‘Obama’s Gitmo failure exposes his powerlessness in face of intel, military complex’

U.S. President Barack Obama waves at the conclusion of his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016. © Evan Vucci
Is the US standing around the world higher than when Barack Obama was elected US President? Has he fulfilled his campaign promises? RT discussed Obama’s final SOTU and points he focused on with analysts.

‘We’ve spent ourselves into a hole’

The US is sending its troops overseas to die for other countries’ civil wars, and that’s what needs to stop, said Nicholas Sarwark, chair of Libertarian Party's National Committee, commenting on Obama’s speech.

READ MORE: US 'most durable economy in the world' – Obama in his last SOTU

RT: President Obama called America the “world's strongest country”, stressing that it spends more than any other nation on defense. Why do you think he focused on those points?

Nicholas Sarwark: The President focused on those points because that is something that America can still brag about. We do have a military that spends more than next eight nations combined. The problem with that – is that we’re sending our troops overseas to die for other countries’ civil wars, and that’s what needs to stop. We’ve spent ourselves into a hole. And just because you are the ‘strongest country’ in the world doesn’t mean that you need to get involved in every conflict around the world. 

RT: The president also said the US should lead the world without actually becoming its policeman. How much does that reflect actual US policy?

NS: We’re talking about getting out of things. We’re about to be done with Iraq; then we’re getting back into Afghanistan. We said we’re not going to get involved in Syria, but the President is getting us involved in Syria with the support of the Republican Congress…

RT: Following the speech, Republicans said Obama's deeds haven't matched his pledges during his time in office. Is that a fair assessment?

NS: Obviously, closing Guantanamo Bay is something he has talked about in, I believe, three of his prior State of the Unions, and each time he doesn’t quite got it done. A lot of that comes down to the Republican Party blocking the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Holding people indefinitely without trial is not American; it is not something that the American people should be proud of...

He talks about criminal justice reform, but his administration continues to perpetrate the war on drugs, which helps with the destruction of the Fourth Amendment to the constitution – support civil asset forfeiture, and creates this clash between police and the communities that they are supposed to be protecting.

‘Campaign speech to try to reinforce political leverage in US’

Almost any US president could elevate ‘higher standing around the world’ after George W. Bush presidency, during which the US became extremely unpopular, Media critic and anti-war activist Normon Solomon told RT.

RT: Obama called the US "the most powerful nation on Earth", and said "our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office." Do you think that's a fair assessment?

Normon Solomon: It is a very low standard. You might say that given how unpopular the US was at the end of the George W. Bush presidency, almost any president could elevate that sort of standing around the word...

In terms of being respected around the world and being the most powerful government, this is a standard issue sort of speech by a President who after all keeps trying to tell the American people that the Pentagon is second to the none around the world in terms of military powers.

RT: Obama also said that US should "lead the world without becoming its policeman". Do you think his policies have been consistent with that goal

NS: ... When the end of the Obama administration comes, the current projections are that this administration will have dropped as many bombs in the world as the Bush administration. One the other hand, we’re seeing an effort by this President at the beginning of 2016, to, on the one hand, to push off against the right wing, very jingoistic Republicans who are trying to capture the White House; but on the other hand, reassure people that it’s not going to go overboard in any which direction. This was as much as anything else – a campaign speech to try to reinforce the political leverage at home, what you might call a centrist corporate approach to domestic politics, as well as foreign policy.

RT:Obama said terrorists "do not threaten our national existence." Is he trying to calm fears in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting?

NS: I think the President was trying to threat a needle: on the one hand, to debunk and undercut some of the very hysterical comments coming from Republican candidates for President who almost uniformly talk in very apocalyptic terms about how the US is being threatened and how its very existence is its stake – which is nonsense, but has some currency with perhaps 30 to 40 per cent of the US population, according to basic surveys...

‘Obama speech addressing a deep disquiet within US public’

Christopher Hedges, author and war correspondent said that the whole undercurrent of Obama State of the Union 2016 address was touching the most disturbing for the American citizens external and domestic issues like wars in the Middle East, as well as poverty inside the country.

RT: Obama mentioned Mideast conflicts saying terrorists are a real threat but fighting them is not “World War III ... they do not threaten our national existence". Do you think people will feel reassured by that?

Christopher Hedges: I think the whole undercurrent of the speech, if you look closely at it, was addressing a deep disquiet within the American public on a variety of issues including endless war – 14 years in the war in Afghanistan, 12 years in the war in Iraq. Things have clearly got worse…We [the US] have created these in essence failed states – and that has just given rise to groups like ISIS and before that al-Qaeda in Iraq, Libya is another example...

A lot of people are wondering what is going wrong not only in terms of Empire, but at home. Obama has talked about that fear, that disquiet... A half of the country now lives in poverty under $30, 000 a year; many more living in a category called near poverty. Unemployment figure is ... [according to The Los Angeles Times] is pushing 15 per cent, because we stop counting people who no longer are looking for work...

RT:The President said he keeps on working on shutting down the controversial detention center, the Guantanamo Bay. This is a promise that's been made for a long time - why is it so difficult to fulfill?

CH: In essence they talked at one point about moving the Romanian prisoners in Gitmo into Supermax prisons within the US, and there was such a vociferous pushback and outcry against that, that it became impossibly to have countries not wanting to take these figures.

Guantanamo has been among many of the huge embarrassments for this President, but also exposing this kind of powerlessness in a face of a very powerful intelligence, military industrial complex, which is no longer capable of being controlled by either party...

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.