Senator Barack Obama has become a major celebrity,
a truth that is now almost a cliché. His campaign
has raised massive amounts of funding. He draws large and
enthusiastic crowds when he appears. Often described as
charismatic, he is more importantly smart and well spoken.
Yet before I jump into his campaign, I have a few
questions that I first want to share with you and which I hope
he will address in the not-too-distant future.
There is a way in which I cannot tell who is the
real Senator Obama. For one, he
has not carved out—at least as of this writing—any cutting edge
issues where he is taking the lead and defining the terrain.
Second, and to some extent more troubling, he permits people to
see and assume in him what they want to see and assume.
I have said to many of my friends that this situation reminds
me of an episode from the original Star Trek series where
there was a creature that appears to the viewer the way the viewer
would like to see it.
I am, to add to this, very uneasy about some of
the Senator’s foreign policy pronouncements, particularly with
regard to the Middle East. To his credit, he opposed the
Iraq invasion and had the courage to say so. Yet over the
last year, he has displayed a peculiarly uncritical stance when
it comes to Israel and has all-but-ignored the plight of the Palestinians.
This past summer, when Israel launched its massive and deadly
assault on Lebanon, the Senator was quite vocal in his support.
He seemed to miss the Israeli use of illegal cluster bombs and
the lies the Israelis offered for their unapologetic destruction
of entire Lebanese civilian communities.
Further, the Senator seems to ignore the atrocious
conditions being faced by the Palestinians who, after all, are
occupied by the Israelis in violation of United Nations’
resolutions. This occupation is worsening
with the creation of what some people describe as the “apartheid
wall”, and what I simply call the "wall of death," that
the Israelis are building as they carve out the land they wish
to control in perpetuity.
Compounding this odd situation, the Senator seems
to want to be a “hawk” when it comes to Iran, describing that
country as a threat to Israel and the USA. Here again I
remain perplexed. Iran does not have the military capability
to hit the USA. There is absolutely no proof of Iran advancing
military nuclear ambitions. It is a signatory to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty. Everything else is speculation.
Israel, on the other hand, has not signed the treaty, possesses
nuclear weapons but will not acknowledge that fact, and has assisted
apartheid South Africa in developing weapons of mass destruction.
India, to use another example, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, has nuclear weapons, has those weapons pointed at Pakistan
(which has its own weapons pointed at India), has fought several
wars with Pakistan, and yet received nuclear support from President
Bush and the US Congress. I cannot find any record of Senator
Obama suggesting a tough stand against either of these countries,
irrespective of his particular concerns with the Indian nuclear
deal. Perhaps I did not Google long enough???
So, I think we need to understand the Senator’s
thinking. After having what many observers described as
a friendly relationship with Arab Americans over the years, the
Senator appears to have yelled, “abandon ship” and jumped into
an anti-Palestinian and anti-Iranian
The uncritical support for Israel displayed by
most US administrations since, at least, the June 1967 Arab/Israeli
War has not only cost the USA global credibility but undermined
most prospects for peace in the Middle East. The hope for
many of us has been the rise of a Presidential candidate committed
to seeing the world as it is, and transforming the relationship
of the USA from being a global bully into being a global partner.
I am not ready to write off the inspiring Senator
from the great State of Illinois, but no matter how hard I try,
I keep thinking about that creature from Star Trek.
BC Editorial Board member
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time labor and international activist
and writer. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica
here to contact Mr. Fletcher.