Skip to comments.Obama makes 'historic' speech to UK MPs
Posted on 05/25/2011 11:20:55 AM PDT by Cardhu
Obama is the first US president to address the joint houses of parliament [Reuters]
Barack Obama, the US president, has addressed the British parliament, saying that Western influence remains strong in the world, despite emerging world powers such as China, India and Brazil.
In a speech to both houses of parliament on Wednesday, Obama said that Western powers still had a responsibility to uphold "universal rights", but stressed that this work must be done through multilateral forums like the G20.
"Even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership," Obama said, "our alliance will remain indispensable to the goal of a century that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more just."
He also referred to the global economic crisis saying that it had "begun" on Wall Street, something generally accepted but which US officials have been unwilling to acknowledge.
Obama's speech is seen as historic as it marks the first time a US president has been afforded the opportunity to speak in the grand setting of Westminster Hall.
Support for democracy
Obama began with a joke and recounted a history between the US and Britain that began in a war for independence but grew into a global alliance.
But his address also touched on contemporary issues important to both nations, including the military action under way in Afghanistan and in Libya and he stressed the importance of Western support for recent pro-democracy uprisings in many countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
"We do this knowing the West must overcome mistrust and suspicion from many," he told the assembled British legislators.
"Ultimately freedom must be won by the people themselves, not imposed from without."
Countries across the Middle East and North Africa have been wracked by pro-democracy protests, buoyed in large part by the successful overthrow of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, the respective former presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, earlier this year.
Libya has seen similar protests pushing for the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, but remains locked in a stalemate with NATO forces acting under a UN mandate carrying out air raids aimed at protecting civilians.
Friends and interests
Patty Culhane, Al Jazeera's correspondent, reporting from outside the houses of parliament, said: "I think it's the clearest he's described his views on the different protests that we see in the Middle East and North Africa.
"He flat-out said 'we aren't going to apologise for our interests - our interests in fighting global terrorism and ensuring the global oil supply'. That's about the first time we've really heard him spell that out."
Ahead of his parliamentary address, in a joint press conference with David Cameron, the UK prime minister, Obama said Gaddafi would ultimately step down under pressure from the NATO military operations.
Concerning Afghanistan, Obama said that the Western alliance there was ready to "turn a corner" with the transition to "an Afghan lead".
"During this transition, we will pursue a lasting peace with those [Taliban fighters] who break free from al-Qaeda and respect the Afghan constitution and lay down arms," Obama said.
Official sources from three countries have said that Washington has already begun talks with representatives of the Taliban, although these have been described as preliminary.
When is Barack Hussein Obama going to push for Universal Rights (like a freedom of religion) in Saudi Arabia? Hmmmmmm, mmm mmm?!!!
I listened to the entire speech. He was in campaign mode saying what he thought THAT particular audience wanted to hear. It was an attempt to repair his tattered (deserved) image in Great Britain and to appeal to moderates here. It was full of a zillion platitudes....with NO real substance.
“He also referred to the global economic crisis saying that it had “begun” on Wall Street, something generally accepted but which US officials have been unwilling to acknowledge.”
Began in Barney Fwank’s bedroom.
I watched part of the speech. After watching Netanyahu, Obama was so boring. A woman on the dais looked bored out of her mind. LOL What a loser he is.
Bullstalin. If Barry O'bama was really wanted to ensure the oil supply, he wouldn't be shutting down US drilling efforts in the Gulf and keeping Alaskan oil untapped.
Soon, Barry is going to have a new nickname, ‘The Whistler’. The whistles and the tennis match eyes are enough to make me swear off ever watching him again. That and the fact that he never really says anything.
he’s building up momentum. He’s dangerously reelectable with momentum.
Obama, presiding an ‘aging empire’, addressed to the MPs who think themselves still matter in the world’s affairs .....
It is up to us regular citizens here not to repeat UKs vastly diminished influence.
The only thing that would make this speech historic was if he didn’t use TOTUS.
“Ultimately freedom must be won by the people themselves, not imposed from without.” “
So it’s “the people” bombing and burning Libya?
Obama has a phrase generator that randomly structures sentences with words like “freedom”. The American people won freedom from tyranny yet Obama is imposing “rights” (like the “right to healthcare” meaning you HAVE to buy insurance) on the “free” people. If he won’t stand up for free Americans, he has no ground to speak about other countries living under Islamic theocracy (which he supports).
President Reagan's Speech to the House of Commons, June 8, 1982
We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention -- totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order because day by day democracy is proving itself to be a not at all fragile flower. From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than thirty years to establish their legitimacy. But none -- not one regime -- has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.
The strength of the Solidarity movement in Poland demonstrates the truth told in an underground joke in the Soviet Union. It is that the Soviet Union would remain a one-party nation even if an opposition party were permitted because everyone would join the opposition party....
Historians looking back at our time will note the consistent restraint and peaceful intentions of the West. They will note that it was the democracies who refused to use the threat of their nuclear monopoly in the forties and early fifties for territorial or imperial gain. Had that nuclear monopoly been in the hands of the Communist world, the map of Europe--indeed, the world--would look very different today. And certainly they will note it was not the democracies that invaded Afghanistan or suppressed Polish Solidarity or used chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.
If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly. We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma--predictions of doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must, for its own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms? Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?
Sir Winston Churchill refused to accept the inevitability of war or even that it was imminent. He said, "I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here today while time remains is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries."
Well, this is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace. It may not be easy to see; but I believe we live now at a turning point.
In an ironic sense Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West but in the home of Marxism- Leninism, the Soviet Union. It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then.
The dimensions of this failure are astounding: a country which employs one-fifth of its population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people. Were it not for the private sector, the tiny private sector tolerated in Soviet agriculture, the country might be on the brink of famine. These private plots occupy a bare 3 percent of the arable land but account for nearly one-quarter of Soviet farm output and nearly one-third of meat products and vegetables. Overcentralized, with little or no incentives, year after year the Soviet system pours its best resources into the making of instruments of destruction. The constant shrinkage of economic growth combined with the growth of military production is putting a heavy strain on the Soviet people. What we see here is a political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where productive forces are hampered by political ones.
The decay of the Soviet experiment should come as no surprise to us. Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies -- West Germany and East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam -- it is the democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people. And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: of all the millions of refugees we've seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward, the Communist world. Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line, the Soviet forces also face east to prevent their people from leaving.
The hard evidence of totalitarian rule has caused in mankind an uprising of the intellect and will. Whether it is the growth of the new schools of economics in America or England or the appearance of the so-called new philosophers in France, there is one unifying thread running through the intellectual work of these groups -- rejection of the arbitrary power of the state, the refusal to subordinate the rights of the individual to the superstate, the realization that collectivism stifles all the best human impulses....
Chairman Brezhnev repeatedly has stressed that the competition of ideas and systems must continue and that this is entirely consistent with relaxation of tensions and peace.
Well, we ask only that these systems begin by living up to their own constitutions, abiding by their own laws, and complying with the international obligations they have undertaken. We ask only for a process, a direction, a basic code of decency, not for an instant transformation.
We cannot ignore the fact that even without our encouragement there has been and will continue to be repeated explosion against repression and dictatorships. The Soviet Union itself is not immune to this reality. Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the state ultimately drives people to resist it, if necessary, by force.
While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings. So states the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, among other things, guarantees free elections.
The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.
This is not cultural imperialism; it is providing the means for genuine self-determination and protection for diversity. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy. Who would voluntarily choose not to have the right to vote, decide to purchase government propaganda handouts instead of independent newspapers, prefer government to worker-controlled unions, opt for land to be owned by the state instead of those who till it, want government repression of religious liberty, a single political party instead of a free choice, a rigid cultural orthodoxy instead of democratic tolerance and diversity.
Since 1917 the Soviet Union has given covert political training and assistance to Marxist-Leninists in many countries. Of course, it also has promoted the use of violence and subversion by these same forces. Over the past several decades, West European and other social democrats, Christian democrats, and leaders have offered open assistance to fraternal, political, and social institutions to bring about peaceful and democratic progress. Appropriately, for a vigorous new democracy, the Federal Republic of Germany's political foundations have become a major force in this effort.
We in America now intend to take additional steps, as many of our allies have already done, toward realizing this same goal. The chairmen and other leaders of the national Republican and Democratic Party organizations are initiating a study with the bipartisan American Political Foundation to determine how the United States can best contribute as a nation to the global campaign for democracy now gathering force. They will have the cooperation of congressional leaders of both parties, along with representatives of business, labor, and other major institutions in our society. I look forward to receiving their recommendations and to working with these institutions and the Congress in the common task of strengthening democracy throughout the world.
It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation -- in both the public and private sectors -- to assisting democratic development....
What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people. And that's why we must continue our efforts to strengthen NATO even as we move forward with our zero-option initiative in the negotiations on intermediate-range forces and our proposal for a one-third reduction in strategic ballistic missile warheads.
Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.
The British people know that, given strong leadership, time, and a little bit of hope, the forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil. Here among you is the cradle of self-government, the Mother of Parliaments. Here is the enduring greatness of the British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas: individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God.
I've often wondered about the shyness of some of us in the West about standing for these ideals that have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our imperfect world. This reluctance to use those vast resources at our command reminds me of the elderly lady whose home was bombed in the blitz. As the rescuers moved about, they found a bottle of brandy she'd stored behind the staircase, which was all that was left standing. And since she was barely conscious, one of the workers pulled the cork to give her a taste of it. She came around immediately and said, "Here now -- there now, put it back. That's for emergencies."
Well, the emergency is upon us. Let us be shy no longer. Let us go to our strength. Let us offer hope. Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible but probable.
During the dark days of the Second World War, when this island was incandescent with courage, Winston Churchill exclaimed about Britain's adversaries, "What kind of people do they think we are?" Well, Britain's adversaries found out what extraordinary people the British are. But all the democracies paid a terrible price for allowing the dictators to underestimate us. We dare not make that mistake again. So, let us ask ourselves, "What kind of people do we think we are?" And let us answer, "Free people, worthy of freedom and determined not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as well."
Sir Winston led his people to great victory in war and then lost an election just as the fruits of victory were about to be enjoyed. But he left office honorably and, as it turned out, temporarily, knowing that the liberty of his people was more important than the fate of any single leader. History recalls his greatness in ways no dictator will ever know. And he left us a message of hope for the future, as timely now as when he first uttered it, as opposition leader in the Commons nearly twenty-seven years ago, when he said, "When we look back on all the perils through which we have passed and at the mighty foes that we have laid low and all the dark and deadly designs that we have frustrated, why should we fear for our future? We have," he said, "come safely through the worst."
Well, the task I've set forth will long outlive our own generation. But together, we too have come through the worst. Let us now begin a major effort to secure the best -- a crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation. For the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny.
AllenWest Allen West
Pres Obama references the great hero Churchill, yet he removed Churchill’s bust from the WH. Will he now restore it to its place of honor?
2 hours ago »
AllenWest Allen West
Watching Pres in London- it’s humorous to me that he who promotes socialist economic policy is quoting Adam Smith & free market principles
It means that he’ll not support Israel, if the Arabs attack it. They must stand on their own.
” watched part of the speech. After watching Netanyahu, Obama was so boring. A woman on the dais looked bored out of her mind. LOL What a loser he is.”
Thankfully today the Brits are having to endure it. I love it when that POS is out of the country. Maybe the ash cloud will prevent his return.
Congressman West...is the Best! I noted that same OBVIOUS reference to Churchill as a bid to undo that earlier slap in the face he gave to Great Britain.
The reference to Adam Smith was equally obvious. Adam Smith must be rolling over in his grave at the growing government control led by Obama’s administration.
Mr. Obama is the ultimate hypocrite!!
I also commented earlier that I thought it was very amusing that Obama, who is VERY anti-colonial in his mislead ideology...found himself in the midst of what had to be, for him, the center of all the grandeur of that “colonizing” empire. Lol...
West is the best. I love the guy and think he is destined to do great things.