Solid Rock: Acquitting Obama of the 'Flip-Flop' Charge



I think it is time for all those who have opposed the American invasion of Iraq to stand up for Barack Obama and acquit him of the ludicrous charge hurled at him by so many on the so-called "left": namely, that he has somehow "sold out" the anti-war movement with his recent statements about "refining" his long-held plans for a carefully calibrated end to the war.


Of course, the candidate himself has spoken most eloquently on this issue, pointing out that the idea of refining the details of the pullout according to the facts of the ground in Iraq has always been a key element of his plan all along. Sen. Obama is entirely correct: his views regarding American involvement in Iraq have been clear and consistent throughout his campaign for the presidency.

Although in a perfect world, Obama would need no defense on this matter, its truth being so self-evident, the distortions of the corporate media -- always looking for a trivial "gotcha" issue to goose the day's horse-race coverage -- compels the "reality-based community" to step forward and set the record straight.

And Sami Ramadani -- an Iraqi writer and academic who was persecuted by Saddam Hussein and driven from his native land -- has done just that in a column in Monday's Guardian. He brings a perspective almost entirely absent from the Washington's navel-gazing debate over Iraq: the Iraqi perspective. He makes a brilliant case for Obama's rock-solid consistency on the Iraq war, and explores some of the far-reaching implications of the candidate's plan.

From the Guardian:
As November's American presidential elections approach, Barack Obama's message on Iraq is being widely interpreted as "flip-flopping" and a "retreat" from a previously unequivocal stance of fully withdrawing the US occupation forces. This is to misunderstand Obama, who is not someone who shoots from the hip. There is much more to his words than cursory reading could unravel...

Obama himself has reacted angrily to claims of a policy U-turn: "For me to say I'm going to refine my policies is I don't think in any way inconsistent with prior statements and doesn't change my strategic view that this war has to end and that I'm going to end it as president." Earlier this month he resorted to an op-ed article in the New York Times to emphatically state: "On my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war."

As always in examining the words of politicians, let alone Obama (who now has 300 foreign policy advisers), the devil is in the details. Here, Obama's "ending the war" declarations begin to look far from reassuring, even before he "refines" his line after meeting the US commander, General Petraeus, in Iraq.

Obama sees Iraq as part of a wider theatre of war and potential wars engulfing the entire Middle East, where US strategic goals and interests are at stake. So his obvious shift on the "surge" operations in Iraq (underlined by deleting criticisms of it from his website last week) is strengthening his call for "redeployment" from Iraq to Afghanistan. His current strategy could be summed up as: de-escalate the war in Iraq, escalate it in Afghanistan, and talk to Iran. On Iran, his offer of talks was coupled with an alarming, Bush-style threat. "I'll do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything," Obama told a gathering of the pro-Israel lobby group, Aipac, in April. He is echoing the sentiments of his famous anti-Iraq war speech in 2002, in which he repeatedly stressed that he was not opposed to all US wars.

It is worth noting that the term withdrawal, let alone a full unconditional withdrawal that will satisfy most of the Iraqi people, has never been part of Obama's vocabulary. His first carefully considered statement on Iraq was made in January last year, when he introduced the Iraq war de-escalation act to Congress. It was then that he envisaged stationing troops in Iraq on a longer-term basis: "A residual US presence may remain in Iraq for force protection, training of Iraqi security forces and pursuit of international terrorists." Using similar phrases, this is what he outlined in the New York Times last week.

....But it doesn't require rocket science to know that keeping "residual" forces requires heavily fortified areas, installations and a state of readiness to go to war. Unless Obama has discovered something new, such areas are known as military bases.....

Obama has even pre-empted a possible line of attack from hawks by chillingly suggesting he would possibly invade Iraq again if necessary. His website states: "He would reserve the right to intervene militarily, with our international partners, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq." The word potential is worth pausing over; it is salutary to remember Bush and Blair occupied Iraq and caused the death of perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent people for "humanitarian" reasons.

Neither is Obama opposed to signing a military treaty with Iraq. He has two conditions to make Bush's current attempts to impose a pact acceptable: the pact should get Congressional approval, and renounce "permanent" military bases. However, leaked drafts of this colonialist-style pact do not mention the word "permanent" at all. And his "benchmarks" for continued support for the corrupt Iraqi politicians protected by US forces in Baghdad's Green Zone are strikingly similar to those of the Bush administration.

Tactical differences and issues of style aside, Obama's message on occupied Iraq is deeply troubling - not because it has U-turned but because it has been consistent. His 300 foreign policy advisers are making sure that he will not stray from protecting US imperialist interests, even if it does mean launching new wars and bolstering puppet regimes and corrupt dictatorships throughout the "greater Middle East".

***