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March 19, 2008



There is no civil war in Iraq, whatever Obama says. There is sectarian violence instigated by the occupation to divide and rule. To speak of 'civil war' and put the onus on the 'Iraqis' to 'take responsibility' for problems that originate elsewhere will only continue the war.
Generally Obama speaks of the occupation political process as if it represents the status and prospects of Iraq. No such thing is true. It represents the status and prospects of the occupation: hopeless.
Not to worry. The Republicans have staked the election on McCain and the illusion of 'progress' in Iraq. But in seven months the war will still be there and the people will be seven months sicker of it. I doubt that even the Democrats can bail the Republicans out of that.

Nur al-Cubicle

I'm missed the speech...not sure I would have found the link. Thanks, AA.

Meanwhile France is to admit 500 Chaldean Iraqis. The plan has churned up a political storm, however, because they are all Christian. President Sarkozy does not intend to admit anyone else.

Non-Arab Arab

AA: You have plenty of praise for some admittedly far more sensible ideas eminating from Obama than the other candidates. However, there's an elephant in the room: the way Obama continues to pander to the Israeli lobby, bashing on Palestinians and blaming them lopsidedly for every ill in the conflict like all other major US politicians, calling every killing Israel engages in "self defense", etc. Even if one believes these things, it's pretty clear almost no one in the Arab and Islamic worlds does. This seems to be one area where Obama is quite firmly in the old mode of McCain and Hillary. How exactly does Obama expect to have a new kind of relationship winning hearts and minds if he's going to carry a viewpoint that is so antagonistic and in the view of those whose hearts and minds he is trying to win so utterly wrong on so important an issue? Especially disheartening given Obama has known and worked with Palestinian activists to say nothing of his time overseas. This is a man who should know how to build bridges on this key issue and yet he seems to simply be burning them. Care to address the issue?


I couldn't agree more with Non-Arab Arab. Obama's speech may have been right on on everything else, but then he turned around and suggested that the Israelis were the only innocent party in the problems of the Middle East. Excuse me? If this is as disconnected from reality as the most reality-connected of the candidates is, why should the rest of the world hope for anything from the US elections?

Yes, I am interpreting what he said harshly, but probably not as harshly as it would be interpreted in Jenin, Damascus or Tyre.


Everyone is justifiably still talking about Barack Obama's incredible speech on race yesterday, which only the fringe right failed to admit was rather extraordinary.

Do you even watch the news? Seriously? Or do you just make this stuff up, based on what your friends are saying? lol.

I've lost track of the number of Democrats I've seen on the news just today who said the speech was just meaningless fluff. I suppose they must be members of the "fringe right". In fact, the only praise I've seen for that speech (other than people commending Obama for his usual rhetorical skill) has been on the blogs.

Andrew R.


I think that there is a bit of tension in your ideas about the future of Iraq. You've mentioned before that the only way that Iraq will be able to function in the absence of U.S. forces is as a genuine Weberized state rather than a hodge-podge of armed local power-brokers. The problem, though, is that Iraqi security forces still need some serious help with logistics (and armor and artillery, to say nothing of air power). By saying that the U.S. has to completely withdraw yesterday, you're essentially saying that these nascent institutions need to be left to fend for themselves. That does not seem like a recipe for success.

No Preference

I agree that Obama's voice is inspiring, particularly in contrast to his competitors McCain and Clinton.

I second Non-Arab Arab's and Boulos' concerns about Obama's positions on I/P. I hope I'm wrong, but I have a sinking feeling that he may already have sold himself to the lobby on that issue. If so, it's a tragedy for the country.

T. Greer

Yep, the speech was meaningless fluff that we have all heard before. This speech was unique only in that we were able to here it all in one place. (I imagine I will right a larger dissection of the speech tomorrow, when I have more time, as I know you folks all want to read my opinions so bad. ^_~)

Even though Obama didn't really say anything innovative, I do have to give him credit for sounding amazing. I particularly enjoyed his contast use of the term "Clinton-McCain-Bush Policy." Tie all three politicians together as if their views are identically- it is brilliant.


(...) Obama continues to pander to the Israeli lobby, bashing Palestinians and blaming them lopsidedly for every ill in the conflict like all other major US politicians, calling every killing Israel engages in "self defense", etc. Even if one believes these things, it's pretty clear almost no one in the Arab and Islamic worlds does. (...)

How do we know that BHO ‘panders’? (I would not use that verb myself, but it is not a surprise that other people choose to.)

For that matter, why does everybody associated with The Lobby® except Peretz of Harvard doubt the total sincerity of BHO's Zionistical protestations?

Finally, isn't it perfectly clear that "almost no one in the Arab and Islamic worlds" votes in U.S. elections? What we're talking about here was a campaign speech, wasn't it?

Happy days.

(( Hmm. So O'Bomba is not really a Gaelic surname! How come nobody ever wants to pander to Paddy and me? ))

No Preference

The lobby is hammering Obama into shape. That's the purpose of the constant prodding. I think Obama is responding.

Obama's recent remarks on I/P can't be dismissed as a campaign tactic the way that a candidate's criticism of, say, NAFTA in Michigan could be. The lobby operates in all 50 states.

Abu Aardvark, how do you assess the following statement by Obama:
They expressed a profoundly distorted view . . . a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

Do you think this expresses a change of heart on Obama's part? Do you believe it reflects an accurate grasp of the source of US problems in the Middle East?


What Obama needs is some tasty gouda.

Non-Arab Arab

Ya Abu A: The calls for your take on the Obama and Israel-Palestine issue appear to be rising! I don't think it is at all necessary for you to address the nitty-gritty of Palestine issues, but where I would like to hear from you is how exactly Obama is going to navigate this divide? He has staked out a position broadly of more sensible engagement with the Arab and Muslim worlds, he is likely to get the US more or less out of Iraq, I hope he may be sensible enough to shut down Gitmo, and all of those points will win him brownie points in Arab and Muslim eyes. Indeed, on my trips to the Middle East of late as in yours apparently, there seems to be huge hope in Obama as "their" candidate who can change US FP and do some good.

But if he continues to carry on the same old dead-end approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by all the other candidates and 99% of the sitting politicians in Washington, isn't there a huge danger of it all going sour in the Middle East? That the likes of Osama and Zawahiri will be able to recover from the damage Obama's other positive moves will cause them, lick their wounds, and then start putting out fresh venomous videos saying "you thought this guy would fix everything, but look now, the Israelis are killing again with his support, you've trusted another Dajjaal from among the Kuffaar" and find renewed resonance again among the middle ground masses whose hearts and minds you have so rightly pointed out are the real prize everyone is seeking?

And while we're at it, would be interested to include your take on the same issue in regards to Clinton and McCain. A set of questions I hope might elicit a post in its own right from you!



I guess you'll have to color me ... "fringe right" ... or whatever.


Strategic assessment requires learning from the mistakes of how we got into this mess. Blix, Acropolis Review and TPM highlight some of the key points for the 5-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq:




I agree with the commenters who say we need more people calling for a more balanced policy between the Israelis and Palestinians, and I hope they emerge. But I don't expect any of them to be elected President of the United States anytime soon. Obama is simply responding to political realities in the US. He wants to win the election. I wish more people on the left did.


I couldn't agree more with the lead post. The speeches by Obama were extraordinary and attest to both his character and his vision. I see that the CC have let Bill out of his temporary holding cell to yet again try to score points by being divisive. The Clinton campaign at root has been negative from day one. Obama's grace under pressure has frankly been extraordinary, because he has been mightily tested.



He has not been tested yet. And don't bet on him changing anything. He sold his soul to AIPAC to win the presidency just as he previously sold his soul to Tony Rezko to win a Senate seat. He is a typical politician, white or black.


Obama's capitulation to AIPAC is most likely the reason that Samantha Power resigned. She saw it coming, decided she could no longer work in his campaign, although she still felt he was a better choice than Clinton. So she slimed Clinton and used that as an excuse to retire.


Interesting to witness the knees jerking in unison here about the Israelis and Palestinians, one subject that Sen. Obama's speech does not address extensively.

After eight years of Presidential speeches assembled from a grab-bag of poll-tested phrases and seven more with a President who needs a guide dog to find his way from one end of a complete English sentence to the other, I have to admit that Sen. Obama's speeches have a notably refreshing quality.

That quality isn't enough for me to overlook his more specious declarations -- for example, his bold statement that with respect to al Qaeda in Pakistan he will do something new, albeit identical to what the Bush administration is doing now -- or his sanguine reliance on the power of American goodwill in international affairs. It's just that it's been a while since a national politician really seemed to grasp the potential of the English language.

One theme Obama returns to in this speech he would be well advised to modify, or abandon altogether. This is the idea that an American withdrawal is what is needed to get Iraqi politicians to shape up and reconcile, allowing the country to make the political progress is has not made to date. It would be a good thing if this kind of political progress were made, under any circumstances. It has not been with the American army in Iraq -- but it may not be with the American army in the process of leaving Iraq either.

The strong possibility exists that with the Americans definitely in the way out, things in Iraq could get very bad, worse than they were in the 2006-07 period. The question that would raise is whether we should care; the answer to this question is, "no." Obama insists here that a commitment to withdraw is the essential thing to bring political progress in Iraq; if the country falls apart instead, he'll look foolish, not to say feckless.

Our problem at the moment is that we are looking to the political state of Iraq to help us decide whether to keep an army there. We need instead to recognize that we cannot afford to keep an army in Iraq no matter what that country's political state is. We want Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country, which is fine. Responsibility means that if their country falls apart after we leave, it is their fault and their problem.


"knees jerking in unison here" about "one subject that Sen. Obama's speech does not address extensively"

Well, it certainly does not address it extensively, but it just as certainly does address it in a very partisan way, and one that suggests that were Sen. Obama to be elected to the US Presidency, he would not do anything to change America's approach to a key defining issue in the relationship between America and the Arab world. In fact, a defining issue also in the relationships between America and the Muslim world, and between America and the developing world. I think Senator Obama's failure to engage with reality on this issue is important and for those of us outside the US is disillusioning, regardless of whether it results from political tactics, moral cowardice, or US tunnel vision.


Boulos --

I don't know where you are, or how prevalent your views are there, but from gleaning the foreign press, all evidence is that foreign observers do not find Obama's "failures" disillusioning at all, but that they are as infected by "hope" as his supporters are here.

Zathras --

I don't understand the near universal assumption that a US withdrawal will cause all hell to break loose. I don't pretend to know what will happen. There's obviously a power struggle going on, and it may be that it can only resolve itself violently at this point. I don't know. But if that's the case, it seems to me it will remain the case as long as we are there keeping the lid on things. The only alternative is for the US to align itself with one of the factions and assist it in crushing its rivals -- by definition a violent outcome.

On the other hand, everyone but the Bush administration agrees that our presence is the prime recruiting tool for terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi. If we were to leave, it is only common sense to expect that aspect of violence, at least, to decline.


I don't expect Greg or anyone else to read everything I write from time to time. I'll repeat what I've said elsewhere, that I do not assume Iraq will go kerblooey if the American army leaves. I hope it doesn't -- and a large majority of Iraqis has much more to lose than to gain from an explosion of violence and a further hardening of the division of the country.

I don't think this kind of disaster is inevitable or certain. I do insist that we recognize it as a possibility. My argument here is that American efforts to prevent it are justified only in the context of the liquidation of our military commitment in Iraq. All the numbers on my bottom line refer to American interests, not Iraqi ones, and pursuit of American interests requires that we not continue to be spooked into maintaining an unsustainable commitment because we're afraid of what these Arabs might do to one another once we leave. Iraq is just not that important.



The speech was fantastic. It was good enough to overcome the Rev Wright nonsense even in a very heated political climate in which Obama is being hit from two sides. All the naysayers in here did not listen to it, or the remarks from the press following it. Not a doubt in my military mind. Even the folks at Fox News had to pause in order to understand and reject the truth that they knew that they had just witnessed. It actually took Fox some time to find the proper sound bites for their news models talking points. Expertise in monopolization of perception is the largest propaganda tool of our free press. Hey, it sells.

Very soon it will be a mathematical impossibility for Hillary to win the elected delegate race. Very soon after that it will be impossible even with the delegates (she did not earn) from FL and MI. As soon as that milestone is reached, I predict that the heavy hitters from the party will step in to call it for Obama. It is the only way they can settle this thing without giving Hillary the ability to cry foul, even though she does not have the numbers today. If they call it too early, they run the risk of dividing the party more than Hillary is and hurting the general election chances of victory. Many of the supers and party leaders are waiting for the moment when they can say-

1) This was a race for elected delegates, and the person having the most going into the convention will get the majority of our support.

2) It is a mathematical impossibility that Clinton can overtake Obama in elected delegates at this point, therefore the only fair way to settle this is to give it to the person who won the election... Obama.

Some will need to wait for-

3) Go ahead and seat all the delegates Clinton earned from Florida and Mi, we want their votes to count. Still, Senator Clinton does not have the delegates to overtake Obama, so refer to #1 and #2.

This scenario leaves little wiggle room for Clinton to make any real argument without killing her name. I am guessing from what I have read at Ephblog, that you have had the epiphany? The Clintons do not care who or what they have to destroy to achieve power, they only care about themselves. That is why the party is forced to wait while McCain gains ground right now. That is why Hillary will not quit until the loaded guns pointed at her are certain to kill the Clinton brand.

Good luck with everything. Honesty, hope and change!

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