In light of Monday’s inauguration ceremony, Melissa Harris-Perry spent Sunday discussing the past and future of Obama’s presidency. She and fellow MSNBC host Chris Hayes spent one segment debating President Obama’s legacy on the war on terror.
Harris-Perry kicked off by citing what she viewed as a positive number: that only 200 troops — compared to the 139,500 in January 2009 — remain on the ground in Iraq.
That fact, along with the “draw down” of troops in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden, constitute his “legacy on counter-terrorism,” according to Harris-Perry.
But the president’s actions on terrorism also include drone strikes that have killed not only military targets but children and civilians, “secret kill lists,” the “extrajudicial killing of an American citizen,” indefinite detention, and Guantanamo Bay, she continued.
“By the time that Iraq ended, the nation was so disgusted, exhausted with the war there, and I think had felt that they had made this ratifying choice in 2008 of the president’s vision for bringing the war to a close,” Hayes said.
“And let’s remember the grand irony in all this,” he went on, “is that if President Obama as a state senator doesn’t get up at that rally and go on the record opposing the war in Iraq, I think it’s hard to imagine he wins that primary.”
“Which is a consensus opinion in Hyde Park [in Illinois] at that moment,” Harris-Perry said.
“Right, exactly, politically what you would do as a state senator from Hyde Park,” Hayes agreed.
As for Afghanistan, Hayes said, “I think it’s very hard to say that’s been successful. I really do think the metrics show it has not been successful in terms of, deaths have gone up.”
He added that if Obama can manage to truly draw down in Afghanistan, he will have succeeded in ending two wars. “Ending wars are hard,” he argued, and succeeding to do so should be commended.
Yet he did not have kind words for the president on the war on terror.
“The biggest thing I think, the biggest critique I have of this current administration, is that it has embraced the framework of the war on terror, and extended it and deepened it,” Hayes said, calling it a “permanent architecture of the American security apparatus.”
He then mentioned a speech by the Pentagon’s outgoing general consul, Jeh Johnson, in December, who attempted to voice a reminder that wars are not meant to be permanent. “‘War’ must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.’ Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives,” he said.
Both Hayes and Harris-Perry seemed to believe that Obama, or any president, would fear drawing down the war or closing Guantanamo because if another attack ensued, “the political blowback would be insane,” said Hayes.
Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald disagrees with that calculation, however, writing earlier this month, “If you were a US leader…why would you possibly want the war on terror to end? That would be the worst thing that could happen. It’s that war that generates limitless power, impenetrable secrecy, an unquestioning citizenry, and massive profit.”
Regardless, Hayes continued, “substantively, it’s bad for the country and bad for the world,” as well as harmful to “our moral standing, our strategic standing.”
And even beyond that, he lamented the “shroud of secrecy”: “I want to know the legal justification for it is and who we’re killing and why.”
Watch the clip, via MSNBC, below.
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