Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
GOD SAVE HRC, FROM REALITY — Jeffrey St. Clair on Hillary Clinton’s miraculous rags-to-riches method of financial success; LA CONFIDENTIAL: Lee Ballinger on race, violence and inequality in Los Angeles; PAPER DRAGON: Peter Lee on China’s military; THE BATTLE OVER PAT TILLMAN: David Hoelscher provides a 10 year retrospective on the changing legacy of Pat Tillman; MY BROTHER AND THE SPACE PROGRAM: Paul Krassner on the FBI and rocket science. PLUS: Mike Whitney on how the Central Bank feeds state capitalism; JoAnn Wypijewski on what’s crazier than Bowe Bergdahl?; Kristin Kolb on guns and the American psyche; Chris Floyd on the Terror War’s disastrous course.
Betraying Eritrea

The African-American Case Against Obama

by AFEWORKI MEKONNEN

Over the last little while, a few individuals, claiming to be Eritrean-Americans, have come on the popular Eritrean website, Dehai, and tried to influence their fellow Eritrean-Americans to vote for Barack Obama. I see this as akin to asking Eritreans to reward Obama for his abominable treatment of Eritrea. Given the current US Administration’s unprecedented level of hostility towards Eritrea — arguably, unmatched by any other administration before it — the overwhelming majority of Eritrean-Americans see Obama as the most hostile US president, ever, that Eritrea has had to deal with. Most Eritrean-Americans think Obama is utterly unworthy of their votes and deeply regret that they stood with him during the last election. Nevertheless, there are a few who do not seem to have opened their eyes fully to Obama’s dark side. It is regrettable that these people cannot see the extraordinary level of bellicosity and villainy of the Obama Administration, particularly, in the way it has dealt with Eritrea.

The individuals who are attempting to advance Obama’s interests by trying to convince Eritrean-Americans to vote for him have presented one central, lame and unconvincing, argument to advance their case. To paraphrase their favorite line, it almost always goes like this: ‘Our votes are too few to affect the outcome of the election, so might as well vote for Obama and make sure that our own interests are looked after’. The fact is, close to fifty thousand Eritrean-American votes, used collectively for a common purpose, are anything but few. Then, there is that, rather absurd, aspect of their argument which claims that their ‘personal interests’ can be better served by voting for Obama. As any reasonable person will see, this position is mired in contradiction and confusion and is hard to make any sense of. One might rightly ask: What is the magic trick that will transform votes that are ‘too few to impact the election results’ into a potent element that will ‘ensure Eritrean-American interests’ if given to Obama? Those who advance this argument need to scour their minds to see if they can come up with a more sensible ‘rationale’ than this dubious excuse for wanting to vote for Obama. Regardless, if we simply boiled down the argument advanced by the pro-Obama individuals to ‘Our votes are too few to matter, so let’s just gift them to Obama’, how much credibility would they carry? Well, first of all, there is no factual truth to the claim that Eritrean-American votes are too few to matter in the election. Secondly, no matter how many times they repeat this illogical ‘reasoning’ it will still remain unconvincing.

In a recent post, one of these pro-Obama individuals decided to change his pitch from ‘Obama is better than Romney’ to the desperate-sounding “Please, please go out and exercise your right … Vote! Vote! Vote!” Why has it suddenly become so crucial for this individual to urge Eritrean-Americans to go out and vote at any cost? Why would he at least not give those people who are not keen on voting for Romney the option of not voting at all, rather than going out and giving their vote to Obama, who is the least person to deserve their votes? What this shows is that there are individuals who may be trying to con Eritrean-Americans into inadvertently doing something that will ultimately benefit Obama. They may be banking on the assumption that most Eritrean-Americans do not like the idea of voting for Mitt Romney, and if they can be convinced to vote, as a principle of right and duty, they might just see Obama as the better evil and vote for him. This is a very disingenuous tactic, because the overwhelming majority of the people it is aimed at are not dumb and are able to see the big picture. The main villain in the big picture is Barack Obama! He is the one who deserves to be rejected, no matter who his potential replacement is. If it is Romney who is at the head of the line to replace him, then so be it!

Granted that the handful of Eritrean-Americans who are cheering for Obama likely believe that he is better than Mitt Romney. However this position, in itself, is untenable, because it is based on pure speculation and not on any hard facts. After all, despite the negative perceptions that may be dogging Romney, he is still an untried entity as a president and, if given a chance, he may well turn out to be a better leader than most people now perceive him to be. And there is, certainly, a very good chance that he may prove to be a better president than Obama. More importantly, even if he does not make the mark as a good president, the chance of him being worse than Obama is almost non-existent. Therefore, there really is no significant loss to be sustained if Romney bumped Obama from the presidency!

There is an excellent article on Eastafro.com, by Amanuel Biedemariam, titled ‘Horn of Africa Activism and US Presidential Election Politics’, which is a must read. In it the writer tells how an Obama Campaign manager tried to sell him ‘fear’ by asking him ‘Do you think Romney is going to do any better?’ (meaning better than Obama, of course!) This is as weak and dumb an argument in defense of Obama’s supposed superiority, as it can ever get! As an Eritrean, I would answer the man’s question by asking back ‘Do you think Romney is going to be any worse than Obama?’

It is true that there are many in the Obama Camp who are trying to sell ‘fear of the unknown’ as a legitimate campaign fare to potential voters. A few days ago, I clicked on a link posted by a participant on the Dehai discussion board, which led me to an article titled ‘A Rotten Fusion of Neoliberalism and Neoconservatism – Which Africans Will Obama Whack Next?’ The piece appeared on ‘Counter Punch’ and was written by a certain Patrick Bond from Durban, South Africa. This guy nailed all of Obama’s deadly sins in the right places and I was fully expecting his final verdict to be: ‘Guilty on all counts! To be banished from office!’ However, to my utter shock and surprise, he changed gears in the last seconds and closed his piece with the words ‘Obama’s administration is a rotten fusion of the worst forces within neoliberalism and neoconservatism. I sincerely hope that next month, he soundly defeats Mitt Romney, who is worse on all counts – except the ability to confuse people in Africa, who might still think Washington acts in their interests’ (emphasis is mine). Other than to make the uncorroborated blanket statement that Mitt Romeny was ‘worse on all counts’ than Obama, nowhere in his lengthy article did this writer offer any explanation as to why he thought so. ‘What a muddled ending to such a brilliant and incisive piece!’, was all I could think.

Now, a rational question to ask this writer is: how can he confidently declare Romney to be ‘worse on all counts’ than Obama, when he has not had a chance to observe his performance in the only ‘work place’ that matters for passing such a judgment, the White House? I would not expect a truthful or sensible answer to this question, other than to say that the whole point of writing the article, in the first place, probably was to first win the reader’s trust by enumerating as many as possible of Obama’s difficult-to-conceal failings, then ending with a sweeping denunciation of Romney that would leave most readers with a decidedly bad taste in their mouth and a feeling of ‘Oh my God, Romney will make the worst ever president if elected!’ It is likely that there are quite a few writers who are prepared to sell Obama to unsuspecting voters by employing less-than-honest tactics, in the same way that I very much suspect Mr. Bond is trying to do. One would hope that the majority of readers are smart enough not to fall for their tricks.

The truth of the matter is that unlike the untried Romney, Obama has been thoroughly tested in office and his foreign policy, which is the main focus of this article, has been nothing short of catastrophic for both his country and the world. He has nothing much to admire in his domestic policies, either, but his most disastrous failing, without question, is in his external policy. His aggressive foreign policies and heavy-handed meddling in various places have caused chaos and mayhem around the world. Fomenting conflicts, orchestrating proxy wars, perpetrating officially-sanctioned violence against innocent citizens of Third World countries, pushing the unlimited use of threats, blackmail, coercion, sabotage, and other subversive means against various innocent nations, have stood out as the unmistakable hallmarks of his foreign policy throughout his tenure in office. Our own country, Eritrea, which has been the target of the Obama Administration’s relentless and immoral destabilizing efforts throughout the last four years, has seen it all. The experience of the last four years has shown Obama to be reckless, unscrupulous, hawkish, duplicitous and highly irresponsible, not to mention opportunistic and untruthful. This is a rap sheet that no potential replacement to him, including Romney, would find easy to match!

We all were way off the mark with our original, rosy assessment of Barack Obama, back in 2008, when he first came on the stage and impressed the whole world with his seemingly honest desire to inject a little bit of sanity into the crazy world of American foreign policy. We all hoped that he would take at least a few steps in the direction of curbing the US’s insatiable thirst for reckless conflict-chasing and adventurism. Through a mixture of his fresh young looks and an extraordinary gift to make people accept his word at face-value, Obama managed to hoodwink billions around the globe, including this writer, into believing that he had come to save the world. However, it wasn’t long before his true colors started to come through. For many people around the world, it was a big let-down to see the veneer come off Obama’s carefully constructed deceptive image of a conflict-shunning and peace-seeking presidential candidate – an impression he so skillfully milked throughout his campaign.

It wasn’t long before it became clear that Obama, after all, was not about ‘change’ — his prized campaign slogan — or a fresh beginning in America’s relations with the outside world. Nor was he about seeking peace that was based on diplomacy and the respect of the sovereignty and rights of other nations. As if with a swipe of a magician’s wand, all the marvelous things Obama promised about making the world a safer place to live in evaporated into thin air. Nearly four years into his presidency, all that we see around us now is the US’s bloody hand feverishly orchestrating conflicts in various places and causing death and misery by the bucketload. The number of the innocent citizens of Third World countries that the US has murdered, either by direct involvement or through proxies, is too high to count. One has only to look at what has happened and is happening in places such as: Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Myanmar, Pakistan and Afghanistan to appreciate the scale of the atrocities that the Obama Administration has perpetrated on the populations of many Third World countries.

The immoral ‘drone-war’ that Obama officially sanctioned and legitimized as a way of extra-judicial  killing of suspected so-called ‘terrorists’ on sovereign territories of other nations, and is indiscriminately killing innocent citizens of Third World countries, is another indictment of this president’s bloody excesses. This is a prime example of the Obama Administration’s callous disregard for human lives as long as they are not First World lives. To expect anything that spells a safer, better world from Obama’s continued presence in power, after witnessing all the violence and strife caused by his administration in various parts of the world, is pretty much like expecting rain to fall from cloudless skies. The ingredients that make for a safer, better world just do not exist in this president’s sphere of thoughts or plans.  

There is no sensible or sane rationale to the US’s approach when it deals with independent and self-assertive small nations of the world. It almost always seems to start off from the immoral premise that ‘might is right’ and America should be able to impose its will on all nations, particularly small nations of the Third Wold. In the eyes of the US any Third World nation that does not subordinate its independence and national interests to those of the US and its Western partners, is seen as an unfriendly entity, and thus marked for destabilization. And, of course, at the forefront of America’s military interventions and destabilization campaigns is always the deceitful claim that it is acting to bring ‘democracy’ to the people. Yet, most people, nowadays, know who and what the much-ballyhooed American ‘democracy’ represents, and what it stands for. These days, most people do not need to be reminded that the real reason behind America’s foreign policy of aggressive interventionism is the ‘agenda of domination’, which has always been the over-riding agenda in American foreign policy. In the pursuit of this agenda, Obama has tried to outperform most other presidents before him, as his administration’s wide-ranging bloody forays into Africa, the Middle East and Asia have proven.

One need not go further than Eritrea and Iran, to see the ‘off-the-scale’ madness, with which the Obama Administration has pursued nations that the US sees as ‘recalcitrant’ or non-compliant with its sterile and unworkable ‘New World Order’ mantra, which aims to bring the world under one umbrella of domination with it sitting comfortably at the top of the pile. Barack  Obama seems to have taken this unachievable US agenda to heart as his military adventures in various parts of the world clearly show.

As an example of the US’s intolerance with nations that do not do its bidding, nothing can surpass the morbid hostility that it has directed against the innocent and peaceful state of Eritrea. Eritrea which holds the distinction of having never bowed to US authority, or served as a tool of US and Western interests, has faced the full wrath of America’s ferocious all-out destabilization campaign, which the Obama Administration has taken to new, unprecedented heights. This campaign to destroy Eritrea has been spearheaded by Obama’s uncommonly hawkish and vengeful Ambassador-to-the-UN, Susan Rice, who happens to hold a major personal grudge against the country, from having miserably failed to impose US will on its government some fourteen years ago, when she was Bill Clintons’ Assistant-Secretary-of-State for Africa. In her current position as Obama’s Ambassador-to-the-UN, she has spared no effort to try and bring about Eritrea’s demise. She has done everything, from disseminating mountains of lies to tarnish Eritrea’s reputation, to plotting and orchestrating anti-Eritrean conspiracies with African ‘puppet’ regimes, to engineering and pushing through two illegal and unjust UN sanctions against Eritrea. In fact, Susan Rice, who is a perfect model of deceptive and overbearing diplomacy, has left no stone unturned in her frenzied efforts to bring Eritrea down. Yet, thanks entirely to the unique sense of awareness and patriotism of Eritreans, and their unrivaled unity and resolve to defend their country, all the immoral campaigns waged against Eritrea by the Obama Administration have met with utter failure.

As it has become crystal clear to most people, the US, under Obama, has steered a dangerous course of war-mongering and aggression that relies primarily on the use of raw power, blackmail, threats, intimidation and various means of destabilization to deal with countries that reject its self-appointed role as the world’s policeman. The US has always seemed to see itself as the supreme authority on our planet, to which all countries and peoples must answer. Thus, nations such as Eritrea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Myanmar, etc., which are definitely not part of the complying herd of followers that do the US’s bidding (such as its European partners-in-crime, or the large contingent of lowly vassal states, such as the late Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopia), have always been marked for hostile treatment. The Obama Administration has taken the US’s sense of superiority and inherently predatory tendency a step further, taking the world on an even more dangerous path than before. Although there may be some lingering perception that the Bush Administration may have been worse in this respect, an objective and sober analysis of the Obama Administration’s overall conduct on the world stage during the last four years will prove that assessment wrong.

On the whole, one can say that Obama’s legacy, so far, has been the unquantifiable amount of misery and pain that his foreign policy has inflicted on millions of people across Africa, the Middle East and South West Asia. Through the inciting of and direct involvement in various deadly conflicts in various parts of the Third World, Obama’s policies of domination have cost the lives of countless innocent citizens and brought dislocation and destitution to countless others.

There is another aspect of Barack  Obama that this writer finds deeply disturbing. This concerns the foreign policy he has pursued in regard to Africa. Barack  Obama, as everybody knows, is not only an ‘African American’, but by virtue of his father being a Kenyan, he is also an authentic ‘half-African’. Back in July of 2009, in that patronizing and self-gratifying speech (actually, lecture!) he gave in Accra, Ghana, he declared ‘I have African blood within me!’ The sad thing is that all the actions Obama has taken with regard to Africa, since that public declaration of his African roots, have been the kind that would not be expected of a leader claiming to have genuine African blood coursing through him. For the most part, his actions have been a living testament to the low regard he has for Africa and the disrespect he is prepared to show it. In fact, one can say that Obama sees Africa as nothing more than a fruit tree that is ripe for picking!

As an authentic half-African, one would have expected Obama to be troubled by Africa’s bitter history of exploitation and subjugation at the hands of European colonisers. One would have thought that he would resent the on-going, terrible economic exploitation of Africa by Western countries, including his own. One would rightly have expected this half-Kenyan US president to want to redress this unjust relationship by supporting full African emancipation from the economic slavery that has kept African countries stuck in perpetual poverty and dependency — not to want to carry the injustices forward with renewed vigor. One would have also expected Obama to oppose and work against the well-known US and European practice of fomenting conflict and chaos among African countries, as a vehicle of weakening and exploiting them. Yet, as evidenced by his administration’s actions throughout his four years in office, Obama has chosen to carry the age-old injustices perpetrated by First World counties on Africa forward with renewed vigor.

As a black US president with roots in the heart of Africa, Obama should have tried to champion vigorous efforts to rid Africa of the residual effects of its past colonial history. He should have taken it upon himself to assist Africa’s present struggles against unfair exploitation and domination by the neo-colonialists of the First World, of which his own country is a prime component. It should have saddened him to see Africa being robbed and dispossessed of its natural resources and dignity in broad daylight, and to see it supply unquantifiable amounts of wealth to the developed world outside of it, while remaining backward, dirt-poor and hardly able to feed itself. Despite all this and contrary to all logical expectations, Obama does not seem to concern himself with the fundamental issue of restoring to Africa, his own father’s continent, the justice and dignity that was denied it in the past, and continues to be denied it today. That is why, instead of trying to curb his country’s illegitimate, force-based attempts to control Africa’s oil and mineral wealth, his administration has traveled the extra mile to bring the continent under US military and economic domination.

In fact, this president has worked harder than any other American president, to bring the African continent under US colonialism. What we have here is the strange phenomenon of a black American president – who is of Kenyan parentage, to boot – working harder than all the white presidents before him to place the African continent under the perpetual yoke of American slavery. Anyone who has observed Obama’s hectic four-years-long foray into Africa, which has seen the infestation of most of the continent with US military outposts, personnel and intelligence operatives, will attest to the validity of this assertion. There is little doubt that Obama, the ‘president-of-choice’ of America’s white ruling elites, at whose pleasure he stays in the White House, is trying to prove that he can do a better job than all the white presidents before him put together, in keeping Africa in its customary, humble place!

From an Eritrean’s perspective, Obama has proved to be an absolutely unelectable candidate on the following three major counts of his foreign policy: 1) His unequivocally anti-Eritrean stance, which has focused on inflicting the maximum harm on Eritrea; 2) His  determined efforts to bring Africa under US ‘colonialism’ and 3) The criminal atrocities his administration has commited, and continues to commit, against innocent citizens of the Third World, as well as the real dangers his uncompromising and aggressive foreign policy have exposed the world to. If there is any US presidential candidate who does not deserve Eritrean-American votes, it is definitely Barack  Obama. Eritrean-Americans should not listen to those who are trying to belittle and disparage their votes as being insignificant. No one should lose sight of the fact that public offices can be won or lost over the slimmest margins of a few thousand votes. If Eritrean-Americans can use their votes collectively against Obama, and those votes happen to coalesce with certain other conditions that are unfavourable to him, then, there is a very good chance that those votes might turn out to be just the critical element needed to tip the balance against this most undesirable and undeserving president.

Even if voting against Obama, collectively, may not guarantee his defeat this time around, the action will still serve a very useful purpose: it will convey a strong message to US politicians that the Eritrean-American community must not be taken for granted. It is important that America’s political parties and their presidential candidates get that message. It is very likely that Eritrean-American numbers and influence will grow, not diminish, with time. Therefore, no matter what the outcome of this election is going to be, a strong, collective ‘No’ to Obama, at this time, will be an important first step in the necessary journey Eritrean-Americans must travel, in order to become a strong voice that American politicians will notice and want to court.

But, above all else, it is the duty of all responsible and self-respecting Eritrean-Americans to deny their vote to a US president who has waged a relentless campaign to destroy their innocent country. There just cannot be any acceptable argument against that! How can anyone convincingly argue in favour of voting for a president who has, knowingly and willingly, turned himself into Eritrea’s #1 enemy? It is time for those Eritreans who may have given Obama some benefit of the doubt in the beginning to reassess their position about him. Just look at his recent ignorant and reprehensible verbal assault on Eritrea, where he shamelessly lied through the teeth and accused the country of engaging in ‘human trafficking’. As if there is a scarcity of countries that can legitimately be accused of engaging in such activities, he deliberately chose Eritrea, the least likely candidate for such an outrageous accusation. He knows very well that Eritrea is an honorable and upright nation that does not engage in such deplorable practices, yet, he chose to deliberately smear it by telling a bare-faced lie that cannot hold up to even the most casual scrutiny. This deplorable performance attests to Obama’s uncontained hostility towards Eritrea, as much as it speaks to his propensity for being untruthful. For any Eritrean-American who may have taken a little longer than others to see Obama’s true nature, I hope this latest outrageous conduct of his has proved to be an eye-opener and ‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’!

If, on the other hand, Obama was merely parroting information that Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton fed him that is not good either! Wallowing in sheer ignorance and mercilessly beating on an innocent nation simply because his truth-challenged UN Ambassador, Susan Rice — a known Eritrea-hater with a big axe to grind — claimed that Eritrea did this, or did that, does not say much for his judgment or leadership. Moreover, Obama would have looked better if he had let Susan Rice, or his Secretary-of-State, Hillary Clinton, do the job of dispensing his untruths for him, instead of going up on the stage and jostling and competing with them to get the lies out!

Recently, someone argued that Eritrean-Americans ‘… should vote as citizens of U.S. based on our personal interest …. ‘. Others, before him and after him have also advanced the same self-serving idea. Clearly, there is a selfish element in their argument, in that by claiming that voting for Obama would serve their own interests better than voting against him, these individuals are putting their own personal interests ahead of Eritrea’s larger interests. Eritrea’s legitimate causes would be served better if all Eritrean-Americans worked together in a common drive to unseat this unequivocally anti-Eritrean president, who seems determined to stay on Eritrea’s case for the duration.

I think most Eritrean-Americans would agree that Obama does not deserve a single Eritrean vote and should be rejected outright. The gross injustices his administration has perpetrated against Eritrea (not to mention other countries and peoples of the world) are too obvious for anyone to miss. It is worth asking the individuals who seem oblivious to Obama’s serious transgressions what it is that makes them want to give him another four years in the White House – the place from which he has wrought so much injustice and grief on Eritrea and the rest of the world. Why are they so determined to dissuade Eritrean-Americans from rejecting Obama? It would be nice to know the answer to this intriguing question. One thing is undeniably clear, though: If Eritrean-American votes can be utilized effectively to protest the Obama Administration’s atrocious treatment of Eritrea, I personally cannot see a more worthwhile use for them than this.

As an Eritrean who has seen Barack  Obama and his appointed State Department minions subject our innocent country to an unprecedented level of hostilities and hardships, and mindful of the possible continuation, or even worsening, of this situation under a re-elected Obama, I strongly urge all Eritrean-Americans to reject this president outright, and to do everything possible to facilitate his opponent’s victory. In this connection, it is also very important to remember that an Obama re-election may produce the undesirable outcome of Eritrea’s sworn enemy, Susan Rice’s, climb to the post of US Secretary-of-State. This is an absolutely unpalatable scenario for any Eritrean to envision!

Afeworki Mekonnen writes for Natna, where this article originally appeared.