In just a couple weeks, we will either have a President John Kerry or the re-election of President George W. Bush. Massive voter registration drives are taking place among Arab-Americans because many want to vote President Bush out. I understand the feelings of anger and profound betrayal given the rhetoric of President Bush back in 2000 about the unacceptability of secret evidence. But the reality is that a Kerry victory is not necessarily good for Arab-Americans either. It’s the same vision and substance, just a different style. And a more intelligent and diplomatic style capable of winning allies for essentially the same foreign policy vision as Bush and his administration can be lethal.
Foreign policy – an issue that has always been important for Arab-Americans given that many Arabs immigrated to escape war and conflict — has taken unprecedented importance for many Americans, Clearly, the economy, healthcare, and education are important. But if you listen to many Americans, foreign policy is the bottom line — the world apparently feels like it’s coming to an end in the decisive battle of ‘good versus evil,’ also known as the prophetic battle of Armageddon. The Armageddonites exist on both sides of the political aisle, by the way. Either people believe that Islam is taking over the world and threatening our way of life, or people worry that our unilateral approach to world problems will result in the loss of allies and we’ll be destined to walk the earth alone.
The truth is: Armageddon is what recipients of our foreign policy have experienced. Sure, many Americans are likely to be upset if the opposing candidate wins but nobody here is going to die as a result. If our foreign policy does not change in the long-term, however, people overseas will continue to be held as pawns by a superpower that finds them dispensable, and those people are OUR people in the Middle East.
It remains unclear as to why people think Kerry would be better. When President Bush and Senator Kerry were debating on September 30th, it was never clearer that this election is about the War Party versus the War Party That Thinks It Can Do Better.
In fact, Kerry talked a lot about how the war in Iraq would have been conducted better if he were Commander-in-Chief. How better? Well, allies would have shared the burden of casualties and costs. He has called it the ‘wrong war at the wrong time.’ He has never said that the war was wrong, period. The reality is that he voted to give authority to President Bush to use force and was even quoted as saying that had he known everything! then that he knows today, he would have still voted to give authorization to the president to invade Iraq because it was ‘the right authority for the president to have.’
Still, wouldn’t the multi-lateral approach of Kerry be preferable to the unilateral approach of Bush? It depends on how genuine the ‘multi-lateral’ approach is. For example, it has been widely reported that Dennis Ross, the chief Middle East peace negotiator of the infamous 2000 Camp David Summit, would return in a Kerry Administration. Indeed, we all would like to see a greater emphasis on peace in the Middle East but peace comes between equals not between the Occupier and the Occupied. Ehud Barak’s so-called generous offer at Camp David would have allowed for a Palestinian entity looking like Swiss cheese and the preservation of 80% of Israeli settlements. When the Palestinians refused this bad deal, they were demonized by Ross in his book, ‘The Missing Peace.’ This is the sort of treatment that people who look out for their best interests have to look forward to.
What it comes down to is this: Bush is a wolf in wolves’ clothing. Kerry is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The wolf undisguised cannot fool anyone and can’t win friends. The wolf disguised? He can win friends and be very dangerous. In actuality, nobody has brought more clarity to the disingenuous aims of US foreign policy than Bush. This transparency has unified the world into opposing our policies in a way never before imagined.
Continuing with the Middle East conflict, consider the following Kerry statement made at the first presidential debate:
‘I’m going to get it right for those soldiers because it’s important to Israel, it’s important to America, it’s important to the world.’ He actually mentioned Israel before the US of A. Senator, how about getting it right because it’s important to the families of the troops and America? Shouldn’t they be mentioned first?
No specific question was raised at the Debate about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and that actually saved time given the few differences. Both candidates have stressed Israel’s ‘democracy’ and its deep friendship with the United States. Neither opposes Israel’s wall in the West Bank that has drawn international condemnation (although Kerry initially did). Both have denounced Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (although Kerry once called him a statesman). Bush has said, ‘The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state.’ Kerry has said, ‘The people of Israel should also know that, as president, my commitment to a safe and secure Jewish state will be unwavering.’ In terms of Kerry’s senate record, he has been solidly pro-Israel.
And while Kerry blames the Bush Administration for alienating Islamic countries and not reaching out to them, what does he think his pro-Israel stances and ignoring the plight of suffering Palestinians do?
In a nutshell, if Bush is Ariel Sharon’s Siamese twin, Kerry is Sharon’s Siamese triplet.
Believe me, there are no illusions about Bush despite how proudly he keeps touting that he is the first American president to support the establishment of a Palestinian state. Since Bush took office, he’s been following a playbook that could have been written by Sharon himself. A green light has been given to Israel to kill ‘in the name of self-defense;’ as well as build more settlements; confiscate more land; bulldoze thousands of homes; and destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian institutions and society. For all of the Bush rhetoric about freedom in the Middle East, freedom is not relevant for Palestinians unless Israel ‘approves’ it.
Still, despite Bush’s dreadful flaws, he may still be a slight improvement. A senior policy analyst at a Middle East think tank in DC, said on condition of anonymity, ‘Once Kerry discovered his Jewish ancestry and decided that Israel has every right to ‘defend’ itself against ‘terrorists’, he was a staunch Sharon and AIPAC supporter.
‘Trust me, he will be far worse for the Palestinians than Bush,’ the analyst continued. ‘It pains me to say that, but given what I hear on Washington DC’s circuits, the majority of Arab officials want Bush to remain in power because he leaves his hands off the process pretty much. They know what Kerry will do.’
Assuming you don’t care about the issue of Palestine and Israel – the heart of the Middle East conflict, the following domestic issues probably concern you: Racial profiling, the detention and deportation of an unknown number of young men from Arab countries, some for fairly minor immigration violations. The Patriot Act has given the federal government a blanket check to violate the civil liberties of all Americans, and particularly Arab-Americans. But wait . . . Kerry voted for that, too.
I guess I just don’t understand why so many Arab-Americans are planning to vote for the Kerry/Edwards ticket. In fact, I have never seen such unconditional support for a presidential ticket that has promised so little to nothing in return. In an election year where every vote matters, Kerry is getting a free ride from the Arab-American majority despite promises that he will continue the same pro-Sharon direction of Bush.
The goal should be to keep the eye on the ball. That ball has been to change US foreign policy which has impacted every single one of us here and our families abroad. Another four years of Bush and his knack for alienating allies will force the decision makers in Washington to amend an abysmal foreign policy. A Kerry victory would only prolong the foreign policy pains because he could win friends to support the unfairness.
How is that good for the Arab-American community?