Saturday, August 16, 2008
Obama's Two Faces
"We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions," Senator Barack H. Obama told Berliners in a July 24 speech to an estimated 200,000 cheering Germans.
"That was really what Germans wanted to hear and it was very well received," said Stormy Mildner, a senior researcher at the German Institute for International Security Affairs. Polls indicate that 76% of Germans favor Obama to become the next president of the United States.
More recently, however, Sen. Obama spoke to Candy Crowley of CNN in the US, who asked him if “there’s anything that’s happened in the past 7 1/2 years that the U.S. needs to apologize for in terms of foreign policy?” Obama's response: “No, I don’t believe in the U.S. apologizing. As I said I think the war in Iraq was a mistake. We didn’t keep our eye on the ball in Afghanistan. But, you know, hindsight is 20/20, and I’m much more interested in looking forward rather than looking backwards.”
The two conflicting statements made by Senator Obama raise several questions as to his real feelings about what has transpired in the last 7 years since the tragedy of Sept 11, 2001. Is he giving contradictory messages depending on who the audience is and what they want to hear at an given moment? Is he sincere about his message of "Change"? Shouldn't change begin with an open and honest acknowledgment of what is wrong and how it must be changed? Does he not believe that the Bush administration's assault on basic human rights and the shredding of the US bill of rights have created many victims in US and abroad who have been terribly wronged? Shouldn't the US government apologize to them? Or is it too risky for him to even mention that in a interview with CNN? Is he afraid to give fodder to his conservative critics who would challenge his "patriotism"?
While Senator Barack Obama has been benefiting from his opposition to the unpopular war in Iraq and winning kudos for wanting to unconditionally talk with America's enemies, he has also been sounding more and more hawkish on Pakistan, a US ally. Governor Mitt Romney summarized it well last year when he said that Obama is essentially "saying he's going to sit down for tea with our enemies but then he's going to bomb our allies." Is Sen. Obama planning to end one war(in Iraq) and start another, more dangerous and longer-lasting war in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Did Obama explain the implications of this new war for Germans, NATO allies, and the world? Does he expect Germany to contribute thousands of more troops for his new adventures in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
What happened recently when the Obama campaign quickly dumped Chicago attorney Mazen Asbahi as director of Muslim Outreach also raises serious questions about how genuine Obama's "Change" message is. Asbahi and James Zogby, president of Arab-American Institute, are not radicals by any stretch, and yet they are targeted because of who they are: Muslim-American and Arab-American. It's a big mistake to push away the moderates in this battle against the extremists within Islam. Extremists on both sides of any battle draw strength from each other by pointing to the excesses of the opposite side. Attacking and marginalizing the Muslim moderates only helps the extremes in the West and the Islamic world and perpetuates the ongoing man-made "clash of civilizations". In response to the expected assault by the pro-war right wing pundits and commentators, the weakness shown by the Obama campaign represents a huge obstacle in the way of the "dialog of civilizations" needed to bring real "Change" from the madness that has characterized the last seven years of the Bush administration. How will President Obama pursue this all-important dialog if he caves in so quickly to the purveyors of hate in America?
Unless Mr. Obama and his campaign answer the fundamental questions raised here, it will be hard for most rational and thinking people to believe that Obama's talk of "Change" is sincere. Instead, all of his carefully crafted "change" messages will appear to be merely politically convenient slogans to win the upcoming elections. To demonstrate that he is genuine, Obama must stop being an overly cautious captive of his political handlers and show moral fortitude to bring about real "Change" in America and the world.