(An open letter to President-Elect Barack Obama)
Dear Mr. President-Elect, Barack Obama,
First of all, let me convey my heartiest congratulation to you on your election as the President of the United States of America.
I consider your election as President of United States of America as a miracle in itself. Born as the son of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, through hard work and perseverance today you have become the President of United States of America. Unlike most of your predecessors, your humble background and past experience including your work as community leader will surely provide a different perspective about the reality from the grassroots level. Taking into consideration the path you treaded to reach the pinnacle of power, I surely believe that it is not without a purpose, particularly as you campaigned and got elected on the platform of ‘Change’. I only hope that this purpose is for the well being of humanity as a whole. In fact, your election as the President of USA has suddenly brightened the image of your country and hope you enhance this expectation with the right policies that will unite humanity.
Secondly, you have come to power at a time when the United States of America is facing major financial, political and social crises with its very existence and reputation as the sole superpower at stake. The main reason for this is the eight years of misrule by outgoing President Mr. George W. Bush. In fact, it was the Dark Age in the history of the United States of America. As you mentioned in your acceptance speech in Denver, Americans didn’t want to see the extension of this Dark Age for another four years. So, change was not an option, but a necessity because if the same policies pursued by your predecessors are continued any longer, it would have consequences on the very foundation of the American Nation. That is why the American people and the world have responded to your call for change and entrusted this prestigious position upon you.
The hatred and crises that the Bush Administration created through misrule and aggressive foreign policy are far reaching and beyond conceiving. The knee-jerk and immature reaction to the September 11th incident and the following invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of war on terrorism, not only had an affect on the societies of the invaded countries, but also had negative impact on the image of American nation globally with consequences to its social stability and economy.
In contrast, your background and down to earth speech during the election campaigns, created a glimmer of hope about the different path you might take from the previous administrations in tackling burning issues that will affect the American society and the world alike.
The main reason for writing this letter is to invite your attention to some burning issues that the previous administrations failed to tackle resulting in present predicament your country is facing especially related to foreign policy and the reputation of your country among the comity of nations.
Middle East Crises
During the election campaign you had explicitly stated your policies on Iraq and Iran. You had expressed your keen desire to withdraw the American forces at the earliest from Iraq and also expressed your desire to have a direct dialogue with President Ahmedinejad of Iran to settle the nuclear dispute. But with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict and War on Terrorism, you seemed to follow the same course pursued by the previous administrations.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has been the central issue that has influenced the US foreign policy for the last 60 years and can be rightly considered as the mother of all tribulations. Most of the conflicts and hostilities particularly in the Middle East region during second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century have their roots in this crisis. This conflict including the question of Palestinian self-determination have directly or indirectly ignited other conflicts including the Lebanon crises, the war on terrorism, invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent two Gulf Wars, the deteriorating relationship with Iran and emerging nuclear showdown. This has also preoccupied the successive US presidents and will continue to haunt your presidency. In fact, the Middle East crisis has engulfed the whole world including the very stability of United States. This crisis has also deteriorated the relations between the communities of three major religions, namely Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. If this issue remains unresolved it will not only further destabilize the relationship between the Palestinian and Jewish societies, but will also have negative effect on the American nation.
The question is why has it remained unresolved and smoldering for last many decades?
The main reason for the complexity in finding solution to the Palestinian crises is because of the lopsided solutions put forward by previous administrations as a result of the undue influence of certain religious lobby, vote-bank politics and internal political compulsion. This unwarranted influence and compulsions have blinded the successive administrations to the reality and hindered and misguided their effort in resolving this conflict. Instead, the policies of these administrations only created more mistrust and tensions between Palestinian and Israeli community. The punishment and sanctions that is being imposed on Gaza Strip by the same apostles of democracy who are hell-bent on installing democratic governments in the Middle East, because the Palestinian people utilized their legal democratic right of electing the Hamas government, proves the contradiction of the US foreign policy. The cataclysmic human and material sufferings inflicted by the Israeli regime on the people of Gaza strip with the endorsement and support of the Mahmood Abbas and the Bush Administration, have only created more dissent and violence.
This unresolved crisis had ignited many new conflicts that have spread globally resulting in far- reaching consequences much beyond the borders of the Middle East region. If you want to make a difference from your predecessors and find solution to this crisis, you have to be bold enough to tread a different approach and overcome the internal compulsion and undue influence of these religious lobbies and address the issue based on justice for all and appeasement of none. The solution to crisis is important for world peace and well being and good relationship between Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities worldwide.
War on Terrorism
The war on terrorism pursued by the Bush Administration after the September 11th incident have in fact inflamed and further aggravated the already complicated relationship between nations and religious communities. Instead of addressing the basic reasons that have led to the growth of terrorism, the American administrations under George W. Bush only added fuel to the fire by aggressively pursuing arrogant policies that led to the growth of terrorism.
What are the reasons for the genesis of terrorism?
The most basic reason as mentioned earlier is the worsening situations in the Middle East and other occupied regions like Afghanistan. As stated earlier, the persecution and brutality imposed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli army for the last many decades, which has resulted in shattered lives and broken dreams, has been the impetus and motivation for the growth of terrorism. To grasp the magnitude of the brutality meted on the Palestinians, we must view the facts from the position of the subjugated instead of viewing it from that of the oppressor. Instead of solving this crisis, the previous American administrations especially that of the George W. Bush spread this brutality in the name of War on Terrorism across the region to other countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and other Arab, Asian countries and created anti-Muslim hatred in Europe and Americas.
Here, I would like to invite your attention to a young American girl Rachel Corrie, from Olympia, Washington who sacrificed her life by being crushed to death by the Israeli military bulldozer near Gaza on March 16, 2003 (few days before George Bush’s "Shock and Awe" in Iraq) while preventing the demolition of house of Palestinian family near Gaza. By her ultimate sacrifice, this young girl was not only preventing the brutality of Israeli military bull-dozers. She was showing the world the original reason for growth of terrorism. In the emails that she sent to her parents she mentions the gravity of the situation in Gaza. While referring about the children of Gaza, she wrote "I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere." This is the gruesome reality that this young American girl realized and the leaders of her nation failed to realize.
The warnings of important personalities like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Javier Solana about the situation in Gaza went on deaf ears and International community remained silent and complacent. Instead they spread the persecution to other countries including Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of war on terrorism..
How can you expect generosity and non-violence from Palestinian people when 1.5 million Palestinians suffer from starvation, thirst, pollution, lack of medicine and while fuel and electricity supplies are cut off due to the unilateral sanctions imposed by Israel, thus creating the largest concentration camp in the history of mankind? How can they forgive the powers that demolished their houses upon them, killed their parents, sisters and also young children on their way to school? These actions of the Israeli army and the US military that have shattered lives, resulted in lose of loved ones and destroyed houses have created apprehension and a realization that they will never get any justice, security and peace in their life. It is this hopelessness and despair that have misguided and motivated some youths to extremism and terrorism. Although these ill-advised and unforgivable actions by the terrorists should be condemned at the strongest terms, it can be only prevented when the state terrorism pursued by Israel and the previous administrations of your country ends.
The American military might and their tanks, missiles, Apaches and drones that bomb and kill innocent people, shatter the lives, and destroy the houses and infrastructure, cannot help in winning the War on terrorism. Instead they will only ignite further hatred and create a fertile ground for new recruits for terrorism.
It is high time to reassess the strategy that has been hitherto pursued by the previous administrations, as it has been a major failure. The War on Terrorism can only be won by winning the hearts and minds of the people of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
As an initial step, as you promised during the election campaign, you must withdraw your army not only from Iraq and Afghanistan but must also advice your ally Israel to withdraw the sanctions imposed on the Palestinian people and return the occupied lands. Israel may have the right for self-defense, but denying the right of self-determination and the basic human rights of the Palestinian masses cannot attain it. Measures also must be taken to rebuild the lives of the people who have been shattered by the brutalities of the American and Israeli military and help them regain confidence and hope of a brighter future.
Meeting Between Extremes
Along with the above measures, contrary to the Bush- Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to talk to leaders whom they don’t like, instead of opting for war, we should engage in dialogues and peaceful negotiations as the ONLY option to settle the disputes and to prevent future wars. The wars during the second half of the 20th Century and beginning of this century have already created a heavy toll on the humanity and environment that resulted in the consequences on the habitability of earth. Whether it is the nuclear issue with Iran, the sectarian issues with Iraq, The Fatah- Hamas dispute, Al-Qaeda question, the clash between Taliban and Afghan government, can only be solved in the drawing rooms instead of battlefields.
So I request that you not only pursue the path of dialogue between the hardcore enemies of your nation including Taliban and Al-Qaeda. I also request you to play a pro-active role in facilitating dialogue between Iran and Israel, Hamas and Israel, Hamas and Fatah and also between the Taliban and Afghan Government. There has already been glimmer of hope in this direction with the willingness of Pakistan and Afghanistan Government to negotiate with Taliban and the important role-played by Saudi Government in this regard.
Destroy Enmity, Not the Enemy
The fundamental reason for the arrogant foreign policies pursued by the previous administration with the support of its allies was the concept of pre-emptive strike to destroy the enemies to ensure the security of the United States without frustrating the peaceful and diplomatic options.
Contrary to Bush-Cheney policy of destroying the enemy, what we need is to destroy the enmity and antagonism that has negatively effected relations between nations, racial and religious communities. This enmity has and hatred has been the root cause for the irrational, unbalanced and self-destructive policies pursued the previous administration.
The subjugation and economic exploitation of weaker nations by the powerful nations with the support of international organizations has created lots of inequalities and conflicts. Along with this, the worsening relationship between the different religious, racial and ideological communities, as well as the growing social fragmentation and sectarian divisions in different parts of the world, have resulted in civil wars, violence and social unrest. There is a great deal of fragmentation, hatred and intolerance at the individual, social, religious and national level that has had an affect on all the sectors of the society. The sectarian violence in Iraq, the anti-Muslim feelings that are widespread in America and Europe, the Danish cartoon controversy, the communal violence, bomb blasts and fake encounters on minority communities in India, the hate campaign and worsening relations between religious communities; shows the gravity of the situation. This hatred and intolerance was also rampant during your election campaign when opposing candidates accused you of your Muslim background and the pains you had to take to prove otherwise. As Collin Powell asked, is it a sin to be a Muslim or Afro-American? Instead of confronting these powers of bigotry, what we see is the apologetic reaction from the people who are being accused as if they have committed a major sin by being born in a particular race or religious community.
As you got campaigned and elected on the theme of "change", if your administration wants to play the historical role of implementing changes and if you want the term of your administration to be different from the previous administrations, you will have to address these issues and change attitudes and mentality.
Towards Inter-National and Inter-Religious Integration
The recent financial crises and climate change crises that had repercussions on all countries and continents have emphatically proved that we as humanity have a common destiny. No country can live as an oasis of affluence while the other parts of the world suffer from hunger and poverty. Moreover, no part of this planet will escape the consequences of climate change including natural calamities, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, droughts, floods, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, extinction of many animal and plant species, depleting water resources and reduced output of agricultural yield. It is high time that we organize beyond the confines of geographic, racial and religious boundaries and unite to address the common issues that concern existence of the humanity as a whole and sustaining habitability of earth. We have to overcome the infinite physical and mental boundaries that have divided mankind into many nations, religions and creeds, which is the basic reason for these conflicts.
Since we are facing an existential crisis of humanity as a whole due to global warming, climate change and global financial meltdown, this crisis provides a rare opportunity for people from all faiths, ideologies, races and nations to unite to overcome this period of uncertainty and make the necessary transformation to guide humanity out of this crisis. Moreover, these leaders should guide their followers within their respective confines to a sustainable and eco-friendly way of life.
In this hour of crisis, let us unite as one human community and face the challenges together. We also have to replace fragmentation, selfishness, competition and antagonism that are prevalent nowadays with noble values of unity, cooperation, compassion and mutual understanding.
Mr. President, there is no other person more apt than yourself to provide the leadership for unity of all nations and religions. With the family relationship extending three continents and two major religions, you are appropriately positioned to play a pro-active role in uniting humanity to face the existential challenges.
We Too Have a Dream
Two score and five years ago of the day you accepted the nomination as the Democratic candidate for the President of United States of America, a great Civil Rights leader who was guided by the non-violent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi dreamt and wept for his community, which lived in acute poverty and was victimized and segregated for centuries. The invigorating autumn of freedom and equality that Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, where his little children will live not being judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character, came to reality on the day you are elected as the President of United States. This dream that was watered and grown by tears, sweat, blood and pain of millions of Afro-Americans must not go in vain. Hence, let your presidency be a beginning of renewed spirit for the upliftment and progress of all the subjugated people around the world.
Mr. President, on this joyful occasion of your election as President, I want to take this opportunity to inform you that we as the people of the Third World and Middle East countries too have a collective dream.
We have a dream that one day from the mountains, valleys and the olive and almond farms of the West Bank to Gaza that are currently sweltering under injustice, persecution and sufferings, the sons of the invaded and the sons of the invaders will sit together on the table of brotherhood while their children go to schools together to build a bright future without fear and insecurity.
We have a dream that one day will raise a leader from the ashes of one of the oppressed nations of Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan to rescue the humanity from the shackles of enmity, hatred and discord and guide them to a bright and sustainable future.
We have a dream that after the withdrawal of the American forces, as a free nation, Iraqi people on the banks of Tigris and Euphrates and Afghan people in the mountainous regions of Kabul and Kandahar will one day unite above all sectarian and racial confines to rebuild their countries to a new dawn of prosperity after a long night of wars and persecution.
We have a dream that one day our children, because they belong to a particular religion or nationality, will not be terrorized and face travel restriction and harassment just because of their background, and instead, will be an asset for the western countries and welcomed with all respect.
We have a dream…that one day the people of African countries like Somalia, Darfur, Zimbabwe and Asian countries that have been the backyard of conflicts and are suffering from civil wars, dictatorship, hunger and poverty will be blessed with prosperity progress and peace.
We have a dream that one day the capitalist system based on materialism, which has resulted in the overexploitation of the natural resources and uneven distribution of wealth, will give way to more sustainable and eco-friendly economy based on material and spiritual satisfaction and redistribution of wealth so that there will be no poverty and hunger.
And in this way we will be at peace with ourselves, peace with our co-habitants and peace with the nature.
Yes Mr. President, we are one people and we have only one nation- Earth.
May God bless the humanity and this planet…
– Abdul Basit is Indian expatriate working in Kuwait. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.