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Since taking office in January 2009, Obama broke every major campaign promise, including relevant ones to his May 19 Middle East speech; namely:
— democratic values;
— closing Guantanamo in one year;
— ending torture, illegal spying, and detention without trial;
— “a new era of openness;”
— willingness to meet individually with Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan, Cuban, and North Korean leaders;
— supporting Israeli and Palestinian efforts to “fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security;” and
— on Afghanistan saying (October 27, 2007): “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this (and the Iraq) war(s). You can take that to the bank,” and by implication not begin new ones.
Instead, his rhetoric belied his policy, spurning democracy, civil liberties, human rights, and rule of law principles. He doubled down George Bush with:
— imperial Iraq and Afghan wars;
— two others against Pakistan and Libya;
— another allied with Israel against Palestine;
— regional support for subservient despots; as well as
— anti-populist proxy wars in Somalia, Central Africa, Yemen, Bahrain, Haiti, Honduras, Colombia, and at home against Muslims, Latino immigrants, and working Americans.
Make no mistake. People across the Middle East aren’t fooled, unlike many Americans no matter how many times they’re betrayed.
Ahead of his speech on May 18, Washington Post writer Scott Wilson headlined, “Obama faces pressure from allies on eve of speech Thursday on Middle East policy,” saying:
US allies want more decisive action “on several volatile issues in the Middle East and North Africa, including the armed rebellion in Libya, the uprising in Syria, and the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”
On May 19, New York Times writer Michael Shear headlined, “Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences,” saying:
He aimed at a domestic and global audience, trying “to construct a cohesive narrative for American voters about his administration’s (unsuccessful) efforts in the region,” notably:
— the stalled peace process;
— continuing Bush-era policies; and
— failure to address Arab uprisings constructively.
As a result, Obama’s Middle East speech was “designed to be the first in a series of rhetorical opportunities for the president,” ahead of a Friday Netanyahu meeting in Washington.
Then over the weekend, he’ll address the annual AIPAC conference, affirming his unwavering support for Israel, expressed Thursday saying:
“As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums,” adding:
“Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat (with) robust enough (efforts) to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security.”
In fact, Israel is a global menace, nuclear-armed with other super-weapons ready and able to use them. Terrorizing Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, it’s belligerent on the slightest pretext or none at all.
As a result, it threatens world peace and security because US administrations partnered in its militarism, repression, and other high crimes for decades, a testimony to the Israeli Lobby’s power in America.
Commenting on his speech, New York Times writers Steven Myers and Mark Landler headlined, “Obama Sees ’67 Borders as Starting Point for Peace Deal,” saying:
Obama “declared that the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war – adjusted to some degree to account for Israeli settlements in the West Bank – should be the basis of a deal.”
In fact, that notion has been on the table for years, based on isolating Palestinians in cantonized bantustans situated on worthless scrubland with few or no resources – a proposal no legitimate leader would accept.
Notably, Haaretz reported that “Obama has granted Netanyahu a major diplomatic victory” by leaving undefined the size or locations of a Palestinian state. It also quoted Netanyahu saying:
“Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace,” adding that he expects Obama to refrain from demanding Israel withdraw to “indefensible (1967 borders) which will leave a large population of Israel in Judea and Samaria and outside Israel’s borders.”
Moreover, core Israel/Palestinian issues remain to be negotiated, no matter that Washington and Israel spurn diplomacy and concessions.
As a result, Palestine is still occupied. Gaza remains isolated under siege, its legitimate government vilified as a terrorist organization. Moreover, the peace process was stillborn from inception, what journalist Henry Siegman once called “the most spectacular deception in modern” times.
Obama’s speech dripped with hypocrisy, another example of policy belying rhetoric, exposing America’s longstanding alliance with Israel for regional dominance. Saying “(i)t will be the policy of the US to support reform throughout the region” is code language for business as usual.
Adding that “(w)e face a historic opportunity (to) show that America values the dignity of a street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator” ignores a belligerent policy, as well as disdain for human rights and civil liberties. It also conceals a determination to divide, conquer, colonize, exploit and control the entire region, giving no quarter to populist aspirations anywhere, including in America, let alone Israel, Palestine, Egypt, or elsewhere in the region.
Important also is that if America had a legitimate regional policy, Obama wouldn’t have to make speeches affirming one.
Post/911, in fact, it was easier than ever for America to declare war on Islam, abroad and at home – a policy no different under Obama than Bush. Empty rhetoric changes nothing.
Around 1.5 billion Muslims want change, peace and the basic respect they deserve. They’re sick and tired of Western dominance, colonization, exploitation, and oppression, supportive of homegrown dictatorships.
On June 4, 2009, Obama addressed Muslims in Cairo, “seek(ing) a new beginning….based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, or need be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
It was hypocritical boilerplate. He decried the “killing of innocent men, women, and children,” yet US forces slaughter them daily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. In addition, America supplies Israel with billions of dollars and the latest weapons and technology to commit slow-motion genocide against millions of Palestinians, deny their legitimate self-determination, and right of their refugees to return home as international law demands.
Moreover, America is a serial aggressor and human rights abuser. High-sounding rhetoric changes nothing. Yet Obama claimed America “did not go (to Afghanistan) by choice, we went of necessity….we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there….Iraq was a war of choice (but) I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.”
“Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own.”
In fact, secret provisions in the Pentagon’s 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) indicate otherwise. They flagrantly violate Iraqi sovereignty, authorizing permanent US bases, camps, and prisons. Moreover, they immunize US forces, civilian security, and private contractors from criminal prosecution. They assure Iraqi “democracy” is illusory.
Afghanistan’s occupation is similar. Officials in both countries have no say over US operations, including incursions into other countries. They require Washington’s approval before concluding any agreements with other countries. Their leaders and key ministries are US-controlled.
Moreover, no timeline is stipulated for America’s withdrawal beyond disingenuous rhetoric affirming it, returning sovereign power to Iraqis and Afghans. Instead, occupation is permanent. America came to stay, allied with proxy security forces to maintain hardline control.
Since Cairo 2009, Obama’s declared support for democracy, peace, human rights, mutual understanding, and social justice brought none to the region where Washington backs its most ruthless tyrants.
His “unbreakable” bond with Israel ignored Palestinians six decade ordeal and 44-year occupation. He said nothing earlier or now about Cast Lead slaughter, besieged Gaza, land theft, home demolitions, mass arrests, torture, targeted assassinations, legitimate Palestinian self-determination, and the right of diaspora refugees to return.
In Cairo, he came, saw, spoke, made empty gestures, no clear promises, and followed it with more of the same yesterday, concealing America’s intention to exploit this resource-rich part of the world.
Unlike easily fooled Americans, Arabs have no illusions. They’ve heard it all before, this time responding with popular uprisings for change they know only they can achieve by staying resolutely committed for it.
So far, it’s nowhere in sight, but maybe, just maybe this time is different. In the fullness of time, we’ll know.