“THE FIRST thing to say is that there should be no honeymoon. The Democrats have held a majority in the House and Senate for two years, yet have continued to fund the occupation of Iraq, to allow warrantless wiretaps, to expand the military budget.
But the Democrats can no longer use the excuse of Bush and the need to win the White House to continue to defy the widespread desire for change. That means we need to challenge Obama from the first day he takes office, with public protest and mobilization.
Second, we have to insist that Obama’s “let’s not and say we did” position on withdrawal from Iraq is unacceptable. Withdrawal means withdrawal, not redeployment of some troops to Afghanistan while leaving tens of thousands of troops for “counter-insurgency,” maintaining long-term bases, establishing the largest foreign Central Intelligence Agency station and U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and allowing mercenaries to remain.
We can’t let Iraq slip into the background, out of the headlines, and accept a repacking of the occupation as a solution.
Third, we need to be clear that the problem with the so-called Bush Doctrine of preventive war is not that it was misapplied, but that it is wrong on principle. We must pressure Obama to renounce–which so far he has shown no signs of doing–regime change in Iran and the right to strike countries like Syria and Somalia at will.
That applies to U.S. allies such as Israel as well, to which this obscene power has long been extended (along with the right to maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons, like other U.S. allies that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India and Pakistan, in contrast to Iran).
Last, we need to say to Obama that we want an end to the ideological war on Arabs and Muslims, on immigrants, and the outrageous powers according to the executive to detain and torture, to use secret evidence, to hold people in Guantánamo Bay or prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq. Guantánamo should be closed immediately and the territory completely returned to Cuba.
Renditions and torture should be renounced without qualification. The United States should end its defiance of the international convention on violence against children (protecting the right to execute minors) and on the use of land mines and cluster munitions, as well as nuclear weapons (the new generation of so-called mini-nukes).
Now is not a time for “bipartisanship.” We have seen all too much of that. Bipartisanship has led to all the problems we presently confront, with the complicity and, in many cases, full-throated support of the Democrats. Now is time for a radical break.
But we should not for a moment hold our breath or expect Obama to deliver this of his own initiative. Nothing in his career or policy statements–or in the lessons of our history–should lead us to expect that.
If anything, we should anticipate Obama will govern to the right of his campaign promises, not the left. Last century, we saw two presidents legislate to the left of the policies they advocated as candidates: Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. The reason was not to be explained by their personal characteristics, but the fact that both were confronted by massive social movements that disrupted business as usual and forced unexpected democratic changes from below.”