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Commentary :: War and Militarism
On Obama’s NOT withdrawing from Iraq or No, We Can’t
05 Mar 2009
Anyone who fancies him or herself some kind of “leftist” or “radical” and still entertains illusions in Barack Obama as being “anti-war” should take a good, long, hard look at his most recent address about why he is NOT ending the occupation of Iraq. Of course, if they prefer to refer to themselves as “progressives,” I doubt even that will make a difference.
Not that it’s any better or worse than any of the other sugar-coated speeches that Obama has made in order to refurbish the empire’s image. That’s one of the reasons the ruling rich put him in the Oval Office to begin with; to try to clean up the mess that Bush made. Only this speech was a direct slap in the face of all the anti-war activists who spent their time supporting Obama instead of opposing the war. Or rather, a slap in the face of all those who thought that supporting Obama was equivalent to opposing the war. Instead of the “change” that they were told that they could “believe in,” they are getting more of the status quo. For Obama is a capitalist politician beholden not to the millions who voted for him, but to the millionaires who own him, no less than George Bush or John McCain.

Indeed, this was an address that was hailed by the likes of John McCain and was given after Obama made sure to ring up none other than George W. Bush himself. Not that Obama needs any advice or help in advancing the interests of America’s ruling rich. He went out of his way to prove that throughout the campaign. Just ask Rev. Wright. Obama certainly wouldn’t have been their preferred candidate and given the job if that weren’t the case to begin with.

Just like Bush would always do, Obama chose to deliver this speech in front of a military, rather than a civilian audience. And certainly not an audience composed of “Progressives for Obama” or any other group that backed him. And just as he has bent over backwards to appease the defeated and despised Republican minority on economic issues, he did the same on the Iraq war, the issue that he used to defeat Hillary Clinton with and capture the Democratic nomination. “Non-partisanship” amongst the partisans of capital take priority over the wishes of the electorate under capitalist “democracy.”

Just like Bush, he spouted all sorts of lies, indeed many of the same ones that his predecessor routinely utilized, to defend US imperialism waging an unprovoked war of aggression in order to get its hands on Iraq’s oil. And why not? Every time George Bush asked for money to keep the war going, Obama and the rest of the Democrats gave him every cent he asked for after giving him a blank check to begin with.

Only Obama is able to use words containing more than one syllable, so the liberal intellectuals and Hollywood jet setters, who were so alienated by the neo-con nut jobs and fundamentalist holy rollers that surrounded Bush, can once again hold their heads high and take pride in their empire’s dirty work. Never mind the million dead Iraqis or the four million made refugees by imperialism’s crusade “against tyranny and disorder,” or even the four thousand, mostly working class, GIs wasted in carrying it out. Never mind the divide and rule ethnic cleansing, the 50% unemployment rate amongst Iraqis, the lack of adequate electricity and running water in what used to be the most secular and economically advanced Arab country. Those results of American intervention in Iraq must constitute the “precious opportunity to the people of Iraq” that Obama spoke of. Besides for the “responsible” left, there’s a “good” war for “enlightenment” imperialism to win in Afghanistan against “Islamo-fascism.”

Finally, Obama, no more than Bush, did not “end the war” or “end the occupation.” He continued Bush’s strategy of withdrawing “combat” troops, ie, a minority of American forces, in order to send many of them to Afghanistan. (Can you imagine Bush getting away with doubling the number of troops in Afghanistan?) The majority, the 50,000 “non-combat” troops and the over 100,000 mercenaries, remain in place to keep an eye on American “interests,” ie, the oil, and to keep the natives in line should any of them still choose to get restless.

Far from being a “betrayal,” as many of the liberal-left will cry, Obama has been pushing this perspective from, at least, last summer, when he went on TV to hail Bush’s “surge” as a success. Indeed, at that point it became the preferred position of the ruling class as a whole. He knew it and they knew it as well. Only it didn’t matter insofar as the reformist left was concerned because they would have supported anything any Democrat did or didn’t do in order to get the Republicans out of office. And odds are that they will continue to support the Democrats in order to keep the Republicans out of office by laying low on issues like Iraq and Afghanistan and by blowing every difference that arises between the twin parties of capitalism all out of proportion and into a life and death issue, requiring that all close ranks behind the administration.

Obama’s abandonment of even a pretense of appearing to be “anti-war” was further underlined by his keeping Bush’s war minister and generals aboard in the name of “non-partisanship.” You can be sure that “General Betray-Us,” amongst others, has far more say in shaping the policies of the Obama administration vis-a-vis Iraq than any of his slavish supporters in “MoveOn.Org” or UFPJ. While there are plenty of Clinton and Bush era retreads, not to mention generals, in the Obama administration for all to see and hear, where are the representatives of the “mass movement” that supposedly propelled Obama into office? Indeed where is the “mass movement?” You’d think by now that there would have been some sign of protest against the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, the maintenance of the rendition and torture lite or the endless welfare for Wall Street that are becoming the signature items of the Obama regime. Then again, none of them raised a peep, at least not in public, against the Obama endorsed Israeli onslaught against Gaza. Maybe it’s that when you keep people off the streets for so long in order to get them into the voting booth, you can’t get them out in the streets again. Unless, of course, like UFPJ, you don’t want to get them out there to begin with.UFPJ opposes marching on Washington on March 21st against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan out of deference to the Democrats.

The question for the pro-Obama “left” is whether they will follow the logic of their politics and become supporters of Obama’s wars and his austerity attacks on American workers in spite of the slap in the face he just gave them or will that slap finally wake up some or any of them. Back in the sixties, many of today’s “Progressives for Obama” came of age politically in response to an imperialist war being waged by a liberal Democratic administration, one that actually could still be pressured into cleaning up some of American capitalism’s more blatant inequities and excesses. Yet that didn’t stop Martin Luther King, Jr. from boldy breaking with LBJ in order to oppose the Vietnam war. King became persona non grata vis-a-vis the pro-Democrat “civil rights” establishment but he stood his ground. Today some of the leaders of UFPJ want to do the same thing to antiwar activists who opposed voting for the pro-war Democrats. So just as Obama has embraced his Republican rivals in “non partisanship,” ie, in common defense of American capitalism and, in doing so, repudiated his supporters, today’s liberal-left by uncritically embracing Obama, has done the same. As they used to say in the sixties, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Or to be a bit more frank, if the boot fits, they’ll lick it!

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