• Tom Cleary

Crimes of His Very Own


Everyone wants something in this world that they can call their own. Something that is unique to themselves and that differentiates them from the crowd. This phenomenon certainly applies to presidents and political leaders, perhaps even more so than the rest of us. Well, in a bit less than two months into office Joe Biden has war crimes to call his very own. No more hiding in the shadow of his war criminal former boss, Barack Obama. No more waiting for Donald Trump to get out of the way. He has now come fully into his own, having committed his first, of what I am certain will be many, war crimes. I had hoped that I would be wrong about what Joe Biden would be when in office but it’s not like I did not expect it.

The most obvious crime he has committed is the bombing of Syria. This too was one of Trump’s first crimes. This must be some sort of macabre rite of passage for new presidents. This, as most such actions are, was intended to make the U.S. look “strong” and to send a “message”. What it did was to show great weakness. It was also illegal. Despite what the official statements indicate, innocent people were killed, they always are in such operations. Not to mention that Syria is a sovereign nation not at war with the United States and not in any way a threat to U.S. sovereignty, territorial integrity or our transit on the high seas. These being the only things a nation may use force to defend under a heathen just war standard (heathen because Christians are called to the standard of absolute peace as taught by Christ). So, in one fell swoop, Joe Biden joins the long, dispiriting list of U.S. presidents who hurl violence down upon the innocent to further U.S. imperial interests.

However, this is not the end of Mr. Biden's crimes to date. No, Uncle Joe has been busy. The “message” he wished to send in bombing Syria was directed at Iran, the bête noire of U.S. Middle East policy. Mr. Biden is no different than any U.S. president in wanting to corral Iran and bend them to U.S. imperial goals, which is protection of the apartheid regime in Jerusalem and oil supply security. Joe Biden did run on the platform of reinstating the U.S.-Iran nuclear nonproliferation agreement, signed during the Obama years. This was likely the best accomplishment of Obama’s foreign policy; not a perfect deal but one that heralded some improvement in relations and harm reduction. Now that he is in office, however, Mr. Biden is wanting Iran to adhere to all the terms of the agreement before lifting the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on the Iranian economy. He takes this position even though it was the United States that abrogated the agreement and withdrew from its provisions. He takes this position even though there is little evidence that the sanctions are moving the Iranian government to change its course and every indication that the average Iranian is suffering greatly under these crippling sanctions. It should be self-evident that this is bad policy as it will only create more enemies of the U.S. It should be equally clear that these sanctions are flatly immoral and harm those least able to defend themselves against them. But why would Mr. Biden care about the least of these my brothers when U.S. prestige is on the line?

There is yet another area where Mr. Biden has made a series of U.S. crimes against humanity crimes of his very own. This is the area of support for corrupt and repressive regimes who serve U.S. interests. This is most notable regarding Saudi Arabia. Candidate Biden pledged to call Saudi Arabia to account for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. President Biden, however, has put his own nefarious spin on this. Yes, the administration released a report clearly identifying Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the killing. Yet, Biden explicitly refrained from imposing any penalty on this murderer or his government. Also, while Mr. Biden has pledged to pull back U.S. support for the genocidal Saudi war in Yemen (which the Obama administration greenlit), he has not pledged to pull back overall military and diplomatic support for the Saudi regime. As dollars are fungible commodities, the Saudis can just shift resources from one area to another and continue their war. Both actions are transparent attempts to signal virtue (which a fawning press is more than happy to amplify) without changing the essential criminal nature of U.S. complicity in Saudi crimes. Briefly, I will mention Mr. Biden’s likely walk back of his pledge to get out of Afghanistan and end what he called “forever wars”. In the process he will continue to support the oppressive kleptocracy in Kabul. There is a twisted consistency to all of this.


So, in his brief time in office, Joe Biden has made it clear that nothing essential is going to change regarding U.S. imperial policy. The support for odious regimes continues, the slaughter of innocents goes on unabated, and the powerless will continue to suffer deprivation at the hands of U.S. policy. Sadly, most people do not care. If they get their goodies from the U.S. government, they are satiated and need not concern themselves with the horrors we visit upon “those” people. We as a Christian community are, however called to a higher standard. We are to oppose all deprivation of the rights and dignities of all of God’s children, wherever they may be. This is especially the case when lives are being taken. Next week I will discuss the massively immoral depredations being visited upon the domestic population of the United States (including the continuing caging of migrants). For now, as Mr. Biden has yet to hold a formal press conference (so much for “transparency”), keep in mind that the first question people of faith should want asked of any president is “What’s the butcher's bill today Mr. President? What's the butcher's bill today?”. In the name of Christ, start and keep asking this question.

Praise Be to God


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