No American president has the moral authority to lecture Africans about human rights, when America is itself so rife with egregious violations of the rights of Black people and when America supports criminal regimes around the world.
On January 20, 2017 Barack Obama will leave the presidency and those black people capable of critical thought will have many reasons to breathe sighs of relief. They will no longer have to submit to condescending lectures directed exclusively at them. From the moment he ran for president Obama has harangued black people on a wide variety of issues. It doesn’t matter if his audience is made up of church congregants, graduating students, or Kenyan dignitaries. Every black person unlucky enough to be in his vicinity risks being treated like a dead beat dad, career criminal or cousin Pookie, Obama’s own imaginary Willie Horton.
During his trip to east Africa the president chastened Kenyans about gay rights, domestic violence, genital cutting, forced marriage and equal rights for women. He went on and on with no mention of how well his country lives to any accepted standards of human rights.
American presidents have no business chastising others. The country with the world’s largest prison state, military and history of aggressions is on shaky ground when giving anyone else advice. In the neighboring country of Somalia the United States regularly sends drones intended to kill al-Shabaab fighters but they deliver collateral damage to other people too. The blowback has killed many Kenyans, who are targeted by al-Shabaab because of their country’s role as an American puppet.
Because hypocritical Americans have made gay rights the new measurement of societal well being all over the world, the president took the opportunity to castigate Kenyans about that too. Of course homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, America’s partner in crime. Yet there is no record of public shaming for any Saudi prince or king on that or any other issue. Their sensibilities are deemed too delicate for tongue-lashing. It must be pointed out that Saudis take lashing quite literally.
Those countries that are considered important are never called to account about American concerns du jour. They can even be praised no matter how awful their behavior. The president regularly genuflects to Israel, a country which violates every norm of international law, including the Geneva Convention prohibitions against collective punishment. In Gaza civilians of every age and gender are massacred and Israel maintains the right to continue the bloodshed, and always with American financial and military support.
Obama even compared the establishment of Israel’s apartheid state to black Americans’ fight for liberation. That statement was a lie, a grotesque distortion of history. The slander is akin to a blood libel but Africans cannot expect the recitation of bizarre statements on their behalf when Obama comes to town.
The recipients of American hypocritical condemnation are many. While Obama was brow-beating Africans, Syrian president Bashir al-Assad was telling the world about his nation’s suffering at the hands of the United States. More than 200,000 of his citizens are dead, and up to 9 million are refugees because the United States claims the right to decide who should control that country.
“They [the Western countries"> call it terrorism when it hits them, and [they call it"> revolution, freedom, democracy and human rights when it hits us.” For four years the United States and allies like Saudi Arabia have waged a terror campaign against Syria. The Islamic State, ISIS, is also part of the terror mix, but it wouldn’t even exist without the United States. Now ISIS is used as a subterfuge in the effort to finish off Assad and what is left of his country.
In Obama’s finger wagging about the treatment of Kenyan women he made a point that he would do well to remember about himself and the United States. "Every country has traditions that are unique. Just because something is a part of your past doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean that it defines your future."
If those words were applied to his country all the jails would be emptied, the banks would be nationalized, and the United States military would start closing up foreign military bases and heading for home. There would be no need for Africom because imperialism would be off the table. Saudi princes would have to look elsewhere to destabilize other nations. Israel would have to free Palestine and Iran could enrich all the uranium it wanted. There would be no income inequality based on race and brutal police would be prosecuted.
Yes Mr. President, the past shouldn’t define the future. You would do well to take those words seriously.
* Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report, and is widely reprinted elsewhere.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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