Friday, June 05, 2009

Angry Arab: 'Obama Speech: Part Vapid and Part Sinister'

Not everyone was taken in by Obama's Cairo speech. One could easily brush the speech's inaccuracies, at times plain condescending tone, 'hearts and minds' approach and general 'let's all feel good about each other' under the carpet by claiming the occasion called exactly for the sort of rhetoric the President deployed. But harsher views inevitably exist. One comes from the Angry Arab, one of the few ME pundits that almost always shows that the Emperor has no clothes on, whether the Emperor is Bush, Zionism, Arab despots and dictators, ME apparatchiks, fellow pundits, anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers or... Obama. As'ad AbuKhalil (Angry Arab) spares the rod for no one - ironically that should make him the Zionist's dream of an anti-Zionist - needless to say he's not. Here's grumpy, ranting at his best:

I did not expect much. I mean, you know the routine by now. When presidents change, they merely change the Zionist Middle East "expert" at the White House who guides the president. Something happened in Middle East policy making in the White House in the Reagan administration. They no more trusted a real Middle East expert to guide policy making (this is party the obituary of the Arabists in Robert Kaplan's book by that name). You no more had a William Quandt at the White House: somebody who is a trained Middle East scholar who is truly balanced in his views of the Middle East. By the Reagan administration, that was killed. Reagan's White House had Geoffrey Kemp (who is now at the Nixon Center) and it went down hill from there. I met Kemp a few times and he is a nice guy but he is no William Quandt. Kemp looked at the Middle East from the standpoint of Cold War calculations and from the standpoint of what is best for American-Israeli relations. The George H.W. Bush's White House had Richard Haas he was no expert on the Middle East. Clinton selected Martin Indyk and that set the stage for the appointment of Zionist activists (with no Middle East expertise like Elliott Abrams) to take over Middle East policy making. This coincided--what a coincidence--with the change in Middle East programs at Washington, DC thank tanks. I mean, when I first came to the city, you could find non-Zionists at DC-based think tanks, including at the American Enterprise Institute. It is ironic that the political culture of the capital became more Zionist after the end of the Cold War when much of the support for Israel and its aggression was predicated--according to advocates--on Cold War arguments. So you can argue that Bill Clinton established a precedent of hiring (non-American) Zionist lobbyists/activists as Middle East advisers. So when I woke up and read the transcript of the speech I started thinking about the process of drafting the speech. It was compiled together from various different elements that were contained in speeches of US presidents before, including speeches by none other than George W. Bush. He begins the speech by attributing the reasons for Muslim hostility to the West to colonialism, Cold War and then modernity--kid you not. By the introduction, I knew that he is and will be missing the point. And his talk about Muslim dignity and the lack of incompatibility between Islam and human rights have been contained in speeches--many of them indeed--by George W. Bush. And these quotations from the Qur'an are really old: they started with Jimmy Carter and in order to justify US support for Camp David. Remember that this began even earlier in the declaration to the Egyptian people by Napoleon's expedition (and at least he had at his disposal real Orientalist, Silvestre de Sacy, and not Jeffrey Feltman or Daniel Shapiro: and there is very little on the latter. He works as the Middle East expert at the National Security Council of Obama's White House. He did not study the Middle East and worked on the staff of various Zionist members of congress including Diane Feinstein. His resume include bragging about his work on the hill: he spearheaded work to ban Al-Manar from the US and to push for the Syria Accountability Act, meaning he implemented orders from AIPAC--not more and no less). Obama is not a man of courage: if he was politically courageous, he would have said that Al-Azhar under the rule of Nasser was a force of progressive thought, enlightenment, state feminism support, and quasi-secularism. Under American puppets, Sadat and Mubarak, Al-Azhar became a force of obscurantism, fanaticism, misogyny, religious intolerance, and violence. Al-Azhar does not deserve any praise whatsoever. The Copts, Freethinkers, and women all sufferes because of rulings from Al-Azhar. Ideas of Al-Qa`idah and religious fanaticism's in general should be blamed on that obsolete institution which serves as a tool of the dictators in Egypt. His reference to the early roots of Islam in America is so disingenuous: he has one bland quote from John Adams and leave out various expressions of bigotry against Muslims by founding fathers. And he then condemns (unspecified) Western stereotypes of Muslims and then matches them with what he calls Muslim stereotypes of America as empire. But those two are not symmetrical: American stereotypes of Muslims are racist and essentialist, and the notion that the US is a war mongering Empire is shared by none Muslims and Muslims alike around the world. The literature about the US as Empire is written largely by Westerners. So Obama is asking for a bargain: to end Western racism (but not wars) against Muslims, Muslims need to stop attacking US foreign policy and wars. This is chicanery--don't you like those old fashioned words? He talks about the US as a force of "progress." How untrue for Obama's audience: the US has consistently opposed forces of progress and advancement in the Middle East: in every conflict between an oil Sheikh or a polygamous prince against progressive socialists or Arab nationalist secularists, the US has always sided with the polygamous princes who have been in alliance with religious kooks and advocates of "holy wars." Hell, he just came from Saudi Arabia where he praised the wisdom of the Saudi king and he wants to talk to me about "force of progress"? Maybe if you can bring up the issue of Wahhabi fanaticism I would believe you. He said that his personal story as an African American (with an African Muslim name) who was elected president is not unique. Yes, it is: and it was not easy: and his name was mocked during his campaign, and he made his best to distance himself from anything Muslims. So here, Obama is assuming that his Cairo audience are a bunch of idiots who did not follow his campaign and the reactions that it generated. He adds that Muslims in America enjoy education and income above average Americans. Yes, that is true, and I hate when people say that: the reasons is due to the racist/cl assist rules for the immigrants from Muslims/Middle East countries: only those who high degrees are allowed into the country, while poor people from other countries are allowed. If you are in the Middle East, your chances of being allowed into the US are related to the high degrees you hold. He said that there are mosques in the US but does not mention that many communities fight tooth and nail against those mosques. His references to Iraq and Afghanistan are largely apologetic: and he does not mention that his past critiques of the invasion of Iraq was asking to the criticisms of the Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza in Tikkun: that it is based on what is good or bad for Israel, and not for what it does to the victims. He talks about Taliban and Al-Qa`idah's killing of Muslims (and Muslims know that they have killed Muslims) but he does not mention that Bush administration and Obama administration have also been killing innocent Muslims: if anything, the rate of bombing from the air may have increased over Afghanistan under Obama: the advocate of the surge in Afghanistan versus Bush, the advocate of surge in Iraq. What a difference. I was offended by his lecturing to Muslims about Jewish suffering: as if the audience is entirely anti-Semitic. There are anti-Semites in the US and he does not lecture to them. He spoke about the repugnant practice of Holocaust denial but did not mention that the literature is entirely Western in that regard. And he then moves from a discussion of the Nazism to the Arab-Israeli conflict. What is his point here: that because of Nazi crimes, the Palestinians need to accommodate Zionist crimes on their lands? This is the most offensive section of course: he talks about the Palestinians without identifying who was doing those bad things to them. Look at this sentence: "have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation." So their suffering is due to their pursuit of a homeland: so they should stop the pursuit and the suffering will go away. He then mention the "pain of dislocation." What is that o Obama? Is that like a shoulder dislocation? He refers to Palestinian reference to "for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding" but never mentions Israeli wars, attacks, and invasions and yet he makes specific references to Palestinian violence thereby making it clear that adheres to White Man standards: that only Israeli lives matter. I mean, if you compare the killing and terrorism between the two sides, the Israeli side clearly comes out on top in terrorism, wars, and aggression. He then lectures the Palestinians: "Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed." I read that and thought: wait. Did you not in the early part of the speech bragged about how the US fought (non-violently, I may add) against British Empire? I should lecture Obama here: why didn't the US resort to non-violent resistance against the British Empire? How could he speak about nuclear weapons without even mentioning the Israeli arsenal? That was another insult to the intelligence of the audience: maybe Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro told him that Arabs don't know that Israel has nuclear weapons. His words about democracy are just as empty as they were under Bush: he just returned from Saudi Arabia, for potato's sake, and he has just refused to label Egyptian dictator as...autocrat. One of the most offensive part of the speech was his reference to religious freedom: he concludes that section by praising the Saudi imitative for inter-faith dialogue. So Obama takes Wahhabi doctrine as the model for religious freedoms. I understand you, now Obama. I understand you very well.
PS There is much more to be said but I got bored and have to continue grading.

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