He gives great speeches. I will grant President of the United States Barack Obama that. I like a good speech as much as anyone. But I am an analyst by profession, and the old analytic cynicism runs in the background thread of my brain even during an Obama speech.
Today's speech on Islam at Cairo University in Egypt is a great example. It flatters Islamic culture. At the same time it reminds those few Americans who have a slight grasp of history that after the fall of Rome it was Islam, not Christianity, that maintained and developed civilization for almost a millennium.
But there are iron knuckles under the glove. "We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children." Unless it helps us. We are the nation of Wounded Knee, the Republican Party's genocidal campaign in the Philippines, of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and napalm-soaked Vietnam. We destroyed civilization in Iraq even though its leaders, including Saddam Hussein, were enemies of al Qaeda.
President Obama wants us to remember some nice history, and forget the blood on American hands. At a time when our nation's economy is in trouble, he is wasting more money on the U.S. military than any previous President of the United States.
That part about Thomas Jefferson owning a Koran is cute. I bought a Koran (in English) and read it in college as part of trying to understand the world (I was also interested in Sufism, Zen and the like for a while). Note Barack does not say he has a Koran in his library - that would not go over well with American voters. Has he ever read the Koran? He did not say.
"America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire." That is a three-pointer. We are a complex empire, filled with do-gooders who are frustrated by the Pentagon's bewitching every President we elect.
"And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken." There, you see, is the policy statement. We like you, we really do. But our policy is to kill you if you disobey us, no matter how much it costs American tax payers who voted for the Democrats hoping they would bring the troops home.
If Islam is not bad, if it is violence that is bad, why is only American violence good? And included here is violence by our allies and puppets. Tell me oh great Obama, why is it okay for you to be the most violent leader on earth? "The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind." Thank the Lord Jesus Christ he has an exception for innocents killed by aerial bombardment.
"And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon." Heck, didn't we give even more than that to the CEO's of a few U.S. banks known for causing the global economy to implode? Think of it as the Widow's Mite.
As to Palestine, occupied and unoccupied, "Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed." It succeeded for the Israelis, and it worked like magic for them while Barack was patiently waiting to become President. But it is wrong for the Palestinians. They don't give anywhere near enough in donations to the Democratic Party to make it right. "It is time for these settlements to stop." Wow, what a verbal tongue-lashing of Israel for the Cairo University audience.
As to Iran, "we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point." In other words, we will talk nicer, but our policy is the same as the Bush administrations. Only our allies like India, Pakistan, and Israel can have atomic bombs. If Iran wants atomic bombs, it must first become an American ally.
At the end of the speech there is a flurry of talk about Peace, with quotes from the Koran, New Testament, and Torah. Nothing like a little gift-wrapping of the same old American policy package for the Moslem world.
For years I have heard Barack Obama cast a magic spell with his speeches to the American people. And yes, there have been some minor policy changes since Barack has taken office, and it is early in his administration. Maybe, having cast a spell over the people of the world, he will start working to make it a better place.
But the world does not work by magic. You cannot resurrect the civilians killed by orders from Barack Obama in Afghanistan with a speech.
Still, I liked the part of the speech reminding us of Islam's contributions to civilization.