The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have forced Obama into an uncomfortable but familar posture: On the one hand, in order to preserve at least the appearance of credibility, the candidate of hope and change has to feign solidarity with the people who expressed their hope by flooding into the streets of Tunisia and Cairo demanding change in leadership of their US-sponsored tyrannies. On the other, as the man charged with the responsibility of prolonging the death-gasp of a doomed Empire, Obama had to work overtime behind the scenes to make sure that any political changes forced upon America’s satraps in the Middle East remain cosmetic and trivial. This dilemma accounts for the mixed messages being issued from the White House throughout the crisis as each mangled response contradicts an earlier stance.
More recent developments on Mubarak’s “dignified” exit reveal even more cynical contempt for Egypt’s long suffering people on the part of the Obama administration as Egypt’s recently appointed VP Omar Suleiman, the CIA’s ‘go to guy’ for its offshore torture enterprises has reportedly been installed as Mubarak’s puppet successor.
What better illustrates Obama’s flailing and ineffectual leadership style than a comparison of his rhetoric in Cairo shortly after taking office with his current posture regarding developments in Egypt? In his 2009 Cairo speech, Obama affirmed his “unyielding belief” in the universality of democratic struggle, and the “yearning” of all people to live “under the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, towards government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people”. Words that in retrospect reveal the insincerity behind them as his administration attempts to downplay the “government by the people, of the people . . . ” stuff as it applies to the Arab world, and push forward a more moderate and “realistic” solution to what they consider an unfolding ”crisis” in Egypt and beyond: Millions of people peacefully united in a struggle to break free from a brutal, authoritarian regime headed by a corrupt tyrant.
Novelist Margaret Atwood’s decision to travel to Tel Aviv to share a literary prize worth a million dollars has ignited a controversy in which the septuagenarian author and vice-president of the literary human rights organization PEN International has come under fire by Palestinian rights activists. Ms Atwood’s acceptance of the Dan David Prize, whose previous laureates include Al Gore and Tony Blair, is viewed by Ms Atwood’s critics as a betrayal to the ideals she supposedly represents, and an unwitting endorsement of Israel’s race exclusive policies.
The Canadian author’s insistence that refusing the blood-spattered trophy would be tantamount to “censorship” rings as false as her commitments to justice as an anti-apartheid activist, and as a writer who has made tyranny and oppression recurring themes in her novels, elevating her from fiction writer to public intellectual. “False” because “justice for some” is hardly an ethical stance with any merit, and certainly not one that will maintain her status as an “oppositional intellectual”. Sadly, this “intellectual” has made no effort to research the subject of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its unyielding, systematic oppression of the Palestinian people (as many Jewish and Israeli scholars and activists themselves have bravely condemned). Otherwise, she would use the occasion of the invitation to denounce an increasingly murderous regime and call upon its people to support sanctions, boycotts and divestments until their government accepted the rule of International law and reversed its policy of displacement and expulsion of Arab people from their ancestral lands. Instead the once outspoken author has chosen to put monetary interests ahead of the principled moral stances she has taken in the past, in order to lay claim to a tainted prize given each year to fame-hungry “artists” looking to boost sagging sales of their product while making all the appropriate noises to the press about free speech.