Foreign Policy at Netroots Nation

Attendees at liberal conference criticize ‘neo cons,’ Barack Obama

Demonstrators protest the use of drones in Nevada in March / AP
June 21, 2013

SAN JOSE — Liberal activists and organizational leaders at the 2013 Netroots Nation conference bemoaned the "neo con" influence on U.S. foreign policy while also lambasting President Barack Obama, whose foreign policy approach has offended many progressive backers.

Panelists and attendees at the progressive community’s flagship conference in San Jose, Calif. expressed dissatisfaction on Thursday over the recently revealed NSA spying program, as well as Obama’s aggressive use of drones in the war on terrorism.

"This is not the president that we voted for," said one man holding an "Obama = Cheney" sign.

"He’s a total disappointment and we have to organize and realize that he’s not the person we thought he was," said the visibly upset man, who referred to himself as "Stan Everyman."

"We voted for Obama, we thought we were going to get somebody, as he said, that really cared about the civil liberties in this country," Mr. Everyman told the Washington Free Beacon outside of the San Jose Convention Center. "He instead has basically accepted [former Vice President Dick Cheney’s] policy."

Stan went on to warn that "if the Democratic party can’t get back to a position that we thought they were, then we need to look for a different party because it looks to us as if they are captured by the corporations."

The mood among progressive panelists inside the convention center was equally dim.

Joel Rubin, director of policy and government affairs at the liberal anti-nuke group Ploughshares Fund, urged his fellow activists to rally against Iran sanctions and push the Obama administration to capitulate to Tehran’s demands.

Progressive activists can foster a "world free of nuclear weapons [and] not using military action to solve all our problems," Rubin said during an afternoon discussion on foreign policy.

"We’ll argue for diplomacy with Iran, which there should be," Rubin said. "The only way to ensure there is no nuclear weapon in Iran is for the Iranians to agree," and for them to "negotiate a deal" with Obama.

Marylia Kelley, executive director of the California-based anti-nuke group TriValley CAREs, hit a more hopeful note in her remarks.

"When I hear the neo-cons talk about how everyone in the world is our enemy, I think we could have fewer enemies," Kelley said. "That’s not a bad thing. I’m not a naïve person."

"Disrespect [from the U.S.] led India to detonate a nuclear weapon," she quipped.

Later in the day, a group of Muslim activists affiliated with the controversial Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) gathered to discuss how "Islamophobia" has become "a tool of the right."

Speakers such as Tanzila Ahmed, a Los Angeles-based community organizer, lambasted what she described as the Republican Party’s attempts to galvanize voters by slandering Muslims as terrorists.

Sunni-affiliated Muslims were responsible for "about 70 percent of all fatalities" resulting from terrorism in 2011, according to a report by the U.S. government’s National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

The "recent resurgence of anti-Muslim sentiment [is] connected to politically conservative elements losing power," Ahmed claimed, referring specifically to Tea Party activists and conservative lawmakers as the worst offenders.

"Conservative media outlets fuel [these] sentiments," she added.

Each of the Muslim activists lofted praise on the Center for American Progress (CAP) for its 2011 report, "Fear, Inc.," which purports to expose an intricately connected right-wing network of anti-Islam organizations.

"Fear, Inc." was co-authored by a band of CAP-affiliated experts who have expressed fiercely anti-Israel views. They include Wajahat Ali, who has ties to a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organization, as well as anti-Israel provocateur Matthew Duss.

Dustin Craun, a self-described"anti-racist educator," went on to blame conservatives for "reproducing white supremacy—and this time its focused on Muslims."

Craun said that Muslims in America are forced to live in fear, leaving them hesitant to rock the boat politically.

"We don’t want to critique the president and say that he’s a war criminal and that what he’s doing is illegal," said Craun, who noted in his PowerPoint presentation that he is a fan of Mother Jones magazine.

Even the Democratic Party is scared to chastise Obama, Craun said.

It is "so disheartening to see how driven the left’s agenda is by the Democratic Party that refuses to talk about a president who is a war criminal and who is engaging in the same acts the Republican Party was committing."