Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama’s Cairo speech: America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire


Speaking at Cairo University, home of the Fightin’ Spinxes, Barack Obama said that “no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust” but failed to say precisely how many speeches might be required. I’m guessing seven.

Why had he come to Cairo? “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.” Also, have you tried getting a decent kebab in D.C.? I’m not sure if all this talk about the relationship between the US and Islam treats Islam as a nation or the US as a religion.

AND WE’VE GIVEN THEM McDONALD’S AND BRITNEY SPEARS: “Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation.”

FOR EXAMPLE, IT ISN’T A FLOOR WAX: “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t.”

WHEREVER THERE’S A COP BEATIN’ UP A GUY: “And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

SOMETIMES, WE’RE JUST IMPERIALLY SELF-INTERESTED: “Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”


“SO LET THERE BE NO DOUBT” IS THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America.” He didn’t say what part.

He insisted that Afghanistan was not a war of choice, but Iraq was, adding, “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.” So as long as we’ve learned a valuable lesson, I’m sure Iraqis will agree it’s all been worth it. They’re the reminderers.

“LET US BE CLEAR” IS THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day.”

“MAKE NO MISTAKE” IS ALSO THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan.”

“Denying that fact [the Holocaust] is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.” Adding, “Okay, two Jews walked into a bar...”

“SO LET THERE BE NO DOUBT” IS THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.”

WELL IF IT’S EASY, LET’S DO THAT THEN: “It’s easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond.” So the Israelis are subject to ongoing constant hostility & attacks, while the only thing Palestinians have to complain about happened 60 years ago.

In the most bizarre passage, Obama used American history to prove that Palestinians must suffer quietly: “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed.” George Washington, War of Independence, ring a bell at all? “For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.” Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, ring a bell at all? Really, did he just tell us that slaves shouldn’t have resisted slavery with violence?

He added that “It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children... That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.” Again, that’s just for Palestinians; we’ll still be using rockets and missiles and predator drones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Oh, and I must have missed the part where he suggested that Israel also must “abandon violence.” Guess the speech was running a little long.


“Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build.” Well, maybe not now, since Israel is still banning the importation of building materials into Gaza.

YOU’RE SO VAIN, I’LL BET YOU THINK THIS ISLAMIC REPUBLIC’S ABOUT YOU: “For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country”.

He admitted the US’s involvement in the 1953 coup. Has a president done that before? “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.” It’s Day 10,806 of the Iranian Hostage Crisis! (Finally, Wolfram Alpha has proven useful for something).

BZZZ. I’M SORRY, YOU HAVE FAILED THE ALLITERATION PORTION OF THE TEST: “I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve.”

He explained why it wasn’t unfair to sanction Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program when “some countries” have nukes: “I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that’s why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.” So that’s okay, then.

“LET ME BE CLEAR” IS THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.”

AS OPPOSED TO WHAT, THE METRIC SYSTEM? “Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith.”

FOR HIS NEXT TRICK, HE WILL HEAL THE SUNNI/SHIA SPLIT: “And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.”

“LET ME BE CLEAR” IS THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “Now, let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam.”

Three, maybe four times in the speech, he returned to the theme of rights for women. Well, one right in particular: “That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.” “it 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.” “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.” Of course the right he has chosen to emphasize for Muslim women living in Western countries (it will be interesting to see if there is a reaction to this from France or, indeed, Turkey), is compulsory for women in certain parts of the Muslim world, enforced by violence. Obama did not even hint that there might be a right for women to choose not to wear the hijab.

SEPARATE BUT EQUAL: “I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.”

WHICH WILL BE A PROBLEM FOR HAITI’S ZOMBIE-BASED ECONOMIC STRATEGY: “no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground”.

A sphinx, and some big statue thingy


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