Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3

Obama continues to vocally argue that Iran should not be allowed to develop a nuclear capability, and recently signed an agreement with Russia to reduce the nuclear arsenal of both countries.

Evidently then, he can see neither the irony nor the hypocrisy in going cap in hand to his senate to ask for 80 billion dollars with which to keep the US nuclear stockpile such that every other nation should continue to cower in fear of American military might. Well, they are, after all, the only country to have ever unleashed nuclear weapons against another nation and they have an ongoing policy of interference and seeking out armed conflict overseas, so fear is an appropriate response.

Iran hasn’t been involved in a war since the Iran-Iraq war of the eighties, back when Saddam Hussein was the regional golden boy of the US and it was apparently still acceptable to use mustard gas and other chemical weapons on Iranians and Kurds. It wasn’t until the US needed a pretext to start a war against Iraq that the US suddenly became righteously indignant about their former protégé’s war crimes.

I know which nation I fear more out of Iran and the US, and I base that on documented behaviour, both past and present, not fearmongering and lazy Western journalism.

The messianic qualities of the current US president continue to be grossly exaggerated. It just goes to show you how far having an appallingly bad predecessor, the combination of black skin with centuries of white guilt, and a good speech-writer can catapult one.

American War Crime Documented

WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video that depicts the indiscriminate slaying of more than dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. The victims include two Reuters journalists.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success, since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his would-be rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.

The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured. However, the video clearly shows the two children at the window of the van that had stopped to pick up the wounded.

After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement”. Of course they were.

Make sure to watch the film through to the end.

Nobel Prize For What Exactly?

The news that Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize travelled around the world today like wildfire. Obama said he was surprised that he had been chosen. I’ll go one better and say that I’m positively flabbergasted.

It seems that one can now be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the basis of words alone. After all, Obama talks about peace at every opportunity, but what has he actually done to achieve it? Aren’t peace prizes supposed to recognise, oh, you know, actual achievements?

The Nobel committee applauded Obama’s approach of considered international diplomacy and the willingness to make concessions along the way. Whilst these qualities are, indeed, uncommon traits in American leaders, they’re not unusual per se. it does therefore seem as if Obama is being rewarded for the sheer contrast of his presidency with that of his predecessor. Eight years of idiocy, lies and greed from Bush and his cohorts continue to make Obama look better than he really is.

Obama’s approach to international diplomacy is nothing new. Certainly, it’s new for the usually belligerent, unilaterally operating nation over which he presides, but at a global level, one has to wonder why, if the bar is set so low, no other Western leader has received a Nobel prize in recent years. After all, they, too, have waxed lyrical about peace and freedom, urged for talks and emphasised the need for the all nations to share in the responsibility of building a safer world for us all to live in. I’m not suggesting that they also deserved a prize; I’m saying that they didn’t, and neither did Obama.

Looking beyond the poetic speechwriters’ prose, let’s look at a couple of things that Obama has actually done this year to influence peace:

  • He has deployed an extra 21,000 troops in Afghanistan and is currently considering committing a further 40,000.

  • He has refused to cut military aid to Israel, in spite of the knowledge that Israel repeatedly uses arms manufactured in the US to commit gross human rights violations, as independently determined by Amnesty International.

Those two facts a lone make a mockery of Obama’s being awarded a Peace Prize. Robert Mugabe must be waiting in the wings for a 2010 nomination.

Being seen to broker peace whilst arming one side of the conflict is the kind of hypocritical currency with which observers of US foreign policy are all too familiar. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Obama isn’t so very different from his predecessors.

In his favour, he is vastly more eloquent and charming. Add to that the fact that he has come along at a time when the American public have never been more desperate to believe in something, and his meteoric rise seems all but inevitable. That the gullible, television-fed masses of America are helpless, willing fodder for Obama’s hollow promise of a better world is one thing, but shouldn’t we expect a more considered verdict from a Nobel committee?

Perhaps not. These same people hand-picked Al Gore for the same prize just a few years ago.

At best, this award is a prize of encouragement, an expression of hope. It’s to say: you’re on the right track; we like what you’re doing; please continue. It’s not a reward for any achievement already banked.

To Obama’s credit, he recognises that his goals, not his achievements, are being rewarded and states that he feels ill at ease having his name mentioned in the same breath as some of the previous recipients of the prize. He feels his name doesn’t sit well next to theirs. On that much, at least, Obama and I can agree.

Obama has said he will donate the prize money associated with the award to a good cause. One can only hope he doesn’t choose to add it to the Israeli military aid budget.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

Far be it from me to withhold credit where it’s due, so without the slightest reservation, I hereby commend Obama for the following deeds:

  • Ordering the closure of the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay (although it’s still outrageous that he’s given them a year to do so). The existence of that place is an abomination and makes any claim to having a free society absurd.

  • Ordering the cessation of torture by the US military. Again, civilised countries do not torture (or put to death, for that matter) their prisoners. There’s no word yet on capital punishment and I’m not holding my breath.

  • Ordering the cessation of secret CIA rendition flights to transport foreign nationals, kidnapped by the US, to CIA-operated prisons in foreign states, where they were subject to torture. You remember these flights, don’t you? They’re the ones Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s defence minister, denied had ever took place. Odd that Obama feels the need to put a stop to something that never happens.

  • Ordering the closure of the aforementioned secret CIA prisons in foreign states.

I must admit, I’m pleasantly surprised by the extent and promptness of some of the above actions.

On the other hand, he told Hamas to end their rocket fire into Israel, but urged Israel only to reopen its border with Gaza. Nothing short of a full condemnation of Israel’s recent actions is acceptable, together with an immediate of US military aid.

Obama also pledged his support for efforts to prevent Hamas from rearming, which is excruciatingly hypocritical, given his country’s continued military aid to the other side. You can’t claim to support the peace process whilst continuing to arm one of the warring factions.

But like I say, credit where credit’s due, even if it is only a drop in a very deep ocean.