John Jānis Šteins

:: Artist ::

Obama Linocut


In 2009 I wrote the following: I’m racing against the clock trying to get my linocut dedication to Barack Obama done in time for Tuesday’s historic inauguration. The mouth region needs more definition but I’m a little timid to go there for fear of wrecking the whole thing, so I’ll take it bit by bit. Also, the view of earth from space that I put in the background needs work since it may not be immediately obvious at first glance what it is. Of course that shape suggests other symbolism as well.


My views and opinions regarding Obama’s presidency have changed over time. Sadly, he continued to uphold the American oligarchy and their imperialist ambitions.

Barack Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate, an elected junior senator from Illinois, and the country’s first Black president, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The Committee stated that Obama’s “dream of and work for a world without nuclear weapons” was the impetus for his Nobel Prize win. Nevertheless, in his first year of office, President Obama authorized more drone strikes than President Bush did in his whole term. Like his forebears, the purported mediator deserves to be classified as an international war criminal.

To be clear, President Obama did not start any of the offensive and unlawful wars that the US has fought over the past 20 years. He is still an expansionist, as seen by the way his drone program has evolved. Obama authorized the deployment of 563 drone strikes during his presidency, which resulted in the deaths of about 3,797 people. In fact, during his first year in office, Obama approved 54 drone operations in Pakistan alone. Up to 41 Pakistani people were killed in one of the first CIA drone strikes during an Obama burial. Obama oversaw 128 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan the following year, which resulted in the deaths of at least 89 civilians. It became evident after just two years in office that the “hope” that President Obama had promised during the 2008 campaign could not elude American imperialism.

In 2010 and 2011, the drone operations were expanded to Yemen and Somalia, with even more devastating outcomes. President Obama’s first strike on Yemen killed 55 people, including 21 children, 10 of whom were under the age of five, under the false impression that they were targeting al-Qaida. Twelve women were also among those killed in this strike, five of them were pregnant. These careless murders committed by the US government and President Obama are morally repugnant.

Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, even more civilian deaths were reported from Afghanistan. Obama started withdrawing the troops who were stationed in the nation in 2014. But far from being a move toward regional peace and stability, the president’s action served as a pretext to dramatically escalate air power. The United States unleashed a devastating onslaught of war on Afghanistan in 2016, dropping 1,337 munitions on the country. The Obama government dropped 26,171 bombs (drone or not) in seven different countries that year: Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan. Between 2007 and 2016, the United States, working with its allies, including the Afghan government, murdered 582 civilians on average per year.

Obama used a messianic attitude to justify his drone program in his recently published self-aggrandizing memoir “A Promised Land,” writing, “I wanted somehow to save them.” However, the society they lived in and the equipment I controlled frequently resulted in my killing them instead. The reader is led to conclude that President Obama wanted to assist the suspected terrorist but was unable to do so. In actuality, he willfully and undemocratically chose thousands of people’s deaths without following the proper legal procedures.

The double-tap initiative also includes the allegation that former President Barack Obama is a war criminal, aside from the conflicts themselves. As unsettling as they sound, double-tap drone strikes are actually follow-up strikes on first responders who are rushing to the devastated area in an attempt to help any survivors. A double-tap drone strike in the Shawal Valley in 2012, targeted at Taliban commander Sadiq Noor, is said to have killed as many as fourteen individuals. Since these strikes constitute deliberate killings of civilians, they are morally and legally repugnant.

There is compelling evidence to classify Obama as an international war criminal in light of these drone strikes. The 1949 Geneva Conventions, which were signed by the UN, specifically offer security for medical and religious workers, medical units, and medical transports in addition to the injured. “Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations” is defined as a war crime in Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Intentionally initiating an attack with knowledge that it will result in incidental civilian casualties or losses is also defined by law as a war crime for the perpetrator. There is little doubt that the former president Obama and his administration broke international humanitarian law through the drone strike program and double-tap assaults. Obama’s connection to the American Empire’s imperial ambitions cannot be overshadowed by his symbolic importance.

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  1. ArtStudent October 20, 2009

    The line work on the shirt and collar have a great movement!
    I bet the prints from this look great.

  2. John Steins October 20, 2009 — Post author

    Hi, Yes the lines worked out okay except I keep wondering if I shouldn’t have cut away more and lighten his face a bit more.

    Hard to go back if you end up over cutting!


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