The Obama Contradiction

SPEAKING in front of the U.N. general assembly, 26 September 2012, U.S President Barack Obama called on world leaders to confront the forces of intolerance and extremism within their own countries and permit more freedom at home. The blatant deception in these remarks is so startling that when I heard it on the radio in my car; I had to dig out my sunglasses to avoid causing an accident.

Over the past two weeks U.S. embassies, predominantly in the Arab world, have been bombed or attacked in a somewhat knee-jerk reaction to the airing of a U.S. produced anti-Islamic film. Obama’s statement is a clear condemnation of the acts committed by terrorists who often obliterate the lives of the innocent in religious defiance of anything that is seen as a threat or menace to the Islamic world.

Condemnation rightfully so, yet there is something quite contradictory in the utterances by the leader of the “free world.” As the saying goes “all’s fair in love and war,” yet little over the better part of a decade has been fair in this much loved game of war.

Terrorism, especially in its 21st century U.S portrayal, takes the shape of fundamental extremism. As Communism ground to a halt, the American economy required a new source of capital flow. War, real or perceived, is vital for its economy to stay afloat.

Exceptional examples of American prosperity under war are littered throughout the annuals of time; none more so than U.S. involvement in the second world war. However, events that took place during the presidency of Ronald Reagan set the wheels in motion for the political trend that is evident today. During his tenure in office, Latin American countries became the new “promised land” for a large number of American based transnational companies. Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador at one point or another fell prey to the neoliberal doctrine practised so vociferously in the best interests of American prosperity. In the name of democracy, global peace and poverty alleviation the U.S. unleashed a terror similar to that of the Spanish conquistadors. Instead of blankets covered in smallpox, they received democracy in return for exploitation. So called evil empires, run by dictators that did not have the best interests of its nations population at heart needed to be removed.

When, in 2003, George W. Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, the intentions were not so clear. The logic behind the story goes, dislodge a disingenuous, tyrannical and populist movement and liberate the masses under the sacred banner of democracy. The actual intentions were three fold. One: money follows blood. The longer and more violent a war, the more arms manufacturers stand to benefit as does the economy. Two: oil. With vast, oil rich resources, anyone with the ability to manipulate Iraq’s oil supply – especially in an era when non renewable energy resources are on the decline – essentially develops or reaffirms global hegemony. Third and finally: an enlarged Middle Eastern sphere of influence. With Israel as it’s only ally in the region the U.S. has managed to distance Iranian influence from an increasingly nuclear Pakistan by strategically placing itself in Iraq. It also shields Israel from threatening, but often not unprovoked hostilities from Iran.

When Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th American president back in 2008, he did so off the back of an election campaign promising change. His perestroika of change went along the lines of promising to forbid companies in bankruptcy from giving executives bonuses, to enact windfall profits tax for oil companies, and, in consultation with the Iraqi government, to end the war safely and responsibly within 16 months of taking office, among a multitude of other promises. None of these so called promises of change have been enacted. In fact, since taking office, Obama picked up the baton where his republican predecessor George W. Bush left off. To quote from his address to the U.N, it makes sense that he has spent more money on the war in Iraq than Bush.

“Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained, it would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy.”

When the U.S. invades nations under the guise of liberators, it is akin to the kind of atrocities committed by extremist Islamic sects, only the implications of such acts are more clandestine in nature. The 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3000 people. The war in Iraq has claimed the lives of some 114 732 people, with this number still rising.

“People need to confront the forces of intolerance and extremism within their own countries and permit more freedom at home.”

If the U.S. was serious about this claim, it would be more tolerant of nations that do not, by general consensus, wish to live under U.S. imposed democracy. Some nations do not want to adopt free-market economic principles. These are not wrong choices, yet they differ from those that are championed by the “liberators” of the world and must therefore be tyrannical, despotic and deplorable.

For real change, change that the world can believe in, Obama should – by way of introspection, take his message to heart. As dangerous as a person with C4 explosives strapped to their body may be, so too is a nation famous for its veiled neo-colonial ambitions. Terrorism by another name is still as dangerous. Come willingly or there will be hell to pay!

Warren Gwilt is an independent political analyst and social activist based in Johannesburg. He has a BA Journalism degree from the University of Johannesburg.