Jun 8, 2009
President Obama’s latest trip abroad was a carefully thought-out and orchestrated public relations event.
The first stop was Saudi Arabia, a staunch U.S. ally for decades. The Saudi kingdom also happens to be one of the most backward regimes in the world. The law of the land is a very narrow, reactionary version of Islamic law, which the Saudi regime enforces strictly. For example, women are excluded from public life – they are not even allowed to drive, and they have to cover themselves completely in public. A religious police patrols the streets, commonly beating up women who don’t adhere to this rule.
Much of the work in the country is done by foreigners who are denied full citizenship status and rights. The oil wealth of the country is controlled by big international corporations in partnership with members of the ruling Saudi clan, who invest this wealth abroad – while a big part of the population live in poverty.
In Saudi Arabia, Obama affirmed the U.S.’s continued alliance with this brutal, backward regime. That alone puts the lie to many of Obama’s claims in his big speech in Egypt the next day – that the U.S. stands for freedom and democracy, women’s rights and religious tolerance!
Egypt, the most populous Arab country, was chosen for Obama’s well-publicized speech – a message intended not only for governments but for people as well. Obama is busy expanding the war in Afghanistan – a war started by Bush on the pretext of “fighting terrorism.” Yet, in his speech, Obama managed to mention the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” ... not even once! Obama knows that, to the mostly Muslim populations of Middle Eastern countries, the word “terrorist,” coming from U.S. officials, means “Muslim civilians” – understandably, considering how much destruction and misery U.S. missiles and bombs have wrought on the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
After Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Obama reassured another U.S. ally in the Middle East, Israel, that “America’s strong bond with Israel ... is unbreakable.” But Obama was also very careful to extend a hope to Israel’s adversary, Hamas, making the vague promise that “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”
Of course, even a vague, empty sentence like that draws a reaction from Israel’s rulers who, by brute force, have always suppressed those very aspirations of the Palestinian population. So, to further drive home the message that the U.S. has no intention to change its special alliance with the state of Israel, Obama visited next a former concentration camp in Germany, where, during World War II, Jewish people were killed.
Finally, Obama made another well-staged appearance, in France, on the very day of the anniversary of D-Day. Once again, he pretended that the U.S. is fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for “freedom and democracy.” Never mind that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world; where the U.S. regularly bombs villages; and where women can’t work, and girls can’t go to school, for fear of being attacked and killed by religious fanatics – some of whom happen to be U.S. allies! And never mind that Iraq today is a country where chronic unemployment and a bloody civil war have left the population desperately impoverished and ethnically segregated – not to mention that the U.S. war and invasion have turned millions of Iraqis into refugees.
With his well-educated, smug, clever and media-savvy manners, Obama has used every opportunity to pretend that his presidency represents a change from the policies of Bush. But actions speak louder than words: on every major issue, whether domestic or foreign, the Obama administration has continued, and even expanded, Bush’s old policies.