April 9, 2008

Obama is Antiwar—and other myths from the campaign trail

And now it’s time for a little Election 2008 Trivia…

Question #1: Which current presidential candidate (1) supports increasing the size of the U.S. military, (2) voted against withdrawing troops from Iraq, and (3) said he would have no qualms authorizing a military attack against terrorists in Pakistan, even without the approval of the Pakistani government?

If your answer is John McCain, then you would be…wrong.

The correct answer is Barack Obama. Yes, you heard me right—Barack Obama, everyone’s favorite dove, the man who loves to speak of “aggressive diplomacy” (and, oh how the women swoon when he utters those words—“aggressive diplomacy”)…

Now as far as I can tell, Barack has been embraced by much of the antiwar movement because of a rousing speech he gave when still a state senator back in 2002. But as eloquent as he was on that day, many peace activists have been fooled into accepting him as one of their own.

Let’s keep in mind that he opposed the Iraq War, not because he believed Bush’s policy of preemption was fundamentally wrong, but because he didn’t think Saddam’s military was strong enough to pose a serious threat. He later admitted that, had he been privy to the Senate intelligence reports given to the likes of John Kerry and Hilary Clinton, he too may have voted to authorize the war.

And, while Barack now favors withdrawing American troops from Iraq within sixteen months, his view on the matter—in what appears to be a near-perfect synchronization with public opinion polls—has evolved. In June 2006 he voted against the Kerry-Feingold amendment to redeploy troops within twelve months. He didn’t begin calling for “a serious change of course in Iraq” until October of that year, and it wasn’t until the following May that he finally voted against funding the war.

When it comes to other foreign matters, Barack is quite the neocon. Take Iran. Though preferring diplomacy, he says he “will not take the military option off the table.” (And would someone please tell me how this is any different from McCain saying, “We cannot take the military option off the table, but we have to make it very clear it’s the last option”?) Though he lauds the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he supports putting more sanctions on Iran for enriching uranium, even though that is a right granted to it as a signatory of the Treaty. And though he opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, arguing that it was not the time for “saber-rattling”, he didn’t even bother to show up and vote against it.

Similarly, his views on Israel seem to be no different than those of the Bush administration. Though he once had the courage (or audacity, depending on who you talk to) to voice sympathy for the suffering Palestinians, he consistently panders to the Israel lobby, and not only supports giving them more money, but even characterizes their 2006 war of aggression against Lebanon as an act of self defense.

Now this is not to say that Barack is no different than the warmongering John McCain. Forced to choose between the two candidates, the antiwar movement would be foolish not to support Barack. But it needs to be reminded that a lightweight imperialist is an imperialist all the same.

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