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Barry's Not an Anti-War Candidate

New America Media, Commentary, Russell Morse Posted: Jun 28, 2008

Week three of this droning, already dwindling general election season is tempting me to hit the snooze button until the fall.

Hillary Clintons departure seems to have sucked all of the life out of this thing, leaving Barack Obama alone to contend with the fumbling, bumbling Bob Dole-Ozzy Osbourne hybrid Manchurian candidacy of John McCain. And, sadly, its not nearly as entertaining as it sounds.

If you pan away from the geriatric town hall meetings for a moment, though, and over to the ever-amusing antics of our president, you might find a curious surprise or two. Consider, for example, this weeks announcement from President Bush that he has removed North Korea from the ranks of the axis of evil.

This leaves only Iran and Iraq: the duet of evil. Keeping in mind that the next few months are the political equivalent of the last day of school for Mr. Bush, I have to consider that this is some kind of senior prank.

But thats not the case. The president has, in fact, adopted a softer stance toward the aggressive and nuclear-ready regime of Kim Jong Il.

I have to consider that this comes just weeks after Obama addressed the Israel lobby in Washington, D.C., at the close of the Democratic primary season. He used strong language to assure the audience of his commitment to Israels safety, saying that he would do everything in his power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

He repeated himself, placing even more emphasis on the word everything. Then he said everything yet again, for those of us who did not already know that everything means -- and Im paraphrasing the Gap Band here -- hell drop the bomb on them.

At the time, it was kind of jarring to hear the anti- war candidate use such hawkish language, as if his legions of supporters had been duped. Flashing back to the primary, though, I realized that he was never really an anti-war candidate. He was merely an anti-Iraq War candidate.

The proudest badge on Obamas girl scout sash throughout the primaries was the fact that he was the only serious candidate to have voted against the Iraq war. He touted this fact even as he received criticism for saying things like he would bomb Pakistan if he knew Bin Laden was there. Obamas Iran tough talk is not mere lip service for the benefit of the friends of Israel; he will take action.

In weighing this information, though, I am reminded that mine is not an anti-war generation. Obama did not break any promises or betray the peaceful trust of his young followers because young people in America are more realistic than pacifistic. Ours is a political generation that grew out of the violent spectacle of Sept. 11, 2001. And until we realized that our government had swindled and betrayed us, many of us were in favor of military retaliation.

Many of the young men and women Ive spoken to who are serving in Iraq enlisted shortly after Sept. 11 for precisely that reason. Most of them now dont understand what were doing in Iraq, though.

The anti-war movement is a tired, old animal. Consider that the most visible personality in the anti-Iraq War movement has been Cindy Sheehan: the mother of a young man who chose to serve in the military and died in Iraq. This is the image of the anti-war movement in America: a grieving mother, a middle-aged woman avenging the death of her son.

A few months ago, on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War and soon after the milestone of 4000 American soldiers dead in Iraq, I was on the phone with a 16-year-old as he passed by the protests in San Francisco. He is a progressive-minded young man and no fan of the war, but he limited his description of the protest to all dreadlocks and drum circles. (Let me remind you that, at 16 years old, he was eight on Sept. 11 and just a couple of years older when the war in Iraq started. For most of his young life, he has lived with the rumbling of distant wars.) He said there were also a bunch of old people and went on to say that he doesnt understand why they keep coming out because marching never does anything.

We tend to identify an anti-war movement as a relic of another era, something our parents or grandparents did. Its a dinosaur parade, a romantic exercise in futility. For a long time, this indifference to an anti-war movement caused older generations to paint us as apathetic. But last January, when Iowa chose Barack Obama in their Democratic caucus and a wave of youthful optimism crested over the country, that proved not to be the case. We werent strictly apathetic; its just that until then, no one was talking to us.

Russell Morse is a New York based writer for New America Media

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