Obama at West Point

When President Barack Obama spoke to the graduating cadets of West Point on May 28, they cheered his statement that “you are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

He was immediately attacked by the hawks, among them Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, who called the speech “empty” and slammed Obama for his presumed failures in Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

It was political theater, Republican vs. Democrat. But this antagonism between the two capitalist parties is not fundamental.

Notice Obama’s “may not.” This was not a clear commitment. In fact, it accompanied an announcement that many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after the 2016 “pullout” date.

Many pundits noted the obvious: Obama’s speech was directed not primarily to the cadets but to the majority of this country. He reads the polls showing that the people are sick and tired of endless wars, both out of anguish over the human cost and increasing desperation over the economic consequences of the trillions spent on war.

Obama is a product of the two-party “political process” that has served the U.S. oligarchy so well for decades. His administration leaped to defend the megabanks when they cried poverty after the crisis of 2008. The administration has protected the super-rich so well that the U.S. now has the greatest income gap in the world.

But this has political consequences. Those who hoped that electing Obama would break the hold of the rich white men who prevail in the ruling class are growing disillusioned. It is Obama’s job to bring them back into the fold.

No one should mistake Obama’s talk as a turn away from “military solutions.” He has never renounced the infamous Bush doctrine that U.S. imperialism has the right to wage “preemptive war.”

What is going on in the military-industrial-banking complex is a turn toward making the U.S. war machine more efficient and effective in projecting U.S. corporate power around the world. Replace foot soldiers with drones. Focus on cyber warfare. Hone Washington’s diplomatic skills to get poor countries to provide troops for conflicts that serve the interests of Big Oil — in Africa, for example.

World’s most powerful military

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to maintain the most powerful military in the world, bristling with nuclear weapons, naval armadas, fleets of bombers, tanks and artillery.

Since the rise of the transnational banks and corporations, imperialist wars have killed hundreds of millions of people.

July marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, the so-called “Great War.” As many as 15 million people were killed and tens of millions more died from influenza spread by the war conditions.

September marks the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II. As many as 85 million died in that war, mostly civilians. While the U.S. remained relatively unscathed, the USSR took the brunt of the Nazi attack in Europe and the Chinese Red Army battled Japanese imperialist troops.

June marks the 64th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. More than 4.5 million were killed, also mostly civilians.

August marks the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin “incident,” when the U.S. government created a pretext for a massive bombing assault and subsequent invasion of Vietnam. More than 3 million, mostly Vietnamese civilians, died in that war, which also spread to Laos and Cambodia.

In 1979, the CIA began its largest war operation, aimed at the secular leftist government of Afghanistan. Some 23 years later, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan to fight some of the same forces that earlier had worked for the CIA. More than 2 million Afghans have been killed.

In 1990 the U.S. launched Operation “Desert Storm” –- the Gulf War. At least 100,000 were killed. Many retreating Iraqi soldiers were bombed and strafed on the “road of death.” Others were buried alive in their trenches by U.S. Army bulldozers. Hundreds of civilians were killed when the U.S. bombed an air raid shelter.

Eleven years ago the U.S invaded Iraq on the false pretexts that it had a hand in the 9/11 attacks and possessed weapons of mass destruction. Before the war, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions that killed nearly 600,000 civilians, mostly children. The war and eight-year occupation killed another 1.2 million people.

Each war was cloaked in patriotism but was really about profits: wresting away colonies, seizing markets and expanding empires.

The Pentagon, the banks and the corporate arms machine will not stop their mad war plans merely because of “public sentiment.” Only an organized and determined mass anti-war movement can stop them.