In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

The voice of an empire in decline

Posted by seumasach on May 23, 2011

Jody McIntyre

Independent

20th May, 2011

Why do we tune in to watch a North American President giving a speech about the “Middle East”?  Can we change the channel and watch the President of China pontificating on the “Far West”, or an African President telling Europeans that they have a choice between hope and hate?  In the words of hip-hop artist Lowkey, Barack Obama’s speech was not much more than “the eloquent voice of an empire in decline”.

The headlines tell us that Obama has “thrown his support” behind the uprisings in the Arab world.  It seems to me that bombing Libyan citizens is a strange way of supporting people’s rights.  It seems strange that you would speak about women’s rights, and not utter a single word about Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive regimes in the region.  It seems strange that you would talk about the Syrian demonstrators being targeted by the Assad government, but you would not mention the Syrian and Palestinian demonstrators slaughtered in cold blood by the Israeli army on Sunday.  Let us be clear about one thing, this speech had nothing to do with supporting people’s democratic rights, and everything to do with putting a pretty face on the ugly reality of imperialism.

In any case, what does ‘democracy’ entail in the context?  How can the Iraqi people vote in “democratic” elections, when there are 50,000 US military troops still occupying their country?  Did they vote to have those soldiers invading their country?  Did the Palestinian people in 1948 democratically vote to be ethnically cleansed from their land?  In fact, the Palestinian people did have a democratic election just a few years ago, and we all know how “unacceptable” to US and European interests that proved to be.  Obama should have heeded the words of Ho Chi Minh, whose birthday fell on the same day as the speech.

As Ho Chi Minh once said, “Nothing is more important than our independence and freedom”; the tinted shades of imperialism are blinding Obama from seeing what is so obvious to the majority of the world; stop acting as empire’s overlord, and start allowing people of “third world” countries to find their own solutions for their own problems.  Democracy has nothing to do with the “universal set of values” Obama keeps bleating about, and everything to do with people playing an active role in shaping their own futures.

Even if we were to take the words of the President of the US as holding any value whatsoever in relation to the Arab world, the central injustice at the heart of the uprisings, which is the Israeli-occupation of Palestine, has not been addressed in any substantial way.  As Lowkey stated in an interview with Russia Today, “If you are talking about unwanted regimes in the region, Israel, which goes back 63 years, beats all of them!”  Whilst Obama talks about a “contiguous Palestinian state”, he continues to pay for the colonies in East Jerusalem and the West Bank which have rendered such a state non-existent.  Whilst Obama talks about the need for a Palestinian state to be “demilitarised”, he continues to supply weaponry and ammunition to the fourth largest military in the world.  Poetic phrases and articulate rhetoric will not change reality.

Malcolm X, who also shared his birthday with the Obama speech, once said that he believed “that ultimately, there will be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing… but I don’t think it will be based on the colour of the skin.”  Yet again, Mr. Obama has shown where his loyalties lie.

“If people really want to know who owns Obama today,” Lowkey continued, “just ask Jeremiah Wright, just ask Ali Abunimah, just ask the Chicago activists who are now getting harassed by the FBI, who are getting subpoenaed, who are getting their houses raided…”

The Chicago activists, just like the victims of drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, just like the people living under occupation in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, just like the people locked up in Guantanamo bay… they are the people Obama forgot.

Lowkey interviewed on Russia Today – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdHGYbThLzw

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