Revolving Doors: May In, Obama, Ki-Moon Exit, By Owei Lakemfa

Understandably, Obama was full of praise for his country and the world system it has helped to build; a system based on human exploitation in which the rich get richer, and the poor, poorer. He was however, not unmindful of this as he declared that “A world in which one percent of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99 percent will never be stable.”

The United Nations (UN) was established as a permanent body. Indeed, it has “permanent members.” In reality, it is a revolving door that leads to a talk shop with mainly declarations and very little action. Nothing better typifies what the body has been reduced to than the transformation of its leader, the Secretary General, into the Lamentator-in-Chief.

At the UN 71st Session this week, in which he gave his last address to the General Assembly, UN Scribe Ban Ki-Moon’s main lamentation was the destruction of the Syrian aid convoy to Aleppo in which at least 18 of 31 trucks were destroyed and some two dozens killed. He cried that it was a “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack… Just when you think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower.”

Meanwhile, the two powers backing the government and rebel forces in the Syrian war, Russia and the United States (US), were trading blames on which side carried out the attack.

It was President Barack Obama’s last address to the General Assembly as the US leader, and his real personality as a man with empathy, leading a country that exhibits little conscience, was evident. His contrasted sharply with the maiden address to the body by new British Prime Minister, Theresa May whose personality blended perfectly with her country’s knack for double speak; claiming a universality but with solutions that favour Britain, not humanity.

Understandably, Obama was full of praise for his country and the world system it has helped to build; a system based on human exploitation in which the rich get richer, and the poor, poorer. He was however, not unmindful of this as he declared that “A world in which one percent of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99 percent will never be stable.”

He mentioned the world getting out of the financial crisis without acknowledging that the policies he champions gave birth to it. He spoke about tackling terrorism but not acknowledging the role played by the US in the establishment of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan that gave birth to Al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State (ISIS). He talked about the restoration of US-Cuban diplomatic relations which is one of the greatest achievements of his presidency, the struggle for peace in Colombia and elections in Myanmar. He spoke about making the World Bank and International Monetary Fund ‘more representative”, when these institutions are owned by the US and Europe as tools of economic colonisation.

When Obama spoke about the resolution of the Iranian ‘nuclear crisis”, he was quite practical and honest in his solution to the nuclear challenge when he declared: “We cannot escape the prospect of nuclear war unless we all commit to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and pursuing a world without them.” Indeed, how do the big countries like US, Russia and Britain stockpile nuclear weapons and hope to discourage smaller countries from developing nuclear capability?

In propounding these sectarian principles, she did not comprehend Obama’s words of wisdom at the Assembly that, “The world is too small, we are too packed together, for us to be able to resort to those old ways of thinking… And the world is too small for us to simply be able to build a wall and prevent it from affecting our own societies.”

He had more truths to tell the world such as that for economic progress, “It does not require succumbing to a soulless capitalism that benefits only the few, but rather recognises that economies are more successful when we close the gap between rich and poor, and growth is broadly based.” To him: “Human beings are too often motivated by greed and by power. Big countries for most of history have pushed smaller ones around.”

He knows inequality and hunger is at the root of world insecurity and that a new world is possible: “Human ingenuity now gives us the capacity to feed the hungry…” Those who tout the supremacy of ‘market forces’ need to listen to Obama’s declaration that, “Mercantilist policies pursued by governments with export-driven models threaten to undermine the consensus that underpins global trade.” On globalisation, he warned that “those trumpeting the benefits of globalisation have ignored inequality within and among nations.” His position on the religion of trade liberalisation is: “We need new models for the global marketplace, models that are inclusive and sustainable.”

America has a huge war industry and a voracious appetite for war; an American President campaigning against war and for disarmament might be on a suicidal mission. That precisely is what Obama chose to do in his address. First, he criticises his country and its allies in the Iraqi invasion “For the small fraction of what we spent at war in Iraq we could support institutions so that fragile states don’t collapse in the first place, and invest in emerging economies that become markets for our goods. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

On wars in regions like the Middle East, Obama argues that humanity has “to insist that all parties recognise a common humanity and that nations end proxy wars that fuel disorder.”

He accepts Western democracy but acknowledges its shortcoming: “Yes, in America, there is too much money in politics; too much entrenched partisanship; too little participation by citizens…” He also expresses empathy with refugees; “our world will be more secure if we are prepared to help those in need…”

However, that is not the spirit of British Prime Minister, Mrs. May who after the rhetoric of Britain being committed to universal values and humanitarian aid, propounds what I will call ‘May’s Three Fundamental Principles on Refugees.’ She says, “First, we must help ensure that refugees claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.” What she is saying is that since refugees first escape to neigbouring countries, that is where they should stay, and not come to Europe. So Syrians should stay in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq or Lebanon.

Then she says “Second, we need to improve the ways we distinguish between refugees fleeing persecution and economic migrants.” In other words, the world should discriminate amongst refugees. Given her logic, the Palestinian refugee fleeing economic strangulation should not have the same rights as a Syrian feeing war. Then she says “all countries have the right to control their borders – and that we must all commit to accepting the return of our own nationals when they have no right to remain elsewhere.” Again, it is a selfish, if not racist, proposal to ensure that refugees do not get to Britain or Europe, and that if they do, they can be thrown back into their countries of origin.

In propounding these sectarian principles, she did not comprehend Obama’s words of wisdom at the Assembly that, “The world is too small, we are too packed together, for us to be able to resort to those old ways of thinking… And the world is too small for us to simply be able to build a wall and prevent it from affecting our own societies.”

Owei Lakemfa, former Secretary General of African Workers is a Human Rights activist, journalist and author.

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