African Press International (API)

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US politics – Obama wants to lead the Nation

Posted by African Press International on August 29, 2008

Obama Watch

The change world looks for in Obama speech

Updated 1 hr(s) 45 min(s) ago

By Dan Okoth

In the next few days, two things will happen in America. The Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama will deliver one of the most watched speeches this decade, and the country will mark a sad anniversary 9/11.

Although historic in many respects, two words will define the moments: terrorism and change. While terrorism has elusive definitions, the world will know how seriously Americans take the “change we can believe in” when Obama gets to occupy the White House.

While Obamas stand on terror indicates change, it can only be such if viewed in the context of how the Bush administration spun the issue from being a US concern to a global affair.

Since French lawyer Maximilien Robespierre used the word in 1794, terrorism assumed a more significant meaning after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, in which 3,000 Americans died.

In places outside the US, the twin bombings of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam US embassies on August 7, 1998, were also labelled terrorist. Some 250 people died in those attacks. Then followed the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel bombing in Kikambala in 2002, in which 13 people were killed.

One of the main suspects, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a suspected member of al-Qaeda, is on the run with a huge bounty on his head.

Al-Qaeda is also the organisation suspected to have masterminded the New York attacks, as well as the July 2005 London bombings in which 52 people died.

From 2001, the Bush administration has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has been on the radar. In the land of milk and money, the challenge of balancing constitutionally protected human rights and fighting the war on terror remains.

Globally, international relations fall in or out with President Bushs words of “you are either with us or against us”. There are no spectators. Although no country openly supports terrorism, not all are ranged on his side.

By the time Obama was talking about the possibility of “aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran last year, the war on terror had been on for at least five years. US foreign policy had suffered a fatal dent, and the rest of the world openly questions whether America subscribes to the accepted principles of just war.

Its presentations on former Iraqi President Saddam Husseins “weapons of mass destruction” would have been a good joke if so many lives had not been tied to them.

America may be justified to continue the war, given the number of its citizens who have died and the threat terrorism poses. Other countries may also justify taking sides in that war.

But one question remains: Is the war on terror a just war?

International law humanitarian law, which defines laws concerning acceptable conduct in war jus in bello, also describes acceptable justification for using armed force jus ad bellum.

The principles of war boil down to three principles: One, wars should be limited to achieving the political goals that started the war.

Two, wars should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.

Three, people and property that have nothing to do with the war should be shielded from unnecessary suffering and destruction.

Why should Obama be reminded of these principles? Because American soldiers are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the war on terror defines American foreign policy, and because Obama stands the better chance of occupying a changed White House. His rival, John McCain, inherits the Republican mantle from Bush with the same old change.

Nobody can predict when the war on terror will end, but as the possible incoming US President, Obama can define how it will change. The world will keep an ear open for that change in his speech at the Democratic National Convention on August 28. It will also keep an ear open in mid-September.

The writer is The Standard Group Senior Editor Online



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