by Carey Wedler
With figures like Mitt Romney and former president George Bush as foils, President Barack Obama often appears to be a tolerant, peaceful figure. In the face of delusional Republicans calling to ban gays and Muslims, Obama’s liberal rhetoric paints the picture that he is a peaceful, accepting humanitarian. Obama is considered by many Americans and global citizens to be “tolerance” manifested: his mixed race represents the unity of black and white, his “fights” for women prove his thirst for equality, and even the rumors that he is Muslim–no matter how vehemently he denies them–denote the myth of multiculturalism that surrounds him. He is not your typical old, white and male president. Nevertheless, the president and his government use this perception of his character to justify torture and war-mongering while exploiting the Muslim world.
When America was beating its beloved war drums upon the assassination of bin Laden, the Obama administration was praising its tolerance for Islam. While the key talking point of bin Laden’s death was that Obama had succeeded in executing the most propagandized man hunt in history, there was more to the story. They could not produce evidence that Osama had been killed out of respect for the Muslim world. According to Islamic tradition, of course, the terrorist’s remains were thrown into the ocean. Further, the photographic evidence could not be released for the risk that it might outrage Muslims across the globe. Those who buy into the myth of American exceptionalism and superiority trusted and reveled in this narrative, believing that America could be respectful and tolerant while hunting terrorists. America not only took out the most dangerous man in the world–it did it with class.
In spite of this lip service to the Muslim world, the government’s true perspective is more often revealed than not. Last year, the military over which Barack Obama rules caused violence and outrage when it was caught incinerating copies of the Quran in Afghanistan. Less than a year after the benevolent burial of Osama bin Laden, soldiers were decimating the very document it claimed justified such a surreptitious burial. More recently, many prisoners in the ongoing Guantanamo hunger strike claim it was sparked over the confiscation and mishandling of their Qurans. While military officials deny this to be the case, the significance of the claim is undeniable (and leaves only frustration at the lies to shut down the torture-ridden prison according to the president’s promise as reason for the protest). Regardless of whether the strike was caused by sheer frustration at imprisonment without trial for over a decade–or coincides with the mistreatment of religious texts–it is obvious that the US military harbors no tolerance for the Muslim world it terrorizes. Prisoners tortured and indefinitely detained in many cases for their national and religious backgrounds are evidence that in spite of the president’s rhetoric, his administration is just as ruthless as the one before it.
Nevertheless, Obama is not afraid to directly tie his perceived “tolerance” to his blatant war-mongering. In his “Happy New Years” Nowruz address to the Iranian people this week, Obama wasted no time playing politics. While Nowruz is not a religious holiday, it is a deeply ingrained cultural holiday with great importance to the Iranian people. After offering a short paragraph of well wishes and happy meals, the president immediately sunk his teeth into lambasting the Iranian government for attempting to obtain murderous nuclear weapons. He painted a picture of a humble, peace-seeking America simply trying to reason with the Iranian regime. Obama and Israel want peace, as the rhetoric explains. it is the evil Iranians who threaten the world in their pursuit of nuclear energy. In the Orwellian vein of double think, the president alluded to the suffering that the Iranian people have endured due to sanctions. However, instead of acknowledging that they are sanctions he called for and bragged about, he blamed the Iranian government. It is its fault for not adhering to the war-making sanctions that are starving and killing an entire population. Happy New Year, Iran. In one quick address intended to feign respect and tolerance for the Islamic world that America has so attacked, Obama displayed both the falsity of his tolerance and the US government’s true intentions.
Though the Obama administration on the surface adheres to a policy of respect and tolerance for all walks of life, the reality of its foreign policy could not be further from the truth. No matter how many times the administration claims to observe respect for Islam and the Muslim world, it is undeniable that if such respect even exists, it is as a shroud to the unspeakable violence committed on the part of the military. When drones are bombing funerals and weddings and soldiers burning holy texts, it is difficult to believe that the Obama administration does anything out of respect to Islam. No matter how many annual New Year’s addresses Obama delivers to the Iranian people, his thirst for military might overshadows the claims he makes for “peace.”