We Like Obama But Early Signs are Not Promising

by James M. Wall

You have to like Barack Obama.  He is young, intelligent, progressive, and has a terrific wife. He is the future. He defeated the last remant of the Clinton dynasty in a superbly run (and lucky) primary battle.   But as Maureen Dowd recently noted in a column on marriage, when looking for an “ideal husband”, look carefully at his friends. The revised list of Barack’s foreign policy advisors is not promising.  We sit down at our first big banquet for the future and what do we find? Warmed over dishes prepared by chefs from the Clinton era.

The list is depressing. It starts with former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is famously quoted as supporting Bill Clinton’s policy of a decades long sanction on the Iraqi civilian population which led to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children, with her callous remark: “We think the price is worth it”.  The Obama list also includes Dr. Susan Rice, former Clinton Assistant Secretary of State, who told NPR in 2003:

I think he [Bush] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that. …The Iraqis have threatened to unleash a rein of suicide bombers on US and allied targets around the world. And I think that’s one of the real risks, as well as the use of chemical and biological weapons, that we face. 

The list has some encouraging exceptions, including Dr. Tony Lake, former Clinton National Security Advisor and Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, both of whom are recognized experts in foreign policy without having supported policies that killed a multitiude of Iraqis and US military personnel over non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

The complete list comes from an Obama campaign news release which Alexander Cockburn eviscerates on his Common Dreams website. The list is obviously politically motivated, designed to spin Obama,  just a few years out of the Illinois State Senate, as a national leader with tough advisors.  It is, however, a depressing prediction of an Obama presidency.  If Obama’s friends include Albright and Susan Rice, in what way will an Obama White House improve on 16 years of Clinton and Bush?

Sam Nunn as vice president would make sense.  That is a political choice. Nunn would help in a General Election campaign in the South. He also has credentials of years of experience in foreign policy and military decision making. Anthony Lake is one of those nerdy types who would stand his ground in the administration. But the others?  Depressing.  Who might come next? Former AIPAC staffer Martin Indyk, one of Bill Clinton’s first appointments as National Security Council Middle East adviser?  

Indyk began his career as Middle East adviser to the prime minister of Australia, and as an international media and communications adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Israel. He later served as ambassador to Israel for Clinton. With Indyk at his right hand, during eight years in the White House, Clinton pretended to be an “honest broker” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a blatant hyprocrisy that raised few complaints from the national media, certainly none that equaled the outrage over Monica.

Dennis Ross, who kept his “neutrality” intact through Republican and Democratic administrations?  God forbid. But their names are out there, and unless Obama realizes that politics leads to policy, they could still surface in the young candidate’s desperate need to curry favor with the foreign policy establishment. 

It does not have to  be this way. Obama has had foreign policy colleagues who share his realism and compassion, people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, Samatha Powers, and Robert O. Malley, all of whom were identified as Obama advisors early in his campaign. Only Lake remains within the Obama inner circle, thanks in large measure to Obama’s response to right wing Zionist criticism.

Powers is a prolific author who does not fall within the Zionist target area. She has solid and progressive academic credentials in other fields, including extensive research in Bosnia and Iraq, which led to honored books. She is profiled on the Harvard Kennedy School website:

Samantha Power is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy, based at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, where she was the founding executive director [1998-2002]. She is the recent author of Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World (Penguin Press, 2008), a biography of the UN envoy killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2003. Her book “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (New Republic Books) was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. 

Zionist right wing bloggers like Ed Lasky, whose American Thinker website trolls for any sign that a public figure leans progressive or shows any criticism of Israeli policy, had earlier targeted Powers as bad for the country, along with his other “dangerous [for Israel]” advisors. But he was frustrated by Powers’ lack of Zionist-related history. 

The media-driven primary campaign solved the problem. While on a book tour unrelated to the campaign, Powers referred to Hillary Clinton as a “monster” in an offhand comment to an Irish interviewer. She quickly apologized for her intemperate term, and resigned from the campaign, another victim of a valued Obama ally whose public comments, like those of Jerimiah Wright, forced Obama to jettison supporters who had previously served him well. Two down, but still four remained to be pushed aside.

In February, 2008 Lasky reported that Martin Peretz — an Obama supporter [and strongly pro-Israel]– wrote at the end of December that “he got the ‘shudders’ when thinking about the foreign policy influence of ‘Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, Susan Rice and Robert O. Malley’.

Peretz touched upon some of the reasons to be concerned about Malley, whom he characterized as “the most horrific name on the list”.  He was particularly concerned about the impact on America-Israel relations given Brzezinski’s and Malley’s involvement. Brzezinski, of course, steered Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy efforts during Carter’s successful peace talks at Camp David, during which Egypt and Israel signed an historic peace agreement. But to Peretz, “Brzezinski’s lack of concern for the safety and security of Israel is well known”.  By whom, one is forced to ask? By the right wing Zionist bloggers, of course, and alas, it now appears, by the Obama team.

As for Robert Malley, the national media has made little of Malley’s family background. But American Thinker’s Ed Lasky has made sure his minions in the Zionist right wing blogosphere are aware that, as Lasky wrote in January, 2007, “Robert Malley, clearly warrants attention, as does the reasoning that led him to being chosen by Barack Obama.”

Lasky’s character assassination of Malley–remember this is right wing propaganda that shapes facts to fit Zionist rhetoric–reveals the ugliness of the American political dialogue which continues to be dominated by the work of people like Lasky. There is much more in Lasky’s description of Malley’s father, all written from the vantage point of one who assumes that progressive politics represents the devil incarnate. But for just a taste, start with Lasky’s hypocritical “reluctance” to discuss Malley’s “interesting father”. 

A little family history may be in order to understand the genesis of Robert Malley’s views. Normally, one should be reluctant in exploring a person’s family background — after all, who would want to be held responsible for the sins of one’s father? However, when close relatives share a strong current of ideological affinity, and when a father has a commanding persona, it behooves a researcher to inquire a bit into the role of family in forming views. That said, Robert Malley has a very interesting father.

His father Simon Malley was born to a Syrian family in Cairo and at an early age found his métier in political journalism. He participated in the wave of anti-imperialist and nationalist ideology that was sweeping the Third World. He wrote thousands of words in support of struggle against Western nations. In Paris, he founded the journal Afrique Asie; he and his magazine became advocates for “liberation” struggles throughout the world, particularly for the Palestinians.

Simon Malley loathed Israel and anti-Israel activism became a crusade for him-as an internet search would easily show. He spent countless hours with Yasser Arafat and became a close friend of Arafat.   He was, according to Daniel Pipes, a sympathizer of the Palestinian Liberation Organization — and this was when it was at the height of its terrorism wave against the West.

Brzezinski and Malley are no longer advising Obama, at least not openly.  Rice and Lake have just barely made the Zionist cut, in spite of the fact that they gave Peretz’ the “shudders”. Someone must have reminded AIPAC of Rice’s NPR statement on WMD. Downright decent of the Zionists to allow Obama some leeway.  But he must stay away from folks like Brezinski and Malley and hold on to the past with Albright. That way the nation avoids a third Bush term.  

If Obama is as smart as we think he is, once safe within the White House, he could still turn to younger experts who know a continuation of Zionist dictation of American foreign policy will be a disaster.  After all, Obama is the candidate of audacious hope, the kind of hope that stares reality in the face and says, we still believe, I don’t care what you think.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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