US President Barack Obama made a calculated gesture to the US military in Wednesday’s State of the Union address, opening and closing his speech with fawning references to the armed forces and to the American flag.
He began with a “final, proud salute to the colors” of a military unit returning from the US occupation of Iraq, and ended by holding up the Navy SEAL unit that assassinated Osama bin Laden last May as a model of dedication and unity. He informed the American people that “one of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden.”
Before his speech, Obama went out of his way, when walking through the crowd on the floor of the House of Representatives to give his speech, to thank US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for a “good job tonight.” Media commentators noted that this was a reference to a raid by US Navy SEALs into Somalia which freed two hostages, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted. The SEALs killed all nine of their Somali captors, taking no prisoners.
Such comments indicate the contempt with which the president and his speechwriters view the sentiments of millions in the United States and around the world who despise the Iraq war—launched in violation of international law, on the basis of lies about non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction—and the policy of extrajudicial killing exemplified by bin Laden’s murder.