Reaction to Joe Biden’s DNC speech from Paul Jay and Pepe Escobar
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Welcome to the live coverage now of the Democratic National Convention on The Real News Network. Vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, just spoke, followed by a surprise visit—Barack Obama. This was supposed to be a speech on foreign policy, but I think most of it was really about economic policy. At any rate, there were a few words about foreign policy, and we now go to Pepe Escobar, who’s in the convention center. And Pepe Escobar is shaking his head, saying he does not hear me. So welcome to the first live experiment on The Real News Network, and Pepe’s not hearing me. So we’re going to stop. And, Pepe, you’re not hearing anything I’m saying.
PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: I hear what you’re saying, but it’s like if you’re broadcasting from Saturn.
JAY: Okay. So Pepe’s hearing me, but not hearing me very well. So, Pepe, go ahead: tell us what you thought of the Biden speech.
ESCOBAR: Well, I was expecting at least 15 or 20 minutes of extensive foreign policy, but in fact we had, like, 5 minutes or so. And Biden, he repeated some, I would say, major mistakes of the Obama campaign so far. Number one, they seem to be still a prisoner of the war-on-terror framework. He said, repeating Obama, that the central flaw in the war on terror is Afghanistan-Pakistan. Well, this means that the war on terror still rules, but they didn’t specify exactly what they will do in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re still talking about the Obama plan of sending two combat brigades to Afghanistan. Biden said that tonight. Every Middle East, Central Asia, so-called arc of instability expert said this is a major mistake. About Iraq he was not very specific. We have to remember that in 2006, Joe Biden voted for a plan that would mean in fact a partition of Iraq. This was a made-in-Israel plan that was sold to Biden by Leslie Gelb from the Council on Foreign Relations. And in Iraq, if you go to Baghdad today and you ask any Shiite or Sunni in Baghdad, “What does the name Joe Biden represent?” he will tell you that this is the guy who wanted to partition our country two years ago. Of course, tonight was a Biden Family Spectacular: Irish Catholic wonder boy, you know, family man. He was very warm, very affectionate. It was a family gathering. He brought most of his family on stage afterwards to talk about his mom, you know, vigils, you know, a great show, but he was not as specific. His attack on McCain was, I would say, yes, it was proficient, yeah, it worked, because we all know that McCain’s policies are basically neoconservative policies; they’re an extension of the Bush administration.
JAY: Pepe, can you hear me?
ESCOBAR: Yes, now—yes, I can hear you.
JAY: Okay. I was kind of struck by something. He went through a certain phrase near the end of the speech where he said that McCain was wrong on this and Obama was right, and he gave the judgment on Iran that McCain took a warlike stance, and Obama wanted to negotiate, which I think is a quite correct statement. He gave Afghanistan as an example that McCain was wrong, saying the Afghan war had been won and was over, and Obama understood it needed more troops. But there was a glaring omission of something, where Obama now has seemed to be correct and McCain wrong, and that was on McCain’s support for the invasion of Iraq in the first place. But Biden didn’t talk about that, because he was on the same side McCain was. This is a little interesting.
ESCOBAR: So he cannot resurrect those phantoms of late 2002, early 2003. He resurrected another phantom: the Cold War. In fact, they are still talking about the Cold War. If you analyze what Madeleine Albright was saying in her previous speech tonight—what Richard Holbrooke has written, it’s a very extensive foreign policy piece published by Foreign Affairs magazine. And what Joe Biden said tonight: Russia is the new bogeyman. He talked about invasion of Georgia by Russia. He also forgot to tell everybody that [inaudible] Saakashvili and when he came back. Now he’s lobbying for one billion dollars of aid to Georgia, without mentioning that South Ossetia was in fact attacked and invaded by Georgian forces, and then came the Russian counter-punch. So Biden has a lot to do in the next two months. He has to explain in detail what is the so-called new Democrat framework to escape the war on terror. Richard Holbrooke, he was pointing to this in his Foreign Affairs speech [inaudible]. We have to escape the framework established by the Bush administration at the same time was too limited and too broad. But [what] he doesn’t outline is that it is a multipolar approach, but implicit in this multipolar approach is American hegemony, which many critics would say that it’s still American imperial control of sources of energy and of political power all over the world. And we also have to remember a very important theoretician—let’s put it this way—that Biden [inaudible] Zbigniew Brzezinski, which is an informal policy advisor to Obama. And for Brzezinski the stakes are even higher: he’s Polish; he’s a rusophobe. So the Cold War all over again, and not only that, control of Eurasia. So, basically, McCain and Obama-Biden’s positions in terms of escaping the framework of the war on terror, they merge, in fact. They’re still advocating more or less the same thing. It’s a question of tactics. The disagreement between Obama-Biden and the Bush administration is the question of tactics. They don’t go to the heart of the matter, which is Americo-imperial hegemony, and control of sources of energy, and control especially of Eurasia.
JAY: To go back to this other point I was making, do you think they might have a political problem here? Obama ran against Clinton, saying that he showed better judgment, ’cause he knew to stay out of the war on Iraq. He’s now picked a vice president who was for going into the war on Iraq. And maybe later he started some critique, but at that very critical moment in those days leading up to the war, Biden was in a very important position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and if he had come out strongly against the war at that time, it might have had some effect. Instead, he comes out very strongly for it, and in Obama’s world that’s bad judgment. So what happened tonight is Biden just avoided the whole issue, pretended it didn’t exist. Well, over the next two months, that’s going to have to exist as an issue. So how are they going to deal with this?
ESCOBAR: I don’t know. How do you sell yourself as the most experienced member in the US Senate, for that matter, the top specialist in international relations, and you were aligned with the Bush administration late in 2002, early 2003, and he voted for all supplements in terms of not supporting the troops but extending the war in Iraq? And his criticism is basically rhetorical, since if you analyze on the record, if you do a simple Google search of what Biden has said for the past five years regarding Iraq is basically rhetorical. He never questions the fundamental assumptions—we should be there, because the United States is preventing chaos in Iraq. If he goes to Iraq and he talks to the Sunni and the Shia leadership, if he goes to Najaf and he talks to Ayatollah al-Sistani, in case Sistani would receive him, and say, “No, you are the problem. We want you out. That’s what we’ve been saying for the past few years.”
JAY: Now, there was one thing. Biden very clearly defended Obama’s position on negotiating with Iran, and that’s something that even Obama, I think, in the last little while has been a little hedging on, even though earlier in the campaign Obama took a stronger position on it, and negotiating an unconditional negotiation with Iran is a big demarcation from Cheney and from McCain’s foreign policy. So one should give them some credit for that, I think—.
ESCOBAR: Yes, we give them credit for that, Paul. It’s a very sound negotiating position. But it comes with a lot of “buts.” Obama has said on the record many times, “At a time and a place of my choosing. And if they don’t negotiate under our terms, then we might even consider other options. So it’s a very conditional way of negotiating. It’s not that Obama on January 21 or January 22 would board a plane to Geneva and meet [inaudible]
JAY: Yeah, no, I understand that. But the way Biden said it tonight, he didn’t say all this “time and my time and my choosing”; he just defended the principle of negotiation, which I thought was actually returning to a better articulation [inaudible]
ESCOBAR: Yes, this is very sound. Yes, this is very sound and well articulated. But the details—the devil is in the details, especially when the great Saturn is involved.
JAY: Thank you very much, Pepe, and we’ll do this again soon.
ESCOBAR: Thanks, Paul. Bye.
JAY: And thank you for joining us for our first and what will be continuing live coverage of the Democratic National Convention. Thank you, Pepe.
ESCOBAR: Thank you.
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