By Subhash Kateel
On Monday, Chicago-based Hip Hop artist Lupe Fiasco went toe-to-toe with Bill O’Reilly in a debate about President Obama (you can see the whole clip here or below). This time, Bill O’Reilly played the unusual role of the President’s defender against a no-liquor-drinking, skateboarding, devout Muslim, son of a Green Beret who many have called the second coming of Tribe Called Quest (sorry I got carried away thinking about Midnight Marauders). O'Reilly tried to take Lupe to task for his characterization of Obama as a terrorist in the song “Words I Never Said.”
For starters, Lupe’s song was about a lot of things, not just Obama. For example, Lupe chastised those that claim to be Muslims but misuse the word Jihad (a term that means “struggle” in Arabic). He also went after people that complain about this country’s problems but don’t do anything about them. But predictably, the statements he made about Obama have caused the most controversy.
One obvious question is: Why should anyone give a damn what any celebrity says? And I only sometimes give a damn about what Lupe says. But even the things he says that I don’t give a damn about are worth hearing out.
Considering that many of O’Reilly’s right-wing talking-head colleagues have called Obama everything from a Marxist (despite his economic team representing the Dream Team of corporate capitalism), a radical Muslim (despite criticizing him for attending Reverend Wright’s church), to just not being American, O’Reilly’s defense of Obama is ironic.
But if you actually listen to the debate, Lupe asks a question the media repeatedly fails to ask and our government fails to answer: “Is the war on terror addressing the root causes of terrorism?”
It’s a point that O’Reilly dismisses as stupid. And media outlets from left to right ignore it too much to consider dismissing it. I mean what is so freaking important about getting to the bottom of what will keep a bunch of people alive and safe without having to fight three freaking wars, right? RIGHT?
The problem is that question is bigger than O’Reilly and Lupe, and it needs an answer. And while Lupe calling Obama a terrorist invokes that question in a way that makes it easy to evade, it also invokes a truism in contemporary U.S. foreign policy that folks keep wanting to ignore as well: the U.S. Government has been the biggest single supporter of individuals and institutions that it would eventually call terrorists.
This history is so obvious and in our faces that we pretend that it is no big deal. People generally now know that the U.S. government supported folks that would eventually form the Taliban and Al Qaeda back when we thought giving those crazy mf’s guns was cool as long as they were aimed at Soviets. People sort of know that the U.S. government supported Saddam Hussein as long as he was killing Iranians. People may or may not know that the CIA had Manuel Noriega on its payroll for years before U.S. forces invaded Panama or that the CIA was complicit in a plot to topple a democratically elected Iranian government decades before Iran joined Bush’s “axis of evil.”
Every time this truism gets brought to light, people do what O’Reilly did in the debate with Lupe, start waving the flag and saying we have to support the troops and love our country. Leave the troops out of it. They didn’t make the foreign policy decisions that would create Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In fact, leave everyday Americans out of this, they didn’t ask Bush’s Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to lie about the reasons to attack Iraq two decades after he shook Saddam’s hand. Even Obama himself was only 22 years old when Reagan called Afghan freedom fighters “patriots.”
But alas there is this verse in the Bible (John 9:41) that says, “If you were blind you would have no sin, but since you claim “we see” your sin remains.” Personally, I voted for the dude and I find a lot to admire about him and a lot to…eh. But as I said before, considering all of the potential he came into office with, he is blowing that potential faster than Earl “the Goat” Manigault blew his basketball career on…blow.
During the Presidential debates, Obama decried support for Pakistan’s old president Musharraf saying the US government shouldn’t support a dictator just because he is “our dictator.” To me this means that the President understands the truism that feeds bad foreign policy. But the wisdom and desire to change that truism seems to have long faded...and we continue to pour billions of dollars into buying guns in regions where sooner or later they will be pointed at innocents and Americans. It is an open question whether or not Lupe calling Obama a terrorist was productive in getting to the “root cause of terrorism.” But the truth is, we won’t know for sure if Obama’s administration is supporting people that our sons and daughters will be forced to fight against until they grow old. Whether you like Lupe Fiasco or not, he asks a couple questions we should all be demanding answers to.
Don't forget to check Let's Talk About It! radio when we start our our second season on July 6th. If you are in Miami, check out our fundraiser on July 3rd. Remember, if you like this article you will really like the second season of our radio show. If you don't like this article, you'll still like our show! In the meantime, check out the Lupe vs. O' Reilly debate and Lupe's video that started it all.