In Other Words
By William A. Collins
Who's got the stuff
It's hard for me to vote against an incumbent Democratic president - especially after those eight abysmal years with George W. Bush at the helm. Indeed, it seemed unlikely to me that any sentient creature could vote for a Republican president in 2012.
Yet despite Mitt Romney's heartless tendencies, President Barack Obama didn't get my vote either. I feel there are certain minimum standards that any president, regardless of party, should be required to meet. Unfortunately, he didn't.
As a veteran who has put his back into advancing peace, to me the foremost of these obligations is to tamp down that worst evil of all - war. Sure, Obama nabbed the Nobel Peace Prize for his "efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation."
But he turned out to be just another empire-happy U.S. president. Like others before him, he's eager to leverage Washington's overwhelming military might to promote Western influence and corporate profit. He let our war for oil in Iraq fester too long. He expanded the war for natural gas in Afghanistan. He essentially started undeclared wars in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. What was the Nobel Committee thinking?
Our president also flunked the torture test. No civilized nation should tolerate torture for any reason, let alone as a tool of war. Nonetheless Obama failed to prosecute a single case among America's fat crop of admitted torturers from the Bush administration. This discomforting neglect of the Eighth Amendment (the one barring cruel and unusual punishment) has blackened our country's moral reputation while fertilizing global sprouts of terrorism for which our people pay a hefty price.
Part of that price is the growing web of surveillance. Eavesdropping and entrapment have become the government's routine tools for holding protest at bay. Personal phone conversations, travel records, and emails are no longer safe to presume private. (If you don't believe me, go ask Gen. David Petraeus.)
Dissenting organizations can't even operate without the threat of infiltrators, harassment, and provocateurs.
Whistleblowers, those unsung champions of transparency, are also casualties of this administration, despite the hyped passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act. During Obama's first term six individuals were charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act. Prior to his 2008 inauguration, only three had been convicted of espionage in our entire history. Also alarming is the ongoing crusade against heroes of openness Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, for revealing the government's dark political secrets.
Nor could I overlook the White House's fondness for drones. Not only has this new weapon become our go-to tool for assassinating foreign targets, but hundreds of innocent civilians continue to be killed or wounded by these unmanned aircrafts. Such misguided efforts to eradicate our enemies have instead turned countless noncombatants in those troubled lands into our bitter adversaries.
There were two reasonable options for voters like me besides Romney and Obama. The Libertarian Party nominated Gary Johnson, New Mexico's former Republican governor. He opposed both aggressive military wars and the War on Drugs. And the Green Party nominated Jill Stein, whose Green New Deal would rein in Wall Street and corporate political money while protecting the environment.
Unfortunately, she didn't make it onto the ballot here in supposedly free Connecticut. Former Virginia lawmaker Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party was on the ballot too, promising to do all those antisocial things that conservatives do, but he wasn't an option for me.
Ultimately, I was one of 1.2 million who voted for the antiwar Johnson, whose presidential bid set a new Libertarian record despite being blacked out by the mainstream media.
OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org