by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 37, No. 10, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1429)
Two narratives have dominated news about Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential elections. The first is the corporate media’s hype that democracy in America is vibrant because even an African-American can be elected president. The second is the global euphoria over Obama’s “historic” victory carrying the implication that a similarly “historic” shift is about to occur in US policies.
People, especially in the Muslim world, swallowed the line that Obama really stands for change. The Republican President George Bush’s approval ratings are so low that had the Democrats nominated a goat as their presidential candidate, it would probably have won. Anything would be better than the Bush disaster or another Bush term under John McCain. The global reaction to Obama’s victory was rooted in similar thinking: a clear rejection of Bush policies.
When people are swept by emotions, the only thing that registers in their mind is what they want to hear. During the primaries and the presidential campaign, Obama’s intended policy initiatives revealed much more about the man who would be president than the media manufactured jubilation that greeted his victory. But most Muslims appeared unmoved by these revelations. For instance, his first act upon winning the Democratic Party nomination was to appear before the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). There, Obama went much further than other groveling politicians: as president, he would make sure that Jerusalem remained Israel’s “undivided” capital, he announced to loud applause. His other remarks were equally revealing: Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon and that he would not only send more troops to Afghanistan but also bomb Pakistan. These sounded more like escalation of failed policies than change.
The dismay felt by people when Obama appointed Rahm Israel Emanuel as his chief of staff — a hard-core Zionist who has served in the Israeli army — reveals how disconnected they are from the reality of American politics. Obama is beholden to the Zionists who will not allow him to break their stranglehold on the US political system. Martin Indyk wrote in the Jerusalem Post (November 1), “Obama passes kishke test”. He mentioned such pro-Israeli figures as Dennis Ross and Dan Kurtzer among his advisors, as well as Vice President-elect Joe Biden who has an “unblemished pro-Israel record.”
The Israeli paper, Ha‘aretz, reported that Emanuel’s father, Jonathan was a member of Menchem Begin’s Irgun terrorist gang. Following his son’s appointment as the White House gatekeeper, the Israeli newspaper, Ma’ariv, asked Emanuel Senior whether his son would be pro-Israel. His reply is revealing, “Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He is not going to be mopping floors at the White House.” Such racism, if directed against members of the Jewish community would be roundly condemned.
Obama’s other appointment, to his transition team, of Sonal Shah, a member of the Hindu fascist group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, though little noticed, is equally troubling. It reflects Obama’s mindset and where he is heading. During the election campaign, he made clear that in addition to sending more troops to Afghanistan he would attack Pakistan if actionable intelligence showed that a high value target was not apprehended by the Pakistanis à la the best tradition of the gun-slinging, nuke-toting American presidency. What is the difference between Bush’s policies and those advocated by Obama? Should not the US-inspired, unabated blood-letting in Afghanistan, which has no end in sight, be a lesson not to turn the tribal areas of Pakistan also into killing fields? Is this what Obama means by change?
The profound loathing expressed by people, especially Muslims, toward the US is the direct result of American aggression and gross injustices perpetrated against them. This is especially true in Palestine. Obama has already demonstrated that he is not going to change these policies. In fact, the rhetoric of change was an elaborate fraud perpetrated on the American people. Muslims as well as most African-Americans were also taken in by it. What they have ignored is a simple fact: the US political system does not allow an outsider to rise to power. Most Americans are hardly even aware that Ralph Nader was also a presidential contender. Not once did the corporate media mention his name, nor was he allowed to participate in the presidential debates. People were told that there were only two candidates, representing two parties — Republicans and Democrats.
Even this is not true. The linguist, Noam Chomsky has said there is only one party, the Business party, while Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist whose young son Casey was killed in Iraq one week after he arrived there in April 2004, says America is ruled by a single party, the War Party, regardless of who is in power. Perhaps the business and war party are one and the same. Obama certainly does not plan to change this. He would not dare because despite the propaganda that he mobilized millions of young people to raise funds for him, the truth is this was largely money generated by AIPAC but channeled through the internet to bypass campaign contribution rules.
Obama is beholden to the worst kind of blackmailers that the American system is capable of producing, and sustaining. The only change in the US is that a new conductor is getting on the train to relieve the old conductor of his shift. The train is still heading in the same direction.