Rediff India Abroad
 Rediff India Abroad Home  |  All the sections


The Web

India Abroad

Sign up today!

Mobile Downloads
Text 67333
Article Tools
Email this article
Top emailed links
Print this article
Contact the editors
Discuss this Article

Home > News > Columnists > Rajeev Srinivasan

Presidential peccadilloes: Obama's macaca and the UPA's chutzpah

July 20, 2007

There was a mild flap when Senator Barack Obama, candidate for the US Presidency, exhibited his own 'Macaca Moment.' Obama's team displayed the ugly edge of racism behind the blow-dried billing-and-cooing of a campaign, even that of a supposedly liberal black man. It also demonstrated yet again that it is safe for anyone to bait and malign Indians: There are no consequences; indeed, Obama's people are out there flashing million-dollar smiles at $500-a-plate Indian-American fund-raisers for their candidate.

Exclusive to Exclusive: Obama: We screwed up

Obama's campaign sent out a memo to media professionals, attacking Hillary Clinton for allegedly pandering to the Indian-American community. The document, titled 'Hillary Clinton (D-Punjabs)'s Personal Financial and Political Ties to India,' suggests that Clinton may be compromised, and may favour India over her country's interests. This shows an ugly protectionist streak; and indeed, xenophobia and racism. Obama later semi-apologised, calling it a 'screw-up on the part of our research team'; but it may be noted that nobody on his team was actually fired. (New York Sun, Jun 12, 2007)

This is notable for two reasons: First, it demonstrates yet again how little anybody knows about what Barack Obama actually stands for; second, that everybody of every stripe knows it is fine to attack Indians.

Can you imagine any candidate of any persuasion daring to denigrate Jews or Mohammedans, or the Irish, Italian, Greek, or Chinese connections of any other candidate? Of course not. The reason they can get away with offending Indians is that the Indian government will surely never support Indian Americans, not to speak of ever supporting Hindus.

US Senate opens with Hindu prayers

For instance, the Indian government was thunderously silent when white bigots, chanting religious hate slogans, disrupted the US Senate's proceedings being opened with a very secular and non-denominational Hindu prayer on July 12. (Of course, if a Mohammedan prayer had been disrupted, the Indian government would have protested with great moral outrage, as it did over the Danish cartoon on Mohammed. Dhimmitude rules.)

The Macaca incident was a gaffe by the then US Senator from Virginia, George Allen, referring to S R Sidharth, an Indian-American campaign volunteer for his opponent, as a 'macaca', a macaque monkey, sometime in the 2006 mid-term elections in the US. It was a racist slur, intended to put down Sidharth as a foreigner and a non-white amongst an overwhelmingly white audience of Allen's supporters. Allen's campaign never recovered from the blatant racism. Interestingly, this also put paid to Allen's ambitions for the Presidency: He was at one time considered a leading Republican contender!

In a nutshell: A one-time Republican Presidential hopeful trashed an Indian-American; and a current favourite Democratic hopeful is dismissive of Indians. Some Indians and Indian Americans insist that somehow the Democrats are a lot better for India than Republicans. This is a myth, based partly on publicity photographs of John Kennedy walking with Jawaharlal Nehru in the Rose Garden, which were widely distributed by the US Information Service and graces many Indian homes. It turns out that Kennedy loathed Nehru, but the impression of bonhomie has stuck.

Besides, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did India no favours in their eagerness to preserve Pakistan's territorial integrity in the 1971 Bangladesh war, which surely stemmed from their gratitude to the Pakistanis for having created the opening to China, Nixon's lasting legacy. Saber-rattling, US warships steaming into the Bay of Bengal, and the contemptuous animosity the duo had for India (as we learn from recently declassified documents) did not help Indo-American relations.

Nevertheless, and I have said this ad nauseam before, neither Republicans nor Democrats are India's friends. They keep America's national interests in mind, as they should (not India's), and it is foolish to be deluded into giving up -- as India's current prime minister appears to be doing -- long-term Indian interests in the nuclear domain in return for nothing more substantial than sweet-talking by the Americans.

Hillary Clinton isn't exactly lying awake nights worrying about Indo-American relations. Having said this, it is still important for India to figure out what makes Senator Obama tick. The chances are that the new US President elected in 2008 will be a Democrat, as two terms of Republican George Dubya Bush have left the country feeling a little battered and bruised. As to the chances of either a woman (Hillary Clinton) or a black (Barack Obama) winning, it is anybody's guess. My personal belief is that the United States is not ready for anything so exotic as a woman or a black being the commander-in-chief, and that when it comes down to brass tacks, it will be some good-old-boy white man in charge again. So Obama may not matter, in the end.

But there is a very good question about the sudden, meteor-like appearance of Barack Obama. Who is this man? What drives him? What does he believe in? What is his track record? Since he appeared out of the blue, and his track record is relatively slim, these are questions that raise considerable anxiety, and should. What is the source of his support? What will he do if elected? Is he beholden to any vested interest?

There is always the worry -- as in the chilling films of the same name -- about a Manchurian Candidate, one who is a robot or a mask for some malign interests. This is not necessarily to suggest that Obama is in fact a Manchurian Candidate, although similar allegations have been made about various other hopefuls in the past. But let us take it hypothetically -- who is most likely to want to control the US Presidency?

The most obvious answer is China. This is not baseless suspicion: The Chinese have demonstrated in the past their willingness to interfere in US elections by discreetly funding certain candidates. In 1996, the Clinton campaign raised millions of dollars from what turned out to be fronts for the Chinese government. Even Buddhist temples, for instance in Los Angeles, were used to illegally channel funds.

China has zeroed in on America as the target of asymmetrical warfare -- total war by any and all means at its disposal. A low-cost and discreet way of gaining influence could well be to spend money on propaganda for someone who would be beholden to them. The Chinese know that buying media and politicians yields rich dividends: they have been spectacularly successful in, for instance, India. The only difference is that they buy Indian media and politicians for peanuts.

Another potential seeker after influence is Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud certainly has the money, and has been accused of buying up by the boatloads oilmen, bureaucrats, diplomats and others to ensure American support. But there is also a more subtle religious issue. According to Mohammedan belief, someone born to a Mohammedan parent can never convert out of the religion. Using this logic, a practicing Hindu woman in Malaysia is currently being tortured and forced to become a Mohammedan, according to the Indian Express and Singapore's Today newspaper.

Obama's father was a Kenyan, and his step-father was an Indonesian. Since no mullah has ruled either marriage unlawful, it follows that his white American mother must have converted to Mohammedanism, too. Therefore, Obama was born to two Mohammedan parents. Then, as far as the Saudis are concerned, Obama is a Mohammedan, and could never cease to be: There is no provision for apostasy; or rather, the penalty for apostasy is death.

None of this, of course, presages any good for India. China and Saudi Arabia (directly and via Pakistan) are the nations most actively involved in subverting India (with the possible exception of the US). The fact that Obama's staff has essentially written off the Indian-American voter speaks volumes. One can take away two conclusions: First, despite all the hoopla, the Indian-American voter, and his money, counts for nothing in the mind of the American politician. Second, alienating India has no consequences. If this is the attitude during the courtship, we can expect worse after the honeymoon.

This also points to the utter failure of the allegedly first-class lobbying firm engaged by India. This firm, Barbour, Griffith, is headed by former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, but the casual observer is hard-pressed to see any benefit to India. The interminable meanderings about the Indo-US nuclear 'deal' are going from bad to worse, as India is pressured to give up more and more for nothing, which India's babes-in-the-woods politicians are entirely likely to do.

Part II: A whiff of the Manchurian Candidate 

Comments welcome at my blog at

Rajeev Srinivasan