By Felicity Arbuthnot
One day …
Children at school will ask:
What is war?
You will answer them.
You will tell them:
Those words are not used any more.
Like stagecoaches, galleys or slavery.
Words no longer meaningful …
— Martin Luther King, 15th January 1929-4th April 1968.
Oh the cynicism. The man whose words have rung down over four decades, encapsulating a non-violent demand for peace, equality and fairness: “I have a dream”, has again been resurrected as President Obama’s philosophical icon.
In the most blatant act of symbolism, as Africa is now threatened by a President who touted the importance of his African roots four years ago, Obama reaffirmed his Presidential oath today on both Abraham Lincoln’s Bible – and that of Martin Luther King – on the day dedicated to Martin Luther King.
In truth the ceremony was a bit of a sham. The President was sworn in yesterday in a private ceremony in the White House, with, according to the New York Times: “Michelle Obama holding the family Bible for the ceremony”, as their daughters, Malia and Sasha stood beside their father in the Blue Room: “as he recited the thirty five word oath in the Constitution”, as four years ago, administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. “About a dozen relatives of the Obamas and Jane Roberts, the Justice’s wife, watched, out of camera range.”
Back on 20th January 2009, the inaugural address contained some fine words – proved empty:
“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness … from the grandest capitols to the small village where my father was born … know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more (but) power … does no entitle us to do as we please…”
Obama assured: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” People would be judged on: “ … what you can build, not what you destroy.”
Tell that to the droned and dismembered of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the ruined of Libya, Syria, Iraq, the fearful and threatened in Iran and now those in Africa in villages similar to where: “my father was born.”
Six months later in Cairo he avowed: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world …I have known Islam on three continents.”
It now seems he now is prepared to blow it up on three continents.
The scale of human carnage under the Nobel Peace Laureate President is astounding, shaming and chilling:
“Bush’s roughly 24,000 air strikes in seven years from 2002 to 2008 amounted to an air strike about every three hours, while Obama’s 20,130 in four years add up to one every one and three quarter hours.”
“The Obama Administration is responsible for at least 18,274 air strikes in Afghanistan since 2009, at least 1,160 by pilot-less Drones.” At least 116 air strikes were conducted in Iraq in 2009 and in Libya approximately 1,460 of NATO’s 7,700 strikes in 2011 were US bombings.
There is also thought to be a five-fold increase in air and drone strikes over George W. Bush’s second term’s murderous record in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The man who swore on Martin Luther King Junior’s Bible today is reported as personally deciding, weekly, who will be dismembered-by-drone, carried out by a youth at a computer screen around six thousand miles away. No law, no trial, just extra-judicial murder or mass murder of “suspected Islamic militants” – no questions ever asked, even when they are later proved to be baby, toddler, or kindergarten age “militants.”
But assassinations are now the sickening norm, as also Osama bin Laden, then Colonel Qaddafi, the latter after US Ambassador Christopher Stevens arrived in Libya with a cargo ship of munitions and mercenaries. Both bodies disappeared, even death’s dignities denied. Terrorist actions.
On Sunday, 20th January, as the President swore the solemn oath to “… preserve and protect …” nine Yemenis were summarily executed by a US Drone. The “indispensable nation” struck again.
As the New Year was celebrated two more election promises were reduced to dust. The President signed in to law the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, blocking any attempt to close Gulag Guantanamo. There are more funds for war in Afghanistan – which might have a US presence until 2025 – or forever, depending on your view – and of course the inhuman sanctions on Iran with the risk of six million patients’ deaths due to lack of medical essentials, were tightened.
Barak Obama’s initial nomination to the Democratic convention was on the forty fifth anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech. King had called America: “the greatest purveyor of violence n the world.”
What an irony his memory is being used by a man who lauds his apparent assassination of Osama bin Laden and whose Secretary of State laughs hilariously at the appalling death of Libya’s sovereign Leader saying: “We came, we saw, he died.”
King, in his speech believed that: “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood …”
Martin Luther King was a Nobel Peace Laureate. It has to be wondered if the current White House Nobel recipient read this passage from Dr. King’s acceptance speech (11th December 1964.)
“So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war.
“Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win, to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a ‘peace race’”.
It would seem that in his desecration of Iraq, even George W. Bush manipulated Dr. King’s words in world class political cynicism. In a carefully choreographed clip which went round the world, on 28th June 2004: Condoleezza Rice passed Bush note at the NATO summit opening session in Turkey, regarding Iraq’s “free and democratic elections.” It read:
“Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign, letter was passed from “(Iraq’s US “Viceroy” Paul) “Bremer at 10.26 am Iraq time, Condi.”
Bush scrawled back: “Let freedom reign.”
Dr. King’s last words in his “Dream” speech are: “ …from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
The might of Presidents have seemingly hijacked the Dream of an assassinated Dreamer. Humanity is surely shamed.
– Felicity Arbuthnot is a freelance journalist specializing in social and environmental issues with a special knowledge of Iraq. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.