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Obama the War Profiteer

March 6, 2009

Monsieur Obama has been calling the Iraq War wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG in all its aspects and at all times before he became President. Since then he has restrained himself to planning the withdrawal of troops and some standard bushdidit allusions. What he has been doing consistently both before his inauguration and afterwards, though, was exploiting the war for his political success.

When still a candidate, Obama touted his ‘judgment’ on foreign policy issues by citing his opposition to the Iraq invasion even while a bipartisan majority were in favour of it. (He went a bit too far, though, when he insisted that the Surge had been a bad idea even after it had proven to be the decisive element in turning the odds around and to win the war.) The war had become so unpopular that presenting himself as the most anti-war candidate was a strategy Obama was happy to choose.

The narrative of the soldier as victim was also used by Obama as a candidate. Just remember when during one of the (precious few) presidential debates McCain mentioned the soldier’s bracelet he was wearing. It had been given to him by the mother of the soldier with the explicit wish that he “do[es] everything in [his] power to make sure that [her] son’s death was not in vain.” To this Obama responded: “I’ve got a bracelet, too”, also from the mother of a soldier who had died in Iraq. But she, Obama tells us, had asked him to “please make sure another mother is not going through what I’m going through.” Apart from the school-boyish ‘but my scar is bigger than yours’ attitude, M Obama’s reaction was embarrassing because he didn’t recall the name of the soldier until he paused and made a movement that awfully looked like he was checking the carving on the bracelet. (There was also some evidence that the family of the soldier didn’t approve of this politicisation of their son’s death and even told Obama not to wear the bracelet.)

Luckily for the new president, the media and consequently the broader public have lost interest in the Iraq war since it doesn’t serve as a weapon against Republicans anymore. The Surge, the Anbar awakening and its consequences have turned the disaster that was the Iraq War into what can be guardedly called a victory today. This threatens to make those who so fiercely and obstinately (let alone hysterically) called the war lost to look silly in retrospect (not that they didn’t look silly even back then). It also means that – the French Cowboy is reluctant to say so, but it appears that Obama has been proven wrong, at least in his assessment of the Surge. No wonder that now the Bush-hating, Obama-loving media avoids the subject of the Iraq War.

But that doesn’t mean that there is no political advantage to be garnered from the war. President Obama demonstrates this with his new budget plan. The $2 trillion in ‘savings’ M Obama and his team claim to have found in the national budget are coming from large parts from expenses that would have been made in the Iraq war were it to go on in the way it has been for another decade. “Ah,” you say, “but it wasn’t planned, nor to be assumed that the fighting and the costs in Iraq would go on like this for several years to come. There even is the SOFA.” Correct, I say, but this obviously doesn’t hinder the Obama administration to claim those imaginary expenses as savings on the basis that, indeed, they will not be made. “But that is ridiculous!”, you say, “It’s like me saying that I save $300,000 because I won’t buy the Ferrari I wouldn’t have bought in the first place!” True, with the exception that you would not be talking about taxpayers’ money.

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