Students’ Notebook: Empire’s New Emperor

Published: June 16, 2009 - 15:20 Updated: June 16, 2009 - 15:34

<p><strong>Students' Notebook</strong>: Empire's New Emperor </p>
<p>Umar Khalid Delhi&nbsp;</p>
<p><em>It has always been those few who can see through the political correctness and hypocrisy of popular attitudes who are considered the<br />most dangerous</em>. -- <strong>Robin Davis<br /></strong><br />Many Muslim leaders across India and the world have hailed US President Barack Obama's speech to the Muslim world as "historic" and "a major breakthrough". This response is not just premature but also flawed. </p>
<p>The speech was full of rhetoric and riddled with contradictions suited to safeguard American strategic interests. He begins 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 George Bush speech: "Why do they hate us? Because they hate our freedoms!" </p>
<p>No, Dear President, there are other reasons for what fuels anti-Americanism among many Arab nations and in other parts of the world. It concerns 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 after the Kuwait invasion by Saddam Hussain), a US-backed coup to topple the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 in Iran (incidently he accepts this in the latter part of the speech!), are just a few of the many instances.</p>
<p>He terms the American occupation of Afghanistan a "humanitarian intervention" and "a war of necessity". Well, the war in Afghanistan is part of the imperialist drive of the US to dominate the world's two most important sources of oil and gas, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Basin. The American invasion of Afghanistan has resulted in the death of more than 80,000 Afghan civilians. That's quite a large number of human casualties which, rather than challenging the extremists, has further strengthened them because they represent the only section challenging the occupation. Also, the secular sections of the Afghan society have either been bought by the empire or roped into the NGO business. Besides, wasn't it the Reagan administration that really backed the same "stirred up mullahs" to fight the Soviets during the late 1980's in what was termed as a holy war? As Arundhati Roy asserts, "Justifying imperialism is like justifying something as bad as child abuse or rape."</p>
<p>Coming to the Iraq invasion, Obama informs us that while America seeks no basis in Iraq, Iraqi society is better off without the tyranny of&nbsp;&nbsp;Saddam Hussain. This is once again quite similar to another famous remark made by George W. Bush that "the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussain". Obama makes no mention of the destruction caused by the American invasion-- death of 1.2 million civilians, devastation of infrastructure, and millions being brought to the brink of starvation. Ironically, when Hussain was conducting his worst atrocities, he had the full support of the US (and the CIA) both financially and politically, both overtly and covertly.</p>
<p>On the Palestinian issue, he justifies the creation of Israel on account of the massacre of 6 million Jews during the first few decades<br />of the 20th century due to the barbaric wave of anti-Semitism. But then 12 million Congolese were also killed by the Belgian occupiers and America never demanded a separate state to ensure their safety. The creation of Israel was not because America was concerned about the treatment meted out to the Jews in Europe. In fact, it had shut its doors to the Jews when they were being massacred by Hitler's troops. </p>
<p>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 per cent of the Palestinian land was given away to them. Hundreds of Palestinians were either wiped out or driven away, in one of the most cruel instances of ethnic cleansing of our times.&nbsp; </p>
<p>Israel has gone on 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 genocide against people struggling to protect their lands. And every form of resistance to this illegal grabbing of land has been termed as terrorism or anti-Semitism by the Israeli and even more so by the western media. </p>
<p><br /><strong>Two State Solution</strong>: I do not 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. As Chomsky observes, "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."&nbsp; The US government has blocked along with Israel almost every UN resolution that sought a peaceful, equitable solution to the conflict.</p>
<p>While asking Hamas to abandon violence in its fight against Israel, he makes no mention of Israeli violence. The massacre in Gaza last December, that left 1,300 dead -- half of them women and children, a massacre in which banned chemical substances like white phosphorous which induce genetic mutations and deformities were used, UN run schools were bombed -- were not mentioned by the American president.&nbsp; </p>
<p>In fact, 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 is not a choice but the only legitimate political option.<br /><br /><strong>Obama and Middle East:</strong> Obama does not seem to support the idea of Iran developing nuclear weapons unless it confers to the responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But is that not what Iran has been saying all along? </p>
<p>Coming to the question of a nuclear arms race, 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.</p>
<p>Another key issue Obama mentioned was that of democracy. To quote him, "We welcome all elected, peaceful governments, provided they govern with respect for all their people." But, as it turns out, the US has always had a key role in suppressing the democratic aspirations of&nbsp; many Middle East nations. The most notorious and unpopular of rulers in these countries have always had the complete support of US, be it the monarchs of Saudi Arabia, the Shahs of Iran or the sheikhs of Kuwait . The problem is that if you allow democracy to emerge in these countries they might elect governments that the US does not like. </p>
<p>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.<br /><br />Taking this rhetoric about human rights and democracy. Further, Obama informs us that America has always been the arch<br />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<br />the world, has been at war with one country or another since 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 which caused millions of human casualties, Somalia, Korea, Indonesia, Iraq. </p>
<p>We should also not forget the countries that have suffered due to the IMF and World Bank policies and UN sanctions - thousands of children died in&nbsp;Africa due to World Bank policies. Martin Luther King once called the American government as the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world".&nbsp; Out of all of the things said by the American president this one surely has the least basis in history.&nbsp;</p>
<p><strong>Gobalisation and the US:</strong> Another issue he talks about is globalisation and informs us that the face of globalisation is contradictory. This is perfectly&nbsp; true but rather than talking about the real contradictions of the 'development model' under a globalised economy he intelligently moves on to other unimportant ones. By starting the whole modernity vs tradition debate he hides the real problems of globalization -- the neo-liberal policies which privilege the rich and crush the working class, the peasantry and the poor. Besides, how did globalisation stop the massive crash of world capitalism? Or was it due to globalisation itself?<br /><br />However, there are certain things on which I do agree with the American president. It is when he says that America was never at<br />war with Islam. This is completely true. These are wars for oil, wars for American strategic interests and wars for the ultimate<br />supremacy of the American empire. Islam as it turns out is just&nbsp;one of&nbsp; the many instruments used effectively and cunningly in the war. I hope Barrack "Hussain" Obama does the least by acknowledging it.</p>
<p><em>The writer appeared for his final graduation exams at Kirorimal College, Delhi University.</em></p>