Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama an Indonesian Citizen?

Obama's Indonesian school registration card indicates that he was an Indonesian citizen; Indonesian law prohibited dual citizenship and prohibited foreign nationals from attending the nation's public schools at the time.

(Update, April 27, 2011:  As advised by others and confirmed by the author, there is no credible evidence to support the notion that the Indonesian government actually prohibited non-citizens legally residing in the country from attending its public schools.) 

This is just a bit of sensationalism.  Obama himself relates the most pertinent details about this period of his life in his books Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope.  It's never been a secret that he lived in Indonesia and attended school there.  It had never been an issue before.  But then, suddenly, this widely read chapter of Obama's life became something mysterious and sinister.

This is the bit of nonsense to which the author of this piece is referring when he writes in "Who are the Real Conspirators?":
But the Birthers favorite pastime is to mangle the law on citizenship and nationality, or to disregard it altogether. Hence, when all else failed, it was claimed that the citizenship requirements of a foreign country could trump the status of one's citizenship in the United States or that a fraud allegedly perpetrated in a foreign country by adults could nullify the U.S. citizenship of a minor in their charge. Choose.

Before Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas, for example, politely expressed their regret that this or that injunction would not be issued after all—not on that day or on any other—those of us who are learned in the law of citizenship and nationality can easily imagine these justices ripping pages from the petitions to wipe tears of ball-busting laughter streaming from their eyes and pocketing others for later use—the next time they wiped their asses.

At the time of the Messianic One's sojourn in Jakarta, Indonesian law did not permit dual citizenship, and did not permit foreign nationals to attend the nation's public schools.  So Lolo Soetoro adopted the future Baloney and Chief of Hopey-Change under the name of "Barry"—a twofer legal maneuver—then citizenshipped him up and sent him off to school . . . or so the story goes.

That's the setup, now on to the anticlimax.

Contrary to what some have claimed, there is no evidence that mommy and step-daddy concealed Obama's American identity from Indonesian authorities or lied to school officials about his age. Given that he had to have passed through Indonesian customs and was adopted with a change of name after he entered the country, I don't see how they could have. I can't see why they would have. It's preposterous. But if by some unimaginable process, for some mysterious reason, they did . . . well, so what?

While an adult foreign national could not have acquired Indonesian citizenship without first agreeing to formally renounce all prior allegiances, Barack Obama Jr., a.k.a. Barry Soetoro, was a minor whose mother's citizenship wouldn't have mattered to the Indonesians. His stepfather had standing all day long. Hence, once little Barry was adopted by Mr. Soetoro, as far as Indonesian law was concerned, Barry was no longer a U.S. citizen. (By the way, Indonesian law permits dual citizenship for adults today.) Beyond retention requirements and acts of expatriation, the only way that one can lose one's U.S. citizenship is to formally renounce it. A minor cannot lose his U.S. citizenship due to the actions of his parent(s) or guardian(s), and no one can renounce it for him.

In other words, an adult U.S. citizen could not have gone to Indonesia at the time with child in tow and enrolled him in Indonesia's public education system without jumping through some hoops. Unlike Mr. Soetoro, a native-born citizen of Indonesia, a U.S. citizen would have had to agreed to renounce his citizenship as a precondition of naturalization. After that his child's naturalized citizenship would have been predicated on his new standing. But his child's U.S. citizenship would not have been lost because of his actions.

Our laws work the same way for adopted children born abroad. It's an every-day-walk-in-the-park sort of thing. There's nothing remotely illegal or unseemly about any of this. After returning to Hawaii a few years later, Obama continued to go by the name of "Barry" for years.

In summary, Barry Soetoro did not have dual citizenship as far as Indonesian law was concerned, and Indonesian law did not somehow leap across the ocean and abrogate American law. The Birther's vague insinuations of illegality amount to nothing. There may be other things that Obama is hiding, but the facts that he was adopted by an Indonesian citizen abroad, made a citizen of Indonesia and attended school there are not among them.

Obama attended two different schools in Indonesia for a total of four years before returning to Hawaii: two years at Fransiskus Assisi, a Catholic school, then two years at SD Besuki Menteng, a government school. (A few sources report one year at the former and three at the latter.) Obama never attended a Muslim school of any kind. His biological father was an atheist, his mother was an "economic anthropologist" and a self-styled civil-rights activist who eschewed organized religion, and his stepfather's anemic devotion to a number of key Islamic observances scarcely made him a fire-breathing fanatic.

In Indonesia at the time, whether one attended a public or private school, one had to have a student identity card past the age of five. Any child could get one, whether he were a citizen or not; it's just that the non-citizen could not attend a public school. Obama's school registration card lists his religious affiliation as Muslim, and Obama did attend mosque in Indonesia, but these things had more to do with his adoptive father's religious affiliation. Also, the state schools required some Koranic studies. These details appear to be the basis for the rumors about his days at the "Mad Max Madrassa for Aspiring Tots of Holy War and Mayhem".

In his books, Obama doesn't tell us if he was ever an Indonesian citizen. When he registered as an attorney in Illinois he claimed that he had never been known under any other name but Barack Obama. Obama used the first name of his Indonesian adoption as a nickname for several years after returning to the States. He was officially registered under the name of his American citizenship with the schools he attended in the States. In America, he was known as Obama Jr., first name Barack, nickname Barry. Even WorldNetDaily (WND) acknowledges that none of these things—that is, his Indonesian adoption, citizenship or schooling—would affect the status of his U.S. citizenship or presidential eligibility, but then asks its readers to guess whether or not Obama used an Indonesian passport to enter Pakistan years later, and whether or not Obama's informal use of the first name Barry as a minor after returning to the States was legally binding in any way.

Is WND a news organization or a quiz show? Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! Pick me! The answer to both those questions is no.

Included in the related stories below is a debate of sorts between Jonathan Alter of Newsweek and Matt Lewis of I'm sad to say that Lewis' side of it is silly. While Lewis acknowledges that the stories claiming that Obama attended a madrassa are false, he blames Obama in part for the confusion. Alter, on the other hand, does not excuse those who ran off with the liars at the drop of the hat. Lewis would divorce the reader of Obama's books from the reader's responsibility because of a poorly rendered sentence in one book as compared to the expression of the same idea in another.

The author of this piece read both of Obama's books. It never occurred to him that Obama was talking about anything else but a public school in a predominately Muslim country. At the time, before a flood of misinformation swept away virtually all of the truth from the Internet, it was widely known that the only parochial school Obama had ever attended in Indonesia was Catholic. I recognized the mistake in the first of Obama's two books for what it was. Lewis compounds the error when he writes: "[w]hat does matter is whether or not [Obama] is telling the truth." No. What matters here is the recognition that Lewis is being argumentative over a pimple on a mosquitoes' ass.

But perhaps Lewis' biggest failure is to come so very close to the truth and yet still miss it by so far.
[L]et me also point out it was a liberal magazine—not a conservative one—[which] published the controversial cartoon cover that has been derided as offensive. . . . And I think it is also important to note that this rumor was not started by conservative skullduggery, but by Obama's own writings . . . ("Obama’s Books Say He Attended a Muslim School").

Indeed, the skullduggery was not started by conservatives, but by liberals in the Clinton camp, and the magazine that printed the cartoon initially endorsed her. The cartoon came out after Obama opened up a can whup-ass and started to seriously chip away at Clinton's lead in the polls.

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