There was a lot of publicity and great expectations about President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. While not much was expected in terms of public engagements, all attention was focussed on his visit to Egypt and his address to students and faculty at the famous Al-Azhar University in Cairo. I heard that speech live and, as was to be expected, it was more rhetoric than substance.
We were given the good news that America planned to pull its troops out of Iraq by 2012. (Weren’t we given the impression during his inaugural speech that the pullout would be almost immediate?) That would indeed be surprising considering that, even after 60 years, the US still has troops in Japan, South Korea and all over Europe.
Another “great disclosure” was that there was a need for two independent states – Israel and Palestine. Have we also not been hearing this for the past 40 or 50 years? Just the other day the Israeli government announced that Mr Bush as president had secretly given tacit approval of expanding Jewish settlements (on Palestinian lands, of course). This makes one wonder what tacit promises President Obama has given to the Israelis. Only the future will tell. One thing he was very categorical about – the permanent mutual bond between the US and Israel and the fact that the US was bound to ensure Israel’s security and existence. (Even if this means the killing of thousands of Palestinians and the usurpation of more of their land. All this is considered justified, even though the Palestinians had nothing to do with the holocaust.)
Another surprising disclosure was admitting that military action was not a solution to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. If that is the case, then why is America sending large numbers of additional troops into Afghanistan and why is the US conducting drone attacks in Pakistan in total disregard of our sovereignty? I seem to remember our leaders saying that with the inauguration of President Obama, drone attacks would ease off. We have all seen the results – even more frequent drone attacks and the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, men, women and children.
Of course, Iran’s nuclear programme did not escape attack. Iran’s peaceful programme (regularly scrutinised by IAEA inspectors) is considered to be a threat to world peace, to the USA and to the Middle East. This while the 200 or so Israeli nuclear weapons are considered “peaceful” and are not talked about at all. Have you ever heard a word by any US president against Israel’s nuclear programme, its weapons or its not joining the NPT? Never! This despite the fact that Israel showed its aggressive stance in its illegal, unprovoked pre-emptive strikes on Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor, which was being built, under IAEA safeguards, by the French.
President Obama offered improved relations with the Muslim world, which I believe to be no more than a “soother.” Mark my words. Nothing substantial will come of it. The rhetoric against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will continue, and so will that against Iran’s and Pakistan’s nuclear programmes. We will be tied down economically to whatever conditions the World Bank and the IMF see fit to foist on us.
Here are a few ideas on what President Obama preaches and what he actually practices.
1. Withdrawal from Iraq put off for four years. (It is quite possible that he won’t be there for the final act and the matter lands up in the hands of another President with his own agenda.)
2. More troops for Afghanistan, despite earlier indications to the contrary.
3. More coercion and pressure on Iran to wind up its nuclear programme despite Iran’s agreement to IAEA inspections, but not a word about Israel’s nuclear weapons.
4. Reneging on promises to publish photos of the shameless, illegal torture of hundreds of detainees in Iraq and at the Guantanamo prison camp, while he had previously promised on many occasions that he would expose President Bush’s inhuman torture practices. One wonders what is wrong in accepting previous wrongdoings and ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. The American Civil Liberties Union had already made known that these included rape, water boarding, electric shocks, hanging upside down and damaging of genitals. If there was no hesitation in showing (encouraging, as a matter of fact) the genocide committed against the Jews in Nazi concentration camps, then why not the same openness here to shake American conscience (or was that, perhaps, the reason not to)? It is even more surprising when we consider the brutality meted out to President Obama’s forefathers and fellow Africans who were kidnapped, killed or sold into slavery. There was no hesitation in making those atrocities known. Painful for us is the fact that many of those kidnapped were Muslims from Kenya, Tanzania, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, etc. History has recorded the horrible conditions under which these hapless people were shipped to the Americas – chained and half of them dying on the way. How those sold into slavery were made to work in the fields for 18 hours a day and women were raped in order to create a never-ending workforce of mulattos. It seems to be a case of disclosing the atrocities committed by others, but keeping your own hidden.
5. While President Obama is an eloquent (rhetorical) orator, but that on its own doesn’t achieve anything. Hitler and Mussolini were also good orators but their actions and deeds were horrendous. Remember Napoleon Bonaparte’s speech to his soldiers and the Muslim clerics of Alexandria in 1798? What conciliatory terms he used, how he eulogised Islam, Muslims, their history, their culture and their contribution to civilisation. His purpose was purely to recruit traitors to overthrow the Mameluke dynasty and to make Egypt a French colony. However, the French were defeated by Muhammad Ali Pasha within two years and left Egypt. President Obama will not be able to achieve anything because he is tied down by the course set by his predecessors, by the strong Jewish lobby and by the neocons. His promises of withdrawal of troops in 2012 will be overturned by his successor. (I strongly doubt he will be re-elected.) If he were sincere, he would set a date of 2010 or 2011. The Palestinian problem will drag on indefinitely, and more Palestinian lands will be usurped to be included in the Zionist state, thanks to US support and the cowardice and incompetence of the Arab nations.
6. In 2002, 22 Arab states took the initiative to offer Israel full normalisation of relations in return for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied illegally in 1967. This initiative has been put on a backburner while the Arab countries are constantly being told “to take meaningful steps and important actions to facilitate the US to take some action.” Meaningful and important in this case may be taken to mean “don’t talk about the return of the West Bank and the rights of the Palestinian people.”
I believe that President Obama, for all his good intentions and his nice words will achieve no more than did the two Muslim presidents and the two Muslim vice presidents that India had. It will be a “puppet-on-a-string” show. As the Indian gentlemen in question could do no more than be good propaganda material for the Indian government, so Mr Obama will be for the US government. The well-entrenched establishment is too strong to be overruled and it will allow Mr Obama hardly any freedom to pursue his own policies freely. The election slogan “Change we can believe in” will soon become a forgotten page of world history. In this connection Aayats 51, 52 of Surah Maida perfectly describe the present situation. There we read: “O believer! Do not make friendship with Jews and Christians. They are friends to one another. If you make friendship with them, you will be one of them. Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoers. Those who are hypocrites will rush to the Jews and Christians and say they do this lest calamity befall them. It is possible that Allah may give you victory or some commandment. They will then repent for what they have concealed in their hearts.”