We Are All Palestinians
The Assassination of bin Laden: Its Use and Abuse
Thursday, May 05, 2011 11:53 PM
By James Petras
The assassination of bin Laden has been celebrated as a great strategic victory by the White House, the European capitals and all the major mass media outlets throughout the world. The killing has served as a major propaganda tool to enhance the standing of the US military in the eyes of the domestic public and to serve as a warning to overseas adversaries.
Contrary to this immense propaganda campaign and despite whatever symbolic value the killing may have in the eyes of his executioners, there is no evidence that the death will have any impact on the deteriorating military and political position of the US in South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa or elsewhere.
Bin Laden and Al Qaeda
Even in terms of weakening, let along defeating Al Qaeda, the killing will have minimal effect. Al Qaeda is a highly decentralized organization, a loose collection of groups distributed throughout the conflict zones, each with its own leaders, programs, tactics and strategies. Al Qaeda is not a centralized international organization dependent on a ‘central command’ directed by a single person: bin Laden was an ideological symbol more than an operative leader directing operations. His death will merely lead to a new leader and will have zero impact on the rest of the loosely associated global network of groups which call themselves Al Qaeda. Hence, whatever actions and activities taken in the past will continue into the future.
Bin Laden and the Afghan Resistance
The killing of bin Laden will have the most minimum impact in Afghanistan, for the obvious reason that the major forces carrying out the armed resistance are the Taliban and various other independent nationalist movements. The Taliban is totally independent of Al Qaeda in its origins, structure, leadership, tactics, strategy and social composition. Moreover, the Taliban is a mass organization with roots and sympathizers throughout the country. It has tens of thousands of trained Afghans fighters; it has deeply penetrated the Afghani government and military and has recently announced (May 1, 2011) a major ‘spring offensive’. The Taliban is overwhelmingly ‘national’ in it composition, leadership and ideology; while Al Qaeda is ‘international’ (Arab) in its membership and leadership. The Taliban may have tolerated or even in certain circumstances tactically collaborated with Al Qaeda, but at no point is there any evidence that they took orders from bin Laden. The overwhelming majority of US and NATO casualties in Afghanistan were inflicted by the Taliban. The major bases of operation and support in Pakistan are linked to the Taliban. In summary the killing of Osama bin Laden will have zero impact on the correlation of forces in Afghanistan; it will have zero impact on the capacity of the Taliban to carry-out its prolonged war against the US occupation and inflict dozens of casualties each week.
Bin Laden and the Mass Arab Revolts
From Tunisia to the Gulf States, mass popular revolts have either overthrown US collaborator regimes or are on the verge of doing so. Al Qaeda had played a minor role, except perhaps among the Libyan “rebels”. In Egypt and Tunisia, the mass movements embracing a wide gamut of secular students, trade unions and civic groups and moderate Islamic movements have dominated the uprisings. Al Qaeda is a marginal factor and bin Laden is a very marginal figure, where he is not openly rejected. The killing of bin Laden will not have any impact on the rising anti-imperialist sentiments which inform these mass movements. Some commentators even suggest that the killing will weaken White House propaganda efforts to justify US military operations under the pretext of “anti-terrorist” activities.
Bin Laden and Iraq/Iran
The major opposition to the US in Iraq is the Shia majority, minority Sunnis and ex-Bathists. Al Qaeda’s terrorist actions have played a minor role and do not resonate with the mass of Iraqis demanding a US withdrawal. The major religious based mass anti-occupation movements have their own leaders and militias and community bases; none accept Al Qaeda leadership or even collaboration. The US withdrawal is a response to mass pressure from below, it is not a result of civilian deaths from the occasional Al Qaeda “suicide bombers”. Clearly the retreat of the US from Iraq will not be affected by the killing of bin Laden; nor will the transition be affected by his local followers.
Bin Laden and Iran
The Iranian Islamic regime was a mortal enemy of Al Qaeda, jailing suspects and early in the Afghan war (2001-2003) collaborating with the US in its pursuit of its followers. Both the political opposition, secular and religious, were hostile to Al Qaeda. As a result, bin Laden had very little organized influence, even as he may have had a mass appeal as a symbol of armed resistance to the US: “The enemy of our enemy is our friend”. The killing of bin Laden will not have any impact on Iran which has its own icon “Khomeini”; its own brand of Islamic nationalism and is much more engaged in supporting Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. The US will not gain the least advantage in its efforts to undermine or destroy its Iranian adversaries.
The Significance of the bin Laden Assassination
Clearly the killing of bin Laden has absolutely no strategic or tactical importance in the major theaters of war and political revolt in the Arab world.
The major significance of the killing is in the context of the strategic military and political defeats suffered by the US, especially most recently in Afghanistan. On April 27, 2011, nine senior US military officers were assassinated by a “trusted” Afghan fighter pilot in the high security Kabul airport. Four majors, two captains and two lieutenant colonials were killed in the single biggest killing of high US military officials in the 20th and 21st century wars. Several facts mark this out as a strategically important event. It took place in a high security installation, suggesting that no place in Afghanistan is safe from deadly armed attacks by the Taliban or the armed resistance. Secondly, all US military, no matter how high their rank, are vulnerable to deadly attack. Thirdly, no US trained Afghan military official or soldier can be considered “loyal” – even those most closely in collaboration can and will turn their guns on their “mentors”.
If the US cannot protect its senior officers in its highest security compounds, how can it claim to have “secured” any of the territory outside – namely the cities, towns and villages? Two weeks earlier, with the collaboration of jail officials, almost 500 jailed Taliban fighters and leaders escaped via a 300 meter tunnel to a dozen waiting trucks. Only two years earlier 900 prisoners also escaped. In its aftermath the US insisted on the appointment of “highly screened” loyalist collaborators as heads and directors of security and prisons, to no avail.
The overwhelming evidence shows that the US war effort is failing to create an effective puppet regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban is slowly but surely eroding US influence. In the face of major strategic losses, as evident in the astonishing assassination of top military officials, Obama had to mount a political spectacle – a “military success story” – the killing of unarmed bin Laden, to buoy the spirits of the American public, military and its NATO followers. Every popular uprising against US puppets in North Africa and the Middle East is a political defeat; the enduring regime in Iran is a defeat for the US - Israel bellicose efforts for regime change; even Gadhaffi‘s resistance is a defeat for the believers in instant victories. So Obama and his mass media acolytes have to mega magnify the killing of an isolated, political leader of a loose association of marginal terrorists as a world shattering, game turning event. When in fact, the losses and defeats accumulate every day before, during and after the assassination.
The Taliban didn’t even blink – their ‘spring offensive’ marches on; US military officials are wary of any encounters with any ‘loyal’ Afghan collaborators. Egypt rejects US-Israeli politics toward the unity of Palestinians; the revolts in the Gulf continue. The only stalemate – not victory – that Washington can celebrate – including the killing of Gadhaffi’s grandchildren – is in Libya where, allied with Al Qaeda, in Benghazi, the war continues.
- James Petras’ most recent book is “The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack”. (Clear Day Books – A subsidiary of Clarity Books: Atlanta, GA). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Egypt and Israel Headed for Crisis
Thursday, May 05, 2011 10:35 PM
By Jonathan Cook – Nazareth
Israeli officials have expressed alarm at a succession of moves by the interim Egyptian government that they fear signal an impending crisis in relations with Cairo.
The widening rift was underscored yesterday when leaders of the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation pact in the Egyptian capital. Egypt's secret role in brokering the agreement last week caught both Israel and the United States by surprise.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal "a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism".
Several other developments have added to Israeli concerns about its relations with Egypt, including signs that Cairo hopes to renew ties with Iran and renegotiate a long-standing contract to supply Israel with natural gas.
More worrying still to Israeli officials are reported plans by Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, closed for the past four years as part of a Western-backed blockade of the enclave designed to weaken Hamas, the ruling Islamist group there.
Egypt is working out details to permanently open the border, an Egyptian foreign ministry official told the Reuters news agency on Sunday. The blockade would effectively come to an end as a result.
The same day Egypt's foreign minister, Nabil Elaraby, called on the United States to recognise a Palestinian state -- in reference to a move expected in September by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.
Israel and the US have insisted that the Palestinians can achieve statehood only through negotiations with Israel. Talks have been moribund since Israel refused last September to renew a partial freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
According to analysts, the interim Egyptian government, under popular pressure, is consciously distancing itself from some of the main policies towards Israel and the Palestinians pursued by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president overthrown by a popular uprising in February.
Mubarak was largely supportive of Israel and Washington's blockade policy to contain Hamas' influence. Egypt receives more than $1.3 billion annually in US aid, second only to Israel.
But the popular mood in Egypt appears to be turning against close diplomatic ties with Israel.
A poll published last week by the Pew Research Centre showed that 54 per cent of Egyptians backed the annulment of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, with only 36 per cent wanting it maintained.
Israel's Yedioth Aharonoth daily reported this week that Egyptian social media sites had called for a mass demonstration outside the Israeli embassy tomorrow, demanding the expulsion of the ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon.
In comments to several media outlets last weekend, unnamed senior Israeli officials criticised Egypt's new foreign policy line. One told the Wall Street Journal that Cairo's latest moves could "affect Israel's national security on a strategic level".
Another unnamed official told the Jerusalem Post that "the upgrading of the relationship between Egypt and Hamas" might allow the Islamic movement to develop into a "formidable terrorist military machine".
Silvan Shalom, Israel's vice-premier, told Israel Radio on Sunday that Israel should brace for significant changes in Egyptian policies that would allow Iran to increase its influence in Gaza.
Egypt's chief of staff, Sami Hafez Anan, responded dismissively on his Facebook page to such statements, saying, "Israel has no right to interfere. This is an Egyptian-Palestinian matter."
In a sign of Israeli panic, Netanyahu is reported to be considering sending his special adviser, Isaac Molho, to Cairo for talks with the interim government.
In recent weeks, Netanyahu has repeatedly complained to visiting European ambassadors and US politicians about what he regards as a new, more hostile climate in Egypt.
Late last month Elaraby said Egypt was ready to "turn over a new leaf" in relations with Tehran, which were severed after the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty more than three decades ago.
Egyptian offiials have also warned that the supply of natural gas to Israel may be halted. The pipeline has been attacked twice on the Egyptian side, including last week, in acts presumed to be sabotage.
Even if Egypt continues the flow of gas, it is almost certain to insist on a sharp rise in the cost, following reports that Mubarak and other officials are being investigated on corruption charges relating to contracts that underpriced gas to Israel.
Yoram Meital, an expert on Israeli-Egyptian relations at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, said Egypt's policy change towards Gaza threatened to "provoke a severe crisis in Egyptian-Israeli relations" by undermining Israel's policy of isolating Hamas.
With the toppling of Mubarak's authoritarian regime, Meital noted, the Egyptian government is under pressure to be more responsive to local opinion.
"We are at the beginning of this crisis but we are not there yet. However, there is room for a great deal more deterioration in relations over the coming months," he said.
Analysts said Cairo wanted to restore its traditional leadership role in the Arab world and believed it was hampered by its ties with Israel.
Menha Bahoum, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, told the New York Times last week: "We are opening a new page. Egypt is resuming its role that was once abdicated."
That assessment is shared by Hamas and Fatah, both of which were looking to Egypt for help, said Menachem Klein, a politics professor at Bar Ilan University.
He noted that Abbas had lost his chief Arab sponsor in the form of Mubarak, and that the Hamas leadership's base in Syria was precarious given the current upheavals there.
With growing demands from the Palestinian public for reconciliation, neither faction could afford to ignore the tide of change sweeping the Arab world, he said.
Meital said: "We are entering a new chapter in the region's history and Israeli politicians and the public are not yet even close to understanding what is taking place".
- Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.jkcook.net.
'Jewishness', Scare Tactics, and a Sense of Humour
Thursday, May 05, 2011 10:26 PM
By Lauren Booth – London
Cloak and dagger antics outside a campus in central London, Tuesday night, as the University of Westminster, caved into threats of disturbance, from UK based Zionists. Why? Because, Gilad Atzmon, world renowned saxophonist, author and anti Zionist racconteur had put together a panel to debate the following; ‘Jewishness and Israeli criminality.’
To a packed venue just round the corner from the campus the discussion began with breathtakingly robust opening statements. Consider, as you read, the immense pressure not to take part placed on each panelist and the threats against the university of Westminster of disturbance or even violence if the talk took place.
Alongside Gilad Atzmon, the panel consisted of Alan Hart, author, former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Independent Television News and former BBC Panorama presenter, specialising in the Middle East. And Karl Sabbagh, author, TV producer and publisher.
Gilad began his talk by reminding the audience that causing Zionists to feel outraged; ‘Makes me cheerful’. He has not struggled with his own identity he says accepting with a shrug of his irascible shoulders titles such as ‘proud self-hating Jew.’ His first riff, for that is how he talks, in dramatic sequences, was on the nitty question ‘What is Judaism?’
This, in literal terms is the religion of the Jews. Although, this cannot aptly define the large number of secular Jews. What is Zionism then? Zionism, Atzmon contends is NOT a colonial enterprise. It is a tribal setting.
It has nothing whatever to do with Jewish traditions nor Judaism. It is a political cause which cynically uses faith for its ends. Thus Zionism dupes followers of Judaism and secular 'Jews' who identify with these traditions, by getting them to emotionally invest into a violent expansionist project, which they would otherwise find repugnant.
Atzmon plunged headlong into a question that few others would consider anything but career suicide.
‘Is Zionism what it is. Because ‘Jews’ are what they are?’ Gilad Atzmon, comes from a secular Jewish family. He was born and raised in Israel. Until his late teens his big dream was to have a shining career in Israeli Defence Force. What he saw in his time in the army as a teenager serving in Lebanon, was enough, he has said, to make him 'change sides completely.' He is uniquely placed to ask the unaskable and to say the unsayable.
‘Judaism,’ he said ‘I don’t deal with this as religion. ‘It’ (Judaism) doesn't kill. People kill in the name of religions'.
'But what is Jewishness? It is a supremacy. A Chosenness.'
A decade ago, Gilad remembers being something of a ‘darling’ of the UK anti Zionist movement. But he refused to play what he calls ‘the good Jew’. Namely, to become an anti Zionist ‘lite’; A Jewish person willing to condemn certain acts of the Israeli state. Whilst contradictorily arguing the right of ‘Jews’ to have a homeland. On Palestinian land. Such activists often avoid making or worse still retract, important, statements due to social pressure on their families. This works in Israel's favour and to the detriment of the anti Zionist movement as a whole.
As Gilad continued to insist on his right, as a former Israeli, an academic and a member of a democracy, to look into the darker psychological recesses of the Israeli Jewish mindset, he went from darling to demon. For going on ten years, a number of Jewish anti Zionist (softly, softly) types, have been campaigning hard to black ball Atzmon from events and debates. Atzmon puts this effort squarely down to the topic of this evening, his contention, his amuse bouche; that Jewishness itself means a presumption of superiority that can only inevitably lead to violent tribal expansionism. And Apartheid.
A member of a Palestinian solidarity group made an interesting point telling the hall that, 'Jews For Justice for Palestinians, wanted to be called; Jews for Justice for Palestine. They binned that idea when members found the word Palestine ‘too difficult’.
Atzmon vehemently denies the accusation that he is an anti-semite. In no small part because he denies the existence of anti-semitism. In 2003, he wrote in an essay; ‘There is no anti-Semitism any more. In the devastating reality created by the Jewish state, anti-Semitism has been replaced by political reaction’. This is a point he returns to this evening.
‘How do you become and anti Semite? Easy upset a Jew. They don't even need to tell you how you upset them. ‘Anti semitism’ what does it mean? The dictionary tells us its a loathing of Jews, just because they are Jews.’
In all his years, speaking on the subject of Jewishness, Israeli war crimes, Zionism, he has ‘Never met an anti-semite.’ How is this possible you may ask? Atzmon seeks to put clear intellectual water between the actions of ‘race’ hatred (Jews are not a race), and an opposition to Israeli Apartheid policies that lead to frustrated acts of say, grafitti.
Atzmon continues; ‘Yes I have met those who object to Israeli policy. To those who objected to Lord (cashpoint) Levi and his role. But this is not anti- semitism.’
What is it then?
“It is an objection to political lobbying.’
Recent figures seem to bare this stance out. Tel Aviv University researchers has released some startling new figures. These reveal that 2010 saw a 46 percent drop in the number of violent incidents targeting Jews relative to 2009 — from 1,129 to 614. Clearly, attacks on Jewish property or persons in 2009 can be seen, not as actions related solely to followers of an Abrahamic faith. But, in response to the violence of Israeli Zionism; A frustrated backlash against a criminal, political movement. Such findings, instead of reassuring Jewish communities, act as an unsettling factor to the pro Israel lobby within them. For without Jewish victimhood, how can the human rights violations of the Jewish State be justified?
On the question of identity for secular Jews, Atmon had this to say: ‘Ask a secular Jew what (does) it mean to be Jewish. They will list what they aren't. It leads to strange ideas that all come down to chicken soup!’ The audiences laughs.
Some academics, find Gilad's playfulness troubling. Audiences like the one this evening, enjoy his cerebral shadow boxing.
'Like the Muslims, who have ‘salam’ as a greeting, the Jews greet one another with Shalom - also a greeting of peace.
Says Atzmon: ‘Shalom doesn't mean peace though. It means security. For Jews’. That peace, (it means) peace for them only’.
“Jewishness tends towards segregation. Living in a ghetto. Look at the (Israeli Apartheid) wall. Is it really for security? No it's to keep Jew and gentile separate’.
‘If you are not Jewish, you are not due the same treatment. You are lesser.’
Atzmon moves onto the controversial 'hate crime' of talking of a Jewish worldwide conspiracy. So does one exist? Gilad is semi serious when he says: "No Jews do not run the world. They get others to do it for them.'
As for who stops the media from fully exploring the real situation for the Palestinian people. From revealing crimes against humanity such as the massacre in Deir Yassin. Gilad rejects the idea of media executives refusing to engage with news from Middle East- to a degree.
‘The world' he says, 'self-censors. ‘Jews’ are not forcing the end of debate. We (the rest of the world) do it ourselves!” Goyim tolerance is seen as weakness. As stupidity yes!’
This argument is not without example. In 2001 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, made unguarded comments, about relations with the United States and the peace process.
"I know what America is," he told a group of terror victims, apparently not knowing his words were being recorded. "America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in their way."
The Israeli leader went on to boast about how he undercut the peace process when he was prime minister during the Clinton administration. "They asked me before the election if I'd honour [the Oslo accords]," he said. "I said I would, but ... I'm going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the '67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I'm concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue!' This is a fine example, Gilad would contend, in which, Israeli negotiators, playing political games, find the ‘Goys’ in the White House, easily tricked and manipulated.
Alan Hart doesn't blame Zionism for having global power either. He blames America for being intellectually weak at its heart (land) and easily financially manipulated in its political terrain.
Whilst Atzmon sums up the entire multibillion dollar Christian Zionist movement, in his usual pithy way.
‘Goys are stupid’.
Can Atzmon have his Kosher cake and eat it too? He began the evening by stating squarely that Israel was a state NOT built on Jewish principles, but on the expansionist lusts of a secular movement from Eastern Europe. Why, then in relation to what is going on, say in Gaza, does he return time and again to the question of ‘Jewishness’?
‘Because the bombs that fall on Gaza night after night, are all decorated with Jewish symbols.’
The concept of ‘Jewish’ labelled, pro Palestinian groups, really gets under Atzmon’s skin. Why again, he argues, this need to be ‘special’ or ‘separate’ from other solidarity groups. The idea has been, he contends that words of condemnation against Israel, are stronger coming from ‘Jews.’ That Jewish outrage holds more weight than any other. Isn’t this itself a supremacist concept, elevating Jewish suffering and understanding of pain above all others? The irony, which Atzmon relishes sharing, is that a Palestinian wishing to protest against Israeli policies in his homeland, would be excluded from joining Jews for Justice for Palestinians, on racial or ethnic grounds.
Alan Hart, author of an epic trilogy on the nature and history of Zionism, finds a pause in which to interject; ‘Nakba denial is as offensive as Holocaust denial.’ This is the comment of the evening which is met with a unanimous cheer.
Karl Sabbagh has a deep knowledge of modern Palestinian history upto and including the Nakba of 1948. He has come to the debate to discuss such tetchy issues as who ‘owns’ the land of Historic Palestine
Sabbagh prefers historical facts to rhetoric.
However, he too relates his frustration, as a historian, when he has made efforts to talk facts with Jewish colleagues and friends.
'You cannot argue with people from a position of logic when they come from a position of no logic.' For an example he describes the old lie that the Nakba was in fact the time, in 1948, when a small group of brave Jewish Holocaust survivors, fought against the might, cruelty and brutality of the surrounding Arabs. In fact, Sabbagh who specialises in this era of history reports that when the British mandate ended in ignominy;
'Ninety thousand well-armed, highly trained Jews, went against, twenty thousand, poorly motivated, badly trained ill equipped Arabs! You tell them this (British Jews who support Israel) and they say it didn't happen'.
The hall then heard from Sameh Habeeb. A young man from Gaza in his twenties. The founder and editor of the online newspaper the Palestine Telegraph, says he finds it hard to cope with the way his efforts to share his first hand experience of life under Israeli occupation has been met with attempts to frighten him from speaking out.
'I Come from the Middle East' he says, 'A region which has been authoritarian. I looked forward to living In a democracy. But once you discuss Israel you are called an anti semite and you no longer can enjoy democracy and free speech'.
The Palestine Telegraph published articles apparently linking Israeli groups with organ theft. Some of these sources were taken from the Israeli Haaretz newspaper. Yet he was targeted by aggressive UK Zionist groups, he and his family threatened with violence and court cases.
'I was immediately accused of being an anti Semite. Although I am very semite' he says of his Palestinian semitic, roots.
Gilad ends the night with his trade mark frippery.
'The real genius of the Jews' he says 'is that they made God into an estate agent and the Bible into a land registry'.
The debate about whether or not this sort of language constitutes anti-Jewishness should continue. What must also continue, freely and without hindrance are debates into the British Jewish communities role in funding the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and East Jerusalem via such bodies as the Jewish National Fund (patron, one D.Cameron).
The question hanging in the air for the British Jewish community at the end of the event, was this ' Do you know what is really being done by the Jewish State in the name of the ‘Jewish People’. And do you care?'
- Lauren Booth is a broadcaster and journalist - Mail on Sunday and Press TV, UK. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Americans May Trust In God, But Not Government
Thursday, May 05, 2011 10:20 PM
By Lina Sawan
As the Arabs watch, with justified trepidation, how their efforts to change regimes and establish better lives unfold in the hands of those currently in charge; it may be helpful to consider trust issues ascending on the opposite side of the Atlantic.
Within three days of the announcement of Barack Obama that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan by American forces in an authorised operation, American officials had revised the original storyline and changed essential details. Obama has also announced that the eagerly-awaited photos of Bin Laden’s body, which we are told has been hurriedly buried at sea, will not be released.
Suspicions that the truth may never be revealed are spreading worldwide, and despite their determination to celebrate, even the American people are doubting that their government is coming clean.
It is easy to understand that the Americans distrust their government, including the President, after having exposed Bush’s colossal deceits about why the US needed to invest so much in wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. It is now official and common knowledge in the USA that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Americans continue to sacrifice men, women and their economy in complicated military conflicts that could have been avoided. The Bush era was unashamedly proficient at dominating Congress and public opinion by spreading fear and terror of the “other”, an enemy that was supposedly beyond diffusing through diplomatic means. But as the costs are high and the rewards few, the American electorate has become more distrusting of its government, its financial institutions and media than ever before.
According to a public opinion survey conducted in April 2010, nearly 80 percent of Americans said they did not trust the government to do what is right, expressing an ever increasing level of distrust in Washington for half a century.
The Pew Research Centre survey found that only 22 percent of Americans could say that they trusted the government "just about always" or "most of the time". More than half of the American people “are frustrated “with the federal government, some are even” angry”.
Economic uncertainty, a highly partisan environment and overwhelming discontent with Congress and elected officials were all factors contributing to the current wave of public distrust, the report said. Surprisingly, or maybe not since this is a survey taken during Obama’s first term, more than half of the Republicans questioned felt that the government presented a major threat to their personal freedom. Not many Democrats agreed with them.
The trend of retreating trust between people and government in America continues up to this day. In fact it dips by a remarkable rate in comparison to just one year ago. The Edelman Trust Barometer of 2011 finds that trust of banks, media and government has indeed fallen lower this year than ever before in America. While peoples increasingly trust that business will “do the right thing” in countries such as Brazil and China, along with the feeling that governments will also do what is right, that trust has fallen sharply for both business (-6%) and government (-8%) in the USA. It dropped even further (-11%) when it came to trusting that the media would do the right thing.
The Barometer of 2011 also shows that the U.S is the only country to witness an across-the-board fall on all issues of trust in a decline that mirrors the distrust experienced during the 2009 worldwide financial crisis. It seems that Americans have not been able to recover their confidence in their financial institutions and their relationship with their leaders has continued to sour. BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India & China) are not suffering the same consequences with their peoples. In fact, they are all experiencing overall increases in trust.
It is not difficult to conclude that today few people in industrial countries distrust their governments as much as the Americans do theirs. The reason for this unique and ever-increasing dissatisfaction in the U.S. may be related to the feeling that, whoever they elect, the Americans fail to see significant or valuable change in how their country is run. The people’s complaints are repeated throughout the years’ surveys. Areas of trouble listed by the 2010 Pew Survey have appeared as far back as 2000 in a study conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. In stark similarity, the latter also lists the people’s main reasons for distrusting their government as the “government’s waste and inefficiency, partisan bickering, special interests having too much influence, a lack of honesty and integrity among elected officials and high taxes.”
When Obama announced Bin Laden’s death, analysts predicted there would be a likely but unsustainable hike in his faltering popularity ratings. A CNN poll conducted in March 2010 had declared that less than half of the American voters approve of Obama’s performance at his job (46%), while 51% disapprove.
Obama seems to have lost his grip on his people’s support sometime near mid-January of this year. If the events of the Middle East have played a major role in portraying him in the eyes of his public as a weak president who does not hammer the world with an iron fist like his predecessor, then maybe there is a lot to support the theory that the said assassination of Bin Laden is nothing more than a carefully-timed announcement designed to serve his re-election bid.
Either way, Obama can surely rely on certain votes for a second term in the White House. Polls show that the Black American community has not given up on him and continues to support him and approve of his policies by an over-whelming majority of 90 percent. Maybe African Americans have taken to heart Plato’s pronouncement that “the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.”