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Politicians, Kids and an Audacious Hope

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By Dave Lindorff

    I remember back in 1970, when I was a student and anti-war activist in Connecticut, watching an ad on TV for Lowell Weicker, who was running for US Senate. The ad was very powerful: It showed Weicker playing in the yard with his son, who looked like he was maybe 10 or 12.  Weicker was saying that when his son was a tot, the US was fighting in Vietnam, and he didn’t want us to be fighting there when his son reached draft age.  

I voted for Weicker, a Republican who went on to win a Senate seat where he played a key role in helping to bring an end to the Nixon presidency.

As it happens, the Vietnam War ended five years later, when Weicker’s son was probably 17. He didn’t get drafted, but I remain struck by the fact that we could, back then, even contemplate the idea of being at war for so long.

    Today, I have a son, Jed, who is 15. America doesn’t have a draft, but we do have a war in Iraq which has been going since Jed was 9, with no end in sight. John McCain, the prospective presidential candidate for the Republican Party, says America can win that war by 2013. 2013? That’s five more years! At that point Jed will be 20 years old! We will have been at war in Iraq for more than half of a young adult’s life!  And worse yet, if McCain has his way—or if President Bush beats him to it and even before the next president is inaugurated on Jan. 19, 2009 decides to, as McCain so light-heartedly put it, “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”--we will be at war with the entire Arab world. And believe me, we would have a draft then, and my son would be near the top of the list.

    That’s the future we look forward to with a President John McCain: permanent war.

    Now I know Barack Obama has made some remarks about not allowing Iran to “get the bomb,” and about “not taking any options off the table,” but I think it’s highly unlikely that if he were president we’d go to war with Iran. First off, Obama has called for “unconditional” talks with Iran, as well as with other countries with which the US has disagreements. That’s the antithesis of belligerence, and certainly is the antithesis of the approach of the Bush administration, which equates talking with surrender. Second, where Bush’s whole approach to government has been to create fear and chaos and then to rule as a tyrant while accusing critics of being traitors or cowards, Obama’s whole approach has been to challenge that campaign of fear, and to call for calm and reason. I take some heart from his full-throated challenge to Bush’s and McCain’s charge that his willingness to talk with Iran is akin to Neville Chamberlain’s “appeasement” of Hitler—something neither Al Gore nor John Kerry, as candidates, would have had the guts to do.

    Obama has also talked about the US possibly having troops in Iraq for years, but I don’t think that’s what would happen, either.

    Think about it. For McCain, war is a good thing. He sees nothing wrong with it. He likes it. He has no idea how to run the country (he admits he doesn’t even understand economics!). So he’s going to end up doing what Bush did—ramp up the wars, and keep the people scared. It’s the only way the Republicans know how to govern anymore.

    But whatever one may think of Obama—and certainly he’s taken some lame and politically timid positions over the years as a senator—he doesn’t like war, and moreover, wants to do things domestically as president that endless war would prevent him from doing.  Furthermore, this Iraq a war he had nothing to do with starting. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he opposed it from the outset. So what advantage is there for him politically in allowing it to fester through his first term as president?  Better to be shed of it right away, take any political heat that might come from calling it off, and then move on to better things.

    I think it’s a safe bet that an Obama presidency will see an end to the Iraq war, a rapprochement with Iran.

    For my son’s sake, and all our sons’ sakes, I’m voting for Obama this year. I’m doing it not thinking that he will usher in a golden age of progressive politics, but because I’m sick of living through endless war.

    McCain promises endless war.

    Obama offers at least the hope of peace.

    The human race is heading off a cliff. The ice caps are melting, the seas are rising, one-third of the life on the planet has vanished, and species of plants and animals are vanishing with a rapidity not seen since the late Cretaceous Period. Unless we want to go the way of the dinosaur or the mastodon, we don’t have time for wars of imperial conquest, or for petty squabbling anymore. We need to focus on fixing the big things. And until Americans can be talked out from under the table so we can focus our attention on something other than “terrorists,” nothing is going to be done.

    Obama hasn’t talked much about these big things, but again, I believe that once he’s in office, and the reality hits him, he will.

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Dave Lindorff, winner of a 2019 "Izzy" Award for Outstanding Independent Journalism from the Park Center for Independent Media in Ithaca, is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper (more...)

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