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Obama foreign policy adviser's roundtable

Last Thursday I was invited to attend this roundtable at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA. Senator Obama's campaign was represented by four of his foreign policy advisers, impressive people all: Denis McDonough, Susan Rice, Paul Bucha and Richard Danzig. It re-inspired my strong desire to see Senator Obama become next President of the United States.

There was a limited opportunity for the audience to participate. I had several things I wanted to say and had my hand up to get the microphone the whole time, but never got it. So I'm posting my thoughts here. My ideas are certainly not original or new. Mr Bucha came close to making the first of these points himself on Thursday. The second�perhaps others as well�reflects a position that Senator Obama has already taken. And the third was briefly alluded to in another question asked that day.

(1) War on Terror: I believe one of the biggest mistakes President Bush made after 9/11 was to declare this a "War". For one thing it raises the status of the vile people who committed this heinous act far beyond what they deserve. Al Qaeda is obviously not a nation against whom we can make war. We should be treating them as nothing more than the uncommon criminals that they are.

More importantly, there is no way to define how we will know when this "war" has concluded. If there was thing I thought we had learned from Vietnam, it was that we must have clear and measurable objectives before we go to war. Apparently not.

Mr Bucha made a similar comment about the Iraq War and added that U.S. citizens have not been called upon to make any sacrifices for that war. I disagree. The one thing we have been asked to sacrifice and, unfortunately, seem all too willing to give up, is our civil liberties. Invoking the War on Terror helps make this possible. We'd be far less willing to give up these liberties in the name of catching criminals hidden away in the remote mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

(As a side note, this is the big problem with things like a War on Drugs as far as I'm concerned: they can't be won -- and for that matter we can't even lose and know that we're done with them.)

(2) Nuclear Weapons: It's been almost two decades since the Cold War ended. The U.S. still maintains a stockpile of almost 10,000 nuclear weapons. While this is about half what we had at the end of the Cold War, it's still a huge number. In the same period of time, the Russian stockpile has been cut by more than 90%, from well over 30,000 to a little over 3,000. I'm sure this is a very complicated topic and that an analysis such as mine is overly simplistic.

I also know that Senator Obama would pursue nuclear arms reductions. Nevertheless I would like to hear this receive much more emphasis.

(3) Military Draft: I vividly recall watching on TV as lottery numbers being drawn for the first time while I was attending Occidental College (where my education enabled me to obtain a student deferment). My birthday drew #197, and when I learned from my local draft board that they were only going up to a number slightly lower, I dropped my student deferment at home on Christmas break, becoming 1-A for a few days. A few days later, on January 1st, I was reclassified 1-H�not currently subject to processing for induction�and thus avoided any military service in the Vietnam Era.

One questioner at the roundtable on Thursday alluded to the role the draft played in bringing about the end of the Vietnam War. For decades after Vietnam I opposed any kind of military draft. But during the Bush years I have completely reversed my position. I now believe that a necessary pre-condition for this nation ever going to war should be the institution of a widespread draft with minimal possibilities for obtaining deferments. Doing so would ensure that we, the people, support any such war. And if things get out of hand, as they have in Iraq, an on-going draft would help bring about the kind of pressure to end the war that we saw in the late 60s and early 70s.

Ten things you should know about John McCain (but probably don't)

  1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1
  2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China.2 Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."3
  3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.4
  4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."5
  5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children.6 He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.7
  6. He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes!8 Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.9
  7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief.10 One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."11
  8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists.12 The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.13
  9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion."14 McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."15,16
  10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0�yes, zero--from the League of Conservation Voters last year.17

[Extracted rom a 5 Apr 2008 e-mail from]

1"The Complicated History of John McCain and MLK Day", ABC News, April 3, 2008
2"Buchanan: John McCain 'Will Make Cheney Look Like Gandhi'", ThinkProgress, February 6, 2008
3"McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq", Bloomberg News, March 12, 2008
4"McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again, Supports Veto Of Anti-Waterboarding Bill", ThinkProgress, February 20, 2008
5"McCain says Roe v. Wade should be overturned", MSNBC, February 18, 2007
6"2007 Children's Defense Fund Action Council(R) Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard", February 2008
7"McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion", CNN, October 3, 2007
8"Beer Executive Could Be Next First Lady", Associated Press, April 3, 2008
9"McCain Says Bank Bailout Should End `Systemic Risk'", Bloomberg News, March 25, 2008
10"Will McCain's Temper Be a Liability?", Associated Press, February 16, 2008
11"Famed McCain temper is tamed", Boston Globe, January 27, 2008
12"Black Claims McCain's Campaign Is Above Lobbyist Influence: 'I Don't Know What The Criticism Is'", ThinkProgress, April 2, 2008
13"McCain's Lobbyist Friends Rally 'Round Their Man'", ABC News, January 29, 2008
14"McCain's Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam", Mother Jones Magazine, March 12, 2008
15"Will McCain Specifically 'Repudiate' Hagee's Anti-Gay Comments?", ThinkProgress, March 12, 2008
16"McCain 'Very Honored' By Support Of Pastor Preaching 'End-Time Confrontation With Iran'", ThinkProgress, February 28, 2008
17"John McCain Gets a Zero Rating for His Environmental Record", Sierra Club, February 28, 2008


Obama's misstatement regarding the Iraq War

I watched Senator Obama with Chris Matthews on Hardball tonight (watch the video of it here). Senator Obama stated that the Iraq War has gone on longer than World War II, World War I and the Civil War (28:10�28:28 in the video). With regard to World War II, this is correct only with regard to the length of U.S. involvement (7 December 1941 - 15 August 1945, 1,347 days). We reached that length of involvement in Iraq on 25 November 2006.

World War II is generally considered to have run from 1 September 1939 to 15 August 1945 (2,175 days). The Iraq War will have lasted as long on 2 March 2009. Despite what I expect to be Senator Obama's upcoming election to the Presidency, U.S. troops will surely still be in Iraq on that date.

Conflict in the European theater of World War II�the shortest portion of that war�lasted 2,076 days. For the Iraq War to be longer it would have to be continuing as of 23 November 2008 (which in all likelihood it unfortunately will be).

On 7 July 1937 Japan invaded China. One could reasonably argue this as the beginning date of World War II, in which case the length of World War II would be 2,961 days. For the Iraq War to last that long, conflict would have to continue till 27 April 2011. I pray that U.S. troops are long gone by then.

This repeats the essence of an e-mail I just sent the Obama campaign.

6 Apr 2008 15:45 Eastern time UPDATE:
Added a link to youtube video of Obama's appearance on Hardball.

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