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Obama, Syria, & Michael Corleone
Amer Zahr
Amer Zahr
Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 2:12 pm (2 Comments)

In “The Godfather,” we watch Michael Corleone go from idealistic, youthful, and ethical to violent, depraved, and dishonest.  It was a journey burdened by an environment of constant crisis and unfamiliar change.

We have also watched Barack Obama’s journey.  It seems like just yesterday we were watching him make that historical victory speech in Chicago.  We were so proud.  The first black president.  Okay, half black.  But still.  What a memory.

It was a new era, especially for us Arab-Americans.  We had overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama, a man who was the son of a Muslim.  While he made it clear that he is not a Muslim (though we still hold out some hope), we thought it might finally be helpful to have a president who was intimately familiar with our culture.

He said he supported a Palestinian state.  He declared that he would negotiate with Iran.  He proclaimed his opposition to Israeli settlements.  He even told the Arabic new agency Al-Arabiya, “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.”

Then he went to Cairo in 2009.  He spoke of democracy, freedom, and cooperation. We were in love.  It was a whole new world.? A new fantastic point of view. ?No one to tell us no, or where to go,?or say we’re only dreaming.  It was a whole new world. ?A dazzling place we never knew.  When we’re way up here, it’s crystal clear,?that now we’re in a whole new world with you.  Yes, I quoted “Aladdin.” Yeah, I know, it’s kind of sad the only American movie with an Arab hero was a cartoon.  But we have to take what we can get.

Then came Nobel.  The committee noted that Obama had “created a new climate in international politics.”  They praised his emphasis on “multilateral diplomacy” and his vision of a world without nuclear weapons (Of course, that “world” includes Iran but not Israel).  They let us know that Obama represented leadership where “dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.”

He was a hero.  Well, time flies.  While he entered office with a couple messes (Iraq and Afghanistan), he has now created many of his own.  NSA surveillance, drone strikes, Libya, and Egypt are all fully owned by Obama.  And now, Syria is too.

Now, there are a few points about Syria that make it an interesting situation.  First, Russia cares.  That has led to a chilling of relations not seen since “Rocky IV.”  It does not really matter why Russia is pushing back (and to all my Arab friends, it is not because of some kinship with Syria, Iran, or any ideas of shared values or politics… there is something much bigger at play).  It only matters that she is pushing back, and that she is doing it loudly.  And as long as Russia cares this much, Edward Snowden will get asylum, and nothing will get done in the UN.

Second, we have the issue of chemical weapons.  The president declared yesterday that Syria could be punished because it has not followed “international norms” on chemical weapons.  Only seven states in the world are not parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international agreement outlawing the stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.  Syria is one of them.  So is North Korea.  So is Israel.  I would be okay with that “Axis of Evil.”

Third, there is no real military objective.  Since this is only about chemical weapons (according to Obama) and not about regime change, then our president is basically considering using a series of military strikes to destroy some helicopters, tanks, and some facilities.  He can’t bomb the chemical weapons and he can’t just magically seize them.  And anything he does destroy will be resupplied and rebuilt by Putin before he lands in Russia next week.  He declared that we may give Syria a “shot across the bow” to say “stop doing this.”  In other words, President Obama is considering using a military strike to send a political message.  Where is Nobel when you need him?

Fourth, and perhaps most alarmingly, a strike on Syria would embolden, strengthen, and encourage the right-wing Islamic factions that are on the front lines fighting against Assad.  And these guys are not your run-of-the-mill Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood or even Hamas.  They are the underwear-bombing, heart-eating savages who believe in killing Americans whenever possible.  They are so crazy that it sounds like they shouldn’t even exist in our world.  But they do.  And our president might be about to do something that they could only dream of achieving.

So, Barack, can’t we go back to the old days?  You entered our lives telling us you weren’t interested in joining the family business.  But now you’re the “Don.”  Michael Corleone, like Barack Obama, was at first disgusted by the world he lived in.  He wanted to change it, to improve it.  But once he committed his first crime, he became immersed in the world he had vowed to reject.  As time went on, violence became the language of negotiation, murder became justifiable, and the morality he once stood for was lost.

Wait, who were we talking about again?

* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

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