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Obama’s excellent adventure

Senator Barack Obama’s Middle East/Central Asia leg of his whirlwind world tour was as smooth as the
three-pointer he shot in front of US troops. Military historian Gareth Porter explains what’s left unsaid
behind the triumphal profusion of meetings and photo opportunities.

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Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: Blackhawk landing in Afghanistan. Media frenzy. Love for the troops.

TV NEWS PRESENTER: The war over America’s wars intensifies.

ESCOBAR: Love for the troops.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): There is no doubt that US troops have contributed to a reduction in violence in Iraq.

ESCOBAR: Love by the troops. A visit to that Iraqi guy who supports his plan.

DR. ALI AL-DABBAGH, IRAQI GOVT SPOKESMAN: Up to 2010, to the end of 2010.

ESCOBAR: Some schmoozing with the surge general.

DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDING GENERAL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE – IRAQ: It’s the national police, the Iraqi national police, and the Iraqi army, together, obviously, with our forces, that have done a terrific job here.

ESCOBAR: The sweep of history. The reasons for it all.

OBAMA: We went to Afghanistan first because it is the central front in the war against terrorism.

ESCOBAR: A non-denial denial.

OBAMA: I continue to say that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, and I have said that before, and I will say it again. And I also have said that it is important that we don’t simply slice the city in half.

ESCOBAR: A visit to a neocon.

~~~

REPORTER: Senator Obama [crosstalk]

OBAMA: There aren’t going to be any questions right now.

~~~

ESCOBAR: A convoy to Ramallah. A few minutes in Palestine.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN NATIONAL AUTHORITY: But we emphasized that the decisions required for peace are required from Palestinians and Israelis.

ESCOBAR: All in all, a certified three-pointer. But behind all the hoopla, what is the real deal behind the Middle East-Central Asia leg of Barack Obama’s world tour?

GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE HISTORIAN, MILITARY POLICY ANALYST: I think what we’re seeing in this trip by Obama is, first of all, sort of the standard US political journey to Israel and the Middle East by a candidate or by a political personality, which is certainly not balanced at all as far as Israel versus the Palestinians issue is concerned. You can see, you know, symbolized in the fact that he spent only less than an hour with the representative of the Palestinian people versus meeting, you know, the three top political leader of Israel for hours and hours that this trip is simply a continuation of the standard approach taken by US political figures to this issue. The surge in Afghanistan, of course, is becoming the standard Democratic viewpoint that the Afghan war is a good war; the Iraq War, if not a bad war, then it’s a war that we must deemphasize and, you know, take troops from to feed the war in Afghanistan. And I think that this is certainly going to become the centrist view in the United States if it isn’t already today. The military leadership—not just the military-industrial complex, but the US military leadership itself is very, very concerned about maintaining access to a set of about five major bases, at the very least, in Iraq for a very long time. They have a planning assumption based on the use of the five that they call contingency operating bases in Iraq. This is part of a broader structure of military empire, if you will, in the Middle East and Central Asia, which Admiral Fallon, when he was CENTCOM commander, was the key person in planning. Fallon had as the centerpiece of his Middle Eastern, Central Asia set of bases Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not simply part of the war on terror. It is also part of a military empire in the Middle East. It is the centerpiece of that military empire. So the United States military demands long-term access to bases in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of that.

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