The phone rang and danced on the nightstand like a crazed MDMA addict in a rave party. It sounded like a sawmill steam whistle blowing inside my head. It shook me awake. The alarm clock showed four in the morning.
“Hello!” I answered grudgingly.
“Mabrouk! Mabrouk! Congratulations!” the jubilant voice of my mother said.
“Congratulations! Barack won. Barack will bring the “baraka.””
Flustered and still half asleep I said: “thank you.”
“Did you vote yesterday?”
My father jumped on the phone. “Things are going to get better now.”
“Yes! Of course. He is a Moslem. Thank God the older one did not win.”
I could hear my mother in the background saying: “God answered the prayers of Moslems. The next US president’s name is M’barak.”
Many other friends from around the world called and sent ME SMS messages throughout the day cheering and conveying their hopes things will soon change for the better. I felt as though Obama and I share a kinship in wretchedness.
The Bush administration’s many failures are leaving nothing but smoldering ruin across the national and international landscapes. Its blunders will go on raging inside people’s minds for a long time to come. The US stands isolated and vilified. The election of Obama is a desperate and necessary attempt by Americans to restore their dignity and grace. He will most certainly make adjustments; his administration will be an aggregate of diverse American political philosophies; he will rescind some of bush’s directives such as those pertaining to interrogation and detainees; he will enact drastic measures to restore confidence in a tattered American economy; he will reshape the military and refocus its priorities; he will advocate diplomacy over hasty and deleterious military action.
The Obama administration will engage on all these fronts focusing on nothing else but US interests. Not Africa; not the Arabs; not the Moslems. The Obama millions of Africans, Arabs, and Moslems anxiously prayed for on the edge of their seats while on his campaign trail is different than the one who will be sworn in as president. The change of course started when he received his first intelligence briefing. Other briefings would enlighten him with information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, Gitmo detainees and a myriad of other issues he was unaware of. As a candidate, Obama did not have the required “need to know” to be privy to that information; as a President Elect with the adequate clearance, that information is too sensitive to share with the public. As a scholar, his decisions will be based on lucubration, but will be shaped by this newly acquired and highly restricted perspective. Suddenly, Talking to the Iranian government whose hegemonic aspirations in the Middle East are not a concern to Israel alone, but to all the neighboring Arab countries as well and whose support to terrorist elements is undeniable, is not such a viable option. Suddenly, Islamic extremism is indeed an immediate terrorist threat that will only cower before forceful and unrelenting policies. Suddenly, the economy has been in a recession for the past year and cutting taxes may not seem such a bright idea. Already his economic plan is changing; so will his perspective on many foreign issues. I have no doubt he will redefine US foreign policy, but I do not anticipate a dramatic policy change. I can say with certitude there will never be an Obama condemnation of Israeli human rights and political transgressions against the Palestinians. US support to African and Arab despots will carry on. It is imperative to maintain a power dynamic that advances and sustains US interests in the world.
I was hardly surprised when Benjamin Emanuel, the father of Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (who is Jewish), talking about his son stated in an interview to the daily Ma’ariv:
“Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”
Mr. Rahm Emanuel quickly picked up the phone and apologized to the American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee for his father’s disparaging comments. No apology was necessary to the Arabs of the world; they matter as much to the Obama administration as they did to the Bush one.
A. T. B. Copyright © 2008