Friday, April 27, 2007

Barack Obama and the Iraq War

Republican Politics, American Style
Published April 5th 2007 in Metro Eireann
By Charles Laffiteau

Some Democratic Presidential candidates have recently attempted to blur the differences between their positions on the Iraq war and the long held positions of Senator Obama regarding this war. Most Americans, including many Republicans, would not have voted to authorize President Bush to go to war in Iraq if they had known in 2002, what they know today.(ie there were no WMDs or Al Qaeda terrorists operating in Iraq.) Personally, I don't think Senator Clinton and Senator Edwards have to apologize for being duped by the Bush Administration because most Americans were as well.

The distinction between Senator Obama's position and those of the other candidates, is that he opposed the war at a time when it was politically UNPOPULAR to be against it. He did so knowing that taking such a position would probably hurt his chances to be elected to the US Senate in 2004. The other candidates went along with POPULAR opinion at that time, which strongly favoured going to war. Voting to authorize the President to go to war was hardly a politically risky move on their part, but opposing the war was a risky move by Senator Obama.

I don't think any less of Senators' Clinton or Edwards because they went along with popular opinion at the time by voting for the war in Iraq, but I do admire Senator Obama for his willingness to take a principled and UNPOPULAR stand against going to war back in 2002.

Obama’s Democratic opponent’s comments that their positions are all really the same, are an attempt to blur this distinction between the candidates' records regarding the Iraq war and put everyone on an equal footing in terms of opposing it today.

The fact remains however, that Senator Obama's opposition to the war in 2002, though unpopular at the time, has proven to be the right position. It was a position the other candidates wish they would have taken at the time but did not. Senator Clinton and the other candidates need to just concede this point to Senator Obama and move on to other issues.

Real leadership isn't about going along with the conventional wisdom or popular opinion. It's not about blurring distinctions between right and wrong to justify your mistakes or to avoid accountability for them. It's about standing up for what you believe is right and opposing what you think is wrong regardless of the consequences.

Senator Obama has not only been against the war since 2002, but he also demonstrated clarity and insight when he explained why he was against it. At an anti-war rally in Chicago in 2002 he said; "I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. 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 with a homeland security program that involves more than colour-coded warnings."

Instead of focusing on co-ordinating intelligence gathering with other countries and hunting down the remnants of al-Qaeda and their Taliban allies in Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan, the Bush Administration decided to open up a new front in a country with no al-Qaeda terrorists but (unlike Afghanistan) one possessing plenty of oil reserves.

The Bush Administration largely justified its invasion by citing evidence of WMD and visits to Iraq by a Jordanian named al-Zarqawi (who they claimed was a leader of al-Qaeda)along with a mis-guided neo-conservative vision of spreading American style democracy throughout the Middle East.

In fact, al-Zarqawi only became the self-proclaimed leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq AFTER the US invasion. Prior to the invasion he had been fighting Kurdish nationalists as a member of Ansar al-Islam (not al-Qaeda).

Al-Qaeda now has a strong presence in Iraq (which it did not have prior to the invasion) and has used the time since the Iraq invasion to strengthen its alliance with the Taliban in Afghanistan and open new terrorist training camps there and in Pakistan. Furthermore, the Bush Administration's evidence of WMD was at best flimsy and has since been proven to be false and to some extent "manufactured".

As for spreading our vision of democracy throughout the Middle East, is that really a legitimate justification for going to war and spending vast sums of money and American lives in the bargain?

Senator Obama was not alone with his UNPOPULAR view of the Bush Administration's rationale for invading Iraq. 23 other Senators shared some of these same concerns and voted accordingly. Critics who point to the fact that Obama was not a Senator and could not vote against the resolution to authorize the President to go to war are trying to blur the distinction between those who opposed the war from the outset and those who now realize that voting for it was a mistake.

No evidence exists to support the idea that Obama might have changed his anti-Iraq war stance and voted with the majority of 77 other Senators (including Clinton and Edwards) had he been in office as a Senator in 2002.

Senator Obama also demonstrated excellent insight when he expressed his concerns about Sunni and Shiite sectarian violence as another of his reasons for opposing the Iraq war back in 2002.This same concern was one of the main reasons why Bush's father did not invade Iraq during the Gulf War in a 1991. Unfortunately President Bush and his inner circle chose to ignore these concerns. Other Senators who voted against the war cited similar concerns about sectarian conflict in a post-war Iraq as well as their concern that an Iraq war would divert resources from the real "war on terror".

Senator Obama and the other members of Congress who voted against the war should be applauded for their prescience as well the political courage they demonstrated by opposing the war. Attempts by those who were not as forward looking or politically courageous to blur these distinctions should be seen for what they are. Their motives are politically self-serving, because today, being against the war is in line with American POPULAR opinion.

1 comment:

Benjamin Cook said...

If I may be so bold, let me adjust this question you posed:

"As for spreading our vision of democracy throughout the Middle East[in the hopes of securing the WESTS energy future], is that really a legitimate justification for going to war and spending vast sums of money and American lives in the bargain?"

The answer is a resounding yes! I challenge anyone to suggest otherwise. Because the mere act of doing so will probably undermine your point.

Perhaps one would like to challenge me. How would they do it?

1. Via a comment on this blog? Sorry, but that fiber optic cable laid at the bottom of the deep blue sea was done with bunker fuel/petroleum. That laptop you are pounding away on arrived at your door step via petro. That comfy chair you sit in to write your retort is also bathed in petro. The list goes on and on.

2. Perhaps you have the idea of handing me a "carbon foot print" free letter written in blood. Nice try. In order to rebuff my point you would half to walk naked to accomplish this. Because every article of clothing you own every means of communication you employ every form of transportation you can think of can be traced back to a very important stage that involved SECURE OIL. If naked hand delivered post is the extent you are willing to go to... I concede the point! You win.