Will Obama Stand Up to the War Party?

If you want to know what the future holds in store, just take a look at what John McCain said recently to the AIPAC conference:

“Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. Essential to this strategy is the UN Security Council, which should impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework. I am proud to have been a leader on these issues for years, having coauthored the 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act. Over a year ago I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products, on which it is highly dependent, and the time has come for an international campaign to do just that. A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline woul d create immediate pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change course, and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

In short, a military blockade that would amount to having Iran in a death-grip, precisely what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did to the Japanese in order to provoke them into attacking. What the War Party is hoping for is another Pearl Harbor, a rationalization to launch a new world war.

Barack Obama’s response has been appeasement – not of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but of the Republicans here at home. Which is why the charge of appeaser, coming from the GOP, will tend to stick.

Senator McCain’s major talking point before the AIPAC crowd was that Obama voted against the Kyl-Lieberman resolution, which designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a branch of the Iranian government, as a terrorist organization, giving U.S. forces carte blanche to attack. The response of the Obama camp was to say that they really had no problem with the fundamental aim of Kyl-Lieberman, just the resolution’s implication that American troops in Iraq would now be tasked with countering Iranian influence.

In short, Obama’s answer amounted to yes, the Revolutionary Guard, and the government that directs them, are terrorists, but we shouldn’t go after them in Iraq. Or,as Denis McDonough, who heads up the campaign’s foreign policy shop, put it, “The debate last fall was about the broader implications and other parts of that amendment, giving the soldiers an additional mission in Iraq.”

Weasel words, if ever they were spoken.

The fact of the matter is that Obama didn’t vote on Kyl-Lieberman. He then attacked Hillary Clinton over it, saying it was yet another milestone on our road to war with Iran, and everybody knew it at the time. AIPAC and its allies in both parties have been agitating for a military confrontation with the Iranians since well before the Iraqi disaster jelled in the public consciousness, and everybody knows that, too. Does Obama really think he’s deceiving anyone with a non-response that gives new meaning to the word “disingenuous”?

In an interview with Fox News, Obama countered criticism of his willingness to talk to the Iranians by declaring:

“Iran is stronger now than when George Bush took office. And the fact that we have not talked to them means that they have been developing nuclear weapons.”

Yet it means no such thing, as our own national intelligence estimate [.pdf] on the matter states quite plainly. Iran, like prewar Iraq, abandoned its nuclear weapons program some time ago. McCain’s blockade is all about regime-change, and has nothing to do with “weapons of mass destruction.” As Yogi Berra once put it, “It’s déjà vu all over again!” Isn’t this the same progression of alleged motivations we saw in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq? In Bizarro World, history repeats itself, the first time as farce, the second as tragedy.

McCain is signaling his support for the long-rumored war Bush is said to be planning as his bloody “legacy” – a legacy of horror, to be sure, one that will long be remembered as the act of a monster.

What Obama is signaling is nothing. Seeking to avoid the impression of weakness, he succeeds only in projecting it. As I write, he has yet to actually deliver his much-awaited speech to the AIPAC conclave, but there is little doubt Obama’s appeasement of the Lobby will continue. He shares with John McCain the view that the U.S. government cannot and should not take an attack on Iran “off the table,” to repeat the phraseology invariably utilized by politicians and pundits when this subject comes up. As if the Iranian people, who will suffer enormously in the course of an attack, are mere cards in a deck shuffled by U.S. policymakers. And you wonder why they hate us.

The idea that Obama is going to save us from World War IV, as the neocons gleefully refer to the impending conflict, is, it turns out, a pipe dream. The sad fact of the matter was underscored by Jonathan Landay in the McClatchy newspapers:

“The presumptive Republican nominee for president and the leading contender for the Democratic nomination are exaggerating what’s known about Iran’s nuclear program as they duel over how best to deal with Tehran.”

I don’t believe, as Landay avers, that the presidential candidates of both major parties have failed to understand the issue because they haven’t “studied it” enough. They’ve studied it, all right: after all, the McCain campaign is staffed by some of the Lobby’s crack propagandists and street-fighting ideologues. Obama has also studied it and knows better than to test the Lobby’s power this early in the campaign. That’s assuming, of course, that he’ll dare do so at any point, even if and when he makes it to the White House, much less during the struggle to get there.

Our role in the Middle East has long been shaped by the advocates of an Israel-centric foreign policy, whose views subordinate U.S. interests to the political exigencies of dealing with a domestic lobby that acts, in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense, precisely as one would expect the agents of a foreign power to act. That AIPAC has skillfully skirted the issue of why it shouldn’t register as such under the terms of the Foreign Agent Registration Act is a powerful testament to the Lobby’s unhealthily decisive influence in Washington.

Having successfully squelched, or at least indefinitely delayed, the long-upcoming trial of AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the group’s lawyers have scored a major victory in their battle to cover up the true nature of AIPAC as an instrument of Israeli policy, including its policy of spying on its great benefactor, stealing (and dealing) America’s most closely guarded secrets.

The trial of the AIPAC spies, who ferried top-secret intelligence to Israeli embassy personnel via the chief honcho of the Pentagon’s Iran desk, would have demonstrated in open court what the Lobby’s most vocal critics have long contended: that it functions as a de facto extension of the Israeli government. It’s odd that a case that started out with such spectacular drama – no less than two FBI raids on AIPAC’s Washington headquarters – should end so quietly.

The Lobby’s crime is not just that it puts Israel first. Worse, it represents the more unreasonable factions of that government, or possible future governments – the Likud-rejectionist wing that opposes any settlement of the Palestinian question except by expelling the whole lot of them to Jordan.

That its power is now being effectively challenged by the J Street organization shows just how politically isolated are the traditional Zionist groups, which have long dominated the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East. The Lobby’s main base of support is not in the Jewish community, but in the dispensationalist wing of the “born again” Christian evangelical movement, epitomized by the Rev. John Hagee. The founder of Christians United for Israel has taken Jew-hating to a new level altogether, wedding ultra-Likudnik rhetoric to obvious contempt for the Jewish tradition. Hagee believes that, come the End Times – after the Final War between God and Satan, one pitting Israel and the U.S. against the Muslims and the Russians, with the Chinese probably thrown in for good measure – the grateful Jews will finally see the light and be converted to Christianity.

The rest will, naturally, burn in Hell.

The question that tantalizes is this: if Bush takes the hint and imposes a military blockade, will Obama get on board, or will he stand up to the War Party? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question; I can only hope he will, but I’m not betting the ranch on it.


I‘ll be speaking at the Future of Freedom Foundation’s exciting conference, “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties,” this coming Saturday, June 7, at the Hyatt Regency Western, in Reston, Va. My topic is “The Future of Libertarianism.”

While Saturday is going to be a blockbuster day – what with Alexander Cockburn and Glenn Greenwald following my 11 a.m. act – the conference starts with a bang on Friday, when we’re treated to Ron Paul, Andrew Bacevich, and – well, heck, just go here and check it out for yourself.

You don’t have to buy the whole three-day event package: they’re selling day passes, so don’t miss out. Sunday features our own David Henderson, reason enough to attend, as well as Joseph Margulies, Bruce Fein, and Karen Kwiatkowski, among others.

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].