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Barack Obama and the Iraq War

By Shamus Cooke

27/05/08 -ICH - - A
s Barack Obama’s anti-war rhetoric is blasted around the US in his attempt to seal the Democratic nomination, his real position on US militarism is being revealed discreetly to his political, military, and corporate colleagues.

Two recent events have proved beyond any doubt that Obama is in total conformity with the US ruling class on the issue of maintaining— or even expanding— the role of the military in the Middle East. This of course is the complete opposite of what he tells those who fill stadiums to hear him speak.

The first event happened on April 7th, when both the top US diplomat and military man in Iraq— Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus— came to testify before two separate congressional committees. This was a chance, both Democratic campaigns boasted, for the two nominees to show that they had the ability to perform as the country’s commander and chief (a rightwing debate in itself). It was quickly evident that during the questioning, both candidates were operating from the vantage point of the military and the US financial interests it protects, not the millions of people who have hopes that either candidate will end the war, as they’ve both promised.

Obama did not insist, let alone demand to either man that all the troops should come home immediately; nor did he even suggest that they come home quickly. This was made painfully clear when he announced he was against a “precipitous withdraw”. His comments about a “phased withdraw” were in fact vague enough to be interpreted as meaning that the Iraq war will continue in a similar fashion for years to come. The likelihood of this actually happening later increased, when Obama said that it would be “stupid” to ignore commanders advice “on the ground”. The commander’s recommendation in this case was that— after taking the “surge” troops out of Iraq— troop levels should be maintained, and then an indefinite wait and see period would ensue.

Especially frightening during the congressional Q and A was the numerous saber-rattling comments made by Petraeus and Crocker against Iran. Obama did nothing to point out the extremely dangerous implications of these remarks, but instead chose to dump fuel on the fire by claiming that the invasion of Iraq was an especially bad idea because of how much Iran had benefited (not because it was, and continues to be an obvious war crime).

His “alternative strategy” for the “strategic interests” of the US can be easily summarized by Obama himself, who said that “…we have to think about more than just Iraq, that we've got issues with Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan, and our singular focus on Iraq I think has distracted us”. There is not even a hint of anti-war sentiment expressed here.

And this leads to the latest event which utterly destroys any notion that Obama is against war. President Bush was so pleased with Petraeus’ war mongering testimony that it was later announced that Petraeus would be made the head of the US Military Central Command, where he would be in charge of operations across the Middle East and Central Asia. Petraeus is not only a consistent puppet of Bush and his “war on terror” policies, but has a unique military specialty: counter-insurgency operations (he in fact wrote the guidebook), suggesting that there will be future military attacks and consequent occupations that require his particular expertise. Obama’s response to Petraeus’ nomination? An enthusiastic endorsement! “I think Petraeus has done a good tactical job in Iraq ... My hope is that Petraeus would reflect that wider view of our strategic interest.”

If he is eventually elected President, the contradiction between Obama’s public anti-war face and his real pro-war beliefs will produce incredible shock and disappointment in millions of people. The need for a political alternative to the two-parties of big-business will thrust itself onto the public’s agenda once again. A mass party of Labor directly connected to the unions already contains the resources to make this proposal a reality. It is up to the rank and file to fight for its creation.

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