. Obama's Next War Project | London Progressive Journal
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Obama's Next War Project

Sat 16th Oct 2010

In spite the fraudulent outlook of the current federal Iraqi election President Barak Obama steers ahead with his plan for a near total withdrawal by August 2010. But he will leave a ‘residual force’ behind of 50,000 to depart in 2011. What arrangements he may have made with the Arab states is unknown, but considering the history of 20th century US presidents who have launched wars it’s not cynical to suspect Obama will produce a new war to send America’s sons and daughters to fight in.

The question is where and when will it happen? Obviously it is not good politics to be drumming war drums as the 2012 election approaches. George W. Bush’s poll rating steadily declined in his threatening rhetoric against Iran from 2006-onwards. There are two areas I personally anticipate it will occur; either the Niger Delta/Gulf of Guinea in western Africa or in the Middle-East. As the Central Intelligence Agency’s former Bin Laden Unit chief Michael Scheuer has predicted, like his colleagues in the US intelligence community, The US gets roughly 16 per cent of its oil from West Africa (mostly from Nigeria, 900,000 barrels per day) which is the US’ fifth largest supplier. The entire region produces more than four million bpd, more than Iran, Venezuela, or Mexico. By 2020, Nigeria's oil output is expected to double.

Bill Clinton exploited Nigeria’s political turmoil in the 1990’s for cheap oil. That era included a regime that executed Ken Saro-Wiwa (Ogoni nationalist icon). Saro-Wiwa's brother revealed that Shell Oil (which controls 50 per cent of oil operations in the Niger Delta) offered to halt the executions if Ken Saro-Wiwa agreed to call off the Ogoni people's demonstrations against Shell. The accounts reveal oil companies (Shell and Chevron) hired death squads.

It’s not implausible that Obama will send US forces to invade Nigeria in similar circumstances to Clinton’s attack on Yugoslavia in 1999. On similar grounds too; like that Ogoni are being ethnically cleansed, a humanitarian disaster has emerged, and only US armed intervention can avert disaster. Predictably ignoring US aid to previous Nigerian regimes in their repression of course.

Will he play the internationalist card though? Or shall Obama once again resemble Bush in both policy and style by not seeking United Nations authorisation first and then exhaust diplomatic options? I personally predict the latter. He’d probably pursue a UN Security Council resolution, but one that is intentionally vague. And like the neocons in 2003 launch the second oil war of the 21st century on the grounds that since the world knew (of course we knew!) he’d invade Nigeria the fact the wording was contrary to authorisation didn’t mean he didn’t get it. The international community just doesn’t understand their own words (or Obama’s rather).

This is unfortunately familiar. Obama has weaved around words before now. He won’t talk to Tehran “without preparation”. And he claims he made that clear in the Democratic Nomination debates. But as Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News Channel these are just “after excuses” made by him and the White House staff.

In no. 4 of the October 2003 editions of the American Journal of International Law 97 there's a complex, thoughtful article by Cartsen Stahn called "Enforcement of the Collective Will After Iraq". Stahn quotes Jurgen Habermas and others. His argument comes down to this: When the United States invaded Iraq, it actually was abiding by the UN Charter, if one interprets it properly. We have to recognise that there are two interpretations of the Charter. There's a literal interpretation, that the use of force in international affairs is criminal except under circumstances that didn't apply in the case of Iraq, which is trivial and uninteresting. Then there is the "communitarian" interpretation of the Charter, that an act is legitimate if it carries the will of the community of nations.

Since the UN Security Council doesn't have the military force to carry out the will of the community of nations, it implicitly delegates this role to states that do have the force, meaning the United States. And therefore, under the communitarian interpretation of the Charter, the United States, by invading Iraq, was fulfilling the will of the international community. It's irrelevant that 90 per cent of the world's population and almost all states opposed the war of aggression and occupation of Iraq. Those nations just don't understand their own will. Their actual will was expressed in Security Council resolutions with which Iraq didn't fully comply.

Therefore, under the subtle and complex communitarian interpretation, the United States was using force with the authorisation of the Security Council even though they denied it. A ridiculous argument of course, but likely (in my view) that Obama will use it. He will be the first US President to personally invoke the “communitarian interpretation” of the UN Charter. And no doubt pretend it was all his idea and is unprecedented, etc.
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