Obama’s first speech on the Middle East, shortly after he was elected and as Gazans were claiming their dead and cleaning the rubble of their decimated cities and villages from Israel’s Cast Lead operation, was a fount of hypocrisy. But who knew that he would just be getting started?
From beginning to end, Obama’s speech today sought to hide, or deliberately mischaracterize the US relationship with the Middle East. It might take a day or two to accurately chronicle all of the self-serving paeans to democracy that Obama issued as obfuscation of the facts that the US consistently bolstered dictatorships in the Middle East, and used their repressive security forces and infrastructure to torture people from other countries in black-hole dungeons that have sucked the life of thousands of Tunisians and Egyptians.
Oh, we were blinded by seeking our “core interests”. And those core interests were simple, you know:
countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
How all that led to bolstering corrupt kleptocracies for thirty or so years is anyone’s guess. And if bolstering those dictatorships was part of the US’s admittedly self-interested pursuit of these “core” goals, then how did exactly these Middle Eastern countries become so poor that, as Obama admits, their revolutions were based on economic issues perhaps more than any other:
Too many in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, and perhaps the hope that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job.
How could the protection of free commerce have led to such a state of affairs? Who knows? Certainly, few will ask in our corporate media. Nor, of course, will any of our mainstream journalists wonder why it is our enemies that are under sanction and military attack, such as Libya and Syria, while our buddies Bahrain and Yemen, which boast similar atrocities and repression, get a stern talking-to behind the bushes of the Rose Garden.
But, of course, the piece de resistance was saved for the end. This is how Obama characterizes the quite legal and indeed, diplomatic and non-violent, efforts of Palestinians to take their issues to the acknowledged arbitrator of international disputes, the United Nations:
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.
You can say many things about the Palestinian Authority’s current strategy, not the least of which is that Palestinians themselves should really view with extreme caution the actions of such a corrupt and inextricably Israel-US linked body. But Obama’s words are simply over the top mischaracterization. The Palestinian Authority has stated quite clearly that its goal is to get a declaration using the same basis that the US claims for its putative peace efforts, “based on the 1967” lines, just as he reiterated in his speech.
Such a move, if the administration was actually interested in a negotiated settlement, could only strengthen the process, and have the backing of the global community. But that’s not the US’s agenda in the Middle East or in Israel, as this statement makes perfectly clear:
how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist.
No, he wasn’t speaking about Israel. As the recent release of the Palestine Papers shows, it has been the Palestinian Authority that has, time and again, sought to meet every one of Israel’s ostensible demands. It is, more than any other group, Israel which refuses to accept the existence of Palestine, in rhetoric and deed, as Obama’s own mention of continued settlement building would make quite clear if there were any mainstream journalists willing to question him on the dichotomy.
Though it’s no news-breaker to note that US sentiments run to the Israeli side, just look at the coding in this language:
We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. He said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” And we see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate…Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow”
Yes, it’s that old active-passive dichotomy. Hamas kills people, Palestinians are lost, inadvertently–somehow, regrettably, and completely unexpectedly–when they get in the way of Israeli shells. And another error; those are much more accurately termed “American shells”, bought and paid for with the vast transfer of American health care, job and infrastructure resources that end up in the Israeli budget yearly.
Obama wrapped up with this bit of rehashed do-da:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”…Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa – words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.
It’s the spirit of those words as they were written at the time–elite hypocrisy, slavery and bigotry–and not the ensuing hundred odd years of struggle that has come closer to making them sincere, with which Obama seeks to brand the Arab Spring. Yes, “we” do hold these truths to be “self-evident”. Until they get in the way of our geo-political thirsts and avarice, and of our alliances with brutal dictators and military occupiers.
That seems painfully obvious, when the New York Times reports [below the on-line fold] just hours before Obama’s speech, that NATO killed 14 demonstrators in Afghanistan. What were thousands of demonstrators in a largely peaceful hamlet demonstrating against so furiously? NATO had killed four people in their community the previous night. As NATO has done time and again. What a sick exclamation point to a hypocritical speech on human rights and the Middle East.