Jul 28, 2008
Accompanied by two senators, one a Democratic and one a Republican, as well as dozens of advisers, Barack Obama threw himself into a whirlwind international tour, trying to show he had experience in foreign relations. What he actually showed is that there is little difference in his policies from those of his Republican rival John McCain, or from those of President Bush.
The first stage of this tour was Afghanistan. When he met Afghan president Kharzai, Obama repeated that it was necessary to bring in an additional 10,000 U.S. troops. Taking up a formula dear to George W. Bush, he declared that Afghanistan was the “central front in the war on terrorism.” And he insisted the situation in Afghanistan, “is perilous and urgent” and troops must be sent immediately.
When he got to Iraq, Obama spoke of withdrawing troops in two years. But, as usual, he didn’t mention that his withdrawal plan counts on leaving troops behind to “continue fighting against al Qaeda, protecting service members and diplomats, while training and supporting Iraq’s security personnel,” as he’s admitted elsewhere. And that’s only if things don’t change!
In any event, the troops withdrawn from Iraq would be redeployed to Afghanistan. On this point, Obama agrees with Mike Mullen, the head of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, appointed by Bush, who declared at the beginning of the month, “Until we get to a point where we reduce the commitment in Iraq, we won’t have enough additional troops to add to Afghanistan.”
When Obama visited Israel, he reiterated a statement he made earlier to the major Israeli lobby group in the U.S., AIPAC. He said he thought that Israel’s capital should be moved to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. Making Jerusalem the capital would mean taking even more territory from the Palestinian people, and pushing even more Palestinians out of their homes and neighborhoods.
With this kind of statement, Obama is making it crystal clear that, like President Bush, he completely supports Israel against the Palestinians. Yet the Palestinians are a people under a permanent and bloody occupation, a situation not that different from what black people face in the United States.
The image of Obama, the first black candidate for the presidency having some chance of winning, certainly excites illusions. But his declarations – even before he is elected – certainly puncture them.
A cigarette seller in a working class neighborhood of Baghdad, interviewed by the press during Obama’s visit, had no illusions: “American politics isn’t going to change with the change in the American president,” he said to a journalist who questioned him. Everything Obama said only confirms this view.