Election 2012 – American Muslims VOTE!
Humanitarianism and civil rights are being mocked right before our eyes. Even more disturbing, most Americans don’t even care. This is evident in the chorus of President Barack Obama supporters, who acknowledges the failures of our Dear Leader while insisting that he is better than his opponent, Mitt Romney. Romney will not make us safer, nor will he defend the essential rights guaranteed to us through the Constitution.
You may think Obama and Romney are your only choices. But there is a better choice. I will talk about that choice near the end of this op-ed. First, let’s dissect how similar Obama and Romney are, and why both are wrong for this country.
Problems in Foreign Policy
Romney’s foreign policy is rather indistinguishable from Obama’s. Romney’s main difference is how he goes out of his way to sound more aggressive than Obama – a stance that reveals his ignorance and hypocrisy in foreign policy.
In the last of three presidential debates, which took place a week ago, Romney shockingly asserted that he’d “make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention.” Not for any actual crime committed by the Iranian president, but for his statements. “His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it,” said Romney. (This is the same Romney who said, after the release of the “Innocence of Muslim” video that led to rioting: “Of course, we have a first amendment. And under the first amendment, people are allowed to do what they feel they want to do.”) Such a stance doesn’t bode well for our goals abroad or our rights at home.
In the debate, Romney also insisted that, “We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world to reject this radical violent extremism.”
In regards to Syria, he said: “Our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a new government which is friendly to us — a responsible government, if possible. And I want to make sure they get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves but also to remove Assad.”
Is Romney not aware that the opposition to Assad includes extremist foreign “jihadi” fighters? Is he agreeing to arm “jihadi” fighters – just like the U.S. did in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, a plan that helped create Al-Qaeda?
Obama seems to be just as lost in his policies. For instance, he claims: “And with respect to our attitude about the Iranian revolution, I was very clear about the murderous activities that had taken place and that was contrary to international law and everything that civilized people stand for.”
Then Obama went on to brag about his stance against Iran: “We’ve put in the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever.”
Who does Obama think these “most crippling sanctions ever” truly affect? The U.N. chief, Ban-Ki Moon, reports that these sanctions harm humanitarian efforts in the country. “Companies that have obtained the requisite license to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions,” Moon writes, which affects more than six million Iranian patients.
Obama further claimed credit for ending the war in Iraq. But, he doesn’t mention that U.S. troops were forced out of the country after the Iraqi government refused to extend immunity to the U.S. military against criminal charges. The U.S. did not want to answer legally in Iraq to the war crimes committed during the battle of Fallujah; to the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians during the Nisour Square massacre, which also claimed the life of 9-year-old Ali Kinani; to the disturbing crimes committed at Abu Ghraib; to the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing of her family; to the “collateral murder” video revealed by Wikileaks showing the targeting of civilians and journalists by the U.S. military; or to the staggering rise of birth defects and deformities in Iraqi children due to the weapons used in the war, among many other horrific events.
Thus Obama “chose” to draw down U.S. troops from Iraq.
Furthermore, Obama has ramped up the drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, using the tactics of terrorists to kill as many people as possible. First responders to the initial attack — men and women who rush to the aftermath of a drone strike — are then hit in an immediate follow-up attack. Similarly, funerals for slain “militants” have also been the targets of drone strikes. The term militant is in quotes, because according to the Obama administration, the word includes, “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
That means every one of my male relatives in Pakistan is considered a “militant” and open game for assassination by drone – unless, of course, they can prove they are innocent after they are dead. This is antithetical to every known law worldwide.
And it doesn’t end there. It has been revealed that the Obama administration maintains a kill list, a compilation of targets the president and a secret body of decision-makers chooses to kill outside of all U.S. and International laws. This kill list has claimed the lives of at least three Americans – Anwar Al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrehman and Samir Khan. These were men and a child, never convicted of a crime nor publically charged with one, who were killed outside of all due process at the behest of a secret discussion.
A Criminal Legacy on the Home front
Add in the ramped up efforts to bait, entrap and prosecute American Muslim males by the F.B.I.; the spying by the N.Y.P.D. on Muslim communities; and the retroactive immunity given to telecommunications companies for allowing the National Security Agency to illegally spy on Americans, and it’s clear that the current president, who was a constitutional law professor, has no regard for humanitarianism and civil rights. His only opponent, Romney, shows no signs of improving upon this administration’s criminal legacy.
Despite this, many well-intentioned people, including Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, have admitted that they still think Obama is the best choice. Ellsberg quotes Noam Chomsky for his rationale:
“The Republican organization today is extremely dangerous, not just to this country, but to the world. It’s worth expending some effort to prevent their rise to power, without sowing illusions about the Democratic alternatives.”
There are also Muslim bloggers and writers who follow this same line of thinking for supporting Obama. Thus, Obama is the lesser of two evils, since Romney will be hypothetically worse as a more-evil Republican. But, Obama’s immoral foreign policy and domestic war against civil rights is on par, if not more aggressive, than the previous Republican administration of George W. Bush.
Hence, there is no real difference between these two parties. And yet, we sit before our televisions and watch each man try to castigate the other for sharing the same policies.
I understand why people want to vote for Romney or Obama. Those supporting Romney feel his business-like approach to government can steer this country in the right direction. But I don’t believe government can and should be run like a business. The profit-motive is central to a business model; a government runs to support society and individuals, regardless of profit. Plus, the fact that Romney will not reduce defense spending, but increase it, belies his fiscal conservatism, thus making his “business” approach a complete joke and lie.
Those supporting Obama, simply just like him more as a person. It was hard not to like him and laugh along with his zingers, like the now classic “bayonets and horses” line. But this is simple theatrics. Obama may appear to be a likeable guy personally, but his record has revealed him to be a hypocrite and liar.
We need a person in office who is dedicated to supporting civil rights at home and humanitarian causes abroad. Voting for the “lesser of two evils,” as most of us have done since we’ve been able to vote, has failed us. Our democracy is only as effective as our choices. Choosing between the Republicans and Democrats is not a choice. Enter the Green Party.
In the 2000 and 2004 elections, those angry at the outcome — the election of George W. Bush — placed part of the blame on Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate for president, for taking votes away from Al Gore and John Kerry, respectively. In 2008, most refused to acknowledge the Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, as they were swept up in the historic campaign and marketing behind Barack Obama.
The Green Party, or any third party for that matter, will never be an equal contender if the American people refuse to acknowledge it. It’s not just the fault of the people, though. The Presidential Debate Commission (PDC), the organization responsible for planning and organizing the debates, refuses the involvement of a third party candidate. Thus, when Dr. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green Party president/vice president ticket, who are on 85 percent of state ballots for the election, showed up to the second presidential debates, they were barred entry and arrested.
In the same debate that Romney bragged about the “binders full of women” he perused when looking to diversify the gender of future hires, two women representing a third party were prevented from inclusion. (Irony, anyone?) Although a lawsuit was filed against the PDC on Monday to allow Stein to partake in the debate, the injunction was denied.
Moreover, few people have heard of Stein and Honkala, because they do not have the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to permeate the airwaves during the election cycle. The Republican and Democratic parties have been marketed and advertised to us — it’s quite simple, the ones we choose from are the ones chosen for us. And like all products advertised to us, we’re being sold a feeling and emotion, not the actual product.
It’s about how the product makes you feel, not how it works. So is the case with our presidential nominees. We’re being sold on who feels better and who is most likely to be the lesser evil, instead of truly understanding their actual policies and actions.
I reject this marketing. I reject this manufactured choice. I will choose to vote for Stein and Honkala based on their Green New Deal, which seeks to attack economic inequality, develop a sustainable, socially-responsible economy, institute financial reform and revitalize our failing democracy. Their foreign policy consists of demilitarizing the U.S. approach to the world and focusing on “human rights, international law, multinational diplomatic initiatives and support for democratic movements across the world.”
I will vote for the Green Party because I agree with their initiatives. My vote will also serve to protest the inconsistent lies and façade of Romney and the multiple failures of Obama. Most people will consider this a “throw-away” vote as they continue to follow the “lesser of two evils” approach. But I don’t consider it a waste. I consider it a demand.
I demand that this country recognize more valid choices outside of the advertised norm. Our vote is one of the last rights we have. Use it to voice your discontent with the system that ignores our rights. Use it to vote for what you want and what we need; not as a mechanism against a more evil option. On November 6, I will choose humanitarianism and civil rights.
I will be voting Green.
Obaid H. Siddiqui is a writer and journalist based in Philadelphia. He is a contributor to the anthology “All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim.”
This article is part of the “Election 2012 – American Muslims VOTE!” series, which is running on Altmuslim at Patheos, Altmuslimah, Illume, and Aziz Poonawalla’s news and politics blog on Patheos. Click on this special topics page to view all articles in this series and add your comments. Tweet your thoughts on this article, on the series, and on the 2012 elections at #MuslimVOTE.