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The Empire's New King

Obama Speech

UMAR KHALID points out the contradictions in Barak Obamaâs historic Cairo speech and raises relevant questions which beg for answers.

It has always been those few who can see through the political correctness and hypocrisy of popular attitudes who are considered the most dangerous.
– Robin Davis
Many Muslim leaders across India and the world have hailed Obama’s speech to the Muslim world as “historic” and “a major breakthrough”. That statement is not just premature but also flawed. The speech was full of empty rhetoric and riddled with contradictions suited to safeguard American strategic interests. He starts his speech by asserting that “the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalisation led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.” This is quite reminiscent of the famous Bush speech “Why do they hate us? Because they hate our freedoms!” No, Mr. Obama but there are other reasons for what fuels anti-Americanism amongst many Arab nations and for that matter in many other parts of the world as well. It is what the American state has been doing in these nations for the past 50 years (either militarily or through economic sanctions). Things like the UN sanctions in Iraq which resulted in the death of half a million Iraqi children, a US backed coup to topple the democratically elected government in Iran (incidentally he accepts this in the latter part of the speech!) to mention just two examples.
Going further, he informs us that the American occupation of Afghanistan is what you would call a ‘humanitarian intervention’ and ‘a war of necessity’. Well, we refuse to buy this statement. The war in Afghanistan is part of the drive by US imperialism to dominate the world’s two most important sources of oil and gas, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Basin. Make no mistake the American invasion of Afghanistan has resulted in the death of more than 80,000 Afghan civilians. That’s quite a big number of human casualties which rather than challenging the extremists has further strengthened them because they represent the only section challenging the occupation. It is really sad but the secular sections of the Afghan society have either been bought by the empire or roped into the NGO business. And besides wasn’t it the Reagan administration that really backed the same ‘stirred up mullahs’ to fight the Soviets during the late 80’s in what was termed as a holy war. I refuse to believe that empires act in anyone else’s interests except for their own, and besides as Arundhati Roy asserts justifying imperialism is like justifying something as bad as child abuse or rape.
Coming to the Iraq invasion, he informs us that while America seeks no basis in Iraq, Iraqi society is better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. This is once again quite similar to another famous remark made by George W. Bush “the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein.” Obama makes absolutely no mention of the destruction caused by the American invasion – death of 1.2 million civilians, the devastation of the Iraqi infrastructure and the Iraqi populace being brought to the brink of starvation. Besides it turns out that when Saddam Hussein was conducting his worst atrocities, he had the full support of the US both financially and politically both overtly and covertly.
Coming to the Palestinian issue he justifies the creation of Israel by saying that 6 million Jews were massacred in Europe during the first few decades of the 20th century due to the strong wave of anti-Semitism. But then 12 million Congolese were also killed by the Belgian occupiers and as it turns out America never demanded a separate state to ensure their safety. The creation of Israel was not because Americans were concerned about the treatment meted out to the Jews in Europe. In fact America had shut its doors to the Jews when they were being massacred by Hitler’s troops. The creation of Israel was to ensure the presence of an ally in the Middle East which has 2/3rds of the world’s oil reserves. Not a single Palestinian was responsible for what happened to the Jews in Europe, but still thousands of them were evicted, massacred to make way for Jewish settlers in 1948 in the bloodbath that followed the UN mandate for the creation of Israel, when illogically and unfairly, 55% of the Palestinian land was given to them. The indigenous population in hundreds of villages and towns was either wiped out or driven away, in one of the most barbaric instances of ethnic cleansing of our times.  Israel has gone ahead to occupy more land through wars far exceeding the UN mandate on account of its superior military strength. International laws, previous agreements and accords have been set aside as Israel has been waging a virtual holocaust against people struggling to protect their lives and lands.  And every form of resistance to this illegal grabbing of land has been shown by the Israeli and the American media as terrorism. However I am not one of those who call for the destruction of Israel and withdrawal of complete land to Palestine. What is needed is a two-state solution something Obama also mentioned in his speech. Noam Chomsky has called it the only substantive thing in the entire speech. To quote Noam Chomsky further “Obama while asking both sides to not see the conflict from only one side or the other has quite intelligently omitted the role of the third side in the conflict – that of the US. He did not even acknowledge its role let alone indicating that it should change.” The US government has blocked along with Israel almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict.
Going further, while asking Hamas to abandon violence in its fight against Israeli occupation, he makes absolutely no mention of Israel violence. Years of Israeli incursions and blockade has devastated Gaza's and West Bank’s infrastructure, environment, and the lives of 1.5 million people. Even the massacre in Gaza last December, that had left more than 1300 dead – half of them being women and children, a massacre in which banned chemical substances like white phosphorous, which induces genetic mutations and deformities was used, a massacre in which even UN-run schools were not spared and bombed, did not deserve slightest of mention by the American president.  
After this naked display of state terror by Israel, Hamas has succeeded in convincing the Palestinians and sensible people across the world that armed resistance to military occupation and barbarism is not a choice but the only legitimate political option.  In one of his recent interviews, Noam Chomsky called the policies of Hamas more conducive to peace than US’s or Israel’s.
Coming to the question of a nuclear arms race, he does not seem to support the idea of Iran developing nuclear weapons unless it confirms to the responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But is that not what Iran has been saying all along. Coming to the question of a nuclear arms race, Noam Chomsky once quipped that the US along with Israel has barred all attempts to prevent a nuclear arms race. The US remains the only country to have actually used nuclear weapons against civilians when it dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Another key issue Obama mentioned was one of democracy. To quote him, “we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments, provided they govern with respect for all their people.” But as it turns out US has always had a key role in suppressing the democratic aspirations of the many Middle Eastern nations. The most notorious and unpopular of rulers in these countries have always had the complete support of US be it the monarchs or dictators. The problem is that if you allow democracy to emerge in these countries they might elect governments that the US does not like. As Tariq Ali points out the only regimes Americans like working with are the ones that can guarantee the flow of oil at affordable rates.
Taking this rhetoric about human rights and democracy further Obama informs us that America has always been the arch defender of human rights in every part of the world. The United States, which Obama wants us to believe is the harbinger of peace in the world, has been at war with one country or another for the last 50 years. South American countries like Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, etc have been avenues for covert and overt operations by the CIA. Besides there is another set of countries which have had to suffer military interventions by the US like Vietnam, Somalia, Korea, Indonesia and Iraq, which resulted in millions of casualties and untold miseries to entire populations. We should also not forget the countries that have suffered due to the IMF and World Bank policies and UN sanctions- millions of children died in Africa due to World Bank policies, half a million children died in Iraq because of UN sanctions. Martin Luther King once called the American government as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”  Out of all of the things said by the American president this one surely has the least basis in history.
Another issue he talks about is globalisation and informs us that the face of globalisation is contradictory. This is perfectly true but rather than talking about the real contradictions of the ‘development model’ under a globalised economy he moves on to other unimportant ones intelligently. By starting the whole modernity vs tradition debate he hides the real problems of globalisation – the real problem being the neo-liberal policies which privilege a certain section of the population and let the other sections take care of themselves.
However there are certain things which want us to agree with the American president. It is when he says that America is not and never will be at war with Islam. These are wars for oil, wars for American strategic interests and wars for the ultimate supremacy of the American empire. Islam as it turns out is just one of the many instruments used effectively and cunningly in the war. I hope Barak “Hussain” Obama does the least by acknowledging it.

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