National News

After pomp, circumstance of Pres. Obama inauguration, the problems remain

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jan 22, 2013 - 12:08:49 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

President Barack Obama listens as Beyonce sings the National Anthem at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Jan. 21, 2013. Photo: AP Wide World Photos/Carolyn Kaster
'We’re delighted the president is pushing for gun control, but we also need ‘drone control.’ We must pressure the president to abandon his current war policies and pursue a peace platform that reallocates our resources into the needs of Americans, not the Pentagon budget.'
—Josie Lenwell,
a member of CODEPINK from Taos, N.M.

WASHINGTON ( - The inauguration festivities are over and many are wondering as the dust settles, if President Obama will be able to “stand up for the principles that got him elected,” as Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile said.

Around the country, there was concern about issues not mentioned in his inaugural address like high unemployment nationally, and specifically in the Black community, a drug war that is not about eradicating drugs and the use of drones around the world.

“My hope is that President Obama, knowing that he cannot be reelected back to that office, is going to give a lot of thought to his political legacy—really do what he can to at least try to live up to the expectations. It’s a 50-50 question. I’m hoping that he will and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he is a better man than he has shown himself to be the past four years,” Mauri Salaakhan, of the Peace and Justice Foundation, told The Final Call.

“But if I were a betting man I would not put a wager in his favor. As Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West have said, they assess him as a garden variety politician and that’s what he’s been, very eloquent, very attractive at times. He has the ability to inspire but at the end of the day when it comes to the really hard issues like the high unemployment that speak to this nations’ founding principles, this nation’s health and welfare as a land predicated on liberty and justice for all, he’s been a dismal failure up until now.”

Liberty and justice for all is exactly what America’s drug war stands against, say critics. Since its inception in 1971 after then President Richard Nixon announced drugs were “Public Enemy No. 1,” the strategy has cost $1 trillion and resulted in 45 million arrests yet drugs still run rampant in America.

“The drug war is a holocaust in slow motion,” said David Simon, creator of the acclaimed HBO series “The Wire” during a showing of the movie “The House I Live In” produced by Danny Glover and John Legend. “It is the incredible destruction of human life that is class-based under the guise of the war on drugs.”

Harvard’s Dr. Charles Ogletree, during a panel discussion after the movie, told the standing room only audience that the drug war is not about drugs. “It’s about the incredible economy that has been created that supports crime,” he said. “We have tough laws, our cities are devastated and the laws are discriminatory … We ask what can I do? We need to make the president know that we’re sick and tired of the way things are going. We need to tell him there’s been too much crime and punishment. We need to fix people instead of punishment.”

President Obama takes ceremonial oath of offi ce with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Maliah and Sasha. Photo:

The director of the film, Eugene Jarecki, is crisscrossing the country to get the message that the drug war has failed on the minds of average Americans who can push Congress to do something about it.

“The government has had its priorities in the wrong place. The problem is drugs have gone from a public health issue to a criminal punishment issue. There is the insane reality of mandatory minimums. We must treat drugs like a health issue and stop treating the non-violent as if they were the violent.”

While mainstream media captured inaugural pictures of pomp and circumstance they didn’t readily show protesters who rallied across the city.

“Imagine if Jan. 21 were a day where only the wealthy and elite, the bankers, the corporate profiteers, the war hawks, and the unquestioning supporters of those in office were the only people in sight, leaving the impression that the work is done and the decisions final,” explained Malachy Kilbride Peace, a social justice activist affiliated with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.

“We cannot stay home and hope and wait for change. With strong organizing, coalition building, and the creative drive of activists such as you, the vitally needed changes will become reality. This is why our voices and bodies were needed in the streets with the Arc of Justice Coalition on January 21, 2013, to recommit ourselves to creating a society based on justice for all.”

CODEPINK Women for Peace was a co-sponsor of the protests.

“I traveled all the way from New Mexico to Washington D.C., for inauguration weekend because I feel that as American citizens we have a responsibility to bring a message of peace and anti-violence to President Obama,” said Josie Lenwell, a member of CODEPINK from Taos, N.M.

“We’re delighted the president is pushing for gun control, but we also need ‘drone control.’ We must pressure the president to abandon his current war policies and pursue a peace platform that reallocates our resources into the needs of Americans, not the Pentagon budget,” she added.

Noor Aziz, 8, Abdul Wasit, 17, Noor Syed, 8, Wajid Noor, 9, Syed Wali Shah, 7, Ayeesha , 3 are just a few of the names of the children killed by drones, according to the Bureau of Investigative Reports. While the government claims to be targeting terrorists, innocent people including children are being slaughtered.

“Will President Barak Obama prove in his second term to be more than just your garden variety politician? Coming on the same day as the observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy it raises contradictions about what Dr. King stood for versus what the first African American president to hold this office has been up until now. The whole question of his legacy is mired in contradictions,” said Mr. Salaakhan.