Obama’s Betrayal on the Iraq War

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Bastardizing History: Obama’s Betrayal on the Iraq War
by Jack Random
I want to be very clear.  There is a vast and unbridgeable chasm between the antiwar position taken by a young state senator in October 2002 and that of the president at the end of February 2009. It begins with the president’s interpretation of recent history: “We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime.”  

This is an almost unforgivable bastardization of history.  We went to Iraq ostensibly to eliminate weapons of mass destruction but in reality to secure control of Iraqi oil and establish a central base of military might in the heart of the Middle East.  
As the state senator from Illinois understood in October 2002, the rationale for war was radical right ideology of military dominance and preventative war.  Whether Saddam Hussein remained head of state was incidental so long as America could establish a regional base of operations. 

I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime… We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government… And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life.” 
- Barack Obama, February 27 2009 Address to Marines at Camp Lejeune

“I don’t oppose all wars… What I am opposed to is a dumb war.  What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by … weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

- Barack Obama, October 2, 2002, Antiwar Rally in Chicago

“We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government.”

We have kept our troops in Iraq to establish a puppet government loyal to the United States, committed to the corrupt oil contracts established under occupation, and to prevent Iraq from becoming a failed state as an unintended outcome of our invasion.  

“And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life.”  

We will in fact leave Iraq when we believe the government can stand on its own feet because the costs of a continuing occupation are too great.  We will leave Iraq because the Iraqi government at the stubborn insistence of the Iraqi people has demanded that we do so.  We will honor the agreement signed by our former president under extreme duress because we must, because our mission of control and indefinite occupation has failed, and because Obama does not wish to be a president that openly defies international law in the name of imperial power.  

How then do we reconcile the chasm between the following statements offered to a contingent of marines at Camp Lejeune?  

1.  "Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."  

2.  “I intend to remove all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”  

Let me be plain.  If George W. Bush instead of Barack Obama offered these statements, they would be greeted with the cynicism they deserve.  It is difficult to take the certainty of the first statement seriously when it already represents the compromise of a campaign pledge.  The slippage is disturbing enough when you consider the additional lives it will undoubtedly cost but it only becomes more egregious when you realize that his plan calls for 30-50 thousand troops to remain as a residual force.  

Finally, and most disturbing of all, is the weakness of the second statement:  “I intend to remove all US troops…by the end of 2011.”

Understand that the United States is already committed to removing all troops by agreement with the Iraqi government.  So when our president says he “intends” to honor the nation’s word, having already compromised his own pledge, only a fool would not wonder why that qualification was required.  Is he setting the stage for further backtracking?  Is it true what skeptics have warned us:  That there is essentially no difference between the president’s position on Iraq and the Neocon position?  Is it possible that we could be looking at perpetual occupation forces?  Is it possible that we will take up residence in the impenetrable fortress also known as the US Embassy in Baghdad?  

The president’s new plan of withdrawal from Iraq is supported by Senator John McCain, Lt. General Ray Odierno and General David Petraeus.  

What are we to make of these strange bedfellows?  

As a political writer I actively supported the candidacy of Barack Obama and I am not ready to give up hope now.  But I am more convinced than ever that we must not be muted in our criticism in deference to his character.  He can parse words all he wants but if he extends the occupation of Iraq indefinitely and escalates the war in Afghanistan, it is a betrayal of the promise his campaign promoted.  

More importantly, it would be a monumental strategic blunder.  

In the early days of the George W. Bush administration, no one really knew what kind of foreign policy the White House would pursue.  We only suspected that he was under the influence of that radical right elite circle known as the Neocons.  After September 11, 2001, all doubt was removed.  

We are now in the early days of the Obama administration and the warning signs are becoming clear.  We are beginning to suspect that Obama has come under the influence of an old guard that has no reluctance to assert American military power in place of reasoned diplomacy.  Thus far, the only reluctance our president has shown is a reluctance to challenge the military elite.  

It took the Bay of Pigs for a young John F. Kennedy to stand up against similar influences in his presidency.  

What will it take for Barack Obama?  

What will it take for Obama to understand that we are no more welcome in Iraq now than we were under his predecessor?  What will it take for Obama to understand that every day we hold a standing army on Arabian soil is another good day for the recruitment of our enemies?  What will it take before the president understands that war is a crude and ineffective weapon against terrorism, that it destroys without building, that it does infinitely more harm than good?  

There was a time when Barack Obama understood these realities clearly.  In fact, it was why he ran for the presidency and why he was ultimately elected.  As Obama said at that antiwar rally in 2002:  

“So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.”  

That Obama understood that the most effective way to fight terrorism involves building international consensus, honoring international law, and employing all the tools of international intelligence and international justice with precise, targeted action.  We must also remove the just causes of our adversaries, not the least of which is Fortress America in the cradle of civilization.  

The Obama of 2002 and throughout his presidential campaign was summoning an age of diplomacy, an age of understanding, an age when means other than military force would serve to settle our differences and lay the groundwork for a better world.  

We need that Obama back.  

If we see no signs of his return in the coming weeks and months it is imperative that we return to the streets of protest.  If the president refuses to hear us now we must raise the volume through a thousand channels of opposition.  



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