President Obama, former undeserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was embarrassed in the Oval Office on Friday by the world famous Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai, after she took the opportunity of the Presidential invitation to criticize Washington’s continuing campaign of drone strikes in her Pakistani homeland. While she thanked Obama for making progress in increasing aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syrian refugee camps, she successfully shamed the President by adamantly refuting the success illegal US drone strikes in the region have had in countering terrorism.
Of the meeting, she said
‘I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.’
Simple, peaceful ideas such as this seem routinely absent from Obama’s foreign policy. Concerning the ‘War on Terror’, his approach has often failed to promote understanding ahead of mailed-fist unilateralism and aggression. As the link below maps, since 2004 the US, using unmanned drones, has perpetrated a snowballing bombing campaign in Pakistan, responsible for over 3100 deaths, 175 of those children. The frequency of strikes has increased significantly since Obama took office in January 2009. As Noam Chomsky commented, where George W. Bush opted for the imprisonment and torture of alleged militants, many of whom still reside in Guantanamo Bay, Barack Obama favours simply killing them without even a hint of a trial or criminal charge. It goes without saying (though is worth re-iterating) that both approaches are severe breaches of international law, not to mention founding American notions of universal liberty and justice before an impartial legal system.
The meeting in the Oval Office was arranged, of course, as a morale-boosting publicity stunt for a President under huge domestic pressure from the hostile, petulant, reactionary Republican Party during the on-going governmental ‘Shutdown’. See how just our wonderful leader is in championing this poor victim of Taleban bigotry and intolerance! In all likelihood, then, he was caught off guard by such a wise and elegant assault on one of his flagship counter-terrorism strategies from this 21st Century heroine who breaches the East/West narrative. The teenage blogger and activist Malala’s rise to celebration in the West has come rapidly after her attempted assassination by Taleban foot-soldiers while returning from school almost precisely a year ago. Flouting the risk of becoming merely a tokenistic pawn for Western interventionism in the Muslim world, Malala has recovered to continue her inspirational activism for women rights and education globally. She is also an outspoken socialist, a fact conveniently ignored by the mainstream liberal and right-wing press.
She had been widely tipped to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, though last Friday’s ceremony handed it to OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) following its work in Syria. Obama, ultimately responsible for routinely bombing Malala’s homeland, is a former recipient of the prize whose previous winners also include (among many more peaceable, worthy candidates) Imperialist racist Theodore Roosevelt, war criminal Henry Kissinger, and loyal attack-dog of the papacy’s global anti-abortion campaign, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, aka Mother Teresa. While Malala is evidently worthy of a global peace prize, it arguably seems this particular institution would not do her already remarkable achievements justice. Providing Obama with the message that promoting education over bombing is the best way to fight terrorism, that which plagued her home and nearly killed her, is just the latest stunning action in the life of this brave activist everyone can learn from.