Barack Obama On Iraq: No To Change

Bill Van Auken / | July 4, 2008

The embrace of key elements of the Republican agenda and jettisoning of positions that he advanced during his “Change you can believe in” primary campaign have become a daily routine, as the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential candidate Barack Obama carries out a dizzying turn to the right.

While proposing the expansion of Americorps, the Peace Corps and other civilian entities, Obama made it clear that the main service to which he intended to call young Americans was the military.

He began by invoking the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington and lamenting the failure of the Bush administration to issue “a call to service” and “a call for shared sacrifice.”

“There is no challenge greater than the defense of our nation and our values,” he continued, praising the actions of US troops “fighting a resurgent Taliban” and “persevering in the deserts and cities of Iraq.”

What “values” are embodied in the systematic destruction of the Afghan and Iraqi societies and the killing and maiming of millions of civilians in the attempt to impose US hegemony over oil-rich regions of the planet, the Democratic candidate did not spell out.

Instead, he insisted on the “need to ease the burden on our troops, while meeting the challenges of the 21st century.” That these “challenges” entail the continuation of these wars and the launching of new ones is clear. As president, he said, he would “call on a new generation of Americans to join our military,” while vowing to increase US ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.

Speaking at a press conference in Fargo, North Dakota Thursday before addressing a group of veterans, Obama allowed that he expected to “refine” his positions on Iraq during an upcoming trip to the US occupied country this summer.

Backing away from his earlier pledge to carry out a 16-month withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, the candidate said, “I have always said I would listen to the commanders on the ground. I have always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability.” Meanwhile, he couched his opposition to the continued occupation of Iraq at current levels in terms of what he posed as the more urgent necessity for sending troops to Afghanistan.

Obama’s advisors have been more explicit. His top foreign policy advisor, Anthony Lake, a former Clinton administration national security advisor, told the press that an incoming Democratic administration was committed to maintaining “a residual force for clearly defined missions” in Iraq, as well as “preparedness to go back in,” if needed. “That is not a ‘cut and run’ and let’s just see what happens,’” said Lake, one of the architects of the Clinton administration’s “humanitarian” interventions in Somalia, Haiti and the Balkans.

Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that Obama is prepared to keep current US Defense Secretary Robert Gates at his post and the campaign has agreed to participate in a series of transition teams being set up in military, intelligence and police agencies to assure the seamless continuation of the “global war on terrorism.” (read: continuity of government?)

Having won the Democratic primaries in no small part by posturing as an opponent of the Iraq war and indicting his opponent, Hillary Clinton, for voting to authorize it, Obama is now presenting himself as another “wartime president.”

The lurch to the right by the Obama campaign is so blatant that it has aroused substantial commentary in the bourgeois press, some of it gloating and some of it reflecting concerns that this maneuver is so naked that it may alienate substantial layers of the population from the electoral process and expose the fraud of the entire two-party system.


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