Who will get the natural gas concession to Obama's mouth? His intellectual flatulence is apparently uncontainable and his latest burst - in Cairo - takes its place in a long line of hollow Obama addresses that sound bad and smell worse.
Obama speaks, as always, in the value-neutral language of corporate liberalism, sidestepping questions of justice with meaningless concessions of the "mistakes were made" variety.
He says there is "tension" between "the United States and Muslims around the world" but does not say - cannot say - that the U.S. is guilty of systematic and longstanding injustice against both Muslims and Arabs. The words Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Fallujah, U.S. and Israeli war crimes, do not fall from his hypocritical lips.
He claims that the identified "tension" between Islam and the West is "rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate," though there cannot be much doubt that if the U.S. withdrew its support for Israel's apartheid state, Muslim-U.S. tension would drastically decline and perhaps vanish altogether. But Obama does not support such a development, which means he is in favor of perpetuating the vast majority of the "tension" his disingenuous remarks are supposedly designed to dissolve.
Obama does allude to U.S. policy error (but never crimes), however the alleged mistakes always remain safely in the past, and he wants us to believe they were made inadvertently. For example, he says that "Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies" during the Cold War, an inadvertent and forgivable sin because the U.S. was (allegedly) fighting the Evil Empire on behalf of all humanity. He neglects to mention that (1) Muslim-majority countries are still treated as proxies today long after the Soviet Union vanished from the world scene, and (2) the Soviet Union deterred the U.S. from its worst behavior throughout the Cold War. Who can believe that Washington's wars against Yugoslavia and Iraq would have been dared in the face of a Soviet nuclear deterrent?
Obama does concede, however weakly, that the U.S. "played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government," the 1953 Mossadegh government. With the unanimous backing of parliament and overwhelming public support, Prime Minister Mossadegh had dared to nationalize Iranian oil. The CIA retaliated with a coup, overthrowing Mossadegh in favor of Shah Reza Pahlavi. General Fazollah Zahedi, a Nazi collaborator and staunch partison of American oil interests, emerged as the new Iranian Prime Minister, while the CIA's Kermit Roosevelt became Vice-President of Gulf Oil. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles refused to divulge details of the new arrangements on the grounds that "making them public would affect adversely the foreign relations of the United States." The New York Times hailed the destruction of Iranian democracy as "good news indeed," calling the putsch "an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid" by a country that "goes berserk with fanatical nationalism." Thousands of Mossadegh supporters were dispatched to jail, torture chambers, and graveyards. Why didn't Obama mention these details? Perhaps because they make his professed belief that "no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other" look ridiculous.
But even without them his statement that, "we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children" sounds patently absurd. There is no state on earth that kills more innocent civilians than the United States and nothing has changed in that regard under the Obama Administration. We are still killing Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, and Palestinians and we have no intention of stopping. Quite the contrary. Obama declared in Cairo that it is his first responsibility to "protect the American people," which means a continuation of just such policies.
Furthermore, in treating torture as an excess of Washington's post-911 policy, Obama overlooks the fact that U.S. torture long pre-dates 911 and will certainly continue by proxy even in the wake of Obama's proud declaration that "I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States."
Meanwhile, while condemning anti-Semitic stereotypes in the Muslim world Obama said nothing about Jewish demonization of Islam, which is the successor to the demonization of Communism that made possible the infliction of massive U.S. injustices on peoples struggling for their basic human rights throughout the world. In Cairo he said that "repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong" but he didn't even mention the vile stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims as congenital terrorists that constantly occurs in the U.S. media and movie industry. If this is fair play, prejudice is superfluous. Moreover, it should be pointed out that USrael's injustices against Muslims today are no more inadvertent error than were injustices committed against "Marxists" and "Soviet proxies" in the past; both were and are conscious policies designed to advance Zionist and U.S. corporate interests over the interests of Muslim and non-Muslim peoples alike, whatever the human cost. Obama has not broken with this tradition whatsoever.
Obama repeatedly refers to "violent extremists" as being the problem that should draw everyone together, but U.S. leaders somehow don't fit the designation, in spite of the massive violence they commit against civilians throughout the world, while those who take up arms to deter further such attacks do merit the label. Nowhere does he see fit to mention what ought to be done about Washington illegally invading sovereign nations and slaughtering civilians. The only national security question that deeply interests Obama is whether U.S. wars are to be designated "of necessity" (smart wars) or "of choice" (dumb wars). According to this peculiar optic slaughtering Iraqis is "dumb" (though forgivable) while slaughtering Afghans and Pakistanis is "smart." But in both cases he regards U.S. leaders as morally blameless, and he specifically mentions in the case of Iraq that the Iraqi people are "better off" without Saddam Hussein. Of course, the United States might very well have been "better off" without George Bush as president, but did this mean that another nation had the right to kill him and occupy the country? Obviously not.
Clearly, Obama would like us to forget that disastrous liberal leaders regularly claim, as he does, that "violent extremists" threaten good people everywhere and justify a U.S. policy of permanent counterinsurgency and war. This is what we were told about Korea and Vietnam, "police actions" that killed millions of civilians. This is what we were told about El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, whose tiny populations have been tortured and murdered by U.S. imperialism on an appalling scale. This is what we were told about the PLO when virtually the entire world recognized it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This is what we are still told about Hizbollah, Hamas, and the government of Iran, though all three are legal entities elected to power. Somehow it escapes Obama's attention that it is the U.S., endlessly beholden to "violent extremists" who refuse to allow any alternative to Jewish supremacy and corporate capitalism, that is far and away the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," as Martin Luther King reminds us in one of his greatest speeches. Don't expect President Obama, supposedly a great admirer of Dr. King, to use that quote anytime soon.
Furthermore, Obama claims nonsensically that "resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed," adding that "it was not violence that won full and equal rights" for black people in the U.S. This is a curious and inconsistent position. In the first place, if violent resistance truly is wrong, then it does not matter whether it succeeds or not. Wrong is wrong. Secondly, with the exception of a few pacifists no one, including Obama, really believes that violence is ineffective. Did the American Revolution triumph without the aid of violence? Obviously not. Does Obama look favorably on the American Revolution? Obviously, he does. So violent resistance can work. Furthermore, it is simply not true that black people non-violently won "full and equal rights" in the United States. Aside from the important question of whether black people in the U.S. enjoy equal rights even today, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution were a product of the Civil War, which ended chattel slavery via horrendous violence and laid the basis for legal equality through endless challenges in the courts. Without these, the civil rights movement could have played no role at all.
Obama also ignores U.S. and Israeli imperial violence, preferring to reduce intractable conflict to a psychological problem. "The cycle of suspicion and discord must end . . . . So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace." But is the cycle really "suspicion and discord," or rather, injustice and resistance? And how is it possible, let alone advisable, to ignore the distinction between oppression and resistance? Obviously, in Obama's eyes, those who take up arms against U.S. and Israeli imperial violence are guilty of "sow[ing] hatred." But is this really vile hatred, or rather, appropriate hatred of injustice? One can certainly debate the morality of violent resistance, but one is supposed to hate injustice.
In a show of false high-mindedness, Obama claims that "it is easy to point fingers" when in fact the personal and political cost of blaming the Jewish state for its hideously racist actions is more than daunting. Professors critical of the Holy State are run out of academia, politicians hounded out of office, newspapers harassed and defunded, books marginalized, careers ruined. And only the suicidally reckless dare wonder whether hugely disproportionate Jewish influence in the U.S. mass media is a factor in producing the relentless anti-Muslim, anti-Arab bias seen in its programming. Easy to point fingers? Quite the contrary. It is far easier to suck up to power, which is how Obama got where he is.
Obama claims that "six million Jews were killed" in an "unprecedented Holocaust" during WWII, and adds that, "denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful." He neglects to indicate how this nice round figure is arrived at, and does not bother to mention that even Raul Hillberg, the dean of Holocaust historians, puts the figure at 5.1 million, with other well-regarded writers adhering to even lower estimates. Is Obama saying that Raul Hillberg was an ignorant and hateful man? Probably not, but that is the logical import of his remarks.
Furthermore, why is it hateful to state that one does not believe a fact, or an alleged fact, that is widely accepted by others? This makes little sense. Most U.S. citizens vastly understate the number of deaths caused by the U.S. holocaust in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, but this hardly means that Americans are hateful towards Vietnamese, or Asians in general, and it would be bizarre to insist on the validity of such tortured logic. But organized Jewry is apparently entitled to a separate standard. Why?
Supposedly a brilliant man, President Obama thinks in the vague language of impotent cliche, repeatedly warning us to "make no mistake" and "let there be no doubt," just as Richard Nixon constantly declared "let me make this perfectly clear." He speaks vacuously of "moving forward," when he obviously doesn't know which way he's facing. He talks piously of "seeking common ground," "listening to each other," "respecting one another," "learning from each other," "sharing common aspirations," "focusing on the future," not being "bound by the past," of "deepening ties," of "undeniable progress," of "flames of division," and of "fear" and "mistrust," all divorced from any social context or set of political actors that would reveal where moral responsibility for injustice lies. But this is just the point. If he spelled out precisely the political context he is referring to, his empty rhetoric would be seen for what it is - an irrelevant distraction from horrendous conflicts Obama has no remedy for and, in fact, intends to perpetuate.
William Shawcross, "The Shah's Last Ride," (Simon and Schuster, 1988)
Cedric Belfrage, "The American Inquisition, 1945-1960," (Thunder's Mouth, 1973)
Noam Chomsky, "Towards a New Cold War," (Pantheon, 1973)
Lawrence S. Wittner, "Cold War America: From Hiroshima to Watergate," (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1978)