Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama Under Fire For His Pastor's Views

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Rev. Jeremiah Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001. This is not all. Sen Barack Obama's pastor Rev Wright went on to touch the third rail of the American politics: He criticized the US support for Israel against the Palestinians.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost," he told his congregation.

These remarks by Rev Wright in video-recorded sermons are being played over and over again the US media for the last day or so. The US media are reporting that Rev. Wright married Obama and his wife Michelle, baptized their two daughters and is credited by Obama for the title of his book, "The Audacity of Hope." The early reactions indicate that the Obama support is being eroded in spite of Mr. Obama publicly disagreeing with the pastor's candid views and distancing himself from his pastor.

An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

In his latest book "Marching Toward Hell" Michael Scheuer, the former head of CIA's Bin Laden unit seems to agree with the "chickens coming home to roost" theory. According to his research on what motivates Bin Laden and his supporters to attack the US and Western interests around the world, he blames the US foreign policy. In fact, he has condensed his learnings in two books published last year. The first is titled "Imperial Hubris" and the the most recent one is "Marching Toward Hell". In both of these books, he rejects the common refrain heard in the United States that "Al-Qaeda hates us because we stand for freedom and democracy". Instead, he argues that it is our interventionist policies around the world that motivate our enemies to be so determined to commit violence against our interests. He singles out our policies in the Middle East and our unqualified support for Israel as the biggest obstacles to a peaceful coexistence between Islam and the West. Among the prominent US political elite, all of the mainstream parties and leaders disagree with Sheuer's message. The only two people that show any agreement with Sheuer are Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who recently dropped out of the Democratic primaries and Congressman Ron Paul, the Republican candidate running a distant third in the Presidential primaries. Ralph Nader, the latest to announce his entry into the presidential race, has similar views but his bid is unlikely to gather much support.

It is worth noting here that Rev Wright's views are not too different from those of Rev Martin Luther King expressed in the 1960s. Reverend King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" back in the 1960s at the height of Vietnam War. From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

At the time, the Reverend Martin Luther King also became a target of criticism by the national media. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post also chimed in saying "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

The media reactions to the Rev Wright videos are quite predictable. The commentators and the pundits are clearly having a field day. The real question now is how the voters would react. The voter reaction could make or break Obama's bid for presidency.

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