Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Barack Obama and the drum beats of peace

by Joel Wendland

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, the United States had the chance to do something good and right, Barack Obama said in a major Iraq war policy speech this week. But a failure of leadership and ideas on the part of the Bush administration led us down the wrong path.

"Instead, we have lost thousands of American lives," Obama emphasized, "spent nearly a trillion dollars, alienated allies and neglected emerging threats – all in the cause of fighting a war for well over five years in a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks."

Barack Obama's reassertion of his plan to end the Iraq war within 16 months of his inauguration is a welcome pledge.

In an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday, Obama sharply contrasted his goal to the end the war and bring US troops home with Republican John McCain. The McCain-Bush war plan is a "strategy for staying" in Iraq he wrote.

McCain has called for continuing the occupation of Iraq for 100 years. McCain's recent efforts to blunt sharp criticism from all quarters by insisting that he would only stay there if U.S. troops were not in harm's way is belied by the dangerous realities in Iraq, by his own record of pushing for war in Iraq just two months after 9/11, by his support for the war all along, and by his current attempts to describe changing that policy as surrender or defeatism.

Barack Obama seems to understand the fact that it is the occupation of Iraq by foreign troops that is blocking political reconciliation. He understands that security and peace in Iraq is a multinational concern that requires a diplomatic surge with all of the region's countries involved. Even further, no social progress in the U.S. can be accomplished while we are spending $10 bill per month on the war.

While it is possible to disagree with some key features of Obama's foreign policy – points that will form the basis of renewed struggle in the event of his victory in November – ending the war in Iraq, shifting to multilateral diplomatic measures, and reengaging the international community in a unified and necessary struggle against religious extremist terrorists are points on which we can find no fault.