Statesmanship: Powell Endorses Obama

Posted on October 19, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations, People, Politics
47 Comments
Total Views: 33347

Adil Najam

Today, former US Secretary of State possibly the best know living US military general, Colin Powell, endorsed Barack Obama. His decision was probably not a surprise, although it is clearly another blow to the Republicans. But what is important is not his endorsement, but what he said in making the endorsement. Take a listen to the entire thing, but especially to the portion after minutes 4:28 onwards when he talks about the charges about whether Barack Obama is a Muslim or not, and if so what does that mean.

This is really not about my liking Barack Obama (I do). This is not about my generally respecting Colin Powell (I do). This is not about my having grave concerns about many mistakes that Colin Powell has made, especially while Secretary of State (he did). This is not about me being a Muslim (I am). All of the above is important, but irrelevant to the reason why this clip is important and why what Powell says minute 4.28 onwards is absolutely important. Important to Pakistanis and to Pakistani Muslims, but far far more important to all Americans. Indeed, important to all students and practitioners of politics, everywhere.

To stand for principle, and to state that principle clearly even when it is something that is not popular is what statesmanship really is. What we saw today was not just an endorsement. It was statesmanship. So let us cherish this moment of statesmanship, because it is not often that one witnesses this very often in politics anywhere. Not in America and certainly not in America.

I fear that we will get a barrage of comments about America and American politics in response to this post. That is too be expected. And so be it. But I hope that at least some of you will think, and think hard, about what this makes you think about Pakistan and Pakistani politics. What if there was an Obama-like political star in Pakistan today? What if that politician’s father was, say, a Christian or Sikh or Hindu, with a corresponding middle name from those religions? What would be the tenor of the political conversation around this issue then in Pakistan? And who would have been the Colin Powell to have stood up and say what was said today?

I do not know what might have happened in such a case. I would like to believe that the hysteria and bigotry that some in the US have been exhibiting would not be seen in Pakistan. I would like to believe that. But, quite frankly, I find it very hard to do so. And so, today, I think about exactly this. Even as I celebrate not just what Colin Powell has done, but what he has said and how he has said it.

Editorial Note: We have had and will continue to have a very firm rule in the editorial policy of this blog. This is a blog on Pakistan. Here we discuss ALL Things Pakistan, and ALL we discuss is things about Pakistan. We have followed this rule very very stringently, and this post notwithstanding, we intend to continue doing so. Pakistanis have interests in many things – for example, in Indian films, in Russian politics, in various religions including the many that many Pakistanis follow – but this is not a blog about these things. It is a blog about Pakistan. This above all is the principle that has guided our choice of posts. Today may seem like an exception. We do not believe it really is, but even if it is, it is going to be exactly that – an exception, and not a rule. If it is an exception, then it is one that we believe is very well worth making.

47 responses to “Statesmanship: Powell Endorses Obama”

  1. Humanoid says:

    Parwez his middle name is Hussien! last name is Obama!

    Adil you raised a good point but its a little too early to assume that he will get the president spot. America still is discussing whether Powell endorsed him just due to the “racial” thing. Ongoing “Joe the plumber” hits might cost Obama something. But the real matter will be in the closed booth where you gonna vote,and as my black and white friends say, it will come to black vs white.
    Its a big thing for a black man to get a democratic nomination. and thats all! comparing that to pakistani politics is different since we dont have racial discriminations, we had shites,sunni,deobands as PM beurocrats even ahmadi officer and foreign ministers. But for america a simple claim of being a muslim disqualifies him by being a candidate. Its in same lines as ahmadis,hindu and sikhs arent allowed to hold office in pakistan. They have questions abt jews and even catholics become one! JFK was the only catholic president america ever got no jew and will never be a muslim!
    Obama, from kenyan father who happened to be muslim, doesnt make him one. his mother and grands are christians and he goes to baptist church, got married there,daughters got baptised there. There is no question he is a muslim,but for america to hit on a black was hard so they attcked via religion! a fact! None of the segregationist white american been called a terrorist,but a black malcom X,MLK L Farrakhan E Mohammed are all???
    I agree with you, that pakistan do not have a charismatic leader like Obama! pak never had it! for a brief period Z A Bhutto was a person who took us back to track after E Pak loss but tht was even short lived!
    Obama will capitalise the economy rest keep ur fingers crossed! hes no secret muslim nor any different from main stream american politician! But him being a candidate and “black race” is a welcome change!

  2. ahmad usmani says:

    I agree with Parwez that there can be no comparison b/w the US and Pakistan, but we don’t have to look far to see a minority leadership in a majority state. President Abdul Kalaam and Prime minister Manmohan Singh of India come to mind. Sarkozy of France is another example. And I am sure if you google minority leaders one can dig up even more.

    The question should be what can we do to educate the media and the population at large in our adopted country that being a muslim does not equate to being a terrorist? to explain to them that terrorism is a geopolitical problem sparked by dis enfranchisement and fanned by poverty, illiteracy, and vested interests. And to counter a deep seated fascist movement that exists in this country. I hope and pray that our younger generation will continue to be color blind and will continue to integrate in this country, which frankly all of us first generation immigrants (aka financial refugees) have been unable and unwilling to do.

  3. Aamir Ali says:

    Parwez, I agree that comparison between Pakistan and US are a waste and no even worth having. But I hardly think Obama will become the next Benajmin Disraeli.

    This year the Republican party is so discredited that any Democrat would have won.

  4. Parwez says:

    Bottomline is that Obama despite of being from racial minority and having ‘hussien’ as his last name is on the verge of getting elected and will soon be the President of America.

    If we look around we can see other democracies in our vicinity that have minority religion head of states now and in the past.

    One thing I note with interest is that the minority heads of state (all examples that come to my mind) somehow have been exceptionally competent and beneficial for the state, maybe as a divine reward for public tolerance.

    I cannot recall any non-muslim head for any muslim state in history.

    So all this comparison of Pakistan and USA is a waste of time in my opinion when the facts say otherwise.

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