(This article is based on author\\\’s interaction with David Barsamian during his lecture at India International Centre-Annexe, Delhi on 04.12.08 on ‘The New American President’)
This is how David Barsamian describes American Empire. In his speeches not only he questions American militaristic foreign policy but also opens an attack on those fellow Americans who have made these policies, causing havoc on millions and millions of people world wide, generating strong discontent among third world countries and while doing so he does not give concessions to anydescription be it Bush or moderate Wudro Wilson. He goes all around the world including States making strong advocacy for dismantling of American Empire.
Barsamian is a philosopher-traveler and wherever he goes, he becomes one of the people, picking up local languages and habits. One can easily mistake him as an Afghani when he speaks in Urdu or a Punjabi when he speaks in fluent Hindi with a heavy thundering voice. Back home in USA, he runs Alternative Radio, which telecasts programmes through approximately 1000 radio stations and brings various such perspectives to the notice of people which are generally ignored in mainstream political and cultural discourses.
When Barak Obama the President elect of States says that he will shut down Guantanamo Bay, Barsamian takes on him saying, “ NO! It is not enough. Now it is time to talk about returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuba from which it was taken away, prosecute those who perpetrated crimes in Guantanamo Bay and close hundred of American bases scattered world wide, most of them concentrated in Asia pacific.”
When people talk about Obama and that he is some kind of “New Messiah”, he simply puts a straight forward question, “ Is Obama going to dismantle American Empire or he is going to advocate American Empire afresh?” Barsamian has no doubt about limitations which Obama has, as has been the case with every American President given to a phenomena called “Military Industrial complex”, still he wants a chance to be given to Obama, because there is no alternative at the moment.
Responding to a question about “What American left is doing?”, he firstly describes at ease that given to the bi-party system in States, there are not many options available for left in USA and then says that it is because of American left that Obama has come in power but he is definitely worried about Obama trying to go right in order to come in center. It is general knowledge that American left does not have much influence and power to keep Obama accountable to his left leaning voters and also the belief that Obama is in power because of left, does not make any sense given to the fact that he has been voted immensely by non-left voters, not to mention that left voters had no option except him. People like Barsamian should be worried about future of Left in States or may be left should consider taking a more radical stand on bringing multi party system in States so that at least American Left could have some space in American polity.
In one of his recent speeches in India, where there is a euphoria going on about Obama, he gave an example of John F. Kennedy. He said that he remembered that the way Obama is being talked about, the same way Kennedy was talked about in a big way. But within few months of Kennedy coming to power, America invaded Cuba and bombed Laos. Talking about what kind of changes, Obama can bring, he is not very optimistic and says that maximum Obama will bring a change in the style of doing the same things because he said that he will do things better. Previous regime, which he describes as one of the worst criminal regimes of present world, was crude, direct and very arrogant. May be Obama will continue doing same things with lots of sophistication and style, because he never stopped talking about “America leading the world” and more over he is eloquent, stylish, smart and has already been branded as “the New American Messiah”. Barsamian says that there is every possibility of Obama turning out to be “the Old wine in the new bottle”.
Barsamian’s reaction to Obama is symbolic to the frustration of American left, which does not see any tangible and genuine departure from Bush in Obama. On being questioned on American Left, he helplessly reacts and tries to defend American left by way of describing how left has been able to mobilize American opinion on crucial issues of climatic changes, water crisis, ban on cluster bombs and other similar non-controversial subjects related to environment, peace and earth. There can hardly be any opposition to such issues. The point is what and how left can bring “Change” in American Policies which have not only been suicidal for America but also have caused havoc on millions of people, especially in third word countries and countries in Asia-pacific region.
Saying that a person can be judged from the company he keeps, he poses serious doubts on Obama when he starts telling the record of Hilary Clinton, who has been taken in by Obama in his advisory. He starts counting the sins of Hilary like her supporting war on Iraq and Afghanistan, her vote against ban on cluster bombs, her introducing a proposal referring Gaza as “Disputed Territory”, which is apart from Hilary’s general reputation of being a militaristic and American Imperialist.
Barsamian’s criticism of American policies comes from his love for his country as he says; “ I would like to see America as a tool of international justice, not of domination.” Taking on those Americans who don’t like to attend any criticism of American policies, he says with compassion that what is happening now is that Americans are suspending their critical thinking in a hope that may be they will see a better America.
Attending the symbolic importance of having Obama as America’s first African-American President and demolishing the racial barrier in a big way, Barasamian says that demolition of racial barrier in USA is definitely not attributable to Obama’s coming in Power. American society has already demolished racial barrier, which used to exist once. And also portrayal of Obama as a representative of Black Americans, he makes it clear that “White and Black” are not colors. “White”, in the language of politics, represents an attitude, mindset and a certain worldview and that is in this sense he refuses to admit that Obama is a black. The way many Americans pronounce the name of many countries is of political importance as it shows their attitude. Saying “Iran” as “I ran” and “Pakistan” as “Pekhisthan” etc. are just few instances of white arrogance. Clearing the confusion about middle name of Obama which is “Hussein”, he informs the people that Obama is the man who never bothered to visit a single Muslim religious place during his campaign and even during one of his campaign, few hizab wearing Muslim ladies were removed from the venue.
Coming back to the question of America’s War on Terror, Barsamian reminds his audience that Ronald Regon referred “Afghan Mujahideens” as “Freedom fighters” and the children of those very “Freedom fighters” are now Talibans. He further says that each American attack creates thousands of Jihadis.
Barsamian’s lectures make people amused as he uses a lot of humor but simply brushing him off is impossible. Barsamian is a genuine and honest American voice, a voice, which is dim, and not being heard but it has to be heard, if Americans\\\’ want to have self-respect.