by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 12, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1434)
Obama has always been long on rhetoric and short on substance. But he has another opportunity to prove he can deliver the change he has so often touted. His real test will be whether he is willing to deal on the basis of mutual respect with Islamic Iran.
Drumbeating comes naturally to Americans. This is how they are programmed to think by the corporate-owned media. A Pew Research survey at the end of 2012 revealed an interesting pattern of those that love and hate America. Among respondents, 80% of Americans had a favourable view of their country despite the fact that the economy is in decline, unemployment remains high and the number of homeless continues to rise.
Barack Obama, just sworn in as president for a second term, insists America is a light unto nations. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US ranks 31st in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in reading, out of 74 countries. The dumbing down of America is real. Add to that the 2.3 million incarcerated, the largest number of prisoners in the world, surpassing by far even China with a total population of 1.2 billion (nearly four times the population of the US) and one gets a real picture of America. Despite the political liberalism and moral relativism that brought about the “most advanced society in the world,” the associated values and respect for individual liberty cannot prevent the rape of over one million women in the US every year, according to a survey conducted by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 as reported by the New York Times (Dec. 14, 2011).
According to the Public Policy Polling survey released on January 8, the US Congress rates even lower than lice and cockroaches among Americans. So what explains the Americans’ narcissism and infatuation with their own country? While many people are aware that despite his broad smile and soaring rhetoric, Obama has curtailed civil liberties through wiretaps, intrusive airport searches, killing Americans without due process as well as illegal drone strikes against innocent people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, they remain oblivious of their rulers’ criminal behaviour.
The victims of such crimes, of course do not forget. Among those that least like America, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan top the list. More precisely, they hate American policies because they are most adversely affected. No amount of official American proclamations that “they hate us because of our freedoms” can hide the ugly reality of US policies. The freedoms American officialdom so fondly talk about are being dismantled systematically. In their place, a police state has emerged where endless surveillance and Big Brother watching all the time have become the norm. Through the passage of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) in December 2011, Obama has granted himself (through the complicity of a feckless Congress) dictatorial powers to place Americans under indefinite military detention without trial or even the provision of evidence; a power which extends to citizens abroad as well as to those on US soil.
It is, however, in the domain of foreign policy that America’s militarism is arousing so much hatred. To the millions of Palestinians left homeless as a result of America’s blind support of Zionist Israel must be added the drone attacks and CIA death squads that prowl many Muslim countries killing innocent people. The US still maintains black prisons in Europe and North Africa. The world got a glimpse into this sordid practice when the US ambassador to Libya was murdered in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. The US may brand the killers terrorists — and they may well be — but the fact is that maintaining secret prisons in other countries and locking people up without charge or trial is state terrorism. No amount of verbal sophistry can hide this ugly truth.
Soon after Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009, he publicly pledged to shut down the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. Four years later, Guantanamo is still there with hundreds of people locked up. It has been virtually forgotten. Instead, Obama has escalated the policy of killing innocent people including American citizens. American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki (born in New Mexico) was murdered on September 29, 2011 in Yemen. Two weeks later, his 16-year-old son was killed in a similar strike. What was their “crime”? Al-Awlaki was a Muslim religious figure who was critical of American policy. That, as far as Obama is concerned, justified his killing without charge or trial!
While there is no shortage of Obama admirers, even among liberals, the fact is he has turned out to be even worse than his predecessor George W. Bush who was widely condemned as a moron. Will Obama behave any differently in his second term than he did in his first? On the available evidence, one cannot hold out much hope. His real test will come in how he deals with Iran. So far, his policy has been extremely hostile. In his first year in office, he delivered a Nowruz message to the Iranian people, even calling the country by its correct name, the Islamic Republic of Iran. He expected the Iranians to fall for his charm offensive and melt before his toothy smile. State-to-state policies are not formulated on the basis of sentiment. Nor is Iran a country without history; unlike the US, Iran has a 5,000-year history. In comparison, the US is a cultural hooligan.
Iran’s leadership expects tangible policy changes starting with a change in US behaviour toward the Islamic Republic. Iran is not a banana republic or one of those Arabian regimes that can be ordered around under threat of sanctions or war. Three decades of futile hostility should be enough to convince US policy-makers that Iran cannot be bullied into submission. The people and leadership of Islamic Iran know how to defend their rights. They also understand that living a life of dignity demands sacrifices. They made that choice three decades ago and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. Instead, it is the US that is not free to formulate its own policies always having to kow-tow to the Zionist blackmailers. America’s freedom is a myth; its greatness a mirage. Its plight will get worse unless Obama can make a course correction insofar as his dealings with Iran are concerned. The alternative is more humiliation for the Great Satan. The choice is Obama’s.