O-bomb-a and the War Party

Among the Democratic Party’s liberal antiwar wing, hopes were high that Barack Obama would become their voice when he made an impressive speech in which he called attention to the likely consequences of an invasion and characterized the entire project as a “dumb war.” At last! A Democrat with the guts to call out the Bush administration in no uncertain terms!

Alas, it was not to be…

He was against the war during the campaign for the Senate seat he now occupies, but once he got into office he came around to the War Party’s position, one that closely mimics warhawk John McCain’s “we’re in it and we gotta win it” stance. In a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Obama attacked the Bush administration for exaggerating the threat from Iraq and attacking war opponents as unpatriotic, yet he came out with a position not too far from that of the White House:

“Given the enormous stakes in Iraq, I believe that those of us who are involved in shaping our national security policies should do what we believe is right, not merely what is politically expedient. I strongly opposed this war before it began, though many disagreed with me at that time. Today, as Americans grow increasingly impatient with our presence in Iraq, voices I respect are calling for a rapid withdrawal of our troops, regardless of events on the ground.”

The buzzwords and catch-phrases come at us a mile a minute – “responsible,” “a stable foundation for the future,” “we owe it to the Iraqi people” – until he finally comes out with his actual position:

“In sum, we have to focus, methodically and without partisanship, on those steps that will: one, stabilize Iraq, avoid all out civil war, and give the factions within Iraq the space they need to forge a political settlement; two, contain and ultimately extinguish the insurgency in Iraq; and three, bring our troops safely home.”

Extinguish the insurgency – how? With more troops? By carpet-bombing Iraqi cities?

This is a fantasy scenario, one that only the hoariest neocons still entertain, yet here is Obama – or is that O-bomb-a? – talking like one of our laptop bombardiers. What will stabilize Iraq is the withdrawal of the chief irritant and obstacle to the consolidation of a unitary state supported by the majority – U.S. and British occupying forces. As for avoiding civil war, it’s already too late for that.

“First and foremost,” said Obama,

“After the December 15 elections and during the course of next year, we need to focus our attention on how to reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq. Notice that I say ‘reduce,’ and not ‘fully withdraw.'”

Well, yes, I did notice that, but I’m afraid the Kossacks and the “antiwar” wing of the Democratic Party are averting their eyes. Obama continues:

“This course of action will help to focus our efforts on a more effective counter-insurgency strategy and take steam out of the insurgency. … I believe that U.S. forces are still a part of the solution in Iraq. The strategic goals should be to allow for a limited drawdown of U.S. troops, coupled with a shift to a more effective counter-insurgency strategy that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead and intensifies our efforts to train Iraqi forces. At the same time, sufficient numbers of U.S. troops should be left in place to prevent Iraq from exploding into civil war, ethnic cleansing, and a haven for terrorism.”

So, when are we getting out of Iraq? If you can tease any clear meaning out of the above, more power to you. Later on in his peroration, he avers that the Bush administration had best narrow the “timeframe” down to more than between one and 10 years, though he conspicuously fails to do this himself.

Slipperier than an eel, the rookie senator from Illinois utilizes every rhetorical device known to man to avoid coming to grips with the essential issues. We are all supposed to be so dazzled by his manner, his command of the acting skills that make him more suited for Hollywood than Washington, D.C., that we go along with his dubious distinction between a “timetable” for withdrawal and a “timeframe.” (He voted against a resolution that would have pulled the troops out of Iraq by July 2007.) Blinded by the hype surrounding the Obama boomlet, antiwar Democrats can’t or won’t see the utter phoniness of his position, which urges us to seek a “balance” between getting out and staying in. As far as Obama is concerned, the real balance, one senses, is among the various factions of the Democratic Party. In his quest to be all things to all people, Obama is simply a mirror in which each and every faction is meant to find its own reflection.

Yet his real loyalties are with the Democratic Party Establishment – the Democratic Leadership Council/Lieberman wing – and this came through in the party primaries, when his political action committee donated many thousands of dollars to defeat antiwar candidates. He supported Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont, donating $4,200 to the eventual candidate of the “Connecticut for Lieberman” Party. He also gave $10,000 to defeat antiwar stalwart Christine Cegelis, who nonetheless came within a few thousand votes of winning against a decorated war hero.

Obama’s position on the Iraq war was pretty much summed up by his comment, cited at Alex Cockburn’s Counterpunch, as follows:

“On Iraq, on paper, there’s not as much difference, I think, between the Bush administration and a Kerry administration as there would have been a year ago. There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who’s in a position to execute.”

Bush and Obama still hew to the same unattainable goal: a military victory. The only question is who has a better strategy to bring it about.

Stealing some lines from Hillary Clinton’s playbook, Obama holds up Bosnia and Kosovo as a model:

“If one looks at the Balkans – our most recent attempt to rebuild war-torn nations – the international community, from the European Union to NATO to the United Nations, were all deeply involved. These organizations, driven largely by European countries in the region, provided legitimacy, helped with burden-sharing, and were an essential part of our exit strategy. Ten years later, conditions are not perfect, but the bloodshed has been stopped, and the region is no longer destabilizing the European continent.”

To say that “conditions are not perfect” in Bosnia and Kosovo is a bit of an understatement. A decade later, the occupation force is still there, policing the country and just barely keeping the Albanian Muslims from slaughtering the last of the remaining Serbs. Most Serbs were long ago ethnically “cleansed” from their historic lands, thanks to Bill (and Hillary) Clinton. In Kosovo, we installed the gangster-led Kosovo Liberation Army in power, and thus ensured Europe a steady supply of heroin, black market weapons, and white slavers. Yes, most of the major bloodshed has been stopped, but that’s only because the victory of the KLA was – thanks to us – decisive. We sided with the Albanian Muslims in what was a civil war in the former Yugoslavia, precisely the opposite course recommended by Obama in Iraq, where he faults the Bush administration for appearing to side with the Shi’ites.

Like most congressional Democrats, he bowed before the Israeli war machine and praised the IDF’s brazen aggression in Lebanon, going so far as to visit northern Israel during the war in a show of support. He opposed a cease-fire – “I don’t fault Israel for wanting to rid their border with Lebanon from those Katyusha missiles that can fire in and harm Israeli citizens, so I think that any cease-fire would have to be premised on the removal of those missiles” – and absurdly averred:

“I don’t think there is any nation that would not have reacted the way Israel did after two soldiers had been snatched. I support Israel’s response to take some action in protecting themselves.”

According to this logic, the U.S. should have invaded Iran when the Iranians took hostages at our embassy – and, come to think of it, he does endorse an attack on Tehran, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:

“U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama suggested Friday that the United States one day might have to launch surgical missile strikes into Iran and Pakistan to keep extremists from getting control of nuclear bombs.”

He stresses that military action is a “last resort,” and that we ought to squeeze them with sanctions first:

“But if those measures fall short, the United States should not rule out military strikes to destroy nuclear production sites in Iran, Obama said.

“‘The big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures, including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point are we going to, if any, are we going to take military action?’ Obama asked.

“Given the continuing war in Iraq, the United States is not in a position to invade Iran, but missile strikes might be a viable option, he said. Obama conceded that such strikes might further strain relations between the U.S. and the Arab world. ‘On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. … And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.'”

The United States, in Obama’s reckoning , is the ultimate arbiter of who shall join the nuclear club and who is barred from that exclusive group: he makes no mention, naturally, of Israel’s nukes. There’s only the demagogic assertion that anything is better than Muslims with nukes. Are there any Muslims who aren’t “radical,” in his eyes?

Never mind that Iran is pursuing nuclear power while asserting only its right to nuclear weapons (and, at the same time, disdaining any ambitions to actually acquire them). And it doesn’t matter, one assumes, that our own CIA has estimated it will be a good 10 years before the Iranians develop such a capacity. All they have to do, in Obama’s view, is maintain their right to do so – and we slap them with sanctions. Which, of course, means war…

The pretty-boy face and the accomplished actor’s polished technique aside, Barack Obama is just another shill for the War Party. And the sooner antiwar Democrats realize that, the better.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].