Recently, the renowned Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger published an article based on a speech he gave at the University of Sydney titled, "Why Hillary Clinton is More Dangerous than Donald Trump." The morning it was posted, I immediately received emails, texts, and tweets asking me to comment. My response to everyone was that I simply could not answer. I was too infuriated to find the words. I promised, however, that I would have a rebuttal.
Let me preface by stating, I have long admired Pilger's work, from his relentless critiques of journalists during the Iraq War, to his most recent project that sheds light on U.S. nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. I have also worked on the issue of nuclear testing, most notably with the Atomic Veterans. Let me also state that I am not a Hillary Clinton supporter. I have consistently criticized Clinton's hawkish foreign policy, support for NAFTA, her husband's crime bill, and her use of the term "super predator" when she was first lady.
While Pilger begins his piece discussing the nuclear tests that occurred after WWII, he then turns to President Obama. Obama, Pilger contends, is a "liar," for stating in Prague in 2009, that he was going to work towards a "world without nuclear weapons." I have written extensively on Obama and nuclear weapons here and in my book, African Americans Against the Bomb. While I join Pilger in criticizing Obama's nuclear weapons budget and failure to significantly reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Pilger's over the top condemnation of Obama is shameful. Did Obama, through diplomacy, not stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon? How many lives did he save then by not bombing Iran? Did Obama not get the Ukraine, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Kazakhstan, and Vietnam to eliminate their nuclear materials, including hundreds of pounds of highly enriched uranium? Did he not sign a new START Treaty? Is there not talk that Obama may visit Hiroshima?
Pilger mocks the notion that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. However, one could argue the moment Henry Kissinger received the Prize, it lost its credibility. Moreover, Obama didn't even think he deserved it and said as much. But the committee gave the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama, not for what he did, but what they thought he would do. Are the Iran nuclear deal, normalizing relations with Cuba, and refusing to invade Ukraine worth nothing? When voices in the U.S. wanted to go to war with Russia, Obama refused to invade. Pilger, however, hammers Obama on the Ukraine, never once uttering the name Vladimir Putin.
This criticism of Obama is certainly not new. Pilger is part of a segment on the Left who, no matter what Obama does, considers him "Bush-lite." I say this as someone who identifies as far more left than liberal. But this idea that Obama is the same as Bush or Reagan is ludicrous. Pilger even goes so far as to remove blame from the Right by arguing "most U.S. wars" were started by Democrats (Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and yes, Obama).
While I disagreed strongly with Pilger's thoughts on Obama, it pales in comparison to my reaction to his attempt to assess the U.S. presidential election. Arguing that the U.S. has always been a country that committed atrocities and caused the world much pain, Pilger maintains that Hillary Clinton is more dangerous than Donald Trump. Let me repeat that: Hillary Clinton is more dangerous than Donald Trump. Indeed, Pilger refers to Trump as simply a "media hate figure," who is actually a "maverick" because Trump now states he was against the war in Iraq. Pilger goes on to call out "one prodigious liberal commentator," who said "Trump is unleashing the dark forces of violence" in the United States. Pilger questions this notion, asking, "How could Trump be unleashing them, since the U.S. government has always been doing so much harm?"
Let me answer Pilger directly: How dare you, sir. Tell the Muslim students who have sat in my office shaking, as tears ran down their faces because they are so scared of a Trump presidency, that Clinton is worse. Tell my undocumented student from Florida who now calls me with anxiety and panic over what will happen to her if Trump is elected, it won't be that bad. Your response is "Obama, not Trump" is the "Deporter-in- Chief." Yes, and Obama also passed DACA and DAPA. You sir, clearly have no idea the racism and xenophobia Trump has unleashed in this country. Have you seen the hate in the eyes of Trump supporters towards African Americans who protest? It is easy to live thousands of miles away and cast dispersions on Hillary Clinton or President Obama while calling Trump a "maverick."
Perhaps the reason your words brought out such passion in me is because I have a Hispanic wife, bi-racial niece, and hundreds of students each semester who are a majority nonwhite and immigrants. I see daily how dangerous and hurtful Donald Trump has been. Do we not know what happens when this type of hatred is ginned up? Does April 4, 1968 ring a bell? So, let me state the obvious: Obama has not been perfect, the U.S. Empire continues to be the root of much pain and misery in the world, and Hillary Clinton is not the answer. But unless you have walked in the shoes of those who have been most affected by Trump's actions, or you plan on living here if he wins, I will use a phrase that is popular in the U.S., but maybe not so much across the pond: "stay in your lane."