Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama and the Elections: An Annotated FAQ


Q: Is Barack Obama the “anti-war candidate?”

A: Depends on which war you’re talking about.

*Barack Obama has repeatedly threatened military action against Iran, and refused to rule out using nuclear weapons. Think about that for a second: refused to rule out dropping nuclear weapons on civilians. In a June 2008 speech before the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he said: “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything.”

*A major element of Obama’s platform is intensifying the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. In a July 14, 2008 Op-Ed in the New York Times, he argued, “We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.” A huge part of why Obama wants to withdraw troops from Iraq is to send them into Afghanistan.

*Obama has also repeatedly threatened to attack Pakistan, including on August 1st, when he said, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.”

Oh, so he’s only arguing for going after terrorists – the “bad guys”? Sure, ok. This is exactly what Bush and Cheney have always claimed to be doing.

*Finally, Barack Obama devotes an entire section of his Web site (“Defense”) to his call for comprehensive expansion of the United States military.

Why would an “anti-war candidate” advocate massive expansion of the military?

Q: So does Barack Obama oppose the Iraq War? And why?

A: No and yes. And, for both answers, because of his desire to extend U.S. imperialist domination of the Middle East:

*“No,” Obama is not opposed to the Iraq War in the sense that he has voted over and over again to fund it. In June 2008, he voted to approve $187 billion in funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

*And “yes” he is opposed to the war, in the sense that he does have some genuine criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq: namely, that it is not going well for the U.S. military, and that it takes energy away from other wars he feels the U.S should be fighting. In that same July 14 New York Times Op-Ed, Obama made clear the true nature of his objection to the Iraq War: “I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks,” Obama wrote. “Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown."

*This position shows that Obama’s objection to the Iraq War is motivated by the same factor as his decision to nonetheless keep funding it: The fact that, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “He just wants to be on the side that’s winning.”

Q: But won’t Barack Obama defend our civil liberties?

A: This one’s easy – no. In July, Obama infamously voted in favor of the FISA Amendments Act, which greatly expanded the President’s power to spy on the communications of American citizens, and grants immunity to communications companies who carried out this spying in the past. This infuriated many supporters, especially since Obama had repeatedly promised to vote against immunity for telecommunications companies. This is what Obama is doing when he’s still trying to win your vote! Imagine what he’ll do once he’s been elected.

If that weren’t enough, Obama voted in 2006 to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act.

Q: What is Obama’s stance on immigration?

A: Assuming you believe that no “human being is illegal,” his stance is extremely bad.

*Obama voted for the “Secure Fence Act of 2006,” which approved the construction of an additional 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border and called for increased surveillance on all U.S. international borders.

*In March of this year, Obama also voted for the “Immigration Enforcement and Employer Sanctions Amendment,” which Project Vote Smart—a non-partisan organization that researches candidates’ voting records—summarized this way: “Vote to adopt an amendment that allows the Senate Budget Committee Chairman to raise spending levels to increase border security, expand enforcement of immigration laws, increase penalties against employers who hire undocumented immigrants, deploy National Guard troops to the southern and northern borders of the United States, and identify and deport non-citizen immigrants in prisons, provided that such spending would not increase the budget deficit."

*Obama’s own Web site proclaims: “Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.” In other words, Obama supports a system that makes immigrants official second-class citizens… If they’re lucky.

*All of the above reveals Obama’s platitudes about “keeping immigrant families together” to be just that—platitudes.

Q: But at least Barack Obama is against torture. Right?

A: As the saying goes: “Actions speak louder than words.”

*It is true that Obama has said that, if elected, he will close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus. And that he has said, “it is never OK” for the U.S. to torture.

*But what action has Barack Obama taken now –during the time when our government has openly subjected detainees to waterboarding, vicious beatings, extreme isolation, sensory and sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and countless other forms of sadistic torture; as hundreds of detainees have languished for years in Guantanamo with no trial; as more and more evidence has accumulated that the Bush Regime approved this torture, until Bush outright admitted approving meetings where torture was planned?

None. Except, that is, for repeatedly refusing to work for – or even endorse the idea of – impeaching an administration that has repeatedly admitted to carrying out torture. In April, after ABC News reported that top Bush administration officials met in the White House multiple times to plan and approve torture, a Philadelphia Daily News reporter asked Obama whether, as president, he would be willing to investigate whether the Bush Regime committed crimes. Obama waffled by saying “If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated,” even though it was quite apparent that the Bush administration had committed crimes; days earlier, Bush himself had acknowledged approving meetings where torture was planned.

In the course of answering the reporter’s question, Obama also said: “One of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances."

*Obama also refused to filibuster -- i.e. block the passage of– the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which eliminated habeas corpus and allowed the President to define what constitutes “torture.”

*There you have it. Obama is supposedly opposed to torture, but he is utterly unwilling to take any action to stop it. He apparently does not think the use of torture is an “exceptional circumstance” that would merit impeachment proceedings. He offers only verbal denouncements and promises that, once elected, he will work to end torture. Remember, if we go on words alone, Bush and Cheney have also said on many occasions that it is not OK for the United States to torture.

Q: Wouldn’t having the first Black president in U.S. history represent tremendous advances in ending racism?

A: Ask yourself these questions: If Barack Obama becomes president, will 1 in 9 Black males in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 34 no longer be in prison? Will hundreds of thousands of Black males no longer be subjected to stop and frisks by the NYPD every year on the streets of New York? Will the police stop shooting one unarmed man of color after another? Will it no longer be true that 3 times as many African-Americans as whites live below 125 percent of the poverty line in the U.S.? Will Black children not be twice as likely as white children to have no health insurance?
Will the demolition of housing projects and massive displacement of African-Americans in post-Katrina New Orleans suddenly be undone?

These are just a few extremely powerful facts about racism in the United States. The point is this: While sickening individual acts of racism are a pervasive, daily occurrence throughout society, white supremacy has always been an institutional, societal phenomenon. Having a Black man at the head of the government that enforces this white supremacy doesn’t signal the end of this phenomenon.

*Beyond that, there is the specific matter of how Barack Obama has himself addressed issues of race. After the police officers who murdered Sean Bell with 50 shots were let off without even a slap on the wrist, here is what Obama had to say: “Well, look, obviously there was a tragedy in New York. I said at the time, without benefit of all the facts before me, that it looked like a possible case of excessive force. The judge has made his ruling, and we're a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down.”

We’re supposed to “respect” a verdict that allows police to gun down innocent Black men with no impunity?!

*And, in his recent Father’s Day speech, Obama blamed Black fathers for much of the problems confronting Black America:

“But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it. You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it."

Q: So you’re saying we’ll be OK if progressives sit out the election and McCain wins?

Of course not. But we won’t be “OK” if Obama wins either.

That McCain makes clear his intent to continue the criminal and brutal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan; he repeatedly threatens Iran and “jokes” about killing Iranian civilians; vehemently opposes abortion rights; and rails against the recent Supreme Court decision to grant habeas corpus rights to detainees…. These are just a few of an endless list of examples that show the nightmare that a McCain presidency would bring.

But an Obama presidency would also be a nightmare for the people of the world. As the above facts have shown, a vote for Obama is a vote for (among other things): Extended war and heightened brutality in Afghanistan; increased big brother surveillance of American citizens; threats of war (if not actual war) against Iran and Pakistan; repression of immigrants; and complicity in the face of torture. And that’s just what Obama is telling us now. Who knows what else he’ll do if he wins the election.

The question—“So you’re saying we should let McCain be elected?” —is the wrong one to be asking. The question we should be asking is: What are we doing right now, up to, and after the elections to resist the direction both McCain and Obama want to take this country and the world?

Q: So if elections aren’t the vehicle for change, then what is?

A: Recognition. Declaration. Determination.

*The real change we need starts with a recognition: That whatever Obama’s bromides about “hope” and “change,” the actual principal motivations of his campaign are: 1) To divert genuine resistance to the program of our government from the streets to the ballot box. 2) To make people “feel good” about their country again, even if that country is raping, torturing, and pillaging the world. 3) To propagate the lie that racism, even if it still exists, cannot be an “excuse” for Black people anymore because— look— there is a Black man in the White House! 4) And to win a popular mandate for a program that will in fact lead to more endless war and repression.

*After this recognition comes a declaration - -to society and to yourself: “I’m not getting conned by the ‘lesser of two evils’ logic anymore. Period. I want the crimes of our government brought to a halt, not continued under the guise of “change.”

*This declaration and recognition must then lead to a basic determination: to become part of, and to contribute as much as you can, to a mass independent movement that is resisting both of the two evils being offered to us; a movement that is fighting to stop endless war, torture, spying and repression, no matter which party is carrying it out.

To find out more, visit our Web site at Find the contact information for the chapter nearest you. Learn more about what we’re all about, and different initiatives and actions we’ve got in the days and weeks coming up.


Arthur84 said...

Wow, I had no idea. With the way Obama votes, if I did not know he was a democrat, I would swear that he was a republican. So if he votes like a republican, then why is he say that he is the answer for change. He does not sound like he will change anything. He admits that the war in Iraq was wrong, yet he votes for more funding. Wow, and I thought I did not trust politicians before. Obviously, they are all two-faced, willing to vote for whoever and whatever will pay them more "campaign" money. Our political system needs a major overhaul.

Arthur84 said...

Well, obviously, I cannot in good conscience vote for Obama or Mcain. I guess I am going to have to write in Mickey Mouse, or Peter Griffin or something.