Monday, April 20, 2009

COMMENT: The tortured reality that clouds Obama's message ...

President Barack Obama has many messages to deliver to that nebulous blob called “the Muslim world”. He wanted to move relations between America and 1.2 billion Muslims beyond the kind of stereotypes that dogged his own campaign.

Obama’s recent address to Turkey’s National Assembly was really an address to the governments of Muslim-majority states. He acknowledged “there have been difficulties these last few years … that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced”. He also reminded them that “America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism”.

This all sounds lovely. There’s just one problem. America’s unpopular war on terror involved kidnapping and torturing Muslim terror suspects, with few charges laid against anyone. Much of this torture was outsourced to the very governments Obama was addressing in his remarks. Police and intelligence services of countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco and Syria tortured prisoners and sold their “evidence” to the United States. Governments of these countries allowed the CIA to conduct secret “black site” prisons.

A host of kings, emirs, generals and presidents-for-life of Muslim-majority states used America’s “war on terror” as a convenient excuse to stifle dissent and to suppress their own political opponents. These same governments use religious sentiment to stir up trouble over trivial issues (e.g. the Danish cartoons) to divert attention away from government excess and incompetence. In countries where substantial Muslim minorities existed (such as China, India and the Philippines), fighting “terrorism” was used as a cover to suppress minorities. And not only Muslims suffered. Fighting terrorism has been used as an excuse by the Sri Lankan army to commit atrocities against Tamil civilians.

And now CIA Director Leon Panetta is insisting that ...

... no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.

Then again, a full investigation might just expose the dirty role played by the despots that rule the majority of Muslim countries. It might also expose the role of US allies such as Australia.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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