Skip to comments.A Break From Star-Gazing [Obama's Cairo Speech]
Posted on 06/04/2009 4:31:52 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Well, almost everyone blogging today for TNR on the president's Cairo speech seems to have been overwhelmed by its power. Forgive me: I was overwhelmed in a more-than-slightly different way. I am writing on the speech and its implications for next week's print edition (which will also be published online). But I wanted my readers to grapple with material other than that of the star-gazers.
So here's David Frum who always calls it like he sees it. Yes, he is a conservative. But these are matters that cut across both liberalism and conservatism:
The presidents Cairo speech: worse than feared. Lets itemize the ways.
President Obama likes to position himself as an intermediary, explaining two conflicting parties each to the other. He did so in his race speech in Philadelphia, he did so when he spoke about abortion at Notre Dame.
In Cairo, he took a similar position between the United States and the Islamic world. He urged Americans to take a positive view of Islam, and urged Muslims to take a positive view of the United States.
But whereas in Philadelphia and Notre Dame Obama was explaining two groups of Americans to each other, in Cairo he exhibited the amazing spectacle of an American president taking an equidistant position between the country he leads and its detractors and enemies. It is as if he saw himself as a judge in some legal dispute, People of the Islamic World v. United States. But the job to which he was elected was not that of impartial judge, but that of leader and champion of the American nation.
The president said: I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. 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 same principle? Shouldnt an American president feel an attachment to his own country above all? Shouldnt misrepresentations aimed against that country energize him more?
And yet the tone of this speech suggested that if anything, such misrepresentations energize him rather less. Listen to this passage:
"I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with."
Well yes, they are facts. But they are also something more: They are wrongs done on a massive scale to the United States by people acting in the name of Islam, wrongs condoned, endorsed and excused by many in the Islamic world. When addressing grievances expressed by some Muslims, the president spoke understandingly and sympathetically.
[T]ension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.
When speaking of the wrongs done to the United States by people acting in the name of Islam, however, the president mentioned nothing but the bare fact. To that subject, he brought no emotion at all. * * *
The president addressed surprisingly briefly the issue of the rights of women in the Islamic world. This is not a small issue, now that the Islamic world extends into Europe and America. Women in cities like London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo face mounting threats not only to their freedom, but even to their physical safety, from men who deploy violence in the name of Islam. Nor is it only Muslim-born women at risk. Now listen to the president:
I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But it is not only some in the West who take this view! It is many Muslim-born women themselves, some of whom live in the West but others of whom live in Muslim-majority countries. What on earth is an American president doing taking sides on this internal question of Islamic practice?
Whats next a speech in Jerusalem where the president says, I reject the view of some in the West that chicken is not a meat for kosher purposes? A speech in Vatican City where the president endorses clerical celibacy?
Such interventions within Judaism and Christianity would obviously be unthinkable. Yet here is an American president intervening in an internal Muslim debate and not only intervening, but intervening on the more reactionary side! * * *
The risk with this speech from the beginning was that the president would turn his back on the people in the Muslim world who most admire Western freedom and who most need our understanding and support. The president:
"[I]t is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."
These words are a slap at the government of France, which restricts the wearing of hijab in schools. Yet polls show that a large majority of French teachers support the ban. Possibly these teachers are all bigots. But possibly also they understand that hijab is frequently compelled upon girls not only by their families but by the youth gangs that patrol French suburban neighborhoods enforcing Islamic conformity on those who might wish to escape.
Islam is not a monolith, we are often told. And that is true! The Islamic world is also the home of Dr Younus Shaikh, a Pakistani scholar charged with blasphemy for stating that Islam did not exist before Muhammad. (Muslim orthodoxy holds that Islam was the original religion of mankind, followed by Adam in the Garden of Eden.)
The Islamic world is the home of the terrorized young gays of Iran. It is the home of Saudi women who want to drive. Did the president have anything to say to them?
No, no, and no. For all the speechs reasonable tone, it persistently treats the more traditionalist elements within Islamic societies and the Islamic diaspora as the more authentic and important. * * *
One of the most disturbing things about the Cairo speech is the persistent misrepresentation of history.
It is really absurd to say that Islam for example has always been a part of Americas story.
It is something worse than absurd to use a speech on Islam to apologize for Americas part in the overthrow of the Mossadeq regime in Iran in 1953. Mossadeq was a secular nationalist, passionately opposed by Irans religious establishment. That establishment finally seized power for itself in 1979, and since then it has made a martyr of Mossadeq. For the United States to apologize to the present Iranian regime for the overthrow of Mossadeq would be a little like President Eisenhower apologizing to Josef Stalin for the murder of Trotsky. Agreed, we didnt much like Trotsky but Stalin is not the man to receive that apology, and neither are the mullahs the people to receive an apology for the events of 1953. President Obama would have done better to publish the amount of CIA money the ayatollahs collected in return for opposing Mossadeq!
(By the way, it is misleading to describe the Mossadeq regime as democratically elected. At the time of his overthrow, Mossadeq had suspended elections and was ruling by emergency decree.)
Throughout the presidents speech, he takes pains to admit and ratify the validity of complaints against the West. This no doubt strikes Obama as a clever piece of ju-jitsu: a harmless concession that opens the way to dialogue and détente.
But what it also does is cut the ground out from under those liberal Muslims and Arabs who reject a victimological approach to their own history. Many of the worst elements in the Islamic world tell a one-sided history that denies or excuses the victimization of others and that throws all blame for frustrations and disappointments upon outsiders. That version of history now commands the assent of an American president. And while he may regard his concessions as empty compliments, they will carry ominous meaning for many who struggle for the freedom to narrate a more honest history. * * *
Turn now to the speechs policy implications. They range from the troubling to the alarming.
Heres one troubling point:
In cooperation with American allies, the Bush administration squeezed the flow of money to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Hamas front groups were shut down, and their leaders prosecuted.
Now listen to President Obama:
For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.
It is not at all hard for American Muslims to give to legitimate charities. What has been made difficult is giving to terror groups. Is the president suggesting he will relax those restrictions?
Another ominous hint. The president invoked a future moment when Jerusalem is a ... place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
But it is already true that Jerusalem is open to prayer for all faiths, Muslims very much included. Thats very different from the situation before 1967, when Jews were excluded and Jewish cemeteries were vandalized.
Is the president denying that reality? Is he opening the door to an internationalization of Israels capital city?
Eli Lake of the Washington Times reported last month that President Obama would put the Israeli nuclear arsenal on the table as part of his attempt to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. This speech appears to confirm that alarming intention as well:
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.
Finally, this: the president devoted almost one-fifth of his speech to the Arab Israeli conflict. This section contains much that is familiar and much that is positive. The presidents words on the immorality and futility of terrorism achieved eloquence:
It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
On the other hand, his analogy between the situation of the Palestinians and American slavery should deeply offend African-Americans. Africans did not find themselves in bondage on American soil because of wars they started. They were never given the opportunity to achieve their emancipation via negotiated settlement. They were not impoverished because their leaders stole billions of dollars of donated aid.
From the point of view of Americas international interests, it was hardly wise to accede to the claim that Americas relationship with Muslims worldwide should depend on Americas ability to deliver a viable, functioning Palestinian state. What happens if, after the presidents fine words, six years from now finds the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians more or less as it is today? If the Palestinian Authority governs just as fecklessly and corruptly and Hamas opts to remain a radical and violent pariah? The words of this grandiloquent speech could then return to haunt not only this supremely confident president but the country for which he speaks.
Actually, I think he’s URI (United Religions Initiative, a UN offshoot) and sees himself setting up his own cult that will “unite” liberal Christians, liberal Jews and some kind of Muslims in one great big happy Obama-loving family. That’s why he’s targeting the Catholic Church and trying to undermine its legitimate leaders (the bishops) and also why he’s dumping Israel and sucking up to the more extreme elements in Islam.
Behold Pope Mullah Rabbi Barry.
WHO is writing his speeches?
Good luck with that.
Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail”.
As Obama was speaking, he failed to make it known that he is a big bully that is trying to press Israel into falling under his control, just because it is a small country. Beware people, he will do that to you too. His aim is to put you all under his control. He is not concerned about the will of the people.
The parallels are starting to get creepy!
The president invoked a future moment when Jerusalem is a ... place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
I had the unfortunate experience of being surrounded by CNN the whole day. I thought my head was going to explode as they replayed the same loop over and over and over again and then rose The One on the CNN virtual pedestal even higher.
Obama is the one who proclaimed in church he wanted to create a Kingdom on Earth - and he meant it. Time will tell.
That One believes he’s King of the World, with the right to determine what’s correct for everyone. He seems to have no real emotional or patriotic connection to the country to which he was elected President.
Yesterday he said Islam began in Saudi Arabia...did it really? I think the bible predates Saudi Arabia.
Where and when did he do that? I’ve not heard of that incident.
You can do a search on the internet - there are many more links to choose from.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsasnOihnRM (not sure if this link still works)
I just read that it is believed that Bambi has a plan to replace Netanyahu with Tippi Livni. Apparently, he feels she’d be more sympathetic to his vision for Israel (non-existence, but maybe not right off).
HMMMM...and HOW would Obomba accomplish THAT? Other than sending ACORN to Israel....which I wouldn’t put past him...