According to this morning’s Philly Inquirer, Barack Obama is distancing himself from his minister, who commented on the Sunday after 9/11/01 that American imperialism had brought on the attacks. Obama claims that he turns to his minister “spiritual guidance, not political guidance,” and that he is proud of his country.
So here was one of those moments when Obama could have proven that he really stands for change–a change in the utterly cowardly way that mainstream political America talks about 9/11/01 and terrorism. Obama has established that (at least his public) stance is totally in line with the ultra-conservatives who can’t fathom any American culpability in terrorism. Note well, here, that I’m not accusing GWB or the current regime of anything except more-of-the-same. The point Obama’s minister was making, which has also been made by Robert Jensen (and nearly cost him his job), Ward Churchill (it DID cost him his job), and others is that what happened on 9/11/01 was blowback from American imperialism. Obama’s minister, in fact, contrasted our use of nuclear weapons in Japan (let’s not forget we’re STILL the ONLY country that’s ever actually used nukes–knock on wood), concluding that what we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a lot worse than what Osama bin Laden did to us.
I don’t know about you, but where I come from, that’s called “an understatement.” The hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who were killed and poisoned by our nuclear weapons didn’t deserve it any more than the people who worked in the World Trade Centers deserved it (and for the record, if you actually read Ward Churchill’s piece that got him fired, he DOES NOT say that the victims of 9/11/01 deserved it). No, the point is that the US government, often in the form of the military-industrial complex, has been responsible for much death and destruction and human tragedy around the globe for decades. The hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians (not to mention the untold suffering of millions of Iraqi civilians since the early 1990s) didn’t deserve it either.
So here was a chance for Barack Obama to show some real courage, to talk about real change. Real change in this country would be an honest assessment of our violent imperialist policies, and an open discussion of how to put democracy back in the hands of people worldwide instead of smoke-screening for corporate power. Real change would be enabling peace activists to participate in meaningful policy discussions instead of being marginalized by neo-conservative claims of sedition. Real change would be educating American voters on the implications of continued pandering to war profiteers and imperialists.
Barack Obama had the chance to begin taking on some of the responsibility for real changes, but instead he hid behind jingoistic flag-waving. He has shown his true colors, once again. He has some good things to say, but when it comes down to it, he’s no better than the rest of ’em.