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     Volume 8 Issue 77 | July 10, 2009 |

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Writing the Wrong

Existential Threats

Sharbari Ahmed
The Obama administration does not seem to have any intention of altering the American stance on the situation in Gaza and environs.

I have left Dhaka and am back in familiar territory, the place I have called home for most of my life, USA. I won't bore with you with the usual cultural shock syndrome, East vs West rigmarole, as I am not in any cultural shock. I was not in Dhaka either, actually. I am, however, slowly processing the six months I spent there and that has led to my processing many other things. I have not yet processed the death of Michael Jacksonoh quit rolling your eyes! You know you at least found him fascinating. It is now summer in Obama-land. I was in Dhaka when he was inaugurated and felt somewhat removed from the elation. Somehow partying at the American Club (which at times, seems overrun by missionaries trust me, I hung out there a lot) did not cut it. I was underwhelmed by the poem read at the ceremony but I wanted to like it so ended up convincing myself it was brilliant. I am particularly adept at convincing myself people and situations that send up red flags are really just fine. A rare, useless talent. So, I was happy seeing him take the oath, happy to see Cheney wheel chair bound, and Dubbya looking like he had developed a rash on his undercarriage, happy to hear the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin sing her gutsy heart out. Afterwards I posted deliriously jubilant Facebook status I, along with everyone else, extolling our new leader and his (legitimately, not a delusion) beautiful young family. I was euphoric and pushed all my doubts to the furthest reaches of my mind, where they kept company with my various other doubts and instincts that I choose to ignore when they seem inconvenient. I discovered something unhappy about myself something I have sneered at other people about I am a why-fight the-flow-kind-of-woman. It's easy to be happy, so just be it. But as is the nature of the Universe, and why people like me and maybe you, will never be totally happy is because the truth is something we are in constant search of though, at times, I truly hate hearing it or knowing it even exists. But, as an American and current employer of President Obama, I felt it was my duty to uncover some of it. To that end, I dug around and started listening to alternative media outlets (the biggest thing I miss about Dhaka is Al Jazeera, oh, and my friends) to assuage and or confirm my suspicions, that where the Middle East was concerned the Obama administration was merely Bush light and not much more. This is what I found out:

The violent and unstable political situation across the Palestinian territories is driving the children (particularly of the Gaza Strip) towards a hostile and irreparable future. courtesy: stolenchildhood.net

The US is conducting a new war and this one is in Pakistan, sanctioned and conducted by Barack Hussein Obama. Seven hundred civilians have been killed by American drone missiles since he took office and according to John Pilger, award winning filmmaker and activist, the whole region, including Afghanistan, is being prepared for an extended American colonial presence. Another hard Truth: the President's eloquent, goose-bump inducing speech to the “Muslim World” was really just about language and tone. Not that that is not important. It was a far cry from Bush's aggressive, Sith Lord approach where one was either for or against the US. But this speech, heralded as being in the milieu of the Gettysburg Address, is starting to look like some sort of, as a commentator described it, “mood music to the Middle East.” A salve to lull us, and those upon which injustice has been wrought for generations, into being comfortably numb. In the end, John Pilger asks, “what did Obama [really] offer?” Mollification is good in some instances, and needed, and sometimes it builds up hope that is realized, but the only people, it seems, who are hopeful about the state of the Middle East and the “Muslim World” are the Americans, who are mightily enamored of their President. When one hears what the average Arab or “Muslim World” club member thinks, in general, it is either skeptical optimism or downright, OK Hussein, put your money where your mouth is. Here is a smattering of reactions I gathered while I was digging:

"Bush and Clinton said the same about a Palestinian state, but they've done nothing, so why should we believe this guy?" Ali Tottah, 82, a Palestinian refugee at the Baqaa refugee camp in Jordan.

"Why did he not come here to Gaza, instead of going to Egypt? He is welcome to come and see, to inspect with his own eyes, to see the war crimes and the new Holocaust." Mohammed Khader, 47, whose house in Gaza was leveled by Israeli troops during the offensive against Hamas.

"It was actually better than we expected, but not as good as we hoped. ... His stance on democracy was very general, a bit weak, we hoped for more detail." Ayman Nour, an Egyptian dissident recently released from prison.

“On the occupied West Bank, Israeli settler Aliza Herbst said Mr. Obama's speech will not bring peace. 'I think we have to face, the Israelis in general will have to face a very very difficult situation in the international community. It has been difficult. I think as a result of Obama it will be more difficult,' she said.”

“In Washington DC, the Council on American Islamic Relations, held a gathering to watch Mr. Obama's speech. The group had been critical of Bush administration policies. One member of the organization, Khadija Athman, was upbeat. 'I think I have never been more proud of our president right now,' she said.” (She is an American, of course)

"Obama's attempt was positive but not effective. As long as the U.S. is supporting Israel there will be no hope for better U.S.-Islamic relations." Niloofar Mirmohebi, an Iranian student in Tehran.

(Sources: Asharq Alawsat Online, and VOA News)

I feel young Niloofar sums it up for me personally, but I want to qualify, that it is not supporting Israel's right to exist I have a problem with, it is the expansion of illegal settlements in Gaza, as well as the lack of consequence for genocide exacted upon the residents of Gaza this past winter, as well as the centuries' long injustices wrought upon the Palestinian people that America insists on turning a blind eye to.

I do not feel that the Obama administration really has any intention of altering the American stance on the situation in Gaza and environs, as he did not even address the atrocities in the region in his speech. That was very telling, as was Biden's recent interview with George Stephanopoulos in Iraq.

When asked if the US would support Israel attacking Iran's nuclear power plants, Biden replied, "Look, Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else” (Source: Los Angeles Times, July 6th, 2009)

Biden and Stephanopoulos went on to discuss the idea of an “existential threat” to the welfare of Israel as posed by Iran. I was intrigued by the use of the word existential and so looked it up to get the proper meaning. I know it has something to do with Henry David Thoreau and a pond in Massachusetts and is, at times, a seemingly interminable part of my existence, but I wanted to find the technical meaning.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary one meaning is: struggle for existence

Date: 1832 : the automatic competition of members of a natural population for limited vital resources (as food, space, or light) that results in natural selection

The words natural selection sent shivers down my spine as that is what most genocidal maniacs use to justify genocide the inherent inferiority of another culture or race (though race is apparently a myth as well, yet another column). In general, however, it perfectly defines what the conflict between Israel and the Arab and Muslim people is about. It is in the end, about food, space and light. And it seems, the US is still very much cavorting with the dark side. This is the truth (according to me and John Pilger, and maybe the “Muslim World”) and I cannot shy away from it. I still admire my President, still view him as a beacon of hope, but can now see clearly that the light he sheds may not always be incandescent. It may not always reach the furthest outposts of the human experience. In order to do that, it needs to shine more pro-actively and with more truth.




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