Obama Lied, People Died

One of the few key factors that differentiated Obama from McCain (and, for that matter, from Hillary Clinton), was his position on Iraq. Prior to becoming a Senator, he opposed the Iraq war at a crucial moment—before the bombs began falling. He had a mixed record at best on war voting as a Senator, but continued to criticize the Republicans, very much rightly so, for this horrendous and terrible war—perhaps the single worst enterprise in all the Bush years, which is saying more than a lot.

Upon coming to power, Obama shifted his timetable, extending it by months, and even saying that 50,000 troops would remain there at least until 2011. They would be “non-combat” troops—raising the question, what does that mean? Are they going to be allowed to fire back at natives who continue to be resentful about the US occupation of Iraq? And of course, keeping these permanent bases in Iraq, including one bigger than the Vatican, will require a presence that will likely extend beyond Obama’s first term, or even second.

The president has not offered any solid indication that the US will withdraw completely, ever. America might be there as long as it’s been in Germany and Japan and Korea. This is also frighteningly similar to his long-term designs for Afghanistan. The US could be there indefinitely as well.

In 2004, John Kerry and the Democrats said America needed to withdraw—eventually. That was five years ago. A problem with gradualism in theory is, as William Garrison said, it represents perpetuity in practice. If our goal is to withdraw immediately, realistically it would still take at least a couple months, most likely. But if our goal is to withdraw eventually, that withdraw might not ever come.

Now Obama has presided over the bloodiest day in Iraq in a year. The program of bribes disingenuously referred to as a “surge” is at best a very short-term way to reduce violence. We have had multiple surges, in reality, and none have meant anything over the long run.

Obama needs to start pulling out now, and abandon his goals to “nation-build” Afghanistan while he’s at it. This would take political capital, and so he might have to surrender some of his plans of domestic socialism so as to temper at least some of the pressure from the right. That would be great from my point of view. But I believe that even if he wanted peace—which I don’t believe he does anymore than the neocons; or, at least, he wants to maintain the empire, which means perpetual war—he certainly cares more about socialism than ending the Bush war on terror at home and abroad. Unless he abandons his goal to be the next FDR, including having a “respectable” foreign policy, the only thing that will stop this war will be strong public pressure, or military defeat, or running out of money when the US financial house of cards finally does collapse.

If Obama were to genuinely end the war and ratchet back the empire significantly, I’d have to regard him as a considerably better president than Bush, and I’d praise these actions to the skies, even if he continued his horrible domestic policies. But as it looks now, Obama is shaping up to be even worse than his predecessor, overall.

Anthony Gregory is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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