Obama trapped by the system, lobby

By Ameen Izzadeen

(This article originally appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, on September 3, 2010)

In recent weeks and days, US President Barack Obama earned ten points, lost ten points and earned ten points again with his headline-hitting political moves.

On August 14, he earned ten points for standing firm in support of a move to build an Islamic cultural centre and a mosque near Ground Zero where nine Septembers ago two towering structures were brought down by some terrorists.

His commitment to uphold the first amendment which ensures freedom of religion won much acclaim from around the world, though it earned him the displeasure of a good number of Americans. Here Obama was seen as a leader who would not cow down to pressure and would do what he felt was right even if there was widespread opposition.

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as anyone else in this country,” Obama said, to applause at a White House Iftar (sunset breakfast during Ramadan) ceremony attended by diplomats from Islamic countries and members of the US Muslim community.

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable….,” he said.

Obviously his words added fuel to the raging controversy although he tried to differentiate between Al-Qaeda and Islam.

“Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders — these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children,” he said.

The anti-mosque movement, which is backed by 2008 Republican Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, described the mosque as a place for “terrorists to worship their monkey god”. In recent weeks attacks on Muslims and mosques in the United States have increased. In New York, a man asked a Taxi driver whether he was a Muslim. When he said yes, he was stabbed. In California, vandals wrote on a mosque wall: “No Temple for the God of terrorism at Ground Zero. Wake up America, the Enemy is here.”

It was amidst such hate crimes that Obama upheld the First Amendment and added some flesh to the bones of a sketchy promise he gave to the Muslim world in his June 2009 Cairo speech where he called for a “new beginning” in ties between the United States and Muslims.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution upholds religious freedom and the principle of Separation of State and Church – a principle that forms one of the cornerstones of democracy in the United States.

In fact, the move to ensure freedom of worship is as old as the US Constitution. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and their allies ended Virginia’s established church and helped pass the Virginia Statute for Religious Liberty, which guaranteed religious freedom to all.

Underscoring their belief that the separation of the State and the Church would be good for all faiths, including Christianity, the US founding fathers, though devout Christians, made sure that the Constitution they were framing did not favor one religion. Rejoicing over the Virginia legislation, Jefferson noted that it would ensure religious freedom for “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan {Muslims}, the Hindoo (sic), the infidel of every denomination”.

But George W. Bush, making use of the anti-Muslim sentiments that prevailed after the 9/11 attacks, turned the First Amendment upside down. He gave a religious interpretation to foreign policy. For him, the Afghan war was a Crusade and the Iraq war was the implementation of God’s will and command. It is alleged that Bush and his hardline neocon supporters believed the second coming of Jesus Christ could be fast tracked if the conflicts in West Asia could be manipulated to bring about Armageddon.

With the election of Obama as President in 2008, the fundamentalist Bushism took a back seat, but it is only a matter of time before it reappears in some form to trap Obama and force him to do its bidding. Some say this has already happened.

Obama lost ten points on August 31, when he made his Iraq troop withdrawal speech, because nowhere in his speech did he mention the Bush administration’s lies with which it justified its illegal invasion of Iraq. The bravery which he demonstrated in the New York mosque statement was missing in the Iraq withdrawal statement. In an act of apparent submission to the neocon war machinery, he deliberately omitted any mention of how the George W. Bush administration, in justifying its decision to wage war, cited Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and how it misled the Americans into believing that Saddam Hussein had links with the perpetrators of  the 9/11 attacks. Here a man who was elected to office on anti-Iraq-war sentiments was glorifying the war and absolving Bush of his his mistakes and crimes that cost more than a million Iraqi and 4,400 American lives. Here a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his hopes of peace is seen praising Bush and endorsing the neocons’ imperialistic and hegemonic designs on the oil-rich West Asia.

Obama’s claim that Iraq is today a full sovereign state smacks of deceit. How can it be when 50,000 American soldiers are stationed in Iraq? Most Iraqis say they will consider their country sovereign only when the last of the American soldiers leaves the country. Obama, who, upon assuming office in January 2009, said the last American soldier would leave in 16 months time, later fell in line with Bush’s timetable, according to which the last American soldier will leave before December 31, 2011. Many analysts doubt that the Obama administration would honour this deadline, because Obama is a prisoner of the system which is spreading the tentacles of US imperialism far and wide.

Obama scored ten points again yesterday when he relaunched his West Asia peace initiative with a meeting of the main stakeholders in Washington. We give him the ten points even though he has succumbed to the pressure exerted on him by Israel and the Zionist lobby. After all, like the inhabitants of the parched land rejoice over a drop of rain or even at the faintest sign of rain during a prolonged winter, the peace-starved people welcome even a false hope.

Obama earned the wrath of Israelis and the Zionist lobby when he insisted that unless the Jewish state stopped its settlement building activities in occupied Palestine, the peace initiative would remain dormant. But under pressure from Israel and the Zionist lobby in the US, he has now resumed the process on Israeli terms while Israel continues its settlement building activities on Palestinian land. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said recently that if the talks succeed they would succeed to Israeli standards and liquidate the Palestinian cause. “They’ll give us parts of 1967 lands. They’ll draw the borders as they want and they’ll confiscate our sovereignty,” said Meshaal. Yesterday his group Hamas claimed responsibility for two recent attacks on Israeli settlers.

Apart from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the host Obama, others who attended the Washington meeting yesterday were Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s king Abdullah, US peace envoy George Mitchell and Tony Blair, who has done little or nothing as the special representative of the Middle East Quartet comprising the US, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.

There is much optimism on the US side with Obama trying to seal a deal for a Palestinian state within a year. “This moment of opportunity may not soon come again. They cannot afford to let it slip away,” Obama said projecting himself as the man destined to bring upon West Asia the peace that had eluded many of his predecessors.

But only a few observes are willing to share Obama’s optimism. If Obama dares to cross the line the Zionist lobby has drawn for him, he will probably be a one-term president. His popularity will be tested at the November mid-term elections with opinion polls showing that Republicans might take control of both Houses of Congress largely because of economic issues like the rising rate of unemployment. Given this reality, the Palestinians are unlikely to get a decent deal.

With each passing day, the Palestinians lose more and more of their land. At the rate the settlements are expanding, soon the Palestinians will be pushed into a few ghettos, if they have not been already.

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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