Dear President Obama, with your speech coming tonight on resetting Arab relations, I have been wanting to write all week with some perspectives for you and my fellow Americans and global citizens to share from one Arab-American who tried to stop 9/11 before it happened and was silenced.
Millions of people in every country around the world knew things were hitting a boiling point against US and Western foreign policy in the 1990’s, not just people in the Middle East. This ranged from World Bank economists like Joseph Stieglitz jumping ship over oppressive Washington Consensus international economic development policies to the Republican union members protesting job losses along side anarchist human rights activists in Seattle in 1999.
As an Iraqi American, the global implications and interconnectedness of this climactic context for human society, that capitalism as we had known it was no longer sustainable for either the planet or international security, was deeply personal. I’d already witnessed my family being bombed over oil in the early 1990’s. As a student of history and International relations, as well as a member of the global generation, I knew the first war on Iraq, much less the second, wasn’t about Saddam Hussein, or even really about oil.
What the wars on Iraq, the war on terror, the outdated US support of dictators from Qaddafi to Assad, or support of Israel’s status quo of illegal occupation of Palestine have been about is the efforts of a no longer sustainable global economic system desperately trying to stay alive against all odds.
Because I realized the magnitude of the problem, I have always chosen total non-violence because I was forced to realize the real enemy, the cause of my family’s suffering, the cause of 9/11, or the loss of jobs in the United States to job-flight, wasn’t US foreign policy, George Bush, or Bin Laden. These, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, are only symptoms of a universal malaise affecting all of us across even disputed boundaries: we cannot afford to live unequally as a human race anymore.
There is no place on earth with a longer, deeper history of Democracy than the Middle East. The question of societal sustainability was at the center of Monotheism which developed in the region and had several revolutions from Judaism to Christianity to Islam in its quest to perfect how to achieve that more equal society.
The world now knows that none of these organized religions, nor communism, nor capitalism as we’ve known it, nor Al Qaeda nor the war on terror have given us that more equal society invoked by every social visionary from Buddha, Isaiah, Jesus, Mohammad, Ghandi to Martin Luther King, Jr.
You may think I’m a dreamer, but as someone who’s lived his life at the epicenter of our generation’s greatest global conflict, I know in my heart that the only way truly forward is to seize the opportunity we have now to raise hi on our shoulders that dream of a more equal society that we all share and pick up the true light of freedom.
Whether we’re Palestinians or Israeli’s, Pakistani’s from the Northwestern Frontier Province or Americans from Appalachian high country, a critical mass of global citizens now knows that nothing less than a systemic shift in the way humankind lives with each other and with our planet can hope to effect any where near the scale of change necessary, for the Middle East, or the world.
Anyone who thinks the Arab spring was rooted in myopic national movements without a global consciousness is failing to see the true, great opportunity we have before us as a human race today to achieve what every society before ours has hoped for but could never attain: an International Movement for Civil Rights to create a more equal and just society, one in which human kind lives equally with each other and with the planet.
We have a once-in-the-history of humankind opportunity before us today: to jump-start that great movement. President Obama, I hope you have the audacity and vision to do what human society needs and our long history demands. I hope you will be so brave as to make your speech noteworthy.
As both a global and American citizen, one who’s attended Christian churches in North Dakota, taught Jewish children in the Appalachian mountains, and takes part in Muslim weddings in Karachi, I hope you are listening to the world and the demands of history, not the demands of a withering global economic hierarchy.