I don't want to have to say 'I told you so'

In my earlier post about the necessity of impeaching the current President and Vice President, I offered as part of my rationale the imperative of repudiating as much of the Bush Doctrine, its associated assaults on the Constitution, and the general MO of the American Empire as possible. The danger inherent in failing to publicly reject the illegal and reprehensible powers that the current Executive has assumed to itself is that future Presidents will have the road open to them to do far worse.

Personally, I am supporting Barack Obama in the current contest (sorry, Ralph... I voted for you twice, but you're all done), in no small part because I believe his election will send a strong message to the rest of the world that the United States, recent evidence aside, is not entirely a nation of insane, jingoistic assholes and that we might actually take the idea of behaving as a modern global civilization somewhat seriously. Obama seems most willing to engage with the world on a constructive level and, more importantly, I think he has a sincere desire for the United States to be a good-faith shepherd of its empire.

That said, my support of him is not wildly enthusiastic because despite the extra plush he'll add to the velvet glove he is still a corporatist hegemonist, albeit a kinder, gentler one.

Clinton... well, none of us have any illusions about Hillary Clinton, now do we? She is, after all, the number one recipient of campaign contributions from the defense industry, even beating out John McCain1.

Both Clinton and Obama spend a lot of their airtime talking about 'withdrawing' from Iraq, and I've been commenting for nearly as long that as good as that sounds to our absurdity-fatigued ears it's a disingenuous statement at best and a total lie at worst. Both candidates plan to finish the mammoth diplomatic compound known as The Green Zone (a civilian contractor friend of mine who did a six-month stint in Iraq reminded me several times that there are many "green zones"), both candidates intend to leave tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq to train and advise the Iraqi military, "combat Al Qaeda" and "neutralize Iran", both candidates will leave most if not all of the military bases we've constructed there in operation, and that massive diplomatic presence is going to require an equally massive security force.

The latter part is where it gets a bit depressing. We're all aware that the vast majority of diplomatic security for Americans in Iraq is provided by private, armed military contractors like Blackwater and their ilk. My feelings about the danger that extralegal, unaccountable paramilitary forces pose to both human life and democratic governance are well known, so I don't feel the need to go into detail here.

Barack Obama has also taken a public stand that unaccountable private militaries are dangerous and undesirable, for which I laud him. Obama sponsored a bill last year which sought to create a structure for prosecuting State Department contractors who commit crimes in extraterritorial areas of operation, for one thing. However, his actions seem to be drifting away from his rhetoric on this issue and I think this is a point on which he must be taken to task.

A "senior foreign policy adviser" (who is left unnamed in the article, but is almost certainly Samantha Power) told Jeremy Scahill in a recent The Nation interview that Obama "will not 'rule out' using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq" and that, further, "Obama does not plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009"2.

Now, it's true that Obama plans to increase funding for actual US Government diplomatic security forces, but the above article goes on to say that actually creating a diplomatic security force of the necessary size and training would literally take years. There are, apparently, only thirty six diplomatic security agents currently in Iraq who are actual US Government employees, as compared to Blackwater's thousand and other firms' hundreds3. If Obama's bill creating a prosecutorial structure for private contractors is not passed, and if Obama continues to refuse to support the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, we'll be left in exactly the same position we are now: with an unaccountable, extralegal Praetorian Guard.

Obama's campaign claims that we really have no good choices here and that this is an inherited problem. That it is an inherited problem is certainly true; that we have no choices is not. The obvious choice, and the one we've been led to believe we're getting, is a total withdrawal from Iraq barring the usual (read: drastically smaller than currently planned) diplomatic corps we have in all nations with whom we have relations. The United States' unwillingness to give up strategic territory that it has seized is what makes it appear that there are no choices. Obama can, and should, do better.

1. The Huffington Post: "Defense Industry Embraces Democrats, Hillary By Far The Favorite"
2. The Nation: "Obama's Mercenary Position"
3. Ibid.

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