From the New York Times:
“I consider Mr. Obama’s speech a morphine injection to numb the minds of Muslim and Arab people,” said Mr. Abdullah, the Syrian electrical engineer, “so that they don’t mind so much the injustices carried out by the United States in the region, as long as Mr. Obama respects Islamic culture and heritage.”
I’m sleepy already.
Now that we’ve established that the critical issues are: 1) violent extremism 2) unbreakable bonds with Israel 3) nuclear weapons 4) democracy 5) religious freedom 6) women’s rights; it must be plainly said that today’s speech had some limits. It wasn’t “real talk to real people,” it was an introduction to an international community — but to be clear, everyone who shows up for the next conversation must know that the first conversation requires some clean up.
The speech sounded wonderful.
It sounded genuine. It also sounded unlike anything ever said by a Western (let alone American) head of state. It was delivered in clear, crisp, clean cultural tones that appealed to the ear of the listener. Well-chosen words reflected a commitment to reframe a new relationship, but (and this is a big one) there are some positions that are so deeply entrenched that even a commitment to speak truth from the outset can be waylaid by a superior agenda.
“That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings. This is a difficult responsibility to embrace, for human history has often been a record of nations and tribes, and, yes, religions subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests.Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership, our progress must be shared.
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite. We must face these tensions squarely. And so, in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.”
All rational adults know that violent extremism simply cannot be Barack Obama’s first REAL talking point. Frankly, its patently absurd for a grown ass man who controls the world’s largest military to even raise this issue. That would be like Bill Gates agreeing to gift computers to every elementary school in New York City on the condition that every child surrender their Apple t-shirts.
Obama needs a new introduction. It’s not that the acts of violence engaged in by these persons are “cool” or “acceptable.” Far from it. It’s that in the specific case of Al-Qaeda and Osama bin-Laden, these acts are a response to the United States military establishing a presence in Saudi Arabia. That was never discussed. Presumably after a nice visit to Riyadh (perhaps a red phone conversation to the hills of Afghanistan or the South of France or wherever Osama is getting dialysis), Obama knows all about the reasons why talking point Number 1 is a Red Herring. He also knows that for the game to be the game, talking point #1 must remain talking point #1.
The Pentagon operates an untold number of bases, directly and indirectly. They own or lease millions of acres of land, hire millions of people and have conducted operations all over the planet. Soldiers and American contractors have committed crimes, skirted local jurisdictions, killed, raped, maimed and otherwise trod on the sovereingty of many nations with impunity.
This is a brand of sanctioned and subsidized violent extremism. It is exported to the ends of the earth: Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia and so many points along the way. This brand of violence is advanced and it is ongoing. It has not ceased or abated in any demonstrable way.
If it had, that should have been talking point number 1. The world has been witness to American violence for decades. You cannot begin a conversation with someone you respect by acting as if you have no history. You cannot authentically and honestly claim that history by claiming the gun in your hand while seeking to take the slingshot in theirs.
For all the things that President’s Obama’s speech was, it was not a commitment to pull back from a military presence and aggression in areas where it can be sustained. It was an acknowledgment that the US is willing to “retreat” from certain locations, but we should know by now that this is a function of being overextended.
It occurred to me, while listening to the speech, what tremendous difficulty the Native Americans must have had in negotiating treaties with the United States of America. Even as far back as the 1880’s, it must have been nearly impossible to truly grasp the perfidious American predilection for shades of truth. One side of the forked tongue opposes torture. The other side defends it and avoids prosecution for war crimes. One side of the forked tongue defends the rights of oppressed peoples. The other side professes an unbreakable bond with three settler-colonial apartheid regimes on three continents (Israel, South Africa, Australia). At some point, the Indians must have simply said, “Who the hell are you?”
In fact, the answer was probably, “I am no one in particular. I am elected for a short time to serve a people who know not what I do in their name. I will soon be gone and be replaced by another with an unknown name and an unknown game. Know this, if nothing else. Whatever it is on which we agree today, know that it will be torn asunder tomorrow. Do not trust in what I say because my words come with an expiration date. My truths work best if believed by November 20, 2012. In the end, I am a proxy for the genuine article. If you must know me for me, look at my guns and my money.”
Dirty water is deadly on both sides of the Atlantic.