Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
"Apparently, the US strategy from the beginning, was to play along with the coup plotters' strategy in a case of running with the "we are against the coup" hare and hunting with the "don't let Honduras turn left" hound."
Extract from a short article on the (Barack) Obama administration's role in Honduras and Afghanistan.
Monday, November 30, 2009
There never will be a closure to the black event that was the Babri Masjid demolition
It has taken 17 years for the Justice MS Liberhan commission set up to investigate the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992, to arrive at what has been known from the time the mosque was brought down.
The Liberhan Commission report searingly indicts the Sangh Parivar as the primary culprit for the demolition. It also names the "pseudo-moderate" (the Commission’s words) leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at that time as the secondary culprit and officials of the state machinery and administration as tertiary participants in the horrendous act that stripped altogether India’s claim to be a secular society.
The Liberhan Commission’s report focuses on the ideology, worldview, organising power of the forces of the Sangh Parivar, and the manner in which it single-mindedly attempted to create a frenzy among the masses for the demolition. It details as to how "the inner core of the Parivar" - the leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the BJP and the Shiv Sena bear "primary responsibility" for the crime. It also points out how the BJP leadership, comprising Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K.Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, were privy to the decisions of the Sangh Parivar on the demolition, but protested innocence in order to project a "moderate" image because they had been tasked to shed the "best possible light" on the plan of the RSS. And last but not least the commission indicts officials of the Kalyan Singh government in Uttar Pradesh for the deliberate collusion with the Parivar elements in the razing of the Babri Masjid.
The one-man commission has done a painstakingly thorough examination of the events that led up to the demolition - the intrigue, the subterfuge, the sabotage of law and order and even the inter-mixing of religion and politics. But did it have to take close to two decades to present its findings? Justice Liberhan’s original brief was to conclude its investigations in three months, but he took 40 extensions to finalise his report. The commission certainly faced many obstacles in its work. The culprits did everything possible to delay and stretch out the proceedings by taking resort to adjournments and appeals to the court. But it has been a long time since 16 December 1992, when Justice Liberhan was appointed head of judicial commission to investigate the events that led up to the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya.
Justice Liberhan points to the failure of many an institution of the Indian state - including the media and bureaucracy along with the polity - but he reserves his indictment for the Sangh Parivar and is silent on the Congress Party. Indeed, even as the Commission has detailed the conspiracy underlying the demolition, what is intriguing is the clean chit it has given to the then Narasimha Rao government in New Delhi and the silence it has maintained about the role of previous Congress governments in fuelling the "Ramjanmabhoomi" claim. If there is a contemporary marker in the events leading to the demolition it is surely the decision taken by the local administration in January 1986 to remove the “judicial” locks that had been placed on the mosque for nearly four decades. This too is common knowledge, that it was done at the instance of the then Rajiv Gandhi government, which was anxious to “win” Hindu support to compensate for its decision to placate the Muslim clergy after the Shah Bano judgement. The report is also silent about the poor mobilisation of central paramilitary forces at the Ayodhya site even after the demolition, where kar sevaks continued to run riot following the resignation of the Kalyan Singh government.
The aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition is well known. As much as this incident legitimised communal rhetoric in Indian politics, leading of course to the BJP becoming a major national force, it also hugely damaged public administration, the results of which were immediately evident in the handling of the Bombay riots of January 1993.
Despite indicting 68 individuals as being directly responsible for the demolition and pointing fingers explicitly at the Sangh Parivar and the BJP leadership, the Commission's recommendations are quiet about pressing charges against those individuals and organisations who have escaped arraignment. Nor does it talk about initiating criminal proceedings against the culprits. Instead the report waxes eloquently on the reforms needed in the functioning of the bureaucracy, on regulations for the media and on upholding secularism. The Action Taken Report of the central government also does not suggest the government is thinking of initiating proceedings against those identified as responsible for the demolition. Therefore, despite the painstaking effort in laying out the details of the conspiracy and the failure of the state government of Uttar Pradesh, the recommendations made by the Commission and the responses listed in the Action Taken Report render the entire exercise all the more futile.
Justice Liberhan has detailed how the Sangh Parivar corroded and shamed the secular image of the Indian state and how officials sworn to the Indian Constitution were brazenly complicit in this huge crime that changed Indian politics and public administration for the very worse. Given how every single institution of the Indian state and polity has pussy-footed around the Babri Masjid demolition, there will never be any closure to this shameful event. The BJP may have been electorally vanquished in two Lok Sabha elections but the virus it nurtured in the course of its campaign to destroy the Babri Masjid remains very much in India’s social and political fabric.
Draft of editorial written for the Economic and Political Weekly
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Indian Maoists have been described as the greatest security threat to the nation by the Indian government and although there is a great degree of exaggeration involved in the statement, it is also a fact that the Indian Maoists have reached a position of significance that they did not enjoy just a few years ago.Consequent to these descriptions, the Indian government has suggested through feelers that it contemplates a military solution to the "Maoist problem", one that involves special task paramilitary forces that would take on the Maoist Peoples' Liberation Army to frontal combat. This has also been flanked by statements on addressing the socio-economic situation that has given rise to the "Maoist problem" in the first place. The trouble with the government's view is that its emphasis on a military solution would entail a long drawn out "civil war" against a primarily guerilla outfit which has thus far managed hits and runs and and not graduated into a more stronger "liberation army" howmuchsoever the government wants to "escalate" its threat value. Having said that, there has been a definite spurt in Maoist violence across the country in the past few years, notwithstanding setbacks to the Maoist forces.
The strength of the Indian Maoists has increased especially since the merger of the two large insurrectionist Naxalite organisations, the Peoples' War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre in 2004. Since then, the Maoists first tried out a political compromise when they emerged for talks with the Andhra Pradesh government, which eventually fizzled out as the AP government used the interregnum for talks to consolidate their position and weaken the Maoists. They were then militarily defeated in Andhra Pradesh by the concerted actions of the police force- particularly the "elite" Greyhound commando forces[i], which was far better a security tool that approximated the guerilla strategies of the Maoists' People's Liberation Army than just the police and was eventually able to overcome the Maoists in the state, so much so, that the Maoists' leadership had to take refuge in the "Dandakaranya region" adjoining Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. As recently deceased human rights activist, K. Balagopal pointed out in a telling essay some years ago, the Maoists were defeated not just by the brute force of the state's machinery, but also by their own praxis. By shifting their praxis from grievance and alternative politics driven to military based mobilisation, the Maoists eventually lost much support - a must in a guerilla struggle and were forced to retreat from Andhra Pradesh.Lately, even the mass organisations of the Maoists have been marginalised; some Maoist sympathisers have tried to bandwagon with the new political outfit launched by actor Chiranjeevi[ii], which had promised a pro-poor agenda. But those ambitions have been frustrated with the Praja Rajyam Party's defeat as well as by the entry of opportunist "money bag elements" into the party.
The MCC component, which has been commented to be more anarchic in its activities[iii] than the more "organised" PWG component, meanwhile continued its unabated activities in the Jharkhand state, where they have also indulged in extortion activities used to fund their "war chest". The Maoists meanwhile have targetted newer areas where there is severe discontent to work out their political and military praxis. The Bastar region of Chhattisgarh was one such, where the mining contractor - bureaucrat – politician- industrial nexus was intact and which gave reasons for the Maoists to mobilise tribals against this nexus. In retaliation, the state polity brought about the dangerous Salwa Judum programme, which pits tribal against tribal and created a vigilante force against the Maoists and the tribals who support them. The result was severe displacement of tribals from their villages into relief camps and widespread anarchy with tribals caught in the crossfire between the Salwa Judum and the Maoists. The Bastar region remains volatile, as even social service organisations such as the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram have been caught in this crossfire. The state has targetted any social/ civil society outfit as being Maoist sympathisers using draconian laws such as the Public Security Act, while the Maoist actions such as abductions of local level state government officials or wanton disruption of elections has given fillips to a vengeful state to retaliate. The Maoists on the other hand, have also indulged in wanton murder of village headmen, sarpanches; have bent on militarising the tribals and thrown them in the deep well of the violence among themselves[iv].
For years, the Maoists have been steadily building a political movement in other tribal dominated areas severely hampered by under-development and social backwardness, such as in Gadchiroli in south eastern Maharashtra. The recent spurt in violence in the district is a direct consequence of the state trying to get back its "influence" in the area after systematic neglect for years. The Maoists have also been active for a few years in the Kalahandi region of Orissa, which is another zone of poverty, and commercial exploitation of natural resources. Over the past year or so, the Maoists have been trying to expand their influence into the communally sensitive areas of Orissa, such as in the Kandhamal district. By definite accounts, the Maoists were responsible in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmananda Saraswati murder, which triggered a murderous reaction by the Hindu communalists of the Sangh Parivar against Christian tribals and institutions. Kandhamal is still not off the boil, as the Sangh Parivar has simply used the Maoist actions as a ruse to target Christian tribals.
The Maoists have been unsuccessful in trying to work out their praxis in other regions; Karnataka for example. Here, the entire state unit of Karnataka split from the Maoists detailing their dissidence on the basis of their opposition to the anarchic violence and the "incorrect" understanding of the Indian society and polity by the party[v]. The Karnataka wing has now become a "non-violent" political and left organisation.
The pattern of Maoist involvement in many areas in the country is revealing. The Maoists have tactically descended upon the idea of working their praxis not immediately on an all-India level, but in assorted areas where it is difficult for the organs of the state to defeat them militarily and to build their base areas in these locations[vi]. There is a great degree of social discontent and there is very little development in these areas or what transpires for "development" activity is merely a front for commercial exploitation of tribal/rural habitats. The Maoists then enmesh themselves in these areas through opposition and mobilisation against the state and try to work out their political praxis of working out a base area, consolidating their hold by targetting institutions of the state by violent means. These means include disruption of the formal activity of elections, damaging developmental work such as roads, schools and others set up by the state, killing people identified with political outfits that are seen to be antithetical to the Maoists[vii]. Invariably the state retaliates and the very people whom the Maoists show their concern for, are caught in the crossfire. The Maoists then explain these actions to reveal the "naked face of the state"; while the state invariably takes recourse to draconian laws and actions to justify their security based response against the Maoists.
Maoist actions in West Bengal
That now takes us to West Bengal. Contradictory to many an assertion by the political opposition in the state, the movement against land acquisition in Nandigram was triggered with more than substantive work by the Maoists. The Maoists have themselves acknowledged this in a number of interviews. One such interesting interview of Koteshwar Rao[viii] suggests that the Maoists were also involved in the Keshpur incidents in the early part of this decade, then pitting themselves against the Trinamul led elements. The Maoists have indulged in "hit and run" work from Jharkhand in west Midnapore for sometime now. Yet, importantly, the Maoist (Naxalite to be precise) presence and influence in West Bengal was significantly reduced[ix] - primarily because of the Left government's earlier successes in land reforms and focussed rural development and strengthening of local democracy.
Having said that, studies (EPW Special Issue, February 2009, “Local Government in Rural West Bengal”), have identified trends that explain the fraying away of the rural "gains" made by the left. While panchayati raj has instituted local democracy and shifted the loci of government to the local village panchayat making it the most powerful institution in the rural areas;long and entrenched rule of the left has developed tendencies of corruption or more protractedly clientalism at the local grassroots levels in parts of the state. Systems of patronage based on political allegiances have been effected in many rural areas that has fed in discontent at some levels[x]. The objective conditions in Lalgarh for example, mirror this story as some reports point out. Malini Bhattacharya's article on Lalgarh points out to an objective assessment that tries to understand the reasons for the discontent while putting into perspective, the Maoists' turf war against the CPI(M) in the area.
A key question remains- what is the end that the Maoists are trying to achieve in West Midnapore or even in West Bengal? Are they thinking that they would keep building a liberated base area in the region, knowing fully well that they would invite sovereign action by the state in the form of security measures to protect state institutions - here, Panchayat samitis, zilla parishads, gram sabhas in the area? Why would any state government remain a mute spectator to a virtual take over of its sovereign actions by extra-legal elements? The Maoists think they are justified in doing so, because it flows from their praxis of creating alternate power structures, but given their failure elsewhere to prevent the hold of electoral democracy or democratic instruments on the electorate and the poor, what makes them think that they would be successful in doing so in a state, where the formal instruments of democracy are even more vibrant and entrenched? That annihilation of anyone having different political allegiances is a way out of winning a so called "class war" is inherently a diabolic, anarchic, authoritarian and in every sense a Pol-Potist discourse. And the Maoists in this case are adopting the methods of annihilation and rampant killing to defeat the Left, tacitly supported by the opportunist right wing forces such as the Trinamul and the Congress, who are looking for a ruse to dismiss the Left Front government in the state.
Surely the Maoists are leading the tribals to a violent abyss by these anarchic actions and they do it realising this very well. The Maoists are trying to foment a revolution - there is no doubt about that. They consider that the bourgeois democracy in India is a facade that hides entrenched class interests and class control over levers of power. They consider that it is not just enough to force the state to bring in welfare measures as they are crumbs to the needy which doesn't hide the structural orientation of the comprador-bureaucratic-bourgeoisie ruled state. But in this endeavour, they consider that it is the "parliamentary Left" that is their primary enemy now as is evidenced by their strategy in West Bengal, which has prefaced their tacit understanding with political parties such as the Trinamul Congress.
Setback to the left movement in the entire country
Any simple reading of the electoral system and polity in India would reveal that there is a derived bipolarity between the Congress and the BJP in the electoral system and large consensus on economic policy among the ruling classes. This consensus is evaded only by the left parties at the national level, which has articulated a break from both neoliberalism and greater integration with “imperialism” at the world level, may it be in the form that the left opposed the implementation of neoliberal policy formulations or in the way the entire nuclear deal issue was played out. Even radical parties such as the CPI(ML)-Liberation acknowledge the loss of the left voice in Parliament as a setback despite their reservations about the praxis of the larger left parties[xi]. And even those who believe in social democracy and in upholding Constitutional values have lamented the loss of the left, may it be in articulating a social agenda for the nation as a whole or in articulating an independent voice in foreign policy. But the Maoists, here have considered the left front as their primary enemy and embark upon a similar praxis as is evident in their work in other states (incidentally none of them is Congress ruled).
The Lalgarh incidents and the rampant killings of CPI(M) party workers might put the CPI(M) led Left Front on the back foot in the state of West Bengal. The Left is now in a state of introspection over the defeat in the recent parliamentary elections. The deliberate mobilisations against the left from a varied coalition of forces from the ultra-right (the Sangh parivar's intrusion in Darjeeling) to the right (the Trinamul and Congress Alliance, which is now using violence to quell the left's hold after elections) to the ultra-left (the Maoists) has only pushed the left movement in the country as a whole further into the backfoot. That is because the actions by the Maoists seem to want to push the balance of support toward rightist forces in the state of West Bengal - in other words, the opportunist Trinamul Congress and the distinctly neoliberal Congress. Any leftist would bristle at this culmination despite reservations with the governance and policies of the long running left front government in the state of late.
Lessons to be drawn
The central government repeated harping on the "greatest internal security threat" that the Maoists provide, is certainly hyperbolic. But the insistence on such a rhetoric is primarily driven by the fact that the Maoists have increasingly concentrated in areas, which are rich in natural resources and are coveted by big companies for commercial purposes. Of late, however, the central government has started to make statements about socio-economic development of the regions currently under some influence of the Maoists. Consequently, the Maoists have responded in attacking the developmental agencies and structures of the state in a manner that has brought in greater repression. In many ways, even if the Maoist actions and the state counter-actions (or vice versa) are not the "greatest internal security" problem, the situation is indeed a great tragic livelihood problem in the tribal dominated areas where the Maoists have a significant presence.
The existing crossfire, be it in the form of battles between vigilante tribal forces and the Maoists in Chhattisgarh or the violent turf war launched by the Maoists against ruling party supporters in West Bengal or the tactic of individual "annihilation" of perceived enemies by the Maoists in Orissa has created a great cesspool of violence and counter-violence. The immanent "massive" paramilitary response, without a concomitant administrative impetus on livelihood issues would only widen this cesspool. The Indian state by embarking upon a wholly militant offensive, would further alienate an already traumatised population if it resorts to a full scale offensive against the guerilla army of the Maoists on the lines of what transpired in Sri Lanka against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Having said that, the anarchic use of violence, and the terroristic acts of "annihilation" have drawn such as response, for which the Maoists are completely to blame. In this respect they have much to learn from their Nepali counterparts who have successfully established great bases of support among the Nepali populace through varied tactics of democratic engagement going beyond mere military consolidation. And indeed from the failures of similar anarchic and military oriented Maoist organisations such as the Sendero Luminoso in Peru.
The inability of the Maoists to transform their spark in 1967 into a prairie fire as late as 2009 is indicative of the stupendous failure of the Maoist praxis. And the continuing presence of under-development, poor human development indicators, exploitation and oppression in areas where the Maoists are strong; point toward the failure of formal Indian democracy. There has to be a great substantive basis for Indian democratic institutions objectively and a more wholesome democratic agency that is people-centric to achieve the same. That is the challenge to be addressed by progressive and democratic sections of Indian polity today.
Bannerjee, Sumanta (2006), “Beyond Naxalbari”, Economic and Political Weekly, July 22-28
Bhattacharya, Dwaipayan (2009), “Of Control and Factions: The Changing “Party-society” in West Bengal, Economic and Political Weekly, Febraury 22
Kumar, Arun (2003), Violence and Political Culture - Politics of the Ultra Left in Bihar, Economic and Political Weekly, November 22
Sundar, Nandini (2006), Bastar, Maoism and Salwa Judum, Economic and Political Weekly, July 22-28
[ii] A news report that details the entry of ex-Naxalites and also the popular support to the PRP from Naxal ideologues during the course of the formation of the party is available at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/3000-ex-Maoists-line-up-to-join-Chiranjeevis-party/articleshow/4168356.cms ;.
[iii] See Kumar (2003). Although this article generically focuses on “ultra left” violence, it specifically mentions the MCC component's tryst with criminalism.
[iv] A very telling study of the Maoists and the situation in Bastar, Chhattisgarh is presented in Sundar (2006).
[v] http://rcpkarnataka.blogspot.com/2008/02/study-document-1-25-years-experience.html explains the reasons for the breakaway of the Karnataka unit from the Maoists in great detail
[vi] See Bannerjee (2006). Bannerjee suggests that the Indian Maoists have adopted this from the understanding of the MCC component.
[vii] In this the Indian Maoists are very different from their Nepali counterparts (who have entered the democratic mainstream now), who even during the days of their “Peoples' War”, were insistent on ensuring that their praxis did not become “red terror”. This is evident in the call given by the Nepali Maoists' chairman, Prachanda to his comrades, that “a certain mininum legal method is adhered to” and that, “it should be strictly expressed in both our policy and practice that red terror does not mean anarchy” (Bannerjee 2006)
[viii] Check interview of Maoist leader Koteswar Rao here : http://www.livemint.com/2009/05/29001232/Mainstream-politics-not-for-us.html
[ix] This is acknowledged even by sympathetic commentators of the Naxalbari movement such as Sumanta Bannerjee (2006)
[x] Bhattacharya (2009) illustrates this with a study of two villages in West Bengal.
[xi] ML Update editorial titled, “Verdict 2009” – Lessons for the Left available at http://www.cpiml.org/pgs/ml_upd/VOL12/12_21.html#1
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Another short comment on the ongoing happenings in Nepal.
Prolonging the farce that the current regime in Nepal is; prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal (who lost two Constituent Assembly constituencies, no less and was nominated to the CA) recently elevated foreign minister and Nepali Congress leader, Sujata Koirala to the post of deputy prime minister - the second person to occupy the post besides Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) leader Bijay Gacchadar. Koirala's only claim for her current status was the fact that she was being propped up to the post by senior NC leader and father Girija Prasad Koirala. Sujatha Koirala also managed to emulate and even worsen her superior Madhav Nepal's (of the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist Leninist - UML) performance in the CA elections by losing the elections in her own constituency (Koirala finished a poor third behind MJF and UML candidates in the CA constituency of Sunsari, while Madhav Nepal finished second in both Kathmandu-2 and Rautahat losing to UCPN(Maoist) candidates).
With this dubious elevation, Madhav Nepal has added further disgrace to an already sketchy arrangement - which clearly suggests a reactionary gang up against the legitimate winners of the CA elections - the Nepali Maoists. The elevation was done despite vehement disapproval from Koirala's own partymen - the NC leader senior leadership. Monarchy is said to have been abolished in Nepal, but non-representative dynastic politics is still quite a presence as Koirala's elevation points out. The elevation also means that the reactionary take-over of power in Nepal is now formally complete - Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav (who was never a republican and got his post due to his loyalty towards GP Koirala and also because of NC-MJF machinations), CA losers Madhav Nepal and Sujata Koirala, and a symbol of "corruption and opportunism"- deputy PM Bijay Gachchedar, in key posts of power.
The breaking down of the erstwhile "Constitutional Monarchy" system and the entry of the Maoists within the democratic fray (out of the peoples' war) meant a reorientation of the popular class based support to the various political parties in the country. The support to the monarchy and other anti-democratic sections has obviously accrued to the Nepali Congress (to the detriment of such parties as the Rashtriya Prajantra Party and its offshoots), while also shifting toward the Madhesi parties to some extent (owed to the deterrent value offered by the MJF toward the Maoist plan of structural economic changes in the Terai). This is reminiscent of the shift of royalist and princely sections gradually toward the Congress following independence in India (as well as toward the Jan Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party). The reactionary actions by the Nepali Congress over the period of time following the CA elections pretty much conform to the patterns of change of support base.
Opportunistic moves such as Sujata Koirala's elevation, in the near parliamentary past had discredited the UML leadership of Madhav Nepal and that apparently resulted in his shock defeat (as well as his party's poor third position in the CA polls). Surely these maneuvers in Nepal with a reactionary bloc seizing power were not what the people intended when they voted in the CA polls for change. There has to be a greater mass mobilisation by progressive forces in Nepal to pressurise CA members to end this farce that has been set up in the name of government.
Cross posted at www.pragoti.org
Friday, October 09, 2009
Why the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama is a farcical decision.
In a farcical decision, the Nobel Committee (consisting of Norwegian legislators) awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 to US president Barack Obama. The reason offered was that Barack Obama's message of "change" and emphasis on various international issues - multilateralism, climate change, diplomacy and non-profileration were in conformity with the Nobel awarding committee's views. That only the message and the appeal of Obama have been considered for the Peace Prize and not the substantive actions (which have consistently belied and defied both Obama's message and his supporters' hope), is what fills one full of angst at the decision.
Consider this - Alfred Nobel, the institutioner of the prize said this in his bequeathing will, the Nobel Peace Prize shall "go the person who shall have done the most or the best work forfraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Barack Obama has surely done nothing in that regard ever since he has got to power. Despite promising an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, he has only ordered a timed withdrawal stretching to 2010 and which includes the proposal of keeping a "reserve force" permanently stationed in the colonised country. He has also shifted and armed forces to Afghanistan dramatically escalating the conflict and inflicting more civilian casualties in his tenure in the country than even what the arch-imperialist George W. Bush allowed under his last year of rule.
His piecemeal gestures toward peace and fraternity have been exactly that - piecemeal. Despite a well regarded speech directed to the "Muslim world", the Obama administration's policies in west Asia are cut from the same imperialist mould of the previous administrations. Barack Obama was deafeningly silent as the President-nominee when Israel pounded Gaza brazenly killing thousands of Palestinians defying every rule in the international book. Apparently the Nobel committee made a nomination cut off date for February 1 (merely a fortnight after Obama assumed power as the president). Obama's silence during the Israeli carnage on Gaza should have been factored into the nomination calls atleast, but surely that was not to be.
Obama later called for halts to fresh settlements by the Israelis in the Gaza strip, only for the Israeli prime minister to ignore the call and proceed with the same, without a stout response by the US president beyond stated positions. He has made pithy remarks about loosening of the blockade by the Israelis on Gaza, but has stopped short of condemning Israeli action or make it responsive to international censure, especially after South African jurist Robert Goldstone submitted an incriminating report against Israel to the United National Human Rights Council, calling for further investigations and possible International Criminal Court proceedings against the country. In other words, Obama has stayed true to the calling card of his presidency - continue rhetoric of change/action, but do nothing palpably actionable about it.
Obama even went one step ahead of the Bush administration by establishing new military bases in Colombia to rake up a geopolitical conflict in the Latin American region which is seeing an unprecedented anti-imperialist democratic sweep in positions of power. He did articulate a different response to the expected Bush one, during the Honduran military coup, when he joined other Latin American leaders in condemning it and recognising ousted president Jose Manuel Zelaya as the genuine ruler of the country. But when it came to actionable work on putting pressure against the Honduran coup leaders to drop out of power, the Obama administration pursued his trademark dilly-dallying approach; it refused to term the Honduran coup a "military one" (what else could it be, when an incumbent president is frisked in his pajamas at gunpoint and taken out of the country?). The Obama administration did effect a piecemeal cut in aid to the Honduran government, but also tried to broker a settlement that provided amnesty and continuation in legislature for some of the coup's chief protagonists. Is this what the Nobel Peace Committee expected out of its winner when it awarded him the prize?
Obama's much touted first executive decision was to order a closure of the illegal detention centres perpetrating torture and human right violations in Guantanamo Bay (occupied by the US in Cuba on a dubious lease). But a few months later, it was known that vicious human rights violations and illegal detentions persisted in the centres and because Congress defied an early closure, the centres would remain till early 2010 (without specifying when they will be closed definitely). Yet another case of dilly-dallying by the president who promised decisive hope and was elected by a surge of people expecting the same after years of neoconservative rule that devastated the American economy, triggered a global financial crisis and recession and organised invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama's saving grace has been his genuine rhetoric on actions regarding climate change. Both domestically, where he has attempted to give a boost to renewable and environmental friendly technologies (coupling them with new "green" jobs) and internationally, where he has acknowledged the difficulties in an global response to climate change - Obama's actions have been sincere. But this saving grace does not take away from the many vices that have persisted in his administration's actions and that have threatened to keep the world in a permanent state of danger. And we are not even getting into some of the dubious domestic policy decisions made by the Obama adminstration.
The Nobel Peace Committee's other reasoning is that it wants to encourage Obama to actionise his rhetoric and that this award would help in the same. This writer's guess is that the reasoning is misplaced, for the award would only add to the Obama mystique that thrives high on rhetoric and less on actions. Obama would enthrall the world with another reverberating speech if he accepts the Prize and arrives in Oslo to receive the same in December and thats all there will be to it.
Crossposted from www.pragoti.org