The Syria crisis has provoked–or revealed–a new division on the left, between those activists and organizations willing to defend their principles despite the Obama administration’s reversals, and those on the “Obama left” determined to back the leader at all costs. MSNBC, for example, sided with the “Obama left” on the Snowden/NSA scandal. Veteran Chicago organizer Robert Creamer, who is close to the White House, has done the same with a new set of Syria talking points.
Creamer is at great pains to argue that Barack Obama’s attack on Syria would be very different from George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. (It is, though not in a way that flatters Obama.) Calling his pro-war point of view a “progressive perspective,” Creamer–whose wife, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), is still uncommitted on Syria–tries five arguments that he says differentiate the two conflicts. (Creamer also backed the Libya war using many of the same points to defend Obama.)
None of these five points passes the laugh test. Creamer first argues that Bush asked Congress for “a declaration of War”–in fact, he did not, which is one reason why Ron Paul attracted support from right and left. Second, Creamer argues that the Syria intervention is better because it is limited to 90 days. Such limitations are a pernicious Obama habit, and are what hampered the Afghanistan troop surge from the start, notifying both our enemies and allies we did not intend to win.
Third, Creamer says that the Iraq War resolution was based on faulty intelligence. There was no way to know whether it was flawed–the point was that Saddam Hussein was defying UN weapons inspectors and Security Council resolutions–but even granting that point, the U.S. intelligence on Syria is hardly airtight. Fourth, Creamer says, the Iraq War resolution committed U.S. troops–but Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the Syria resolution did not bar that possibility.
Finally, Creamer charges that the “Neocons” around Bush had an “imperial vision of America’s role in the world” that made Iraq “one of the great foreign policy disasters of all time.” Actually, Iraq turned into a military victory, thanks to a surge that Obama opposed, and Obama’s sudden, total departure was a colossal blunder that gave up everything that the U.S. had gained at heavy cost in blood and treasure, allowing Iran virtually free reign in the region, including in Syria.
Some of Obama’s supporters, such as the demonstrators of Code Pink and liberal columnist Clarence Page, appear not to have received Creamer’s talking points. Page points out in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune that there is nothing that separates Iraq from Syria, except that Iraq turned out not to have the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) it had once used. But the old Obama, Page suggests, would have opposed this war. On Syria, Creamer and the “Obama left” have nowhere to hide.