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Thursday, February 07, 2008


The Nation on Obama

Christopher Hayes, the DC editor of The Nation, has an article in the recent issue described on the web as "Here's why Obama is the left's best chance to take back the country" and in its subhead in the print magazine, "Why Obama is more likely than Clinton to bring about a new progressive majority." In it, he writes this:
But while domestic policy will ultimately be determined through a complicated and fraught interplay with legislators, foreign policy is where the President's agenda is implemented more or less unfettered. It's here where distinctions in worldview matter most--and where Obama compares most favorably to Clinton. The war is the most obvious and powerful distinction between the two: Hillary Clinton voted for and supported the most disastrous American foreign policy decision since Vietnam, and Barack Obama (at a time when it was deeply courageous to do so) spoke out against it.
And here's the letter I just sent off to them, which summarizes a lot of things that have appeared here in previous posts. Since it undoubtedly won't be published (for starters, it's way too long), I might as well post it here:
Whether or not it was "deeply courageous" for an Illinois state Senator to speak out against the invasion of Iraq is debatable, but what isn't debatable is that Obama's opposition to that invasion has been unprincipled from the start. Here's how he himself described it at a campaign rally last year: "I am proud of the fact that I opposed this war from the start. In 2002, I said this was a bad idea. It's going to cost us millions [sic] of dollars and thousands of lives. We don't have a strategy for getting out." The fact that this would be an unprovoked invasion of another country in violation of U.S. law and international law didn't enter into his calculation, nor did the potential cost in Iraqi lives; if it could have been done on the cheap and without losing too many American lives, he would have been all for it. Watch for more invasions of countries like Panama, Grenada, and Haiti under "antiwar" President Obama.

Obama's nominating speech for John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic Convention is also instructive: "When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they are going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return and to never, ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world." Once again, entirely tactical reasons for opposing the invasion. Not to mention that the truth was not "shaded," it was a complete fabrication, as we all know, and as any serious opponent of the war knew before the invasion, and everyone in the world knew by July, 2004.

Recently, in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama had what many thought were overly charitable words to say about Ronald Reagan. But most missed this from the same interview, a rather instructive view about how Obama views the movement against the Vietnam war: "My frame of reference is 'what works.' Even when I first opposed the war in Iraq, my first line was, 'I don't oppose all wars,' specifically to make clear that this was not just an anti-military, 70s love-in kind of approach, rather, that I thought strategically it was a mistake for us to go in."

In the most recent Democratic debate in Los Angeles, Obama shed even more light on why he opposed the invasion of Iraq: "If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government installed in the first place. (Applause.) We shouldn't have invaded in the first place. It was part of the reason that I think it was such a profound strategic error for us to go into this war in the first place." Once again, the idea that a U.S. President actually has to obey U.S. law (including ratified treaties like the Geneva Conventions) doesn't seem to enter into his calculation.

Then there's the potential war against Iran. In a Democratic debate last year, he asserted that "Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region." When interrupted by Dennis Kucinich protesting that Iran has no nuclear weapons, Obama pressed on with the standard Bush line, the one that served so well in Iraq: "I understand that, but they're in the process of developing it. And I don't think that's disputed by any expert."

Finally, and also recently, there was Obama's letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, in which Obama asserted that Israel had been "forced" to impose the current blockade on Gaza, and astonishingly claimed that it was "seeking to minimize any impact on civilians," as if the collective punishment being imposed on the people of Gaza was not precisely aimed at impacting civilians.

And this is the man whom Christopher Hayes wants us to believe is going to bring about "a new progressive majority."

Eli Stephens
Left I on the News

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