Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Memory of Presidents' Victims

On facebook, there is a liberal page titled "We survived Bush.  You will survive Obama."   This appears to define the people who matter as relatively privileged liberals and conservatives.  Privileged American liberals survived Bush.  Privileged American conservatives will survive Obama.  But what about those who don't survive the policies of presidents?  In American political discourse, we so often forget the victims of state violence.  We so often forget those who are killed as a result of presidents and their abusive policies.  This post is dedicated to those victims.

There were many who died as a result of George W. Bush's policies.  Iraq Body Count has documented between 107,055 and 116,979 civilian deaths from the Iraq War.  The Wikileaks Iraq War Logs reveal an estimated 15,000 additional civilian deaths.  A 2006 study estimated that around 600,000 Iraqis had been killed by the Iraq War.  Whatever the numbers, it is clear that a huge number of Iraqis did not survive Bush.  Further, Margaret Griffis uses the US military's own data to show that 4,486 American troops have died in the Iraq War.  Those soldiers did not survive Bush either.

While the Bush administration's greatest killing spree was in Iraq, people from other countries also died as a result of his policies.  Before the Iraq War, the Bush administration began a war in Afghanistan, a war that still rages today.  As a result, many Afghans did not survive Bush.  And the deaths that can be attributed to Bush policies did not simply occur in war zones.  While the Bush administration's torture program at Guantanamo was often discussed, it was rarely mentioned that at least 100 detainees died from US torture techniques.  These detainees did not survive Bush.

And just like many people throughout the world did not survive Bush, many others have not survived or will not survive Barack Obama.  It is known that President Obama has a secretive kill list.  Those on this list will not survive Obama.  The drone program directed by Obama shows virtually no concern for civilian casualties.  Obama's drones bomb funerals and rescuers.  Thus, many funeral goers and rescuers will not survive Obama.  In Yemen, the administration used cluster bombs, which many countries have agreed never to use, in a strike that killed 35 women and children.  Those women and children did not survive Obama.  The Obama administration has also redefined the word "militant", such that any adult male killed by a US bomb is assumed to be a "militant."  These supposed "militants" will not survive Obama.  Obama has presided over bombings in six countries: Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  The victims of those bombings will not survive Obama.  Furthermore, Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan, resulting in increased US casualties.  Many Americans and Afghans will not survive Obama.

Obama's policies, like Bush's, kill through more than simply war.  For example, while the 2010 Haitian earthquake led to a moratorium on deportations to Haiti, the Obama administration resumed deporting Haitians in August of 2011.   At this point, the earthquake-ravaged country faced a cholera epidemic.  The situation was even worse in the crowded prisons and camps where deportees were sent.  Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote at the time that "as the U.S. government knows, deportations to Haiti amount to a death sentence for deportees." It appears some Haitians may not survive Obama.

Obama administration policies may soon also cost lives by decreasing access to medicine in the developing world.  It was recently revealed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement currently being negotiated by the Obama administration, would substantially expand the power of pharmaceutical patent monopolies.  This would create artificial scarcity, driving up medical costs, particularly in the developing world.   Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen wrote that with these provisions "the Obama administration has again increased demands on developing countries to trade away access to medicines."  Judit Rius Sanjuan of Doctors Without Borders' Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines explained that  "Policies that restrict competition thwart our ability to improve the lives of millions with affordable, lifesaving treatments."  Fundamentally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens to deny people in the developing world access to lifesaving medication.  If it passes with the current intellectual property provisions, sick people will probably die for a policy that inflates pharmaceutical industry profits.  These patients will not survive Obama.

While this post has focused on the Obama and Bush administrations, it should be understood that deadly policies are by no means unique to these two presidents.  Under Andrew Jackson, thousands of Native Americans died on the Trail of Tears.  Under Bill Clinton, UNICEF estimates that sanctions on Iraq killed around 500,000 children.  LBJ, Kennedy, and Nixon waged an unjustifiable war in Vietnam.  Reagan financed the murderous Contras in Nicaragua.  Woodrow Wilson sent the country into the bloody conflict of World War I, and jailed those who opposed that war.  Throughout US history, presidents and their policies have left gruesome trails of bodies.  When will we demand an end to these deaths?


  1. Sometimes I feel Americans (in general) are way too privileged for their own good to the point where they can't relate to anyone not as privileged as them. It's a shame.

  2. Abraham Lincoln's war killed over 600,000 Americans. At least he didn't kill many foreigners.

    Franklin Roosevelt started off with 1,800 dead at Pearl Harbor, with more piling up in the Philippines and a killing streak that went on for at least 4 more years and ran way into the millions, counting foreigners.

    Harry Truman started off with a bang at Hiroshima, went on to Nagasaki, and probably has over a million avoidable deaths to his "credit."