It is bad enough that the Obama administration does little more than pay lip service to the economic suffering in this country. People in the United States probably will suffer the ill effects of poverty, including reduced life spans and reduced access to economic, health, education, and developmental opportunities as a result.
But overseas, people are dying at an accelerated pace. Hillary Clinton, whom some are wishing were president instead, has been grabbing attention on an overseas trip. Calling Israeli settlement so-called concessions that consolidate their illegal holdings “unprecedented,” she continues a sell-out of the Palestinians that Obama began soon after his widely-praised call for a halt to settlement expansion including the “natural” growth that Israelis have now “agreed” to continue. The Palestinians, unsurprisingly, are less than impressed; Arab criticism compelled Clinton to rephrase.
This in the wake of Operation Cast Lead which devastated the Gaza Strip. The U.S. and Israel have sought to obstruct any serious investigation of the operation.
Despite previous pledges, the US and EU governments refused to endorse the conclusions of the independent fact-finding mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The Report found that the entire population of Gaza was still being subjected to collective punishment. Goldstone himself insisted that it was “time for action” when presenting his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. “The lack of accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point; the ongoing lack of justice is undermining any hope for a successful peace process and reinforcing an environment that fosters violence,” he warned.
But, on to Afghanistan, where a run-off for the presidency will no longer be needed, because, as Juan Cole wrote, “Abdullah Abdullah announced . . . that he has withdrawn from the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election on the grounds that the same local officials, appointed by his rival, incumbent Hamid Karzai, will supervise the runoff as winked at massive fraud in the first round. He said that the election cannot be transparent or honest.” The Associated Press reports, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Abdullah Abdullah’s call for a boycott of next weekend’s runoff election in Afghanistan will not affect the legitimacy of that runoff.”
The debate in Washington has been over a counter-insurgency campaign versus a limited counter-terrorism campaign. Counter-insurgency implies a certain amount of state-building. Counter-terrorism implies that state-building is impossible or very, very difficult. Clinton backs counter-insurgency, while Vice President Joe Biden supports counter-terrorism.
The reason Clinton is so eager to insist that Karzai’s election is legitimate despite its obvious illegitimacy is that Abdullah’s withdrawal puts paid to the idea that there is a plausible Afghan government partner for US counter-insurgency. There is not.
Counter-insurgency requires a lot more troops. Counter-terrorism would return the focus of this ill-advised war to where it always should have been (as if war were advisable in the first place): al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, in the same war, but across the border, in Pakistan:
“What is actually terrorism in U.S. eyes?” [a student from a university in Peshawar] asked. “Is it the killing of innocent people in, let’s say, drone attacks? Or is it the killing of innocent people in different parts of Pakistan, like the bomb blast in Peshawar two days ago? Which one is terrorism, do you think?”
Something similar has happened in Honduras, where an agreement to end a coup against President Manuel Zelaya does not guarantee his return to power but does reaffirm a “constitution [which] was imposed upon the Honduran people in 1982 by the outgoing military dictatorship in consultation with the US embassy and was crafted to uphold the interests of the oligarchy that monopolizes the wealth of the country.” The agreement also legitimizes forthcoming elections. The World Socialist Web Site explains:
If the Obama administration did not intervene for four months, it was because it silently backed the aims of the coup regime, while publicly proclaiming its support for constitutional order and democracy. It pursued the same delaying tactics as the Micheletti [coup] regime, seeking to run out the clock on the Zelaya presidency.
It viewed the ouster of Zelaya as a means of countering the influence of Venezuela’s Chávez in the region and securing the interests of US corporations seeking cheap labor in Honduras. Given the close relation between the Honduran military and the Pentagon, which maintains its largest Latin American base in Honduras, it is difficult to believe that the coup itself was carried out without the foreknowledge and approval of Washington.
With barely two months remaining in Zelaya’s presidential term, the Obama administration sees an agreement that may bring Zelaya briefly back as a powerless figurehead as a small price to pay for legitimizing both the coup and the coming election.
It’s a pattern. Obama, when he sees an advantage in doing so, will poignantly highlight grievances, whether on the economy, civil liberties, the occupied territories, making war, or imperialism. As with his visit to Dover Air Force Base on the return of yet more war dead, he makes certain he draws attention. He hears us, we are to understand. And his apologists will insist that he means well.
But Obama’s delivery does not merely fall short. If we omit his fine-sounding words, his actions amount to an often-fatal slap in the face for the oppressed.