Open Letter to President Barak Obama

Dear President Obama,

I have been composing this letter in my mind for a long time, and now I must put it on paper. Though my father voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the dustbowl in Nebraksa, though I voted for JFK, and though my children all worked for your election full of optimism and hope, and though I cast an absentee ballot for you from here in Istanbul, I have decided to leave the Democratic Party.

You promised change, and you were fond of saying “Change has come to America.” Your rhetorically promising speech in Cairo was completely undercut by your speech to AIPAC. I believe that extreme right-wing elements within the Bush administration manipulated the tragic events of 9/11 for the purpose of stampeding US citizens into voting billions for new wars to gain control of shrinking fossil fuels. I believe the same interests hedged their bets by pushing into law the so-called Patriot Act whose hundreds of pages had been prepared months before the Twin Towers and Building Number 7 collapsed, vaporised by high tech explosives for which nineteen Saudi kids with box cutters were only window dressing.

You have continued the most diabolical error of the foreign policy of George W. Bush, namely the deceitfully named “war on terror.” In truth, the US (with the shameful cooperation of the UK and others), launched a campaign of sheer terror – “shock and awe” – against a huge swath of the Middle East with the pretense that it was in revenge for a “terrorist” attack on the US. Contrary to your denials, since a great part of the remaining fossil fuels plus such valuable substances as lithium, gold, plutonium, etc, happen to be secreted under ground in predominantly Muslim countries, this shock and awe directly impinges on Muslim people.

The recent announcement that a variety of such rare and valuable resources have just been discovered in Afghanistan (surprise!), makes clear that you will continue the commitment of billions of tax dollars to further the ghastly wars still ranging in Iraq, speeding up in Afghanistan, and (a poorly kept secret) Pakistan, as well as the continued arming of Israel in its genocidal conflict with the Palestinian people. The US “war against terror” was masked under the guise of spreading democracy, over-throwing tyrants, and destroying “terrorists,” though its real aim is to destroy any person or organization courageous enough to resist: the real terror, first George W. Bush and now, I regret to say, your administration.

With the secret drone program, your administration carries out the liquidation of anyone you choose to label “terrorist.” Hamas was an Islamist group encouraged by Israel as a counter to secular nationalist Palestinian organizations, which has gained popular adherence because it has not yet been brought into collusion with Israeli/US policy as other Palestinian parties who have been beaten into submission. Hamas opposes the Occupation and ethnic cleansing of its people, and therefore is seen by you as a terrorist organization who will be given the great privilege of coming to the table in a non-existent peace process if they will only “recognize Israel” which is equivalent to demanding that they give up resistance.

The Murder of Fadel Shana’a

But there is one particular instance of the working of this vicious policy that I would like to bring to your attention. Because the US supports unconditionally everything done by Israel, including classifying their enemies as our enemies, their terrorists as our terrorists, any person, Palestinian or otherwise who opposes Israeli Occupation and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, is fair game to be shot on sight or run-over by bulldozers, whether or not they are armed, and whether or not they pose any real threat to the “security” of Israel.

Fadel Shana’a was a twenty-three year old Palestinian journalist who was working as a camera-man for Reuters. On April 16, 2008, after an Israeli assault on Gaza which left sixteen other Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers dead, Fadel steped out of his plainly marked Press car to photograph an Israeli tank which was dug in several hundred meters away. The last frames of his camera caught the tank firing at him just before his camera went blank – and seconds before the tank shell killed Fadel and two youths who happened to be passing his location. Of course the Israeli Army declined immediate comment about what caused Fadel’s death, for which they expressed sorrow, but also said journalists were putting their lives at risk in areas of combat.

From his photographs, Fadel was a handsome young man who had said, after surviving an earlier serious injury from a missile launched from an Israeli aircraft, “I love my work, and I will only give it up if they cut off my legs or kill me.” How his family and friends must still grieve over his loss. His deliberate murder is a crime against humanity and against all laws of Occupation and the laws of war.

But having wed American morality to that of Israel, having accepted “your terrorists are our terrorists,” your administration has nothing to say when Palestinians are murdered by Israel. There was no expression of grief or sympathy for the more than 1400 Gazan Palestinians murdered by Israel in the winter of 2009, using tanks, napalm, experimental ordinances that ripped up the insides of victims. After all, Hamas and its people do not accede to an illegal and immoral Occupation, nor to the siege by which they can be systematically starved and brutalized into submission.

Had I taught in Birzeit University more recently, Fadel could have been one of my students. Of course, Rachel Corrie was also twenty-three years old when she was murdered by the same Israelis a few years earlier – March 16, 2003. And I am among those who still grieve over her death as I do Fadel’s and the deaths of the nine brave Turkish human rights activists who were murdered by the same Israeli forces only a few days ago.

Mr. President, I want to find a party led by a person who will be free to criticize Israel or any other country that practices the deliberate cold-blooded murder of young people whose only crime is to witness and protest when crimes against humanity are committed. Or maybe I will just stay an Independent. Voting for change has given us just more of the same.

Clare Brandabur

Dr. A. Clare Brandabur teaches American Culture & Literature at Fatih University in Had?mköy, Istanbul, Turkey. Read other articles by Clare.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on June 24th, 2010 at 10:50am #

    President Obama did bring a change to American Middle East policy. However, the change he brought is to present the longstanding US policies of George Bush, and his predecessors, with a new covering of mere words, as put forward in his Cairo speech. He is fully aware that US foreign policy in the Middle East emanates from Tel Aviv, articulated by AIPAC, and not Wahington. He is a politician and has to pay adequate attention for his future re-election!!

  2. Doug Page said on June 24th, 2010 at 12:12pm #

    Bravo Dr. Brandabur! My thoughts exactly. I am a WWII Veteran, one of the 11 million who fought to rescue the Jewish people. My dear friend, Paul Krug died in the Battle of the Bulge in this effort. We WWII Veterans did not fight to produce the type of Israel, and the the type of Israeli, and the type of Dispora Jew who supports defends and finances what Israel is now doing. (And what the US is doing. It is an open question which nation is dominant in promoting what is happening.) We fought for the Four Freedoms and President Obama has tricked us and betrayed us. Some like Rachel Maddow claim that they expected what Obama is now doing. We certainly got no change from Bush and Cheney except smoother talk. What do the words brilliantly orated for “hope” and for “change” mean? What did Obama intend them to mean when he uttered them? If anything? Does he have deep moral beliefs about anything? Has some CIA or AIPAC speech coach carefully trained him to say what the electorate wishes to hear? He spoke to an electorate who desperately desired a change from Bush and Cheney.
    He hooked me and a voting majority. He is a very bright person trained in law and constitutional law. He cannot have uttered those words innocently. I now see him as guilty of intentional electoral fraud.
    Doug Page

  3. Hue Longer said on June 24th, 2010 at 1:01pm #

    Hello Clare and Doug,

    It could be argued that Bush was more resistant to Israel than Clinton so I wouldn’t be too hard on Obama for expectations concerning Israel. In fact, Obama didn’t do much lying at all about anything–the people turning his vague speeches hearkening change and hope lied to themselves.

    FDR was an elitist saving his class and empire from angry mobs by co-opting and watering down populist sentiments of real leaders like Huey Long (he had to go, didn’t he?)

    JFK may have had a notion of being a human being and could have been shot for it but prior to that “woulda been”, he was just as vile as LBJ or Wilson.

    Also Doug, did you really fight in WWII to rescue the Jewish people? Didn’t that notion occur AFTER the war?

    I don’t think open letters to Obama work despite what all the ABB crowd said concerning holding his feet to the fire…you got what you voted for not what you hoped for

  4. mary said on July 22nd, 2010 at 2:49am #

    “Meanwhile, American activists are trying to raise funds for their own ship to Gaza, which they plan to call “The Audacity of Hope,” after U.S. President Barack Obama’s best-selling memoir.”

    Don’t you just love that?

    Israel launches campaign to halt Lebanon Gaza-bound flotilla

    Foreign Ministry instructs Israeli ambassadors to ask senior American, UN, EU and Egyptian officials to pressure Syria and Lebanon to stop latest planned flotilla from sailing from Lebanon to Gaza

    Israel launched a diplomatic effort yesterday to keep the latest planned flotilla from sailing from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.

    The Foreign Ministry instructed Israeli ambassadors to ask senior officials in the United States, United Nations, European Union and Egypt to pressure Syria and Lebanon to stop the flotilla, which Israel deems a “provocation” in light of its recent decision to end its civilian blockade of Gaza.

    22 July 2010