January 04, 2009

Qui tacet consentit

Witness the Lightbringer, the Harbinger of Hope and Change, the Man of Peace, and His Wondrous and Mighty Works:
Barack Obama's chances of making a fresh start in US relations with the Muslim world, and the Middle East in particular, appear to diminish with each new wave of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza. That seems hardly fair, given the president-elect does not take office until January 20. But foreign wars don't wait for Washington inaugurations.

Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.

But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama's detachment - and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush's strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush's bias or simply does not care.

The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticising "the deafening silence from the Obama team" suggested Obama is losing a battle of perceptions among Muslims that he may not realise has even begun.

"People recall his campaign slogan of change and hoped that it would apply to the Palestinian situation," Jordanian analyst Labib Kamhawi told Liz Sly of the Chicago Tribune. "So they look at his silence as a negative sign. They think he is condoning what happened in Gaza because he's not expressing any opinion."

Regional critics claim Obama is happy to break his pre-inauguration "no comment" rule on international issues when it suits him. They note his swift condemnation of November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Remember the observation that, among the effects of Obama's silence, is "encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush's bias or simply does not care." I'll be returning to that in a future article, especially the phrase, "or simply does not care." It is profoundly, unforgivably detestable that, while a nation with a monumentally powerful military continues to rain slaughter upon an entirely captive population -- and when it does so using the critical "benefits" of American killing manufacture and American aid -- the man who will be president in a matter of weeks of the single country whose indispensable support might cause Israel to stop this criminal murder and agree to a cease fire says absolutely nothing.

As my title notes, in many contexts -- and indisputably in this one -- silence means consent. But Obama has repeatedly told us that he not only consents: he actively supports this policy -- not only with regard to Israel, but in Iraq, and in connection with the American ruling class's determination to maintain, consolidate and expand its global hegemonic role. Also see here and here, and many other articles linked therein. If anyone is surprised by any of this, he has only himself to blame. On many occasions, Obama told you precisely what he believed and what he would and would not do -- and many people, out of a stupidly misguided "hope" or, much more contemptibly, out of a desire to acquire power for "their" gang of criminals, chose not to believe Obama's own words (or to disregard them). They appear not to realize the nature of the insult they thus leveled at the impliedly loathsome vessel which they selected as the repository of their feeble, unfounded hopes: if you didn't believe what he said and preferred to believe he actually meant something else -- that something else being what you contend you believe -- that can only mean you thought he was a liar, which indeed he is. And yet many people still voted for him, even after concluding Obama was a calculating manipulator of the first order, one who was primarily interested in acquiring power and nothing else at all. (I discussed one example of this self-delusion in the concluding section of this article.)

Meanwhile, the slaughter of innocents appears not to concern many Americans, even though their own tax dollars help to finance the murder, as long as those slaughtered aren't Americans themselves. Our national narcissism has always been deeply repellent; coupled with our unmatched military power, and the U.S. government's willingness to use it in non-defensive, criminal ways, our narcissism is among the most lethal of global forces.

As I say, if you expected a different outcome, the more fool you. You might console yourself with this thought: Stercus accidit.

You can look that up, along with many other Latin sayings, serious and otherwise, here. Too impatient? Can't be bothered? Well, then: Shit happens.

I am fully confident in predicting this: over the next four years, the world will see much more of this particular kind of shit, abetted, encouraged and often directed by The Wondrous One.

See also: "The Slaughter of the Diseased Animals"