Senator Obama, Black America and the War(s)

Recognizing the historic significance of the Presidential campaign of Senator Barak Obama and the deep meaning that this has for many Black Americans, I have been very careful in expressing my concerns and criticism of the junior Senator from the great state of Illinois. Yet I have expressed them, particularly when it comes to matters of US foreign policy. This week Senator Obama took another step, or in some respects did not take any step, that leads me to have additional concerns regarding his vision for the future.

As much as anyone else, I am interested in being inspired by a Presidential candidate, and I am certainly looking for something new and fresh in the White House, particularly after years of stagnation and death. Nevertheless, in the recent Presidential debates, when it came to articulating a vision for the end of the Iraq war/occupation, the Senator came up short. Not only he, but Senators Clinton and Edwards as well, could not figure out how to identify when PRECISELY the US would end its occupation of Iraq. The answers were astounding. None of the top three contenders could or would guarantee their support for the exit of US troops by 2013!


Strike #1, Senator.


In the same week, there was a crucial vote in the Senate, a vote that may turn out to be of great historical significance. Incited by the Bush/Cheney drumbeat for military strikes against Iran to allegedly halt supposed Iranian support for Iraqi militias and to halt the Iranian enrichment of uranium (which the Bush administration argues WITHOUT SUPPORT AND EVIDENCE is aimed at producing nuclear weapons), the Senate passed a jingoistic amendment that would support the characterizing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a “terrorist organization,” in addition to giving a green light to US military action as a legitimate option to address Iran’s alleged misdeeds. Iran has made it clear that an unprovoked attack on its sovereign territory by the USA or Israel will result in an Iranian counter- attack, possibly plunging the Middle East into a regional war, producing horrific instability as well as threatening the global economy. Senator Clinton voted in favor of the amendment and Senator Obama…well, he was missing in action. He did not vote.


Strike #2, Senator.


I have to come back to something I have raised elsewhere: who is Senator Obama? If he is to be a breath of fresh air rather than air from the crypt, it would seem that he would identify a foreign policy that fundamentally breaks with the belligerent and failed policies of the Bush administration (and for that matter, the Clinton administration). Instead, Senator Obama seems to be doing all that he can do to avoid controversy. Thus, rather than a clear statement on withdrawal from Iraq — consistent with his initial opposition to the war — we are treated to what can only be described as double-talk. And, with regard to Iran, rather than reminding the US public that we were misled into a war with Iraq through the orchestrated circulation of half- truths, rumors and outright misinformation — and that this is repeating itself in the case of Iran — the Senator avoided the vote altogether.


I am very deeply worried that the Bush administration, in its maniacal efforts at global domination, will launch military strikes against Iran, or support Israeli strikes against Iran. We in the USA are being treated to Bush administration saber-rattling — not helped, of course, by the antics and demagoguery of Iranian President Ahmedinejad — and suggestions of malicious and mischievous intent by the Iranians without a shred of real evidence! In the face of this, we get little in the way of leadership from Senator Obama.


I can hear it already, from some of the Senator’s supporters: …the Senator has to be careful if he wants to get elected…he can’t jump out there too far… I am sure that you have heard this as well. My question, however, is fairly simple: WHO would we be electing in choosing Senator Obama? Is it the person who is prepared to keep US troops in Iraq indefinitely with no plan for withdrawal, or is it the Senator who — prior to arriving in office — had the courage of his convictions to oppose this war of aggression? Is it the person who decided to take a pass on a vote that could lead to war with Iran, or is it the person who suggested that US foreign policy must engage all countries on this planet?


I sometimes feel like I am watching that old game show “To Tell the Truth.” At the end, after three people had pretended to be a certain character, the show’s host would ask the real person to stand up. In that light: Will the real Senator Barak Obama please stand up…and keep standing?!



[BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a labor and international writer and activist, and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.]


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