April 16, 2008
Obama: Silence in the face of evil
"Silence in the face of evil is always on the side of the aggressor."Barack Obama, the eloquent speaker who mesmerizes the media, the man whose orations make women swoon, the candidate who promises to embrace dictators and terrorists in conversation, falls strangely silent when his words are needed to stand up against evil, intolerance or injustice. In a dangerous world with evil regimes aspiring to destroy the United States and the values we represent, the silence of an American President would be an
- Elie Wiesel
We know that for over twenty years, Obama listened attentively to his pastor's diatribes against the United States and Israel and said nothing. Confronted with outright lies that the United States created the AIDS virus to destroy Africa and imports harmful drugs to destroy African Americans, Obama was silent. When the church website and newsletter carried the message of Hamas, labeled as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and the E.U., Obama maintained his silence.
Obama has not availed himself of other opportunities to speak out against injustice. When his words have taken take a stand on behalf of human decency and not be empty platitudes, Obama chose silence. Take the case of the anti-Islamist Muslim journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who was imprisoned and tortured by Bangladeshi authorities when he requested a visa to attend a conference in Tel Aviv. Securing his release became a bi-partisan issue. Richard L. Benkin, who is spearheading efforts to release Choudhury, notes "Democratic, Republican, left, right, moderate; you name it. And every one of them reacted with support; every one of them, that is, except one. Who was the one lawmaker that took a pass on saving the life of an imprisoned US ally and opponent of Islamist extremism? That's right, my own Illinois Senator Barack Obama."
Obama's record in the Illinois legislature established his reluctance to take a courageous stand. In 1999, he was faced with a difficult vote to support a bill that would let some juveniles be tried as adults. Voting "yes" would help create the image of a man who is tough on crime, but many in the African-American community opposed the law. Faced with a moral dilemma, he did what was most comfortable: nothing. He sidestepped this issue and 130 others by voting present. "If you are worried about your next election, the present vote gives you political cover," said Kent D. Redfield, a professor of political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. In the United States Senate, where there are no "present" votes, Obama consistently sought the safety of voting 96.7% of the time with the majority of Democrats. That is, when he voted. He has missed 39.3% of the votes during the current Congress.
Obama has found a comfortable spot straddling the fence on any potentially controversial issue. At a town hall in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Obama, was asked about U.S. policy toward Tibet and Darfur (the site of ongoing genocide against the Christian population), especially in light of the forthcoming Olympics in Beijing this summer. He equivocated, "It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong...And if we are running huge deficits and big national debts and we're borrowing money constantly from China, that gives us less leverage. It give us less leverage to talk about human rights, it also is giving us less leverage to talk about the uneven trading relationship that we have with China." Obama never once mentioned Tibet or China's relationship with Sudan.
This week when history demanded his voice, Obama once again opted for silence instead of courage. Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders have strongly condemned Jimmy Carter's planned meeting with Khaled Mashal, head of the Hamas terrorist organization. Both Democrats and Republicans demonstrated their leadership in a bipartisan letter to the former president entreating him to refrain from using his stature to undermine U.S. policy and negotiate with Hamas. (Hamas is committed to the complete eradication of Israel and has forsworn any negotiations in favor of violence.) Among Democrats speaking out on the House floor was Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), "In light of Hamas' continuing violence and calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, I strongly urge President Carter to reconsider his decision." Others warned that meeting with Hamas would not only undermine U.S. policy and the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, but lend legitimacy to the group that thwarts all efforts for peace.
Obama, stunningly, declined to take a moral stance and instead chose silence. He said it was not his place to criticize former President Jimmy Carter... "I'm not going to comment on former President Carter. He's a private citizen. It's not my place to discuss who he shouldn't meet with," Obama (Reuters April 11, 2008)
If Obama wants to be President of the United States, it is his place to speak out for what is true, what is in the interest of the nation, and what is morally right (even if it costs him a few votes). It is called leadership.