It’s not easy being the daughter of a President. For starters, you watch the news and listen to all the folks talk negative about your dad and yet you know how loving and kind he is. You are the one who watches him everyday as he walks through the door, tired and exhausted and yet happy to see his family. You are the one who sees the hurt in his eyes and the pain of indecision.
At the age of fourteen Malia Ann’s eyes were glued to the TV, horrified by what she was seeing. She held her breath and stared without blinking. Suddenly the door creaked open and she jumped up startled. It was her dad, the President of the United States of America.
“Dad! Dad!” Malia ran up and hugged her father. And then before he could respond, she continued in a rash of words, “Dad, Gaddafi is going to kill his own people!”
“Slow down honey,” Obama said. “Can I first sit down?”
Malia grabbed her father’s hand and led him quickly to the beige couch. And as the couch sighed to the weight she continued, “Dad? You have to stop him! You can’t let those people die!”
The President looked at his daughter with pride. It was obvious that Malia wasn’t lacking in empathy. “Let’s play our usual game,” the President said in his usual calm voice and Malia‘s eyes brightened. “Assuming that you are the president of The United States and Gaddafi is advancing towards the city of Benghazi to kill his own people. What would you do? Go.”
Malia didn’t hesitate. “I would call the Air force and tell them to-” the president cut her off.
“You forgot something Malia. We have done this before.”
“Oh,” Malia said. “You call a meeting between the Secretary of Defense, Vice President and other advisers and ask for their opinion on the matter.”
“Good,” Obama said. “Assuming that the Vice President says that it’s too risky for America and if something goes wrong then I will not be re-elected. The Secretary of State says that the United Nations has agreed to a no-fly zone over Libya and the Congress says that the economy can’t afford it: we are in deficit already. How would you respond to that?”
Malia was quiet for a long time and just when the president thought that she had her, Malia said. “You follow heart Father. You do the right thing. What’s more is important than saving human life, re-election? Give me a break dad. Do we want America to have a repeat of what happened in Rwanda when 800,000 Tutsi people were massacred and we did nothing?”
Obama looked at his daughter with pride but Malia wasn’t done yet. “Father, you be what you were born to be. That’s what you taught me, that we have a moral obligation to our brothers and sisters. Your heart wants to protect the people of Benghazi but your mind worries about the consequences.” It was true and Obama knew it. “You will one day make a great president,” he said and Malia beamed.
Then the president stood up and walked towards the adjacent room. At the exit he paused and without turning around said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Malia replied without pause. “Nelson Mandela.”
From the time his wife goes to bed, around 10 at night, until he finally retires at 1, Barack Obama enjoys the closest thing he experiences to privacy: no one but him really knows exactly where he is or what he’s up to. He can’t leave the house of course but he can watch ESPN, surf his ipad, read books, dial up foreign leaders in different time zones, and any number of other activities that feel almost normal.
But tonight the President didn’t watch ESPN, Muammar Gaddafi and his army of 27,000 men were marching across the Libyan desert toward a city called Benghazi and were promising to exterminate some large number of the 1.2 million people inside. Obama turned the channel. The republican senators were screaming at him to invade Libya, the democrats saying that America had no business putting American lives at risk.
On March 13, Gaddafi appeared to be roughly two weeks away from getting to Benghazi. On that day the French announced that they were planning to introduce a resolution to use U.N forces to secure the skies over Libya to prevent Libyan planes from flying. The President had to decide whether to support the no fly zone or not.
On March 15, at 4:10 P.M the White House held a meeting to discuss the issue. The Gaddafi troops were moving faster than previously anticipated. It was also concluded that the no fly zone would not protect the people of Benghazi since the army was racing across the North African desert in jeeps and tanks, and not in planes. European leaders wanted to create a no fly zone to stop Gaddafi, but Gaddafi wasn’t flying.
On March 15 the president had a typically full schedule. Already he’d met with his national-security advisers, given a series of TV interviews on No Child left behind law, lunched with Vice President, celebrated the winners of an Intel high-school science competition, and spent a good chunk of time alone in the Oval office with a child suffering from an incurable disease, whose final wish had been to meet the president.
A day after having his first meeting to discuss how to kill Osama bin Laden, Obama walked back into the situation room for a meeting of ‘the principals’: which is to say the big shots. In addition to Vice-President Biden and Secretary of Defense Gates, it included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (on the phone from Cairo), chairman of the joint chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, White house Chief of Staff William Daley, head of the National Security Council Tom Donilon and U.N ambassador Susan Rice.
Obama started asking questions. “What happens to the people of Benghazi when the city falls?” Answer: Tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of people will be slaughtered. Gaddafi himself had given a speech on February 22, saying he planned to ‘cleanse Libya, house by house.’ The pentagon then presented the president with two options: establish a no-fly zone or do nothing at all.
The president asked, “Would a no-fly zone do anything to stop the killings? I want to hear from the other folks in the room.”
Obama then proceeded to call on every single person for his views, including the most junior people. The case he wanted to hear was that of a more nuanced intervention – and a detailing of the more subtle costs to American interests of allowing the mass slaughter of Libyan civilians. But nobody was saying what he wanted to hear.
The President wasn’t surprised by Pentagon’s reaction, but he was visibly annoyed. “I don’t know why we are having this meeting,” he said. “You are telling me that a no-fly zone doesn’t solve the problem, but the only option you are giving me is a no-fly zone.” He gave his generals two hours to come up with another solution for him to consider, then left to attend the next event on his schedule, a ceremonial White House dinner. A million people in Benghazi were waiting to find out whether they would live or die and honestly, the President didn’t have an answer. How do you explain to the American people their presence in Libya? Who gives a shit about Libya? One general said.
The principals reconvened in the Situation Room at 7.30p.m and Pentagon offered the President three options. The first: do nothing at all. The second: establish a no-fly zone, which they had already conceded would not prevent a massacre in Benghazi. The third: secure a resolution from the U.N. to take “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians and then use American airpower to destroy Gaddafi’s army.
Obama made his decision: push for the U.N. resolution and effectively invade another Arab country. Then Obama went upstairs to the Oval Office to call up European heads of States: Cameron first, then Sarkozy. In formal and stilted tones the European leaders committed to taking over after the initial bombing.
In the morning, the president called Medvedev to make sure that the Russians would not block his U.N. resolution. Obama thought that he had made more progress with the Russians than he had with the Republicans. Medvedev had no objection to an attack on Libya.
On MARCH 17 the U.N. gave Obama his resolution. On March 19, the bombings began. A group of Democrats in Congress issued a statement demanding that Obama withdraw from Libya. All sorts of people who had been hounding the president for his inaction now flipped and questioned the wisdom of his action.
Obama sighed as he walked through the door of his home, Malia was there waiting, a big smile on her face. “I love you daddy,” she said. “You just saved the lives of thousands of people in Libya.”
The words cut through the politicians’ rhetoric and warmed the president’s heart. Here was sunshine in the midst of a storm.
Ref: article Obama’s way
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My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
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