On the one hand, we have the South African Communist Party, Cosatu and some of its affiliates, as well as student and Muslim organisations demanding answers from the US president for a foreign policy agenda that keeps the world trapped in a state of paranoid fear, while on the other, we have people applauding the American president, even wanting to bestow academic honours on him for excellence in his field of qualification: law.
Upholding the law or adhering to principles of the American Constitution is not something one can easily associate with Barack Obama today. The NSA spying scandal exposed by Edward Snowden is just the latest in a growing list of state transgressions that this American president has presided over.
Nothing could be worse than Obama’s “kill list”. He is the first president in modern history with a list of so-called terror suspects, any one of whom can be killed on his command. There is no due process followed when people on this list are selected for termination. There is no requirement to produce evidence against those accused of wrongdoing. This is how 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki (an American citizen), was killed by drone strike in Yemen. There is as yet not a shred of evidence linking the teenager, a child, to any act of terror.
For any other president in any other country, the world would be united in denouncing this as murder. But here in South Africa, a better understanding of who the American president is and what he represents is sacrificed on the altar of media sensationalism.
We are regaled by stories of the cost of Obama’s African adventure, staggered by the substantial size of his entourage, intrigued by details of bullet proof windows being installed at the hotels he will stay in, and gobsmacked by the news that American fighter planes will criss-cross South African skies while he is in town. It’s a lot of random information, which more than anything else, exposes this trip for the pageant of imperial power that it really is.
Meanwhile world-famous American linguist, Professor Noam Chomsky, pointed out at an international conference in Bonn, Germany last week, there are many important issues about American power and influence that do not make it onto the front pages of newspapers.