Saturday, 20 June 2009

Obama’s Cairo speech

What he did say was largely inoffensive, what he failed to say …

Fisk writes

About the Venue
[P]lease note that Obama has chosen Egypt for his latest address to the Muslims, a country run by an ageing potentate – Hosni Mubarak is 80 – who uses his secret police like a private army to imprison human rights workers, opposition politicians, anyone in fact who challenges the great man's rule.
And that: …
The Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights, a separate group, discovered that 10 of the 29 died after torture. In one case, rights groups acquired a videotape of a prisoner being anally raped with a stick by a police officer. Other videos show one of Mubarak's political opponents – a woman – being sexually molested by a plain-clothes police officer in a Cairo street.
As for the speech itself: …
when Obama said that some governments, "once in power, are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others", there was a roar of applause from the supposedly obedient audience. […] As the Palestinian intellectual Marwan Bishara pointed out yesterday, it is easy to be "dazzled" by presidents. This was a dazzling performance. But if one searched the text, there were things missing.
There was no mention – during or after his kindly excoriation of Iran – of Israel's estimated 264 nuclear warheads. He admonished the Palestinians for their violence – for "shooting rockets at sleeping children or blowing up old women in a bus". But there was no mention of Israel's violence in Gaza, just of the "continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza". Nor was there a mention of Israel's bombing of civilians in Lebanon, of its repeated invasions of Lebanon (17,500 dead in the 1982 invasion alone). Obama told Muslims not to live in the past, but cut the Israelis out of this. […]

For a man who is sending thousands more US troops into Afghanistan – a certain disaster-to-come in the eyes of Arabs and Westerners – there was something brazen about all this. When he talked about the debt that all Westerners owed to Islam – the "light of learning" in Andalusia, algebra, the magnetic compass, religious tolerance, it was like a cat being gently stroked before a visit to the vet. And the vet, of course, lectured the Muslims on the dangers of extremism, on "cycles of suspicion and discord" – even if America and Islam shared "common principles" which turned out to be "justice, progress and the dignity of all human beings".

There was one merciful omission: a speech of nearly 6,000 words did not include the lethal word "terror". "Terror" or "terrorism" have become punctuation marks for every Israeli government and became part of the obscene grammar of the Bush era.

An intelligent guy, then, Obama. Not exactly Gettysburg. Not exactly Churchill, but not bad. One could only remember Churchill's observations: "Words are easy and many, while great deeds are difficult and rare."
Chomsky notes that:
Obama's June 4 Cairo address to the Muslim world kept pretty much to his well-honed "blank slate" style -- saying very little of substance, but in a personable manner that allows listeners to write on the slate what they want to hear. CNN captured its spirit in headlining a report "Obama looks to reach the soul of the Muslim world."
Whereas John Pilger - Smile on the face of the tiger [Please read in full]
President Barack Obama made his “historic” speech in Cairo, “reaching out to the Muslim world”, reported the BBC. “Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” said Obama, “does not serve Israel’s security.” That was all. The killing of 1,300 people in what is now a concentration camp merited 17 words, cast as concern for the “security” of the killers. This was understandable. During the January massacre, Seymour Hersh reported that “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel” for use in Gaza.

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