Obama and Iraq
By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on June 17, 2008
For the Standard Today,
June 18 issue
This should be interesting to watch. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, has challenged the presumptive Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, to a series of Town Hall-type debates from now to just before Election Day in November.
I am not aware if Obama has accepted the challenge. Perhaps he is wondering if he is being invited to walk into a trap. Or perhaps he and his team are strategizing how they can accept the invitation and then turn the debates into a rout for McCain.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Obama is by far the better debater and speaker. Obama is naturally eloquent and articulate. McCain, like the incumbent George W. Bush, tends to speak in clichés and is often at a loss for the right words. Why McCain issued the challenge, in the first place, boggles the mind.
Would a cross-eyed epileptic with a severe nervous tic challenge a proven sharpshooter to a shoot-out? Like I said, this should be interesting to watch.
And what would they be debating on? According to the latest surveys, the number one concern of the American electorate is the faltering US economy. Iraq is only number two.
And well it should be. Some 350,000 Americans have lost their jobs since January 1 of this year. Some 1.1 million Americans have had their homes foreclosed by the banks since the sub-prime meltdown in July last year, because they could no longer afford to pay their monthlies.
And with gasoline retailing at more than four dollars a gallon, how can the economy not be the number issue for most Americans?
Does McCain really feel he can win this one against Obama? At the start of the primary season last February, McCain made the startling candid admission that he didn’t know anything about economics, an admission that his Republican rival, Gov. Mitt Romney, tried to make a mountain of.
But, to no avail.. Some Americans apparently do not mind if a candidate openly admits that he does not know anything about economics, even while the economy is falling apart, as long as he makes the right noises about staying in Iraq for up to 100 years, if need be.
For all we know, Obama does not know anything about economics either, but he exudes self-confidence and credibility as he wins brownie points, among other Americans, with his promise to bring home the troops from Iraq in 16 months after he is inaugurated president in January 2009..
Is McCain banking on his 100-years-in-Iraq to win over Obama’s 16-months-out-of-Iraq, even if the primary concern of most Americans is the faltering economy, for which neither candidate has any sure-fire solution?
Possibly. The latest surveys put Obama only a few percentage points ahead of McCain, a statistically insignificant lead since almost 20% of the electorate are still undecided.
In my article Obama and Israel (June 05), I raised the possibility that the neo-cons in Washington might collude with Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities just before the November 4 elections, knowing fully well that a President Obama would most likely NOT initiate such a move.
A President Obama would thus be stuck with a fait accompli from which he cannot and will not retreat, given his unequivocal support for Israel stated during his recent speech before AIPAC, the powerful Jewish lobby group.
A further complication would be the recent (June 05) disclosure, made by The Independent newspaper in London, that a secret deal is being negotiated in Baghdad that would give the Americans 58 permanent military bases in Iraq, control of Iraqi air space up to 30,000 feet, immunity of American troops and contractors from Iraqi law, and the right to launch military operations without prior consultation with the Iraqi government.
President Bush “wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated….The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the US is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr. Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal….”
This could be what gives McCain – an authentic Vietnam War hero - the confidence that he can beat the more seasoned debater Obama in a series of debates: a combination of faits accomplis, in Iran as well as in Iraq , from which Obama – who has never served in the military - cannot retreat without his patriotism being questioned.
All this while the 9/11 Five – led by mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed – are being tried by a military tribunal for the most devastating terrorist attack ever on US soil, which would put hang-tough patriotism above what would be disparaged as weak-kneed disengagement.. *****
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