People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 51

December 20, 2009

Sulphur Smells in a Peace Prize Ceremony


R Arun Kumar

THE speech delivered by Barack Obama, president of US while receiving his Nobel Peace Prize has attracted a lot of attention. Analysts termed it as 'full of nuances', combining 'realism with idealism' and 'representing true American character'. Some had praised the speech as an example of an 'evolving philosopher-statesman Obama', tracing the influence of Reinhold Niebuhr, Obama's �favourite philosopher�. Some termed it as the 'most presidential' of all his speeches and stated that �it marked the moment when Obama became a leader, defined as an individual who chooses the hard road because he believes it is the right one�.

His speech earned him praise from even conservatives, his arch-enemies in the US. On the other hand, it had disappointed his many supporters � that rainbow coalition that had worked for his victory in the presidential election. He lost quite a number of friends rather than earning them through this speech.

Obama used the opportunity to answer his critics who had questioned the awarding of Nobel Peace prize to him. He characterised the war the United States is waging in Afghanistan as a 'just war' and thus justify his decision to send additional troops.

Obama reiterated the imperial logic stating, �America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens�, meaning that all the countries where they had military interventions are not democracies. He continues �neither America's interests -- nor the world's -- are served by the denial of human aspirations... America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal�. According to his logic, US can invade Venezuela, as according to them it is an undemocratic country. Its closest friends are Israel Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, all known for their protection of 'citizen's rights'!

Obama seems to think �there is no history before me and after me, the deluge�. Or, he is rather poor in history. As the 44th President of the US and one who constantly evokes 'American character', he should not only be aware of its history but should also be able to express his interpretation of the events. He even seems not to have read Eduardo Galeano's 'Open Veins of Latin America', gifted to him by Hugo Chavez or his 'class interests' prevent him from digesting its contents. His vision does not extend further than the 9/11 of 2001, rather, he is refusing to see the other 9/11 of 1973. On that day, Salvador Allende, democratically elected President of Chile was overthrown by the US inspired coup and he had to pay his �loyalty to the people� with his life. If Obama feels that this is not an 'attack on democracy', it would be nothing short of an affront on the people of Chile.

Similarly in Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil and many such countries of Latin America, elected democracies were toppled and dictatorships installed with the overt or covert involvement of the US military. US had pumped and is still pumping millions of dollars to topple the governments in the name of 'regime change' and for the 'establishment of democracy'.

Obama cannot be oblivious of US role in Cuba. Hundreds of attempts were made on the life of Fidel Castro � a fact accepted by the CIA itself. Innumerable terrorist plots were hatched to topple the Cuban government, all with the connivance of the US government agencies. Posada Carlos, a notorious terrorist involved in many such plots is enjoying amnesty granted by the US.

It is during Obama's presidency that US has once again voted against the UN resolution to lift the inhuman economic blockade imposed on Cuba. It is carrying out 'economic warfare' over Cuba, in order to 'snuff its life out'. Today, with these actions, it is US that stands isolated in the region and not Cuba, as was demonstrated to Obama during the OAS summit. The people of the region had resoundingly spoken, �the �interests of the US' are invariably at variance with ours�.

Obama's language reminds us of the colonial language � 'the noble coloniser', 'civilisation mission' 'teaching values of democracy' etc. There is no 'change' that Obama had ushered, as similar words were uttered by many US presidents before him.

On the question of human rights he said, �Promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone�. Perhaps, he forgot that US has the largest incarcerated population and the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. The crime of rape has the lowest arrest, prosecution and convictions rates. It has thousands of people languishing in jails without trail. Even the promise of closing the most notorious Guantanamo prison made by Obama is yet to materialise and apart from it, US maintains many secret CIA prisons across the world. So Obama, better not just �exhort�.

Obama claims, �The world must remember that it was not simply international institutions � not just treaties and declarations � that brought stability to a post-World War II world. The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms�. He continues, �The sacrifice of the US armed forces� was �not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest�. Nothing can be more audacious than this.

The US wanted 'regime changes' because its 'self-interest' was so 'enlightened' than that of the respective peoples of that countries. It had caused such bloodshed and mayhem in Vietnam; with an 'enlightened self-interest', which even the citizens of US too didn't understand, leave alone that of Vietnam and the world over. This 'self-interest' is in reality the interests of imperialism.

Obama also wants us to forget facts that had led to the growth of Al-Qaeda and Taliban. It is the CIA that had nurtured this Frankenstein. It is with 'enlightened self-interest' that the US had armed and encouraged Israel. And of course, Israel's attack on Gaza, Lebanon, Syria had enhanced 'global security'. How secure US had made the world for our 'children and grandchildren' can be understood just by looking at Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Bosnia and the list goes on. And hear this, �terrible wars have been fought...But there has been no Third World War�. Thank you, Mr President!

A little later he promises to the world that �America's commitment to global security will never waver� and in a world where 'threats' are becoming more 'complex', as �America cannot act alone� he states �that's why NATO continues to be indispensable�. He goes further and pats his own shoulders stating that they are �not makers of war� but �wagers of peace�. The role of UN in peacekeeping comes after NATO in Obama's speech. This illustrates the trust Obama places on the UN � 'an architecture' that �America led the world in constructing to keep the peace�.

NATO has far exceeded its brief of being an alliance of the cold war era. With the end of cold war this alliance too should have seen a burial. Instead, what is happening is the steady expansion of the NATO. For the US, acting in 'alliance with international community' is just an excuse to involve NATO in military conflicts and does not in anyway mean the involvement of the UN.

Ironically the president of the Nobel Prize committee while introducing Obama has stated that under Obama's presidency, �USA is now paying its bills to the UN� and  �acceding to important conventions�. According to official UN reports �As of May 31, 2009, members� arrears to the Regular Budget topped $1282 million, of which the United States alone owed $857 million�. And as for its 'acceding to important conventions' the verdict would be out from Copenhagen in a few more days. The pointers indicate that US would not respect world opinion even on climate change.

Obama also keeps with the US the right to interfere in the internal affairs of any country, in order to  �prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region�. This is indeed far reaching and refuses to see that there are people in the country and it is their sovereign right to elect, defend or fight the government of their land. If the elected government oppresses the people of that land, it is for the people there to fight against this oppression and people outside can express their solidarity to their struggle. The entire history of Latin America is replete with anecdotes of US interventions in the internal affairs of those countries and even today in spite of the rhetoric and open posturing, the role of US in the coup against Zelaya in Honduras is not ruled out. Moreover, the very purpose of starting seven military bases in Colombia encircling Venezuela and Bolivia is also intended to threaten the democratically elected governments of these countries.

Now, to his 'just war' in Afghanistan. We should remember that more Predator drone strikes were carried out under his one year presidency than during the eight years of Bush presidency.

Two months before he had delivered his speech in Oslo, one of the 'outstanding officers' of the US army and administration in Afghanistan, Matthew Hoh has resigned from service. His four-page  resignation letter  thoroughly refutes Obama. He clearly states �my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end� (emphasis added). Hoh said that he had resigned to call upon the people to question their congressmen, �Listen, I don't think this is right�. He writes, �the insurgency appeared to have arrived in strength only after the Americans did� and that the insurgency �is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The US and NATO presence in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified�. Open your eyes and ears Obama, it is wrong for the US to be there in Afghanistan, leave that country immediately.

It is here worth recalling what Senator Obama had said way back in 2002. �Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than colour-coded warnings�(emphasis added). But alas he was then not President Obama.

All the good intentions he expresses like �we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries�, � true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want�, �it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can't aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family� do not appear to carry enough conviction.

It is the US which is primarily responsible for depriving majority of people of the world their access to 'enough food, clean water, medicine and shelter' through the conditions imposed on the third world countries by the IMF and World Bank. It is the US that is primarily responsible for trampling upon the unique culture and traditions of various sections of people world over and creating discontent amongst those people. As far as Obama's actions as president for the past one year are concerned, he did not initiate any measures to correct these mistakes.

We have to indeed agree with Obama when he says �We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best of intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us�. Obama should realise that what he is doing in Afghanistan, Latin America and West Asia is a terrible and costly mistake. The Oslo speech is just an elaboration of his �I am not against all wars� idea. It only acted as an opener for those who harboured illusions on Obama's presidency to usher in a real, radical change in world affairs. One should not forget that he is only another new face of imperialism � a face to suit and further its interests in the changed circumstances and times.

Obama's goal might not be to �win awards and popularity contests�, but now that he was given the Peace prize, he should strive to earn it. For getting a positive evaluation from history, he should walk the talk, matching his oratorical skills with actions. He might not visualise a world without war, oppression or deprivation because his class needs them. But we know that such a world is possible. And we can �reach for the world that ought to be� � free from imperialism, war and deprivation. This can be achieved through our unremitting struggles against these very forces.