Is It Time for the Peace Movement to Start Protesting Senator Obama?

In the last two weeks Senator Obama has been sounding rather hawkish. Perhaps he believes he has the Democratic nomination wrapped up and now can start running to the center-right. The peace movement needs to let him know his positions are not acceptable.

Some peace advocates had already given up on Sen. Obama because of his record since he came to the U.S. Senate. His voting record on Iraq and foreign policy is very similar to Sen. Clinton. Obama did make a great speech before the war began, saying much the same thing that peace advocates were saying, but that seems to have been the peak of his peace advocacy. Indeed, Black Agenda Report described how Obama took his anti-war speech off his website once he began running for the senate. And since coming to the senate he has voted for Iraq funding, giving Bush hundreds of billions of dollars. Further, he is calling for nearly 100,000 more U.S. troops as well as keeping the military option on the table for Iran.

But in the last two weeks he has moved to the right. On April 1, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed Obama about what type of U.S. residual forces he would leave behind in Iraq. First, Obama acknowledged combat troops would be left behind as “a strike force in the region.” Where would this strike force be based? Obama said “It doesn’t necessarily have to be in Iraq; it could be in Kuwait or other places.”

Of even greater concern was the 140,000 civilian troops — the private security forces that some describe as mercenaries — who are in Iraq. With regard to these Obama said: “we have 140,000 private contractors right there, so unless we want to replace all of or a big chunk of those with US troops, we can’t draw down the contractors faster than we can draw down our troops.” When Goodman pressed him on whether he would support a ban on private military forces Obama said “Well, I don’t want to replace those contractors with more U.S. troops, because we don’t have them, alright?”

Obama seems to be choosing his words very carefully when he talks of his Iraq plan. He always talks in terms of only “withdrawing” “combat” troops and ending “the war.” Withdrawal is not the same as bringing troops home as it could mean moving the troops somewhere else in the region and into Afghanistan. Combat troops are a minority of the 150,000 troops in Iraq. And, ending the “war” is not the same as ending the occupation. Indeed, Obama plans to keep the massive U.S. Embassy as well as the long-term military bases being built in Iraq. No wonder he does not talk about ending the occupation as it does not seem that is his intent.

What are the two-thirds of Americans who oppose the Iraq war and want to see U.S. forces brought home to think? It sounds like Obama would leave more than 100,000 and perhaps even more than 200,000 public and private military troops in Iraq. And, he would leave strike forces in the region “not necessarily in Iraq” who could strike in Iraq when needed. Is this what he means by withdrawal?

The other important speech that Obama gave focused on his broader approach to foreign policy. In this speech, given on March 28th, Obama praised the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush. Obama described his foreign policy as a traditional U.S. approach — certainly not the “change” he promises in his big campaign speeches saying “my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush’s father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan.”

There is lot to unravel in the foreign policy of these former presidents. While these X-President’s are much more popular than the current occupant of the White House, which is why Obama believes tying himself to those will garner votes, each of their foreign policy strategies relied heavily on the use of the U.S. military. Here are some highlights:

Both George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan get credit for negotiating with Iran to hold the U.S. hostages until after Reagan-Bush took power in return for military and financial assistance to Iran. This act put their personal political ambitions ahead of the needs of U.S. citizens being held hostage.

Perhaps the best known Reagan-Bush foreign policy was the Iran-Contra scandal, a scheme to circumvent U.S. law by providing arms to overthrow the government in Nicaragua. They shipped weapons to the mullah’s in Iran in return for cash which was used to fund the Nicaraguan fighters. This was done because the Congress passed a law preventing U.S. tax dollars being used to arm the rebels in Nicaragua.

As part of their campaign against the Soviet Union the Reagan-Bush team also armed Islamists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. This allowed Osama bin Laden to gain a stronghold in Afghanistan and is one of the root causes of today’s military adventures.

Thus Reagan-Bush armed two current “enemies” Iran and al Qaeda. In fact, they also armed Saddam Hussein by providing him with the makings of an array of weapons of mass destruction. The arming of Saddam continued with the Bush-Quayle administration even after Saddam “gassed” his own people.

President George H.W. Bush was the only CIA director to become president. As in the Reagan era, Bush I treated Saddam Hussein as a close ally. Shortly before the Gulf War he approved the sale of an additional $4.8 million in “dual-use” technology to factories identified by the CIA as Saddam’s nuclear and bio-weapons programs. And, just before Saddam invaded Kuwait, Bush sold him $600 million in advanced communications technology.

Prior to the Kuwait invasion the Bush administration sent signals to Saddam that the U.S. was not worried about a military conflict between Iraq and Kuwait. But when Saddam sent tanks into Kuwait the U.S. responded with an aggressive aerial campaign that destroyed much of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and a 100 hour ground war. Bush then urged anti-Saddam forces to rise-up against Hussein and then left them hanging without U.S. support. Then, the “peace” with Iraq led to the sanctions of the Bush and Clinton administrations which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

The only Democrat mentioned by Obama was JFK. Obama did not mention the less popular LBJ, Jimmy Carter or his opponent’s husband, Bill Clinton. Perhaps because the Kennedy administration was so long ago he expects voters not to remember their militarism. And, the Camelot aura of Kennedy is one Obama aspires to.

Of course, President Kennedy must be given credit for the steady expansion of the Vietnam conflict and its escalation into a quagmire that trapped his successor. Kennedy drew a line in the sand against communism in Vietnam saying “”Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place.” Troop escalation went from hundreds to more than 15,000, the Green Berets and helicopters were both sent in. Kennedy approved a coup which led to the killing of the prime minister and his brother in 1963 and a succession of regimes seen more and more as U.S. puppets. Kennedy was assassinated shortly after the coup but the path into Vietnam had been laid.

What other foreign policy misadventures does JFK get credit for? One of note was a military attack on Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs. This invasion by 1,500 exiled Cubans ended in disaster for the U.S. as it was easily rebuffed by Castro with most of the troops captured. JFK did not give up on regime change after this failure; in fact he escalated it with Operation Mongoose. Mongoose, which lasted until the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, included among its plans the use chemical weapons against sugar cane workers, sending the Green Beret’s into Cuba, using gangsters to kill Cuban police, propagandizing the Cuban people, sabotaging mines, cash rewards for killing Cuban officials and false flag attacks against the U.S. to be blamed on Cuba.

And Kennedy also gets credit for taking the initial steps that ended up with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In 1963 Kennedy backed a coup against the Iraqi government. The CIA helped bring the Baath Party to power. The CIA provided the new Iraqi government with a list of suspected Communists to kill. Saddam Hussein was one of those who carried out the killings which included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers, Iraqi professionals and officials. The U.S. began to arm the Iraq regime with weapons they used against the Kurds and U.S. and British oil companies began profiting from Iraqi oil.

No doubt Senator Obama is well-aware of this history, so what did he mean when he said his foreign policy would emulate these three? Are we to expect more coups of regimes we don’t like? The arming of future adversaries? Illegal actions to circumvent the Congress? Now that Sen. Obama has tied himself to Kennedy, Reagan and H.W. Bush he needs to clarify whether this Hall of Shame history of bi-partisan U.S. foreign policy is what he intends to emulate.

Senator Obama clearly thinks he can take the peace movement for granted. Many peace advocates support Obama because of his pre-U.S. Senate speech against the Iraq invasion. But, now his foreign and Iraq policies are coming more closely into focus maybe it is time to re-think that support. It is time for the peace movement to push Sen. Obama to be a better candidate, one that will really bring change to U.S. foreign policy.

For those who like Obama’s message of “hope” and “change” it is important to realize his foreign policy, as he is beginning to define it, brings neither. Obama is risking the loss of votes to three strong alternatives to the two parties. If Obama is not pulled back toward his pre-Senate position more and more peace voters will desert him for either former Representative Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez’s independent campaign, or possible Libertarian candidates Mike Gravel or former congressman Bob Barr. These are all candidates who are strongly opposed to military intervention and the Iraq occupation. In November there will be choices of real peace candidates or a major party nominee who is no longer promising real change.

Pressure now from the peace movement, if heeded by Sen. Obama, will make him a stronger candidate. Is it time to for the peace movement to protest Obama?

Kevin Zeese co-directs Popular Resistance and is on the coordinating council for the Maryland Green Party. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.

23 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rich Griffin said on April 3rd, 2008 at 5:53am #

    Peace/anti-war voters should not support Barack Obama. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (or a hawk disguised as a dove).

  2. Rich Griffin said on April 3rd, 2008 at 5:56am #

    Peace/anti-war voters should not support Barack Obama. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (or a hawk disguised as a dove). When I read how we are supposed to pressure these candidates to change their views – has this ever really worked? The point is that Obama believes, as did most other Democrats who went down to defeat, that they must move rightward in order to win. He may win anyway due to our economy, but when his positions are too similar to the Republicans positions, they will win.

    It is better for the peace movement to support with their votes REAL peace/anti-war candidates: Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader.

  3. Hue Longer said on April 3rd, 2008 at 6:00am #

    excellent article! very concise, indisputable and quick to read…

    I do think you should have mentioned Ron Paul as someone the deserting would go and are going to. I know that requires a caveat, since his positions (among others, anti war for right or wrong reasons) are that of a Republican/Libertarian–but it’s still true.

  4. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 3rd, 2008 at 7:28am #

    Hey, Hue. just revisited our posts at DV’s:

    Military Tribunals and You!
    by Cindy Sheehan / February 18th, 2008

    But I can’t find your name anywhere on the page that comes up at Google, except in references to DV.

    So here goes here: you and I ought to form a free editing service for selected (by us, natch) “writers” — and call it maybe “One Diligent, One Lazy Person Editors, For Free, Internet Only”.

    Need I say more?


  5. Deadbeat said on April 3rd, 2008 at 9:19am #

    What “Peace Movement”? The “peace” movement collapse in 2004 when they supported John Kerry, Anybody But Bush, Avoid any focus on Zionism, safe state strategy.

    When the left really wants to confront Zionism then there’ll be a peace movement.

  6. Ko said on April 3rd, 2008 at 9:21am #

    Obama is just a 33th degree freemason and I read today that he wants the CO2 hoax ambassador Gore as his minister of environment.. that’s a laugh…

  7. hp said on April 3rd, 2008 at 9:28am #

    Curious, that with all this history, naming of names, and political intrigue, the “I” word is missing.

  8. Michael Donnelly said on April 3rd, 2008 at 3:44pm #

    Yeah Kevin. “Stronger canidate?” After all the success the peace “movement” has had holding (…oh, where to start?…) Bush1/Baker, Bush2/Cheney, Kerry, Clinton(s), Pelosi, Lieberman, et al’s. feet to the fire, it should be an uncontested slam dunk to turn Obama into the second coming of Ghandi.

    PS McKinney, Nader, et al. will pull in about .05% total, maybe 1% if the peace “movement” deserts Obama en masse.

  9. Giorgio said on April 3rd, 2008 at 5:00pm #

    Hue Longer said :
    “excellent article! very concise, indisputable and quick to read…”

    Well, this is much more indisputable,
    AND much, much, much QUICKER to read!

    Ron Paul! Ron Paul! Ron Paul! Ron Paul!
    THE ANSWER !!!!!

  10. Al said on April 3rd, 2008 at 5:23pm #

    As always Americans will vote for the lesser of the evils.

    The owners of our country will not allow us to have any any other viable choice.

    It’s business as usual!

  11. dan e said on April 3rd, 2008 at 5:48pm #

    Well this is certainly an upgrade from Mr Z’s earlier article on DV this month. But the premise still cracks me up: “Should the peace mov’t protest Obama” — ROTFL!!!

    Anybody with the sense god gave lil green apples has been hollering Run Tom Run since last summer at least;)

    Run Tom Run!

  12. joe walker said on April 3rd, 2008 at 7:05pm #

    I get the feeling you would protest Jesus Christ if he was in the race.

  13. Rich Griffin said on April 3rd, 2008 at 8:54pm #

    Yes, I would protest “Jesus Christ”! The real Jesus Christ would be amazed at the delusional cult that has arisen over fictional stories written about his life!!

    Cynicism about 1% – more like 4-5% in truth, isn’t helpful. It’s staying in a mindset of defeat without trying that is the real reason the peace movement keeps failing over and over again. It’s time to move outside of the box and do what our conscience tells us we must do: support peace candidates, for President, congress, in state legislatures, city & town councils – we CAN do it, we just have to get past cynical negative responses.

  14. verite said on April 3rd, 2008 at 9:13pm #

    Well.. .. for Nader’s number ONE plank..
    viz. – a proper democracy for the USA.. then this is not an issue..
    Vote P.R! except it is “not on the table”

    “Yeah Kevin. “Stronger canidate (sic) ?” After all the success the peace “movement” (sic) has had holding (…oh, where to start?…) Bush1/Baker, Bush2/Cheney, Kerry, Clinton(s), Pelosi, Lieberman, et al’s. (sic) feet to the fire, it should be an uncontested slam dunk to turn Obama into the second coming of Ghandi.

    PS McKinney, Nader, et al. (sic) will pull in about .05% total, maybe 1% if the peace “movement” (sic) deserts Obama en masse.”

  15. hp said on April 3rd, 2008 at 9:23pm #

    The cynics are right nine times out of ten.

  16. Deadbeat said on April 3rd, 2008 at 10:37pm #

    Rahul Mahajan of Empire Notes has an excellent two-part critique of Ralph Nader’s run this year. I agree with his critique and essentially that Nader’s last two run has left no political structure to build upon. IMO it is not all Nader’s fault as the left abandon him but on the other hand his refusal to run within the Green Party he would have easily defeated David Cobb.

    Without leaving any real structure, voting for Nader will be more symbolic than productive. What’s needed is the construction of a movement and a party that represents that movement. Unfortunately with the left so divided and weak Nader will not have too much influence this year. It’s a shame because 2004 was the opportunity for the left to coalesce and build upon the anti-war sentiment but alas obfuscation rather than confrontation was more important.

  17. Giorgio said on April 4th, 2008 at 12:33am #

    joe walker said :
    “I get the feeling you would protest Jesus Christ if he was in the race.”

    RON PAUL is the ‘Jesus Christ’ and he is already being protested and marginalized….by the “owners of our country…”

    The LEFT does not coalesce. When they see a GOOD thing on the horizon, they go into DENIAL…

    As for Obama, he’s just a swarthy Zionist like the other two front runners. The Zionists don’t leave anything to chance. They edge their bets.

    For every TEN mentions of Nader, I see ONE on Paul, if that.
    Nader is a proven dead loss, yet the Left keeps on harping about him as THE Choice. How’s that for self-inflicting flagellation and masochism?

  18. hp said on April 4th, 2008 at 8:07pm #

    McCain and Hillary swarthy?
    I’ve seen better tans on a snowman.

  19. dan e said on April 4th, 2008 at 9:33pm #

    hp, that’s a great line, “better tans on a snowman”:)

    Sure seem to be a lot of Rethuglicans posting on DV now. Deadbeat on the other hand poses the question of the hour, which I’ll try to ans. like this:

    Chaos theory informs us that we can’t in all cases count on Newtonian cause and effect, but the odds have to be close to Infinity to One that the next POTUS will, like the incumbent, be a gunsel for the most reactionary, most terrorism-inclined faction in the capitalist ruling class. In other words, it doesn’t seem reasonable & prudent to expect any of the non-duopoly candidates to actually wind up sworn in as president next January. So why should anti-war/anti-racism/anti-political repression type folks bother to choose one of the many “third-party” candidates who’ve cast chapeaus into the ring? What diff. could it make whether one supports/donates to/works for this one or that one?

    Deadbeat has provided the answer: since the ills of the world aren’t going to be measurably ameliorated in this one election cycle, the emphasis needs to be on Building A Movement, one with a skilled Electoral Vehicle constituting one of its main branches.

    Nader is, like me, so old he can barely stand the pace any kind of activism demands. And, like myself, he’s getting older everyday.

    McKinney on the other hand is a dynamo of energy, flying around the country, first here, then there, speaking at a rally in SF, then giving a long lecture at Rutgers for Women’s History Month. This is a person who is not going away anytime soon. This is a person who is a longterm threat to the Status Quo, no matter how Conventions or Elections turn out.
    A McKinney candidacy holds the potential to relaunch Dr King’s project, to re-ignite a Poor People’s Campaign and ally it with forces focussed on putting a stop to all these wars of aggression and all this sliding down the slope to a full-fledged Police State.

    Ron Paul has made some good statements opposing the “war” (sic) in Iraq, but he’s still a Republican & all his friends are Rethuglicans. Other than this one hot-button issue, he’s a coldblooded reactionary. He’s obviously been encouraged to enter the race in order to provide an option for intermediate-strata folks that will keep them from going over to the camp of the Oppressed.

    Kucinich sounds good at times, but will never cut the umbilical to the Ohio Democrat Party apparatus. He’s not running for Pres. but to retain his seat in Congress, & maybe pay some of his campaign debts. I.e., he’s not a factor, and those who cling to the notion he’s going to lead us out of this mess are dreaming.

    So who else is there? Gloria La Riva makes a lot of sense up to a point, but only up to a point. Once you take a close look at what the PSL really stands for, it’s obviously a dead end for all but the La Rivas, Beckers & other “Old Bolsheviks” who make up it’s anti-democratic power-hungry core cadre.

    I guess from the name that La Riva must be some kind of Latina, so I give her a pass, but as far as I’m concerned any Wyt person daring to run against Cynthia McKinney has to be some kind of a racist or some kind of an idiot.
    Cynthia may not be the perfect candidate, but she’s head and shoulders above all the alternatives. The McKinney campaign, comprised as it is of widely divergent components, will yet emerge as the rebirth of the Movement they assassinated Dr King to decapitate.

    Power to the People! Green Power to Green People! Black Power to Black People! Brown Power to Brown People! Muslim Power to Muslim People! Gay Power to Gay People!

    Screw the Hegemon! Screw “power with a capital P”! Screw the Statutes of the Status Quo!

    Power to the People!!!

  20. hp said on April 5th, 2008 at 8:23am #

    Thanks dan e.
    Man, do you know how hard it is to come up with an original thought this last century or so?
    Even a one liner.
    It’s all been pretty much said, every which way but loose, and with everyone taking themselves so seriously these days its sometimes a little hard to laugh.
    The best medicine.

  21. dan e said on April 5th, 2008 at 9:25am #

    hp, todos,
    well don’t know if this qualifies as an original thought, but on the date 04/04/08, (musically thats 4/4 = one octave) here we have two historic Deaths, and Cynthia & Cindy both in Mexico D.F. addressing a workers conference. hmm — how about that “Continental Congress of Workers”? Dunno how Original is is, but to me has a nice ring?
    —– Original Message —–
    From: HQ
    To: moc.yennikcmaihtnycsgnihtlla.stsilnull@setadpu
    Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2008 8:09 AM
    Subject: [hq2600] Cynthia McKinney and Cindy Sheehan together in Mexico CIty!

    Hello all! Yesterday was not only the 40th Anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it was also the anniversary of the murder of Casey Sheehan. Cindy shared the pain of her memory with us as we stand with working people across the Americas who are defending their right to work in dignity, and to maintain ownership of their countries’ natural resources, and their objection to US wars. We are hoping that the next Continental Congress of Workers will take place in our country. Please visit for more information. Here are my remarks:

    Cynthia McKinney
    Segundo Encuentro Continental de los Trabajadores
    Mexico City, Mexico
    April 4, 2008

    Brothers and Sisters in the Movement

    I am happy to be here in Mexico City where the people all over Latin America are on the move:

    On the move for justice, self-determination, and peace.

    I love that you have created a Power to the People movement with your votes that is stronger than the mightiest military force on the planet!

    With the power of your vote you have taken your countries back.

    Now, all we have to do is to count all the votes in the United States and Mexico!

    In the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, an estimated six million people went to the polls and voted, but their votes weren’t counted.

    In 2000, and again in 2004, Democrats helped to install Republicans into power rather than fight for the victory that the voters had given them.

    As a result of this kind of collusion, the Democratic majority in our Congress has failed to impeach Bush. They have failed to institute a livable wage, stop the multiple wars the U.S. is fighting right now, and they have failed to protect human rights anywhere in the world, including even at home.

    That’s why I left the Democratic Party.

    I refused to become complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against the peace, spying on the American people, and ripping our Bill of Rights to shreds.

    And so I declared my independence from the U.S. leadership that gave us tax cuts for the wealthy and a country 53 trillion dollars in debt and Hurricane Katrina.

    To my brothers and sisters at this Conference and in the United States, I say:

    Hands off Haiti!

    Hands off Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Argentina now making a claim for the Falklands!

    Hands off Venezuela and Ecuador!

    No to Plan Mexico; No to Plan Colombia! Hands off Pemex!

    And finally, it was on this date, 40 years ago, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered.

    We now know that Dr. King was murdered as part of a conspiracy that included his own government. Hatched in the bowels of the Pentagon, where so many other regime change operations have been hatched, the government of the United States launched regime change at home on Black America. We blacks in the United States have long known the pain and the consequences of having authentic leadership snatched from us; of having someone else pick our leaders before we pick them ourselves.

    I am proud to join this international movement for self-determination; for justice and for peace. Despite today’s difficulties, we must never let our dream be deferred. We in the U.S. gain inspiration from your successes here so we can carry the struggle to every nook and cranny of the United States.

    Que vivan los pueblos de america!

  22. Micah Pyre said on April 7th, 2008 at 3:07pm #

    Talking about Nader’s “old age” is comical, hp. Intellect only withers with Alzheimer’s dementia, or with death. Nader’s not dead. I haven’t heard about his Alzheimer’s dementia. Do you have proof of that?

    McKinney truly is willing to oppose the Empire-builders of the two “major” parties, the Demmicans and the Republocrats.

    Those who sink to the Limbaugh level of calling the GOP “rethuglicans” are obnoxious and juvenile. The Democrats are just as thuggish.

    Dennis Kucinich is a phony. He makes NO effort toward impeachment. He hears from Conyers that it’s a “no-no” and he backs off. Conyers doesn’t control the Congress. Conyers doesn’t control anyone who doesn’t let Conyers control him/her. Conyers doesn’t have the power to prevent Dennis K from reading his counts of impeachment into the Congressional Record. So what’s stopping Dennis? Pride. Hubris. Posturing. He enjoys his past accomplishments as a “progressive” but today he seeks only to accommodate the right-leaning Democrats like Obama, Clinton, and the vast majority of the Democrats in the Congress. The last real opposition to Bush-Cheney in the Congress was Cynthia McKinney. And the Georgia Democrats ran her out of the party in the 2006 primaries because of it!

    Cynthia McKinney, Mike Gravel and Ralph Nader are the people who are willing to lead us back to a sensible form and practice of government.

    As to Ron Paul? Gimme a break. He’s Ronald Reagan, Part II. His ties to the von Mises Institute gang are proof of his true colors. Those cats only want to end THIS war, the one in Iraq. They’ll conduct any other war that helps them further their religious fervor for “free market capitalism,” rest assured. Paul Craig Roberts never objected to Ronnie Ray-Gun’s militarism.

  23. hp said on April 7th, 2008 at 3:16pm #

    Micah, I never said that. You’ve confused me.