Friday, June 5, 2009

My thoughts on Obama's Cairo Speech

I did not watch the speech, instead I read it. I read it for several reasons. First, I simple cannot stand the ping pong teleprompter head business going on. Second, I have to give the devil his due, Obama reads speeches wonderfully. As such, it is very easy to get caught up in the flow and miss important substance of his words.

Here is the link to the full text of the speech. Below are passages that stuck out to me that I just had to comment on. At the end I will give you my overview.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

What about all the other stuff leading up to 9/11? The first World Trade Center attack, the bombing of the Cole, etc.? Also, many Americans have distrust because, the vast majority of the Muslim World is extremely silent over the actions of the "potent minority". How come we don't see massive protest in the Muslim World when Osama Bin Laden and Co., releases one of their tapes?

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I added emphasis to the last line because this one floored me. Americans and Muslims share common principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings? Sharia Law, women in Burkas and death for homosexuality doesn't quite sound like Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness to me.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.


So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

Where was all this pride during the election? We all knew his middle name was Hussein, but Lord have mercy if you mentioned it. Now, it is; "Hey look at me, I am Muslim too"!

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Best line so far! See Barak, you can speak highly of America! Where were these words in Europe?

.This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared

The end of American exceptionalism?

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

This paragraph stuck out to me because I wonder what is the solution for Obama when diplomacy fails? Does he go to war only when we have international consensus? It reminds me of when Bush caught Kerry out there with his "global test" nonsense during the 2004 debates.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

WTF! I am just so sick and tired of all this holier than thou 20/20 hind sight bullshit! I really do wish someone would create a hypothetical attack scenario and ask him what would he do. All of these Democrats went right along with everything immediately after the attacks, it wasn't until they found it politically advantageous to knock President Bush, did they start singing a different tune. Never once did they offer a solid idea on what to do about terrorism. All they did was criticize, criticize, criticize. I guess that is why Obama is keeping so much of Bush's plans in place.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

Iran wishes to be a nuclear armed nation, they are being quite clear about that.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

This is a complete pipe dream. A world without nukes? The genie is out of the bottle, so long as the knowledge exists, bombs can be made, even crude ones. As far as Iran abiding by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and using nuclear energy for power and not weapons, I don't see how that is possible. Iran wants a nuke bomb. The reasons for Iran wanting one are not the kinds things we can trade on.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Chooses? Methinks not. I wonder if we will hear a peep out of Bonnie Erbe on that one?

On the speech as a whole, I got the impression that this speech served as kind of a Forgive and Forget approach to the whole last 8 years. I got this impression from the opening remarks, where he does his classic "I stand above the fray" routine when dealing with the tension between the US and the Muslim World. I further got that impression, with his end to torture and closing Gitmo bit. Even with his treatment of Afganistan and Iraq, he seems to say, we are going to close those wars and just go after the bad guys one by one.

Obama seems to gloss over some real cultural differences between America and Muslims. It is many of these cultural differences that the extremist find so offensive to Islam.

I also had a problem with the way he spoke about Democracy. He seems to act like we shove Democracy down people's throat. As the leader of the Free World, one would hope he would try to sell it better than that. Also, if you read that whole passage on Democracy, you kind of snicker when you think about how he is handling things here at home.

For a Muslim, I could see where this speech might be inspiring and positive. Especially since Obama seems to be offering a clean slate. For an American, I think this speech would have been better suited for the future, after the Muslim World have taken much more active steps in reigning in it most radical elements.


La Shawn said...

Obama’s apologizing for being dictatorial … to Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and the Castros. As for “dictat[ing] our terms,” we used to call that defending American interests. When negotiating, people try to get the best terms for themselves. We didn’t send gunboats to Venezuela or Bolivia during the Bush administration, and the only people seizing assets over the last eight years have been the Venezuelans under Chavez.

Once again, we have the new President embarking on the “We Suck ‘09″ tour, kicked off in Europe, where he felt the need to apologize for the last administration’s efforts to defend America’s interests on the international stage. Obama likes to call this “smart power” and tells us we’ll get more by appearing humble than by pursuing our interests in the normal fashion. So far, the rest of the world has applauded Obama’s performance — and gone on to reject our requests for economic cooperation, combat troops for Afghanistan, partnership with Russia against Iran, and North Korean continuation of the six-party nuclear disarmament talks without launching long-range missiles over Japan.

Clifton B said...

La Shawn:

Welcome to A.B.C.
You speak of a common theme with many on the left. For some reason, sticking up for America or American interest is beyond the pale for them. Nevermind the fact that every other nation on earth sticks up for themselve and their interest.

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