Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rhetoric and Reality

In December 2009, when President Obama cut a back room deal at the UN gathering in Copenhagen, using threats and bribes to undermine indigenous peoples' participation in climate change talks, that was reality. When he promoted his Copenhagen Accord on behalf of major polluters as progress, that was rhetoric. In July 2010, when President Obama lifted the ban on US funding for Indonesian death squads assassinating indigenous leaders in West Papua, that was reality. In December 2010, when he said he endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that was rhetoric.

As Steven Newcomb observes in Indian Country Today, there is nothing new in Obama's "endorsement" of UNDRIP. His position is the same as Bush: federally recognized tribes in the US are not truly sovereign; they are free to develop as they wish as long as they don't oppose US policy. In other words, they are not self-determined, but rather, remain under the domination of the US government, which will continue to represent them in international fora, thus denying them their rightful voice in world affairs.

As President Obama and Secretary Clinton continue to back murderous regimes from Colombia to Palestine, the genocide of indigenous nations will be perpetually cloaked in official rhetoric. As with UNDRIP, that rhetoric will not match the reality of their deeds nor the official documents misrepresented by their public relations; what remains is to hold them accountable for both the crimes they commit and the frauds they perpetrate in covering up those crimes.


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