Obama need not apologize, he need not do it again

US President Obama and Chilean President Bachelet on Wednesday

US President Obama and Chilean President Bachelet on Wednesday

President Barack Obama wishes to look to the future, not the past. Thus, when asked by a reporter today when speaking to Chilean President Michele Bachelet if he would apologize for the US role in the Chilean military’s coup against Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973, he declined. While admitting mistakes, Obama maintains that the United States is a force for good – something not to be apologized for.

This is, of course, bluster. An apology is worthless. Much like President Clinton carrying on about Guatemala, Stephen Harper apologizing to Native Americans in Canada, Kevin Rudd apologizing to Aborigines, our Congress apologizing for slavery, and the list goes on, these public statements are often disingenuous, seen as war by other means, feed into foreign perception of an imperial power, or invite further devastations. Duplicitous indeed it would be for Obama to entertain an apology for Chile – he neither stands for Chile’s past nor future.

As I mentioned elsewhere, word do matter. Apologizes do aid in the human suffering. But what did Clinton’s apology do? Legitimized Guatemala, even as assassinations continued. Harper? The tar sands of Alberta are as fertile as ever. Australia still deals with racial scuffles and the United States is not “post-racial.”

Chile, like Guatemala and Iran, were, with apology or not, objects of US foreign policy that supported and sided with the victimizers rather than the victims. Apologies are invitations to do it again. If Obama wishes to make a difference, support the people of Chile (and, now, Iran) with something other than bombs, military assistance and economic strangulation.

As I write that, it is still important to take a look at US policy that refrains from narcissism, for it diminishes Chile’s application of violence during and after the coup as well as minimizes the Chile of today, the one struggling against horrors of so many dead. Chile has problems of its own – Obama admonishing the US (although it often needs to be done) will not do anything. Those words coming from his mouth will not change a thing.

Many have given their lives for change – not for a politician’s apology.

Obama need not apologize for US policy.

He need not repeat it.


~ by Daniel on June 24, 2009.

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