Empty Words, Damning Actions
by William Skink
Today Obama opened his mouth and some words came out. As usual, they were pretty nice sounding words:
Obama called on Americans not to just simply mark this historic day, but to “rededicate ourselves to the freedoms for which they fought.”
“Let’s make sure that we keep striving to fulfill our founding ideals — that we’re a country where no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, if we work hard and take responsibility, every American will have the opportunity to make of our lives what we will,” Obama said. “Let’s stand united with our allies, in Europe and beyond, on behalf of our common values — freedom, security, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world — and against bigotry and hatred in all their forms so that we give meaning to that pledge: ‘Never forget. Never again.'”
I have never seen a list of “common values” rendered so utterly meaningless by the context and speaker of the words. By standing united with our allies, does that include supporting Saudi Arabia’s use of cluster bombs in Yemen? And Neo-Nazis in Ukraine? And Al Qaeda in Syria? Are these the factions who will respect human rights and the rule of law around the world?
About those human rights, the groups that allegedly watch for human rights violations can’t even manage a good Assad smear in Syria, where a picture tweeted out by HRW’s director, Kenneth Ross, of alleged barrel bombing in Aleppo turned out to be a picture of the carnage in Gaza. Whoops.
One common value many nations seem to share is the desire to provide assistance to their citizens when they are in harms way. Let’s say, for example, you arm an oil-rich monarchy with cluster munitions and they start using them on one of the poorest nations in the Middle East. Let’s say this horrific, totally unnecessary war strands hundreds of your citizens. Would the common value be to say sorry, we told you not to be there?
WARNER: Her family’s journey began in Sanaa, the capital, where they were visiting Rhonia’s Yemeni father. When the rebels started bombing the city in late March, they fled to the village with relatives, but then her mom had to figure out how to get out of the country.
ALJAHMI: We went from villages to villages, from cities to city. And they had no electric, no place to stay.
WARNER: Aljahmi says she tried to get over the land border to Saudi Arabia – cheaper and safer than a sea passage. But they told her that she and her daughters were not allowed without a male escort. Her husband doesn’t have an American passport. He couldn’t go with them.
ALJAHMI: I asked Saudi Arabia. They said without a guy with me, I cannot go through.
WARNER: The Saudis sent her and her daughters back to the war zone. She’s still furious. Aren’t they are allies, she says? And Yemeni-Americans say they feel abandoned by America. While other countries have evacuated their citizens – Russia sent an army plane, India sent a navy vessel – the U.S. has declined to use its military to rescue its citizens. The State Department says it’s been warning Americans for years not to go to Yemen. Rhonia remembers the day that the Russian evacuation plane arrived. It took one of her friends in the Koranic school where she’s studying.
ALADASHI: She’s a Russian and they came for her – airplane. I got so jealous that day.
I added the emphasis because damn, that’s some harsh shit right there.
So, a quick recap: Obama says some meaningless crap, a guy looking for human rights abuses tweets a picture of Gaza and calls it Aleppo, and American citizens trying to escape a hell where American allies are using widely banned weapons look longingly to the Russian citizens who get a plane rescue instead of a callous state department saying we told you not to come, so tough shit.