The U.S. Presidential Debates between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney concluded this week with a debate on foreign policy, which focussed heavily on the U.S. relationship with the Middle East. What’s the impact of each candidate’s foreign policies on the U.S. and the Middle East. PITAPOLICY this week is sharing a political analysis conducted by Ramah Kudaimi on the major topics discussed during the debate. What are your thoughts?
No Matter Who Wins, U.S. Empire Continuing on Course
By: Ramah Kudaimi
“U.S. Candidates Spar Over Foreign Policy.” “Obama, Romney Battle Over Foreign Policy.” “Sparring Over Foreign Policy, Obama Goes on the Offense.” “Candidates Spar on Foreign Policy.” “Obama, Romney Spar on Foreign Policy in Final Presidential Debate.”
These were the headlines in major news sources from across the globe the day after President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney had their final debate. Reading these headlines, one would assume that there was major disagreement between the two about the role of the United States in the world. But once the two candidates shook hands at the end, the message was clear: no matter what, the U.S. empire is continuing on course with no acknowledgement of the destruction this empire has wrought during the past few decades.
The debate started with a discussion of the so-called Arab Spring, with both Romney and Obama acknowledging the desire of people in the region for freedom and democracy. Neither cared to talk about the decades of U.S. support for the very dictators the people are rising against. Romney kept harping on Obama about the death of four Americans in the embassy attack in Benghazi to which Obama responded by taking credit for helping liberate Libya from Muammar Gaddafi, choosing to ignore that Gaddafi had become just another close despot of Western governments in recent years. Obama took credit for ending the war in Iraq, forgetting that he had tried to keep troops there longer, and that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the world’s largest, has 17,000 staff and more than 5,000 security forces to protect them. These are private mercenaries, which means it is harder to bring charges against them if they go on a murder spree of innocent Iraqi civilians Blackwater style. Of course, international law is not that much of a concern for Obama, considering the war criminals of the previous administration who are responsible for the death of at least 150,000 Iraqi civilians are all free in the United States profiting from writing their memoirs. Obama probably is hoping whoever succeeds him as commander in chief, whether now or in four years, will return the favor and not prosecute him for war crimes due to his use of drones in mainly Pakistan and Yemen, killing hundreds of innocent civilians including children.
Romney though doesn’t have any problem with drone strikes and extrajudicial killing. He seemed pretty excited to have the chance to run to be the next assassin-in-chief. He, like Obama, didn’t think it necessary to acknowledge the millions of Iraqi lives destroyed by the United States dating from the first U.S. war on Iraq, followed up with crippling sanctions- the same sanctions now being imposed on Iran, with the same disastrous results- and then ending with the second invasion and occupation under George W. Bush. He, unlike Obama, never opposed the war.
It did seem that Romney might spar with Obama over Afghanistan policy. The differences were in the details, and it was all about the United States. Neither paid much attention to the people of Afghanistan because in terms of empire, the native people don’t matter, only the occupying forces and the interests of the empire. Forget about reports that show conditions in Afghanistan are not any better now than they were pre-US occupation, despite billions of dollars of foreign aid being poured into the country to supposedly help the people. And the focus on the supposed disagreement both candidates have about the need for a timeline or not ignores that poll after poll shows that the a majority of the American people want to get out of Afghanistan now not later. Such a democracy the United States is.
Of course no foreign policy debate would be complete without the usual commitment to the security of our “true friend and greatest ally Israel,” security which will cost the United States at least $30 billion from 2009-2018. The first free election in Egypt in decades should only be seen as a good thing as long as the newly elected president continues to serve the needs of Israel, even if that means ignoring the demands of his own people. The uprising in Syria needs to be dealt with in a manner best for Israel, not what is best for the Syrian people. The United States needs to starve people in Iran because Benjamin Netanyahu insists Iran is close to acquiring a nuclear weapon, something he has been claiming since the 1990s.
The nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons were talked about on and on, yet not one mention of the existing illegal Israeli settlements and occupation of Palestinian lands. In an ironic twist, Romney used the term apartheid not to describe Israeli oppression of Palestinians and the need to sanction them but rather to discuss how Iran should be isolated like South Africa had been. The problem is Iran is doing nothing illegal, while Israel has nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And of course, the Palestinians never actually came up. In U.S. politics, the rule is that of Newt Gingrich: the Palestinian people are an invented people that are real enough to be killed by U.S. weapons but not real enough to actually be acknowledged in a U.S. foreign policy discussion.
Romney criticized Obama for going on “an apology tour” after becoming president. Obama vehemently denied doing this. What the world needs from the next U.S. president is an actual apology tour, which requires not only words but actions. Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, more than 75 percent of the global arms market. Russia was a distant second with $4.8 billion in deals. Makes it really entertaining when U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice lectures Russia on arming the regime in Syria while the United States arms its own regimes much more extensively, including agreeing to sell $60 billion worth of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia. None of these issues came up during the debate because that would require a real discussion of the U.S. role in the world that questions the U.S. exceptionalism both these candidates espouse.
We as U.S. citizens all need to apologize to the world for failing to protect them from our government in the past and for what Obama and Romney promised Monday night to do in continued pursuit of the U.S. empire.
Ramah Kudaimi is an Arab American activist based in Washington, DC. You can follow her @ramahkudaimi.