disaster was, like seemingly every U.S. intervention, advanced on false pretenses — in this case, the claim that Gaddafi was about to commit genocide in Benghazi, a rebel stronghold and Libya’s second-largest city.
"We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi—a city nearly the size of Charlotte—could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world," said Obama after US bombing began.
Administration officials’ claims that tens or hundreds of thousands of residents of Benghazi were about to be slaughtered rested on a purposefully distorted interpretation of a Gaddafi speech, in which he’d said “we will have no mercy on them.”
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Gaddafi was clearly referring to armed rebels in the city. Indeed, he also said “whoever hands over his weapons, stays at home without any weapons, whatever he did previously, he will be pardoned, protected."
Via an intelligence asset, the Department of Defense had learned that Gaddafi had explicitly ordered civilians to be left unharmed. What’s more, at the time the Obama White House was spouting ghastly predictions about Benghazi, Gaddafi had already recaptured other towns from rebels without accompanying massacres of civilians.
Apparently unconvinced that visions of civilian massacres would sufficiently inflame public opinion, the Obama administration even trotted out the sensational claim that Gaddafi was supplying his soldiers with Viagra so they could carry out a campaign of mass rape.
Like Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapon program, Gaddafi’s rape-enabling pharmaceutical supply chain was also nonexistent.
Five years later, put on the defensive about Libya on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, Clinton reiterated the patently false claim that “Gaddafi was threatening to massacre his population.” Days after she said that, the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee published the report of an inquiry into the Libya intervention, which concluded Gaddafi had no intention of harming civilians.
Africans Pay A Steep Price For American Ambitions
Obama had decried George Bush’s invasion of Iraq as “based not on reason, but on passion; not on principle but on politics.” The same can be said of his administration’s own regime-change campaign in Libya, which set out to:
Generate positive publicity for the US government. The 2011 Arab Spring revolutions brought the embarrassing overthrow of US-backed regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. Clinton State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter told Clinton that backing rebels in Libya would “change the image of the United States overnight” and “impress the young people across the Middle East.”
Bring a book’s thesis to life. Samantha Power, who’s currently Biden’s head of the US Agency for International Development and started 2011 on the National Security Council, had written A Problem from Hell, a book that urged the adoption of a humanitarian intervention doctrine called “Responsibility to Protect.” With Libya, Power saw the opportunity to showcase the concept — and advance her career. She was promoted to UN ambassador after US bombs started falling.
Aid Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions. State Department emails show Clinton’s advisors in and out of government enthusing over the utility of a successful Libyan intervention in a future Clinton presidential campaign. Sidney Blumenthal told Clinton that, when Gaddafi’s ouster came, “You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment.”
Protect Western economic dominance. Though Gaddafi had worked his way back into the good graces of the United States and its allies, he may have sealed his fate when he began pushing African countries to wean themselves from Western currencies by establishing a new pan-African currency, the gold dinar. In an April 2011 email, Blumenthal told Clinton that Gaddafi had already accumulated 143 tons of gold to back such a currency.
Referring to Libya, Hillary Clinton once boasted, “We did not lose a single American…in that action.” That’s no consolation for the families of civilians killed by US bombs, or the modern-day slaves and others in Libya who continue paying a steep price for Obama’s short-sighted, dishonestly-promoted and illegal regime change campaign.
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