Eight days after the Boston explosions, President Obama exploded another missile on a Yemeni village. Farea Al-Muslimi, a former inhabitant of that village, has lately testified both in Congress and in news interviews about the difficulty of explaining America’s intentions to people who have suffered what his village has suffered:
“My mind was racing and my heart was torn. I was torn between the great country that I know and love and the drone above my head that could not differentiate between me and some AQAP militant. It was one of the most divisive and difficult feelings I have ever encountered. That feeling, multiplied by the highest number mathematicians have, gripped me when my village was droned just days ago. It is the worst feeling I have ever had. I was devastated for days because I knew that the bombing in my village by the United States would empower militants.”
Those are the feelings of a Muslim who has experienced to the full, and by living in America, the kindness and generosity this country has to offer. Al-Muslimi finds it impossible to reconcile what the country at its best looks like from inside, to one of the lucky, and what it looks like from outside to one of the thousands of the innocent who have seen their families and neighbors killed or maimed by American weapons. All this is done in the cause of the War on Terror which President Obama, with his love of euphemism, prefers not even to mention by name. But you must name it if you want to get your countrymen to realize that this policy has subverted the Constitution and soiled the reputation of the United States.
…Obama gives the impression that he does not intend the evil he performs, but powerful others want it so pressingly that he cannot bear to say no. He recognizes what this means, from the point of view of right and wrong, but he thinks that his having not intended it, a preference sometimes telegraphed by a public demur, absolves him of responsibility. It is a perversion and a defection of the will. And it fits with his being a winner — someone who likes very much to win, far beyond knowing why he wants it so much — and also being a quitter. …
As this president has lengthened the shadow of American power in Arab lands and made it hard for someone like Farea Al-Muslimi to persuade his countrymen that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, he has made serial visits to comfort Americans mourning the dead after the mass murders in Tucson, in Aurora, in Newtown, and in Boston. None of these speeches has carried a hint of the perception that there could be a link between American violence at home and abroad. The role of this president — a president of safety and protection rather than a president of liberty and the rule of law — is dismaying in itself. But there is something actively morbid in the dramatic assumption of grief counseling as his major public function, even as he continues in secret his wars against people about whom he will not speak to Americans except in platitude.
The United States in the past decade has now killed, at a low estimate, 225,000 people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. How, in the face of those figures, could one argue against a Muslim who once admired the United States but has been convinced, by the actions of the country under Bush and Obama, that we are bent on his destruction? One would be driven to request an act of faith: “We are good. Please believe that we are good.” That is what Bush said, and it is what Obama says. But it will take more than occasional words to shift the direction of the policy of perpetual war; and words that are given the lie by actions are worse than no words.