Profiles in Courage, and in the Lack of Courage
After that courageous Pakistani advocate of girls’ right to an education, Malala Yousafzai, had her meeting with President Obama and his wife Michelle and older daugher Malia in the White House, the White House issued a press release and a photo, saying that the presidential couple had invited this youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize nominee to visit “to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls’ education in Pakistan.”
It hardly did justice to the courage of a young girl who, for publicly demanding that children of her gender be allowed to study in a society where many Muslim fundamentalists consider the education of women a dangerous threat, continues her advocacy even after she was attacked on her way to school and targed with a nearly fatal shot to the head by a Taliban death squad.
But the White House press release was worse than just dismissive of this brave girl.
It further diminished the import of the visit, and her remarkable courage, by failing to note that she had taken the opportunity of her visit to tell the president directly to his face that he should halt the drone attacks that he has been ordering on suspected Taliban “leaders” in western Pakistan — drone attacks that have often been calculated to kill not just targeted individuals but many innocent men, women and children in the vicinity of the blasts.
As Malala recalls the moment in a statement she released herself after her meeting with the commander in chief of the most powerful war machine the world has ever known:
“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
Wow! Sitting just feet away from the president of the United States, and as his invited guest, that had to take guts.
And wow! Not reporting that remarkable act of courage by a young girl who is still a target of Muslim zealots, was an appalling act of cowardice on the part of the president and his press secretary. It’s actually even worse than that, as by making that appeal to the president Malala was demonstrating that she was no tool of the US. Had the White House acknowledged her effrontery, it might have provided her with a needed bit of life insurance.
Instead the self-promoting and unconcerned president sought to simply use this brave young woman as a photo op to boost his own standing with the American public, not wanting to call any attentiont to the fact that she was openly critical of his “executive kill” policies in her native country.
One can only hope that Malala’s courage to stand up to the president resonated with and impressed Obama’s daughter Malia. Perhaps she will now start pressing her father about why he is killing so many civilians, including young children, in Pakistan with his drone strikes, including those “double tap” ones where a second Hellfire missile is unconscionably launched once people have come the site of an initial strike to look for and help the wounded.
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).