President Barack Obama took to the stage last week to announce the latest initiative in his crusade to make it more difficult for Americans to purchase firearms. He even shed some tears for American children killed in mass shootings. But there is a blatant hypocrisy in Obama’s position on domestic gun control given that he has bombed more countries during his time in office than any president since World War Two. Where are his tears for the innocent Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Libyan, Syrian, Somalian and Yemeni children who have been killed by his use of drones and other weapons?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe limiting the access to deadly weapons of potentially dangerous people is a good thing. I just don’t think it should apply only to individual US citizens. After all, the US government poses a far greater threat to innocent children and other civilians around the world than all of the crazed gunmen in the United States put together.
In the first five years of Obama’s presidency, according to the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, more than 2,500 people were killed by US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The study claims that as many as 951 of these deaths were civilians and that as many as 200 of the victims were children. And those 200 dead innocent children are just for starters. Who knows how many more children Obama has killed in those four nations during the past two years? Or how many hundreds or thousands have been killed by US bombing strikes in Iraq, Syria and Libya during his two terms in office.
During his speech, Obama struggled to hold back tears while empathizing with “every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad.” But while the deaths of American children are truly tragic–and should make people mad–are they any more tragic than the deaths of innocent children in other parts of the world? Their families also never imagined that their loved ones would be taken from them by a US bomb or missile.
And it’s not only the deaths of children killed directly by the US military that I am referring to. What about those killed by the regimes that we supply weapons to? Israel used US weapons to kill more than 1,500 Palestinian children between 2000 and 2013, which averages out to one child killed every three days. And the carnage wrought by US weaponry isn’t restricted to children. The US-backed Colombian military has become the primary human rights violator in that country’s armed conflict. According to Human Rights Watch, it has been responsible for at least 3,000 civilian deaths since 2002.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, the US-backed military not only recently ousted that country’s democratically-elected government, it is also killing civilians at a steady rate in its “war on terror.” Is it just a coincidence that the human rights-abusing militaries of these three countries–Israel, Egypt and Colombia–have been the largest recipients of US military aid over the past 15 years? At least our closest Islamic ally, Saudi Arabia, isn’t using the advanced weapons it gets from us to kill its own people. Instead, it is using swords to behead its citizens for various crimes including adultery and witchcraft. In fact, our good friends in the Saudi government lopped off 157 heads in public executions in 2015. But that’s no reason for Obama to stop sending them arms that they can use to kill thousands of civilians in neighboring countries.
As Obama noted in his speech, “So we’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check. That doesn’t make sense. Everybody should have to abide by the same rules.” While he was referring to “dangerous people” in the United States who are obtaining guns and killing innocent Americans, Obama’s words could just as easily have applied to the “dangerous people” like himself who oversee US foreign policy and believe that the United States should be able to “play by a different set of rules” than other countries, which simply “doesn’t make sense. Everybody should have to abide by the same rules.”
As part of his strategy to limit the access to guns of non-law abiding citizens, Obama called for more thorough background checks of potential gun buyers. In other words, officials of the government that is the world’s leading mass killer will determine if potential gun buyers might be mass killers. If only Obama would have the US government subject itself to a similar sort of background check by an independent party to investigate its violent past before allowing it access to deadly weapons that kill thousands of innocent people every year. And where are the independent background checks on the foreign militaries that we supply with weapons? But I guess any such checks would make it difficult for the United States to maintain its position as the world’s leading arms exporter.
So while Obama is shedding tears over victims of gun violence in the United States, he is continuing to wage his predecessor George W. Bush’s “crusade” in the Middle East and other parts of the world. And, like Bush and other US presidents who preceded him, Obama closed his speech to the American people with the words, “God bless you. Thank you. God bless America.” Because, apparently, it is only Americans who should be blessed by God and protected from violence in Obama’s gun control crusade.
Garry Leech is an investigative journalist and author of eight books including How I Became an American Socialist (Misfit Books, 2016), Capitalism: A Structural Genocide (Zed Books, 2012) and Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia (Beacon Press, 2009). He also teaches international politics at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada and Javeriana University in Cali, Colombia. For more information about Garry’s work, visit garryleech.com