milquetoast for president

I made a facetious statement over at Stephen's today, and wouldn't you know, he called me on it. I decided to take my own medicine and research Obama, who I called milquetoast, mostly because I can't stand Oprah; I think Obama's wife looks frumpy and we already had 8 years of a frumpy First Lady; and despite myself, I kinda like Hilary for a couple of reasons, not the least that a woman president would shove equal rights in the face of the Islamic world.

All that said, I fully expected to eat my words. Imagine my surprise when I proved myself right.

Since I'm not all that political, and since this might generate a shit-storm of controversy, I’m going to take up only three issues (in three posts) with Obama—three main issues that I think proves he is a milquetoast with no new ideas. He calls for CHANGE; that indicates something new, and I’d like to see him (or SOMEBODY) offer something new. Most of his ideas enact or enforce existing legislation like scotch tape on a cracked dam. He tends, sadly, to attack the symptoms, not the disease.

I’m culling information directly from his own website. I read the favorable Wikipedia article, but I’ve not read any press on the man, and will not quote the media for these purposes. His website should best represent who he is and what he stands for. The first issue, today, will be the war in Iraq. I freely admit my views are tainted by the memoir HOUSE TO HOUSE, an acquaintance who ran regular bombing raids over Iraq at the start of the war, the BBC, NPR, and my loathing for all things George W. Bush.

I, like Obama, thought we never should have gone to Iraq in the first place. On that we agree. I'll also pause here to say he wants more troops in Afghanistan, which I also agree with.

He states in big ole font under the Iraq tab:

I will end the war in Iraq… I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. I will finish the fight against Al Qaeda.

When I dug deeper, I found the PDF of Obama’s “plan.” I agree with the proposed results: Iraqis taking charge of their own country. Unfortunately, I think that’s a pipedream for the near future, and THAT is an issue that no candidate is willing to address head-on. Until we admit to the real cultural “differences” (and maybe some flaws) among the Iraqi collective conscience, and most importantly, our own ignorance of their ways, these are potentially harmful solutions. Italics are quotes from his website.

Withdrawal is the Best Way to Pressure Iraqi Government

Obama would redeploy troops at the rate of 1-2 brigades a month from Iraq. He intends for troop removal to pressure the Iraqi PM and government into stepping up. More on this in a moment.

Once the pressure’s on, enter Diplomacy.

All well and good for politico-speak, but there’s a major problem that no candidate has the balls to bring up. Iraqi political lethargy is a cultural flaw from years of dictatorship. We made the effort to remove their powerful (albeit horrible) leadership and had no one to insert in his place. I don’t advocate anything Saddam did, just that his brand of control may well have been a necessary evil, given the cultural, sectarian, and geographical conditions of the region. The time to move is when a people are ready to take back their own country. However, no statues fell until the US arrived on the scene. From all I’ve read about the Iraqis, I’ve little faith into their ability and desire to take on the nasty business of governing themselves. They too often seem to choose the “path of least resistance.” Our troops claim their soldiers are lazy to the point of insolence. Their leadership is asleep at the wheel. If there was an Iraqi man or woman smart enough, strong enough, motivated enough to take charge of the situation, his or her name would be better known by most Americans than Obama's. That person has yet to emerge.

In this light, removing our troops would destabilize the situation immediately, and diplomacy will get us laughed out of the room. So in the event of our withdrawel, who will step up to take control of the region? The Islamic extremists, that’s who. Talk is cheap to a man who’s willing to duct tape a bomb to his chest, or stick an adrenalin shot in his heart in order to keep firing his weapon long after he should be dead, or to a man who will spend a decade living in caves just to prove a point. Those guys won’t come to the table anyway, and the ones who will have no real power. There simply isn’t anyone to negotiate with.

No doubt Iraq is a mess of the US's making, and to his credit, Obama addresses it, though still not to the level of detail I'd prefer.

Under Address Iraq’s Humanitarian crisis: …
There are two million Iraqis displaced in their own country. There are another two million Iraqi refugees living beyond Iraq's borders…

Given this situation, Barack Obama

would establish an international working group dedicated to addressing the Iraqi refugee crisis. This is probably the only good idea I’ve found here, but the US and International community tired of Iraq years ago. I’m not really sure where he’s going to find the money and effective people for this “working group.”

…[would] promote a regional compact that would ensure commitments by Iraq's neighbors to non-intervention and to Iraq's territorial integrity. Uh huh. And they get together for shit-shooting sessions real regular-like, the Saudis and the Turks and the Syrians and the Iranians. What are we going to say or do that hasn’t been said or done countless times before? These are century-old differences that cannot be resolved quickly by outsiders--much less white-bread American ones. (And Obama is pretty white-bread--his mother's from Wichita, for crissake. I lived in Wichita. My husband was raised there. It's the heartland at its worst.)

He includes a little CYA: Under the Obama plan, American troops may remain in Iraq or the region. These American troops will protect American diplomatic and military personnel in Iraq, and continue striking at al Qaeda in Iraq…but ruins it with this naïvety: In the event of an outbreak of genocide, we would reserve the right to intervene, with the international community, if that intervention was needed to provide civilians with a safe-haven.

I submit that genocide is already alive and well in Iraq. From four BBC stories today:

A double bombing kills 14 in Baghdad, including the head of a US-backed Sunni armed group fighting al-Qaeda...A suicide bomber has killed 10 people in an attack in the city of Baquba, north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Another 15 people were wounded in the explosion...On Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed 30 people attending a funeral in Baghdad...The December death toll was 480... A suicide truck bomber has killed at least 11 people in an attack on a checkpoint north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, police say.

The 1948 United Nations Conventions on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2 , defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial, or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

One of the most respected British estimations for Iraqi native deaths sits at around 1.2 million since the US led invasion in March 2003. That’s 240,ooo per year. The current population estimates from CIA Worldbook estimates Iraq population at 27.5 million. That’s almost 9% of the population dying from extremist violence, poverty, and displacement per year, and does not include the uncounted deaths which occurred outside Baghdad in 2003. (Even the most conservative figures indicate 100,000 per year.) At top rates, every Iraqi could be dead within 11 years. How many people must die per day, per month, per year, per incident, to call what’s happening in Iraq genocide? How many Iraqi people must be displaced before a president will step up and try to actually fix our mistakes (and those of the Iraqis) at the risk to his own political health?

Obama never specifically addresses what he’ll do with all the prisoners at Guantanamo or what he’ll do to restore Habeas Corpus. Noble goals, to be sure, but I couldn’t find anything on them.

We all know it’s a mess over there, but to rely on withdrawal is as naïve and dangerous as teenagers without a condom. That Obama would suggest it in such simplistic terms shows his political immaturity and his inability to dissect and reassemble a losing situation. It also shows his disregard for the intelligence of the American public (poor as that may be). But worse than that, with his travels, education, experience, and multi-cultural heritage, he should know better. The American people sure as hell deserve better from a Presidential candidate.

Next time: Obama on Healthcare.

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