A Rough Guide to Obama, on $2.3 billion a day*
By Richard Sanders, coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)
Did you know that President-elect Obama:
voted for every one of President Bush's Iraq-War funding increases?
believes Bush's "surge" in Iraq has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams" and has proclaimed his "absolute" belief in the "War on Terror"?
praised President Bush, Sr., and the 1991 Gulf War saying: "I think that when you look back at his foreign policy, it was a wise foreign policy. In how we executed the Gulf War.... I think George H.W. Bush doesn't get enough credit for...his foreign policy team and the way that he...prosecuted the Gulf War. That cost us $20 billion dollars. That's all it cost. It was extremely successful."
is willing to bomb Iran and that he won't rule out a first strike nuclear attack?
wants to send an additional 10,000 US troops to fight the war in Afghanistan?
wants to expand the Afghan war with unilateral air strikes to bomb Pakistan?
supported Israel's war against Lebanon?
supports Ballistic Missile Defense?
favours military expenditures on warplanes that he says "provide the backbone of our ability to extend global power."
voted for the Patriot Act II, the Wall Street bailout, building a border wall with Mexico and immunity for corporations that conducted electronic eavesdropping on Americans?
wants continued sanctions against Cuba?
called President Chavez an "enemy of the US" and wants sanctions against Venezuela?
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other
examples from Obama's statements, his voting records, his financial backers and
his selection of advisors and staff that expose very regressive positions on
foreign policy and domestic issues. (Check out the links to an initial list of
Some rationalize their support for Obama by saying he is less pro-war than McCain or Bush. Others may argue with contention that Obama even is pro-war. At different times, and with different audiences, Obama has taken completely contradictory stands on many important issues. How do we interpret this behaviour? Are we believe all of his progressive-sounding rhetoric on "hope" and change," and simply ignore as inconvenient his many "right-wing," pro-war positions?
As Obama himself has said in his latest book The Audacity of Hope: "I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." As James Krichick said in the New Republic, "Obama is, in his own words, something of a Rorschach test."
Sam Smith puts it this way in an article called "Can we talk about the Real Obama now?":
"Obama has left the same kind of vacuum. His magic, or con, was that voters could imagine whatever they wanted and he would do nothing to spoil their reverie. He was a handsome actor playing the part of the first black president-to-be and, as in films, he was careful not to muck up the role with real facts or issues that might harm the fantasy. Hence the enormous emphasis on meaningless phrases like hope and change."
(Undernews (online report of the
Progressive Review), November 5, 2008.)
Obama's rhetoric on the Iraq War is a case in point. Many mistakenly see him as as anti-war "peace candidate" who will pull the US military out of Iraq. Unfortunately, the truth about his position on this subject is far more complicated.
"In an interview with Amy Goodman, Sen. Obama stated his intention of leaving 140,000 private contractors in Iraq because “we don’t have the troops to replace them.” He also stated the need to keep an additional “strike force in the region … in order to not only protect them, but also potentially to protect their territorial integrity."
Matt Gonzalez, "The Trail of Broken Promises," CounterPunch, October 29, 2008.
Kahl, the coordinator of the Obama campaign’s working group on Iraq policy wrote
a paper for Center for a New American Security, saying that between 60,000 and
80,000 US troops should stay in Iraq until the end of 2010.
(James Kirchick, "Who has Obama's ear?," Politico, April 15, 2008.)
Another insight into Obama's position on the Iraq war is revealed in his appointment of Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate. Stephen Zunes, in "Biden, Iraq, and Obama's Betrayal," (Foreign Policy In Focus, August 24, 2008) says that
"Obama's selection of Joseph Biden as his running mate constitutes a stunning betrayal of the anti-war constituency who made possible his hard-fought victory in the Democratic primaries and caucuses.
"The veteran Delaware senator has been one the leading congressional supporters of U.S. militarization of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, of strict economic sanctions against Cuba, and of Israeli occupation policies.
"Most significantly, however, Biden, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the lead-up to the Iraq War during the latter half of 2002, was perhaps the single most important congressional backer of the Bush administrations decision to invade that oil-rich country." (Emphasis added)
Leaving aside the Iraq War there is plenty for peace activists to be concerned about in Obama's overall agenda for the US military. For example, as Obama wrote in an article called "Renewing American Leadership":
"To renew American leadership
in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. A
strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace. . . .
We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. . . .
I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened.
We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability..."
(Foreign Affairs, May
And, here's what the official website of the Obama-Biden campaign says about what they'll do to when elected to "rebuild the military for 21st century tasks":
A 21st Century Military for
Particularly revealing is the section above called "Preserve Global Reach in the Air" which concludes with the assertion that the US needs to invest in multi-billion dollar warplane programs because they "provide the backbone of our ability to extend global power."
The idea that Obama is anti-war is a powerful myth that will impede the peace movement's ability to mobilize opposition to the inevitable continuation of US militarism and imperialism. President Obama may then prove to be more of an obstacle to peace than a true agent of change moving the US economy away from a world in which corporations seek profit through predatory wars. Obama's deceitful image as peacemonger will allow him to get away with policies and actions that would not be countenanced for an instant if they had come from the likes of McCain or Bush. This blindspot for Obama's pro-war agenda will not only hamper the ability of US peace activists to speak out, organize and protest, it will also help to dampen the efforts of many others around the world.
There is a potential silver lining to this situation. As President Obama and his government begin to carry forward their efforts to "extend global power," liberal activists will hopefully begin to concede that Obama is not the peace president they had expected him to be. As the campaign hype and honeymoon fade away, disappointment in Obama's rhetoric and hypocrisy may transform into a realization that the US is in dire need of a strong "third party" to give voice to the aspirations for peace held by so many millions of Americans. Perhaps this disillusionment in the Democratic Party will begin to open up new possibilities for the election of some future US president who really does stand for peace. But don't hold your breath!
* Under President Obama, the US military budget may well be spending about $2.3 billion a day. The 2008 US military budget is $696 billion. Obama says he will increase military spending and will add 65,000 troops to the Army and 27,000 Marines. Every increase of 1,000 army troops adds about $2 billion per year, while every addition of 1,000 Marines adds $1 billion/year. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,327888,00.html That means Obama's proposal could add $157 billion, bringing the total to $857 billion per year, which means about $2.3 billion per day.
"Quentin Young, Early Supporter of Obama, Now Disappointed and Saddened," Corporate Crime Reporter, January 28, 2008.
Michel Chossudovsky, "The Democrats endorse the 'Global War on Terrorism': Obama 'goes after' Osama," Global Research, August 29, 2008.
Robert Dreyfuss, "Obama's Evolving Foreign Policy," The Nation, July 1, 2008
Tom Eley, "Barack Obama and the War In Iraq," World Socialist Web, February 14, 2007.
Chris Floyd, "Surge Protectors: Obama Embraces Bush-McCain Spin on Iraq," Baltimore Chronicle, September 5, 2008.
Matt Gonzalez, "The Trail of Broken Promises," CounterPunch, October 29, 2008.
Glenn Greenwald, "The bipartisan consensus on U.S. military spending," Jan. 2, 2008.
William D. Hartung, "Dems: What about the Military Budget?" Foreign Policy In Focus, February 21, 2008
Joseph Gerson, "Obama's Foreign & Military Policies: Old Wine in a New Bottle?" Common Dreams, April 23, 2007.
Margaret Kimberley, "Freedom Rider - Obama's Iraq Fairy Tale," Black Agenda Report, July 9, 2008.
James Kirchick, "Who has Obama's ear?," Politico, April 15, 2008.
Pam Martens, "Obama's Money Cartel: How Barack Obama Fronted for the Most Vicious Predators on Wall Street," CounterPunch, May 5, 2008.
"Sen. Barack Obama Speaks Out on the Iraq War, Race, Hillary Clinton and Pastor Jeremiah Wright," CNN Larry King Live, March 20, 2008.
The Obama Iraq Documentary: Whatever The Politics Demand,
John McCain's team.
(This contains dozens of contradictory statements made by Obama regarding various aspects of the Iraq war.)
Ralph Nader, "Open Letter to Senator Barack Obama," November 3, 2008.
St. Pete for Peace, "If you voted for Obama, this is what you voted for," November 2008.
News release, Greens Warn Antiwar Americans Against Wasting Votes on Pro-War Democrats, US Green Party, July 28, 2008.
Kevin Zeese, "Is It Time for the Peace Movement to Start Protesting Senator Obama?," Voters for Peace, April 2008.
13 Feb 2008 ... One of Barack Obamas chief whisperers is Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan, which spawned jihadism, ...
23 Jan 2008 ... Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. ...
12 Jun 2008 ... The foregone nomination of Barack Obama, which, according to one breathless commentator, "marks a truly exciting and historic moment in US...
16 Jun 2007 ... Obama writes that while he wants the troops home, We must not rule out military ...
24 Jul 2008 ... Having declared Afghanistan a "good war", the complicit enablers are now anointing Barack Obama as he tours the bloodfests in Afghanistan ...
11 Sep 2008 ... At home, Obama offers no authentic measure that might ease Americas grotesque inequality, such as basic health care. ...
24 Sep 2008 ... The change candidate for president, Barack Obama, had already called for an invasion and more aircraft and bombs. The ironies are searing. ...
23 Oct 2008 ... The beatification of President Barack Obama is already under way; for it is he who challenges America to rise up [and] summon the better ...
Free sample copy: If you live in Canada and haven't previously received a free sample copy of COAT's magazine, Press for Conversion!, then just send your name, street address and postal code to email@example.com and we'll mail you a complimentary copy.