Obama the hawk?

Lee Sustar explains that Barack Obama's hard-line speech at the AIPAC conference wasn't just pandering to the pro-Israel lobby, but a statement of his real position on foreign policy issues.

IS BARACK Obama to the right of George W. Bush on Israel-Palestine?

That was the question across the Arab and Muslim world following Obama's declaration of support for an "undivided" Jerusalem at the annual meeting of the main pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington.

As Obama said to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on June 4:

Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

This hawkish statement contradicts official U.S. policy. Under the U.S.-brokered Oslo Accords of 1993 that launched an Israeli-Palestinian "peace process," the fate of Arab and mainly Muslim East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, is to be decided through "permanent status" negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has insisted that East Jerusalem must be the capital of the Palestinian mini-state envisioned under the Oslo agreement.

By appeasing the Israeli--and U.S.--right wing with his comments on Jerusalem, Obama was signaling that his administration wouldn't change the course set by George Bush.

That means further construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank to Palestinians into ghettos, more carve-ups of the West Bank to consolidate Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, and continued support for the genocidal combination of sanctions and military strikes aimed at Gaza, one of the world's most densely populated areas.

This isn't speculation. Obama spelled it out for the AIPAC audience:

I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel's security. That starts with ensuring Israel's qualitative military advantage. I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat--from Gaza to Tehran.

Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As president, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade--investments to Israel's security that will not be tied to any other nation.

Obama's blank check for Israel is part of a plan to ensure that the Middle East remains thoroughly militarized under U.S. domination, even if some U.S. troops are shifted out of Iraq.

The primary target is to be Iran, which Obama accused of accelerating a nuclear weapons program. "Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran--it is precisely what has strengthened it," he said. "It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in."

In other words, very, very slowly.

The U.S. certainly wouldn't pull back from the region under an Obama administration. "The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat," Obama said, echoing Hillary Clinton's notorious comment that the U.S. would "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel. He added: "Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes, there are no alternatives to confrontation."

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THAT'S A lot of saber-rattling from a man often billed as an "antiwar" candidate. Apologists for Obama claim that he "had" to throw out red meat to AIPAC in order to appease the Israel lobby and shore up Jewish votes for the November election.

But Obama didn't have to go nearly so far in order to curry favor with AIPAC. While Obama certainly wants to bury memories of his once-friendly relationship with people like Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah and Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi, he could have accomplished that by other means--as he showed in his disposal of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his former church.

No, the explanation for Obama's hard-line stance lies elsewhere. He's running to become the leader of the world's most powerful and vicious imperial power, and he must demonstrate that--despite his past as a community organizer--he's sufficiently ruthless for the job. His audience isn't AIPAC, but the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Thus, Obama has staked out a right-wing stance not only on Israel, but against Cuba. As historian Greg Grandin pointed out, Obama recently met with right-wing Cubans in Miami and denounced Bush for neglecting Latin America and allowing "demagogues like Hugo Chávez" to step "into the vacuum."

"He even raised the specter of Iranian influence in the region, pointing out that 'just the other day, Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits,'" Grandin wrote.

Obama also made it clear that he would continue the U.S. policy of building up Colombia's right-wing government as a militaristic agent of the U.S. in the region. He pledged to "support Colombia's right to strike terrorists who seek safe havens across its borders," endorsing Colombia's deadly attack on rebels in Ecuador's territory in March, an action that was condemned by virtually all Latin American governments.

So much for "change." If elected, Obama may try to downsize and repackage the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But when it comes to aggressively pursuing U.S. imperial interests, there'll be no retreat unless resistance at home and abroad compels it.

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