Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Barack Obama: The War in Iraq and the Jewish Vote

Joshua Frank yesterday published an informative piece on's recent endorsement of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Frank closes the article with a pointed question: "How could any critic of the war machine support a candidate like Barack Obama?"

Moveon, you may recall, is a front group for the liberal wing of the corporate war party--the Democrats--and was founded by a pair of California software millionaires specifically to defend Bill Clinton against impeachment proceedings. The pity isn't so much that Clinton wasn't convicted as that he wasn't impeached and convicted for, among other things, the Waco massacre, the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children, and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Any way, below is a long excerpt from Frank's article--subtitled "Why there is no 'hope' for 'change.' " Following that is a consideration of Jewish attitudes on Obama.
... Obama's best quality at this point seems to be the fact that he's not a Clinton. When it comes to foreign policy, however, he may as well be, which makes MoveOn's shallow approval of his candidacy all the more hypocritical.

After Obama won his senatorial race in 2004 he quickly abandoned the antiwar rhetoric he had touted along the campaign trail. While remaining critical of the White House and the lies that pushed us toward war, Obama still maintained that U.S. military should remain in Iraq until the job was completed.

"Given the enormous stakes in Iraq, I believe that those of us who are involved in shaping our national security policies should do what we believe is right, not merely what is politically expedient," Obama proclaimed in a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in late November 2005.

Later in that same speech, he said, "In sum, we have to focus, methodically and without partisanship, on those steps that will: one, stabilize Iraq, avoid all out civil war, and give the factions within Iraq the space they need to forge a political settlement; two, contain and ultimately extinguish the insurgency in Iraq; and three, bring our troops safely home."

Obama continues to favor a "phased redeployment" of our troops as well as "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government, but promises to not "fully withdraw" – hence why the Illinois senator has supported the majority of Bush administration's pork-engorged appropriation bills that are draining the U.S. Treasury. Obama wants to keep cadres of troops throughout Iraq with others all other the region to strike if necessary.

So where would President Obama send the troops he's redeployed? A good guess might be Iran.

As Obama told the Chicago Tribune on Sept. 26, 2004, "[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point … if any, are we going to take military action?"

He added that "launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in" given the ongoing war in Iraq. "On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse." Obama went on to argue that military strikes on Pakistan should not be ruled out if "violent Islamic extremists" were to "take over."

Iran is a "genuine threat" to the United States and Israel, Obama later expressed at a forum sponsored by AIPAC on March 12, 2007, in Washington, D.C. At the event Obama reiterated that he would not rule out the use of force in disarming Iran, a position he shares with rival Hillary Clinton.

Earlier that same month, on March 2, 2007, Obama spoke at an AIPAC Policy Forum in Chicago, where he succinctly laid out his position on how he would deal with the Middle East, promising not to alter America's lopsided relationship with Israel. "[W]e must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs," he said. "This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza." ...
Regarding Barack Obama, Jews are, unsurprisingly, asking that perennial question: Is he good for the Jews? In the last two weeks, the Jewish Daily Forward has run at least three articles on Obama. One of the most interesting is an unsigned editorial entitled "Fear Factor" (1/30/08). Here are a couple of excerpts (emphasis added):
When the dust settles, the uproar over Barack Obama's religious beliefs will have taught us little about the candidate and his loyalties that we don't already know. If we look closely, however, we can learn a great deal about American Jews and their anxieties. More pointedly, we can penetrate the mystery of the power of the so-called Jewish lobby.

As most Americans have heard by now, rumors flying around the Internet suggest that the Illinois senator is secretly a radical Muslim. It’s rumored that he took his oath of office on a Quran, that he was educated in a Saudi-funded Muslim academy in Indonesia, that he’s some sort of Manchurian candidate plotting to take the reins of government and launch a jihad. It sounds almost comically implausible, but some people — too many, it seems — take it as fact. The Obama campaign vigorously denies the whole thing as a tissue of lies from beginning to end. ...

Most surprising, a parade of Jewish politicians and organizational leaders, the elite of what’s called the Jewish lobby, has spoken out aggressively to reject the rumors and defend Obama — but it hasn’t helped much. Early indications are that Jewish voters will spurn Obama in numbers large enough to hurt him. And all the efforts of the vaunted Jewish establishment haven’t convinced them otherwise.

That's the secret of Jewish lobbying success: It's not about the professional influence-peddlers and fundraisers. It's about frightened, angry Jews, thousands of them, determined to stop anyone they suspect is against them. Once they get going, no one can talk them out of it. They feel powerless and vulnerable before enemies great and small, and they have the clout to do something about it. And they don't always check the details before hitting the barricades. ...

Published reports and word-of-mouth from New York to Miami suggest that considerable numbers of Jewish voters will not back Obama, because they're not sure he's not their enemy. The rumors may be true or false, they reason; Obama may or may not be a secret Muslim radical. But why risk it? If there's any danger of antisemitism, the thinking goes, you err on the side of caution. You don’t take chances.

One prominent Orthodox activist, founder of a pro-Israel PAC and a former president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, bluntly told a local weekly last week that he wouldn't vote for Obama and couldn't imagine anything that would change his mind. A news report on the controversy, published on the English-language Web site of the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, drew dozens of online comments from readers who insisted that Obama must be a secret Islamist, regardless of what anyone says. Some, secure in their anonymity, argued that he must be a Jew-basher because most African Americans are.

... Consistently, liberals have failed to appreciate the conservatives’ secret weapon.

Accusations of antisemitism take on a life of their own. Once the A-word is in play, the defenses go up, and they don't come down until it's proved that there's no danger. Moderate and liberal Jews who don't share the conservatives' agenda will give the benefit of doubt to the accusers. Thus the Jewish hawks have the final say, and the burden is on the candidate to avoid falling afoul of them.
It is this writer's experience that "Moderate and liberal Jews" are every bit as quick as conservative Jews to falsely accuse people of "antisemitism." Below is an excerpt from "As Campaign Surges, Obama Working to Quell Jewish Fears," another recent (1/30/08) Barack Obama article in the Forward ( emphasis added).
... Immediately prior to accepting the endorsement of Senator Edward Kennedy on Monday afternoon in Washington, Obama conducted a conference call with Jewish reporters in an effort to dispel concerns on a number of issues, including his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the views of his longtime pastor. ...

In recent weeks, even as the organized Jewish community has publicly combated a series of scurrilous personal falsehoods, more delicate questions about his views on the Middle East have animated Jewish leaders, spilling on to the pages of newspapers and into discussions among voters. Despite repeated efforts to reach out to the community — including the recent mobilization of some of his prominent Jewish supporters, such as Lee Rosenberg, a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — doubters have continued to make noise.

"The concern in the back of my mind is, "Is he going to be the next Jimmy Carter?'" said one prominent Jewish Democrat who spoke with Forward on the eve of the primary in New Hampshire, as he was grappling with the seeming implosion of the Clinton campaign. Emphasizing that he planned to support whoever became the party's eventual nominee, the Democrat said he was uneasy about Obama’s emphasis of dialogue with Iran.

Spurred by the same concern, last week the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Danny Ayalon, raised his voice in The Jerusalem Post, in an article titled "Who Are You, Barack Obama?"

Such comments have frustrated Obama aides, who complain that the candidate has repeatedly clarified the various issues about his personal connections as well as his policy positions, but that these efforts seem to gain little traction against the power of rumor and innuendo. Nevertheless, those efforts were made once again in this week’s conference call.

During the call, Obama argued that a magazine affiliated with his pastor's Chicago congregation, the Trinity United Church of Christ, had "made an error in judgment" by awarding a prize to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in November 2007.

"I have always denounced the abhorrent antisemitic views of Louis Farrakhan," Obama said. He noted that he had spoken out against antisemitism in the black community for decades, including during a recent appearance at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Day.

He also reiterated many of his longstanding pro-Israel positions, including the need for Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist as a precondition for talks, and his rejection of a literal Palestinian right of return. Asked about the peace process, Obama said the Palestinians had the responsibility to tamp down on violence before Israel made substantial concessions.

Palestinian leaders have to "get a hold of their security apparatus, to be able to crack down on terrorist activity, to root out the corruption," he said. "Until the Israelis have some confidence that whatever is negotiated will actually be followed through on, I think it’s going to be difficult."

When asked about his previous statements emphasizing the need for diplomatic engagement with Tehran, the senator first reaffirmed his understanding of the threats posed by the Iranians.

"Iran's possession of nuclear weapons would not only be a threat to U.S. interests and destabilizing to the region but would also be an extraordinary threat to Israel," he said, noting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and his expressed wish that Israel did not exist. But Obama said that incentives, along with deterrence, are needed to deal with the regime.

"I also think we should be presenting carrots," he said. "The key is to give Iranians incentives to behave differently." The unwillingness to talk, he said, "empowered extremists like Ahmadinejad."

These remarks came on the heels of other steps taken to underscore his support for Israel in the past week. On January 23, the senator sent a letter to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, calling upon him to ensure that any response to the recent unrest in the Gaza strip will not be biased against Israel. ...
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Obama is getting support from many of us who are working to stop the war based on a cold, political calculation. It will be less difficult to stop the war with him in office than with Hillary Clinton or John "Keating Five" McCain.

That being said, it still will take a whole lot of effort to stop the war, even with Obama in the White House.
If it will be hard with Obama in office, then vote Ron Paul! He will just pull our troops out. let's be done with this :)
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