In this issue of The Nation, an open letter appears in which the signatories position themselves as abject supplicants to Obama, begging him to revert to his earlier stances in his primary campaign. This is the recommended posture recommended by the official peace movement, UFPJ and others, when appealing to a Congressperson.
The letter addresses Obama thus: "Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance…." Several paragraphs later, the letter finally gets around to mentioning "withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable" as one of the positions that Obama "embraced" during the primary.
When others have raised such criticisms, Obama has responded that they have not been listening to him. On this one, I am with Obama. How can one take this guy seriously as an "antiwar" candidate when he has voted for hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the Iraq war and to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis? Neither Ron Paul nor Dennis Kucinich, both presidential candidates, nor Barbara Lee voted for these funds for a "war of aggression," as Ralph Nader has properly called it. On this score Obama's voting record is no different from McCain's or Hillary Clinton's.
And Obama made it clear long ago in one of his few clear statements on the war that he does not oppose all wars and in fact supports "smart" ones. Iraq is thus not a criminal war, a war of aggression, but merely a "dumb" war. Presumably the war in Afghanistan that Obama so loves is to be a "smart" war. When you come right down to it, how different is Obama's position that the war is not "smart" from McCain's that, until the surge, the war was not "smartly" waged? I would say that the difference is less than a dime.
The letter is also frankly dishonest when it says that Obama is simply moving to a more "centrist stance" In what sense "centrist"? The war is wildly unpopular and close to 70% of Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq asap. What is "centrist" about moving away from a landslide majoritarian position? And what is the "peace" candidate doing when he calls for 100,000 more active duty army and marines, when he calls for more military spending, when he calls for stepping up the war on Afghanistan, when he talks belligerently about Iran, and when he equivocates on how many tens of thousands of troops are to be left in Iraq? All these are positions that the "peace" candidate took during the primary. They are not new.
The worst part of the supplicants' letter is that it is all based on wishful thinking. The idea that Obama is an "antiwar" or progressive candidate is a fantasy, never supported by the facts. And there is no way to change Obama by begging as the letter does. There is plenty of carrot, in fact downright ass kissing, in the letter – but no stick.
Ambitious pols understand sticks.
What is awfully irritating is that Katrina Vanden Heuval and the rest of the "liberal" elite criticize supporters of antiwar third-party candidates for "wishful thinking." Compared to the sentiments and views of the supplicants' letter, supporters of "long-shot" candidates like Ron Paul and third-party candidates like Nader are hard-core realists. And it is very sad to see some of the signatories of this letter who in better times would have been men and women who put principle over "lesser evil" politics.
John Walsh [send him mail] is a scientist who lives in Cambridge, MA.