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Obama's Foreign Policy Speech: Imperialism as Usual

"I am not opposed to all wars, just dumb wars" ~ Barack Obama

"Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Semper Fi. Hoorah!"  ~ Barack Obama

Obama's Iraq Strategy

 On Friday, February 27th, after a round of congratulations for the imperialist war leaders, Barack Obama explained the course that the Iraq War would take under his administration. Far from an honest depiction of the war, Obama's speech glorified the war, painting it in the language of poetic nationalism and with heroic lingo:

"The war has been one of the most extraordinary chapters of service in the history of our nation."

"I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime, and you got the job done."

In speaking to the U.S. soldiers he said, "You have fought against tyranny and disorder...And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor and succeeded beyond any expectation."

This rosy and noble war, leaping beyond human wonder, sadly was announced to be coming to a close: "Today, I've come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end," Obama stated. 

It has been said that the first casualty in war is truth.  The Obama administration is proving no exception to this common adage. The war, according to Obama and the military command, is not really set to end - not now, not 18 months from now, nor by the end of 2011.  Obama was clear on this point, and in many other cases, during the campaign, the post election, and these first few months of presidency, he and many of the war hawks in his cabinet have said that they "would listen to commanders on the ground" and that the withdrawal will be based on "the need to maintain stability" and so on.  It was only on very unstable legs that the Iraqi government was able to get the U.S. to agree on the withdrawal date in December 2011.  However, from the point of view of Pentagon, this agreement, as well, is, of course, subject to change.

So what Obama is really saying is: 'I will set a hard date for withdrawal, but that hard date is conditional.' Obama, who was roundly criticized by the more hawkish wing of the ruling class for being "inexperienced," is quick to lean on the "advice" from the generals "on the ground" (who are actually safe in the Green Zone or some other remote site!). This way, he is able to play the commanders as the experts now, and later on, as the deadline nears, he can then place the blame on them, e.g. 'I was only following orders!' If Bush, in all his ineptness, could pull it off, why can't the Obama administration, armed with a team of well-oiled, machine politicians?

It would also not be the first time for Obama to claim that he was simply doing what he thought was best for the soldiers, based on the testimony of the "generals on the ground," e.g. when he consistently approved the funding of the war.  He has now transcended simply voting for funding as a Junior Senator.  Now, he is leading the allocation of more U.S. tax money for war and occupation, as President Obama has asked Congress to provide more than $200 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the next two years.  This does not include the four percent increase in funding for the Pentagon.  The Pentagon's budget request as of February 3rd was already $515.4 billion, a record breaking request, which Obama apparently feels is appropriate!

The empty treasuries of state and local governments have not been drained by social programs or "greedy unions," but by the knock-on effect of billions of dollar that havee been spent destroying the living conditions of the masses in the Middle-East! This war, like all imperialist wars, is not romantic, just, or for freedom and peace.  It is nothing but the sad decay of global capitalism, dragging millions into untold and pointless horror. If Obama and Bush are to be believed, the Iraq War is, quite simply, the greatest case of altruism in human history. This, of course, is not the case, but they want us to simply stand by, unemployed with no pensions, health care, or education, content with a false sense of charity.  Well, such "charity" should be dropped, not in three years - but immediately!

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Obama does not reject the pretext of endless "war on terror" that he inherited from Bush.  In fact, it is the cornerstone of his foreign policy.  Obama made this clear in his speech when he said, "That is why we are refocusing on Al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world." In this way, the Iraq War, which was preceded by the invasion of Afghanistan, has now been transformed into the staging ground for turning the spotlight back onto Afghanistan, Iran, and now Pakistan, as well.  It's all the same war.  These are simply different 'theaters.'

The President also s tated that, "Al Qaida in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq's security forces." And later, "In short, today, there is a renewed cause for hope in Iraq, but that hope is resting on an emerging foundation." Anyone with a memory might have been waiting for the "Mission Accomplished" banner to unfurl at any point during Obama's speech! It is very telling how quickly Obama dropped his anti-war rhetoric for the "the war is a success" line.  The Bush years live on!

Iraq is a living nightmare

"Thanks in great measure to your service and sacrifice and your family's sacrifices, the situation in Iraq has improved," Obama said in his speech Friday. The war on Iraq is largely seen to be a military and political failure - not a success.  It should not continue at all, let alone three more years.

The human cost of the war is staggering .  All of the world's religions cannot describe hell as well as imperialism can produce it! This is the reality of capitalism as it rots alive. The U.S. deaths in Iraq stand somewhere near 4,251, with more than 31,000 wounded. There is no singular source for the death toll in Iraq, however many independent estimates range from 99,000 to well over a million deaths related to the invasion and occupation.

However, the horror and cruelty of the imperialist war makes death seem a blessing next to the toll that it rains upon the living.  Out of the nearly 20 million Iraqis, more than 4.7 million are refugees, i.e. more than 16.3 percent of the population! Some 2.7 million of these refugees are "internally displaced."  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are fleeing each month to Syria and Jordan, compounding the contradictions within those nations. It has been reported that ghetto conditions for female Iraqi refugees leaves little less than prostitution open as a means to live by. Rape cases are widely reported, but are believed only to be only the tip of the iceberg, as most go unreported. 4.5 million children have been orphaned in Iraq, with 500,000 living on the streets.  800 orphans are reportedly being held in U.S. prison facilities! The overall health of the country has also sharply declined from relatively high standards, which once included free "western style" medical treatment. Typhoid, cholera, malaria, and tuberculosis outbreaks have occurred alongside the destruction of hospitals, 12 percent of which happened during the invasion. Cancer rates associated with the extensive use of radioactive materials in U.S. weapons (depleted uranium) have increased.  This horrible list could go on - and these are just statistics.  The human experience of this madness will be felt for generation to come!

Anti-war internationalism! No to Obama's imperialism!

A war is not fought in a vacuum. The class relations in Iraq are magnified intensely under the occupation.  It is one crushing weight on top of all of the others faced by the working people on a daily basis.  We must oppose the occupation and call for nothing less than an immediate withdrawal!

It is entirely cynical, racist , and condescending of the U.S. ruling class to claim that the war and occupation have been positive and that immediate withdrawal would create a 'worse situation.' The ethnic conflict has been aggravated by the U.S., which claimed that the country would inevitably slide into civil war at the same time that polls showed Iraqis themselves, by a strong majority, 61 percent, did not believe there was a civil war. The corporate media continues to focus on cross-ethnic violence, despite there being widespread inter-ethnic violence of the same magnitude. On top of that, the most recent polls show that, along with 80 percent of Iraqis wanting the occupation to end, there is growing support for attacks on the "coalition forces."

Why do they feel this way?  Aside from the violent horror of the war itself, the U.S. installed puppet government continues the use of anti-union laws, e.g. "Law 52," which forbids public workers from forming unions, inherited wholesale from the Saddam period. It has also been reported that the U.S. military has raided trade union offices and left them in ruin. The Iraqi government has frozen union bank accounts across the country.

The only concern of Washington is to preserve American hegemony in the region, allowing the capitalist class of the U.S. to maintain their dominant economic position. It is hypocrisy when Obama says, "To the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America's intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country."

While there are many possibilities for further internal conflict in Iraq, the situation can only be worsened by the continued presence of the U.S. and other militaries. The working class, youth, and poor of Iraq have had enough.  While heavily hit by the devastation of the occupation, they have been resilient, particularly layers like the oil workers. Class solidarity calls for us to demand that the occupying force leave at once!  We have confidence that the Iraqi working class will play a leading role in transforming Iraqi society, just as we believe the same of the working class of every country on Earth.  There is no other force in society to trust in, and in turn, that means that we can place no trust in Obama or the Democratic Party.

Socialist Appeal Issue 83

sa83 cover for web

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