Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 04, 2009

Obama's Speech In Cairo

As expected the speech, an address to the Muslim world,  was well written and Obama is a very good orator. It was welcomed with applause. There were frequent mentioning and quotations from the Koran as well as the Torah and the Bible. What about Hindus, Buddhist and atheists?

A few other things I missed and others will likely miss too.

While Abu Ghraib was mentioned Obama made no apology for what was done there. Neither did he promise to go after the perpetrators.

Obama rejected the 'killing of innocent civilians' and spoke of 'respect for sovereignty'. But how does that reconcile with him ordering predator drones to kill so many people in Pakistan?

With regard to Iran he spoke of nuclear weapons. But Iran is not working on nuclear weapons. Iran should have 'access to nuclear technology'. Why only access? Why should Iran not be allowed to enrich Uranium by itself?

Obama spoke of Israel as a consequence of the holocaust. That is not historic truth. Zionism is much older and the forceful Jewish immigration into Palestine and resistance against it started well before the holocaust.

He promised a two state solution without elaborating how to get there. The Israeli right and the lobby will howl over this. Fine. But how will Obama try to achieve this aim?

He talks of a 'humanitarian crisis in Gaza'. What has he done to change that?

Answers to these questions and others will determine if the speech was really a success as the media will predictable describe it. But again, the problem is not what is said, the problem is what is done on the big issues. There Obama's speech lacked specifics.

Only when real action follows up, and rather quickly, will the speech have a positive effect. Without follow up the disappointment might well increase the tensions and renew bad feelings about the United States.

The reset button does not help when the reboot starts the same faulty program that caused the problems.

Posted by b on June 4, 2009 at 11:41 UTC | Permalink


b, my sentiments precisely. A pretty speech, even uplifting in parts, but a predictable disappointment for anyone with deep knowledge of the region's problems.

Posted by: Parviz | Jun 4 2009 11:44 utc | 1

You got it. B.O. is a great speaker and somebody writes great speeches, unfortunately what he actually does is in no way connected to his commitments, promises, or speeches - a total disconnect, in other words. They are pleasant and reassuring though, if you can just close your eyes and just listen to the words.

Posted by: Knowdoubt | Jun 4 2009 12:02 utc | 2

Hamas Letter to Obama

We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights organizations. We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.

However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift that not only commences with lifting the siege on Gaza and halts all settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are prodded into adhering to.

Again, we welcome you to Gaza which would allow you to see firsthand our ground zero. Furthermore, it would enhance the US position; enabling you to speak with new credibility and authority in dealing with all the parties.

Posted by: b | Jun 4 2009 12:14 utc | 3

True ~ sweet but empty words! Maybe these honeyed words are the much-promised 'change we can believe in'.

Posted by: Skeptical | Jun 4 2009 12:16 utc | 4

I don't know if anyone has made reference to this Greenwald article, but it seems like more of the same from the Obama camp. New boss, same as the old boss.

Glenn Greenwald
Monday June 1, 2009 05:02 EDT
Obama's support for the new Graham-Lieberman secrecy law

Posted by: The Hive Mind | Jun 4 2009 12:41 utc | 5

Peter Daou: Let Women Wear the Hijab: The Emptiness of Obama's Cairo Speech

reading the transcript, I was struck by two things:

1. Aside from a few platitudes, it is disappointingly weak on human rights and specifically women's rights.

2. It betrays a naiveté, perhaps feigned, about how the Arab world works.
Enough with the perpetual campaign. True justice, true peace, these are earned through courageous decisions and bold actions. Real truth to power.

If we are to fix America's image in the world and if we are to heal the planet's myriad ills, it will not be done through contrite kumbaya speeches about how we are all one world and how we should all coexist peacefully, no matter whether the remarks are delivered in Cleveland or Cairo. It will be done by leading through example, by righting the many wrongs here at home, by seeking justice and fairness for all, by doing what is right, not saying what sounds pleasing to the media elite and the pliable punditocracy.

Posted by: b | Jun 4 2009 13:18 utc | 6

Sad to say, I actually wanted to believe Obama might make a difference. It should have been painfully obvious to me back in January that the only difference would be in the words used to tell the same lies. I hope this opens up a lot of people's eyes, but I doubt if it will. I still hear the same platitudes from the usual suspects, and of course the Hallelujah Chorus on the right is full of their usual bile. No one seems to care about the direction my country and the world are headed in (present company excepted, of course). Makes me want to go out and buy more ammunition...

Posted by: Jim T. | Jun 4 2009 13:53 utc | 7

Well a bit of change is there. Obama will likely achieve regime change in Israel.

Ministers split over Obama's Cairo speech

Echoes of US President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo resonated through Jerusalem's corridors Thursday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a special consultation immediately after it was over.

With Obama's public commitment in the speech on two-states and (vague on) settlements, Netanjahu has no hope to wiggle out. His coalition will explode when he freezes settlements and will explode when Obama does something serious against Likud's interest, which he will likely have to do.

Posted by: b | Jun 4 2009 14:05 utc | 8

One thing I liked about Obama's speech was how frustrated it has made the Likudniks.

We have the republican jewish coalition angered by Obama's - get this - "too balanced" approach.

Posted by: Anthony | Jun 4 2009 14:40 utc | 9

i 1. Aside from a few platitudes, it is disappointingly weak on human rights and specifically women's rights.

"change" takes a while to evolve... those who expected 12+ years of mismanagement and piracy to be reversed in 3/4 months are bound to be disappointed...

as for the speech...

consider two sides engaged in hostilities, and a third party attempting to mediate...

the primary objective is to get them talking...
establish some ground rules...

I don't think blasting one side for treatment of their women will bring progress...

especially when the mediator represents a group which still needs to clean up their own act ...

home-grown Christian terrorists in this country have rendered Roe v. Wade impotent... as Dr. Tiller's murder illustrates only too well

the attacks on Sotomayor are sexist and racist...

the view by many Americans is still they should remain 'barefoot and pregnant'

as for human rights, has Mr. Daou forgotten about Abu Ghraib and Gitmo...

by all means Obama should instruct the ME and the world on human rights... yes indeed...

Posted by: crone | Jun 4 2009 14:43 utc | 10

Tell me again America's strategic interests in supporting Israel at the cost of alienating all Arab opinion? Are we saying here that America's blind bsupport of Israel, re-iterated by Pres. Obama, is not in its strategic interest, but determined solely by 1) public sentiment, or 2) Mossad or AIPAC's leverage on the US Congress?

Posted by: senecal | Jun 4 2009 15:18 utc | 11

senecal@11: US support of Israel is not "blind". How much of that support is because of public sentiment, particularly from the Christian right, or from levearge of AIPAC on our bought and paid for politicians is debated everywhere, but the critical aspect of military supremacy over the ME is not really addressed well in most of these debates. I can't address it either, because much of the military agreements with between US and Israel are not public information. We know that, because every few years some of that secret information gets out into the public domaine. The following is a note I sent to a friend of mine in DC about a month ago:

David, your friend Nick Kotz is part of the problem, although he doesn't see himself as such. He describes himself as what we would call "moderate", but note: he is as deeply committed to Israel as the hard line Zionists, AND, he only imagines that the US has some necessity to support Israel because they are a "bastion of democracy" and represent "US interests" in the middle east. I've heard the "US aircraft carrier" rationale before. It is nonsense. Israel has no oil, is not a promoter of democracy in the middle east or anywhere for that matter (recall how they undercut the Hamas/Fatah democratic coalition govt? with important neocon support out of the Office of Special Operations in the WH?), does not promote US interests in ME (only their own, quite understandably), and represents one of the worst kind of democratic models of governance in the world. I can name 3 estranged countries in the ME/Central Asia that we need in our camp more than Israel. If Israel slid off into the ocean tomorrow it would not damage US interests one iota - it would probably help US interests. I'm not anti-Israel any more than most of the western world were anti-US during the reign of W, but I have very similar feelings, I'm sure, about the people who have hi-jacked Israel and turned it into a pariah state unnecessarily - I despise them, just as I do the militarists here and elsewhere. Under the govts which have prevailed for the last 40 or so years Israel's role "benefiting" the US in the ME is easily seen to be to keep the area 'safe for war' - which connects very nicely with the aims of our military/corporate power elites - and theirs. As long as the NIck Kotzes of American Jewry maintain their ambivalence, fail to organize powerfully, and dampen their voices instead of raising them to the highest level, I have no more use for them than the cowardly (and probably ambivalent) "moderate" Muslims who keep quiet about the terror/atrocities committed in the name of Islam. I do not fear "Arabists" in our midst, or in our govt, any more than neo-zionists. When Kotz raises that canard (ESPECIALLY RE: FREEMAN'S APP'T!!) he reveals himself completely.

Posted by: ds | Jun 4 2009 16:40 utc | 12


Go, team!

Posted by: china_hand2 | Jun 4 2009 17:06 utc | 13

dairie over at kos.......obama = tut ench ananun,
sorry no link,!!!), with pictures and all, the masses need to believe after all.
I am currently in the south o france, very lovely, and it seems to me that the shit has hit the fan, and everyone is frantically trying to hide the stains on the shirt and assuring all others that no the smell ain't what you think it is. all roses and bumblebees here.......
My friend just received her paycheque, the overhours of the month worked will not bepayed this month together with her fixed income, it will be payed next month. She works 80 hours per month, and is short on all bills. Next month she will also work less hours, as she has accumulated overhours......She does not know how to make it, she has two kids, mid forties, and just a lovely person to be around. at this moment she is food shopping with her father, who will pay the bill btw.

I was never in the camp obama, if i could i would have voted kucinic.......
Obama is there to tell us in nice words, over and over,that stuff is not going to happen, that business is as always and don't we worry our prette heads over nothing, nice rethoric, grammatically correct; a verbal container load of horse manure free of charge. thats his job and he does it well.

Posted by: sabine | Jun 4 2009 17:24 utc | 14

i was in the car for 5 hours and listening to the french radio - they made much of it. so i heard a few snippets. drowned out by the laudatory comments. the french love b. o. to bits. no dissent allowed on mainstream radio anyway. he is the anti-bush messiah and 'left' enough, at least in words, to please assorted hoi polloi, phake philosophers, caviar left.

haven't read the transcript yet.

i picked up one hitchhiker, a young woman, single parent, with two small children, who had just lost her job, she was paid a thousand euros per month in 'logistics' routing transport trucks from a computer and was on her way to the main unemployment office.

she said, you have to keep on going.

b. o. writes his speeches himself pretty much (imho.) very good he is at it too.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 4 2009 17:46 utc | 15

@tangerine - article from last month
Speechwriter preps for biggest test

For Ben Rhodes, the road to Cairo begins in the Oval Office, with a legal pad on his lap, watching the president’s mind work and trying to capture his ideas and his voice.

If past speeches are any guide, Rhodes’ journey could end in a speeding van, crouched over a laptop as he puts the final touches on the most anticipated foreign policy speech of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The three weeks in between will involve trips to a secret office behind a door with four locks and at least three rounds of edits by Obama that typically start with, “This is well-written but ...”

Rhodes, 31, is Obama’s only foreign policy speechwriter and the one charged with writing his long-promised address to the Muslim world, scheduled to be delivered in Egypt on June 4.

He also was the sole White House speechwriter who traveled with the president on his first foreign trip to Europe. It turned out to be a nerve-racking jaunt full of twists that Rhodes would have welcomed a few years back, when he was an aspiring fiction writer working on a novel called “The Oasis of Love.”


Not long ago, Rhodes was one of the obscure guys who wrote Obama’s campaign speeches in Starbucks and played video games into the early morning hours. Now he attends national security meetings and takes writer’s refuge in a secret office on the third floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Rhodes is still largely unknown compared to Jon Favreau, Obama’s 27-year-old chief speechwriter and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. But he has come a long way in a few years — from mulling over that novel, about a megachurch in Houston, a dog track and a failed romance, to writing a closely watched president’s most significant speeches.


Consider the addresses he has had a hand in since Obama took office: the unveiling of the United States’ new strategy in Afghanistan, the outline of a plan for troop withdrawal from Iraq, a Nowruz message to Iran, every prepared word Obama said in Europe and Latin America and now a major speech to the Muslim world.

“That’ll be the biggest speech yet from the foreign policy side,” said Rhodes, whose official title is deputy director of speechwriting at the White House.

The process for the Cairo address will begin this week in the same way it has for other foreign policy speeches Rhodes has written since the Inauguration: Obama will summon Axelrod; Rhodes; Denis McDonough, a deputy national security adviser; and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to the Oval Office.

The president will talk off the cuff for a half-hour or so about what he wants to say in the speech. Rhodes calls it the “download.”

Obama will go back to the speech, almost always by hand, three or four times before he’s satisfied.
“His criticism is more, ‘No, what I really wanted to say is this, and you didn’t quite capture that here,’” Rhodes said. “Generally, if he’s not happy with it, he knows why he’s not, so he gives you a pretty clear sense the first time he talks to you.”


Posted by: b real | Jun 4 2009 18:06 utc | 16

not at all well at this moment & i wonder in the middle of my own distress - how little the empire & its president have any idea, have any idea at all of the ampleur of what they have done

the invasion of afghanistan & iraq & a contiuzs undermining of the sovereignty of pakistan

they seem to be immune to their destructive power - so that the destruction the absolute destruction of irak - what has happened to her is irrevocable - culture that has existed for millenia have been shoved into the sands - never to appear again as a people or a culture - only as puppets

the empire"s short term desire for profit & its long term war on china has not only made a mess of this world & but in reality it too has shat in its pants & can only manouver towards catastrophe

there is a gilm made in iraq in the months that preceded the invasion & it is a simple tale of a man searching for medecines for his sick wife & his quest - simple but watching, ii was taken aback by the enormity of the empire"s crimes

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 4 2009 18:37 utc | 17

I loved the bit where Obama spoke sweetly about King Abdullah’s "interfaith dialogue" without bothering to ask why His Royal Hypocrite doesn’t allow A SINGLE Bible to enter his Kingdom, and spoke of women’s rights without asking why Saudi women still aren’t permitted to drive cars.

Posted by: Parviz | Jun 4 2009 18:52 utc | 18

More useless tongue wagging....
The two state 'solution' is no solution, as it leavs two states side by side that still live in enmity.

Posted by: brian | Jun 4 2009 22:22 utc | 19

Giap, not to excuse our sins over there, however I think the Arabs will outlast our feeble adolescent achievements.

Parviz, They allow Bibles in the country just not enough to go handing them about. Are you telling me you consciously embraced the Trinitarian myth? Seriously? Kierkegaard, one of Christianity's celebrants embraces the Trinity for it's utter absurdity. I mean, if you're gonna take some ironic, existential slant on things, I can dig that, but you know, to in full faith commit heresy and embrace a stand Jesus himself never articulated takes a real leap of faith.

I appreciate Islam for the fact that it doesn't proselytize. I appreciate it for being fairly austere and the clergy are the least powerful of the Three Abrahamic faiths. Though I still keep an open mind about Zoroastrianism.

Posted by: scott | Jun 5 2009 0:44 utc | 20

As always, can actions match the rhetoric?

Posted by: ben | Jun 5 2009 5:30 utc | 21

scott, you clearly don't know my religious views. I have constantly written that "religion is the root of all evil". The 'Bible' example was merely to highlight Saudi hypocrisy. They finance the building of mosques world-wide but don't allow other religious buildings on Saudi soil. And the world lets them get away with it! Conversion to Christianity by a Muslim is considered Apostasy and carries an automatic death sentence.

Interesting that you mentioned Zoroastrianism, the religion that inspired Cyrus the Great of Persia to declare the first Charter of Human Rights (freedom of movement, freedom of worship, abolishment of slavery, equal rights and pay for women, etc.,.) 2,500 years ago. It's been downhill ever since.

Posted by: Parviz | Jun 5 2009 6:07 utc | 22

As for your comments on Islam, you clearly haven't read the Koran and don't have a clue what you're talking about ;-)

Posted by: Parviz | Jun 5 2009 6:08 utc | 23

thx for that b real @ 16, crafting of a voice and all that.. makes it a bit clearer...whatever the process b. o. is a master, so far off the hackneyed and tinny sounding bush speeches...which were simply in a different genre, register.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 5 2009 16:54 utc | 24

william blum: Team Obama/Cult Obama

The praise heaped on President Obama for his speech to the Muslim world by writers on the left, both here and abroad, is disturbing. I'm referring to people who I think should know better, who've taken Politics 101 and can easily see the many hypocrisies in Obama's talk, as well as the distortions, omissions, and contradictions, the true but irrelevant observations, the lies, the optimistic words without any matching action, the insensitivities to victims. Yet, these commentators are impressed, in many cases very impressed. In the world at large, this frame of mind borders on a cult.

In such cases one must look beyond the intellect and examine the emotional appeal. We all know the world is in big trouble -- Three Great Problems: universal, incessant violence; financial crisis provoking economic suffering; environmental degradation. In all three areas the United States bears more culpability than any other single country. Who better to satisfy humankind's craving for relief than a new American president who, it appears, understands the problems; admits, to one degree or another, his country's responsibility for them; and "eloquently" expresses his desire and determination to change US policies and embolden the rest of the world to follow his inspiring example. Is it any wonder that it's 1964, the Beatles have just arrived in New York, and everyone is a teenage girl?

I could go through the talk Obama gave in Cairo and point out line by line the hypocrisies, the mere platitudes, the plain nonsense, and the rest. ("I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States." -- No mention of it being outsourced, probably to the very country he was speaking in, amongst others. ... "No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons." -- But this is precisely what the United States is trying to do concerning Iran and North Korea.) But since others have been pointing out these lies very well I'd like to try something else in dealing with the problem -- the problem of well-educated people, as well as the not so well-educated, being so moved by a career politician saying "all the right things" to give food for hope to billions starving for it, and swallowing it all as if they had been born yesterday. I'd like to take them back to another charismatic figure, Adolf Hitler, speaking to the German people two years and four months after becoming Chancellor, addressing a Germany still reeling with humiliation from its being The Defeated Nation in the World War, with huge losses of its young men, still being punished by the world for its militarism, suffering mass unemployment and other effects of the great depression. Here are excerpts from the speech of May 21, 1935. Imagine how it fed the hungry German people

I conceive it my duty to be perfectly frank and open in addressing the nation. I frequently hear from Anglo-Saxon tribes expressions of regret that Germany has departed from those principles of democracy, which in those countries are held particularly sacred. This opinion is entirely erroneous. Germany, too, has a democratic Constitution. Our love of peace perhaps is greater than in the case of others, for we have suffered most from war. None of us wants to threaten anybody, but we all are determined to obtain the security and equality of our people. The World War should be a cry of warning here. Not for a second time can Europe survive such a catastrophe. Germany has solemnly guaranteed France her present frontiers, resigning herself to the permanent loss of Alsace-Lorraine. She has made a treaty with Poland and we hope it will be renewed and renewed again at every expiry of the set period. The German Reich, especially the present German Government, has no other wish except to live on terms of peace and friendship with all the neighboring States. Germany has nothing to gain from a European war. What we want is liberty and independence. Because of these intentions of ours we are ready to negotiate non-aggression pacts with our neighbor States. Germany has neither the wish nor the intention to mix in internal Austrian affairs, or to annex or to unite with Austria. The German Government is ready in principle to conclude non-aggression pacts with its individual neighbor States and to supplement those provisions which aim at isolating belligerents and localizing war areas. In limiting German air armament to parity with individual other great nations of the west, it makes possible that at any time the upper figure may be limited, which limit Germany will then take as a binding obligation to keep within. Germany is ready to participate actively in any efforts for drastic limitation of unrestricted arming. She sees the only possible way in a return to the principles of the old Geneva Red Cross convention. She believes, to begin with, only in the possibility of the gradual abolition and outlawing of fighting methods which are contrary to this convention, such as dum-dum bullets and other missiles which are a deadly menace to civilian women and children.

To abolish fighting places, but to leave the question of bombardment open, seems to us wrong and ineffective. But we believe it is possible to ban certain arms as contrary to international law and to outlaw those who use them. But this, too, can only be done gradually. Therefore, gas and incendiary and explosive bombs outside of the battle area can be banned and the ban extended later to all bombing. As long as bombing is free, a limitation of bombing planes is a doubtful proposition. But as soon as bombing is branded as barbarism, the building of bombing planes will automatically cease.

Just as the Red Cross stopped the killing of wounded and prisoners, it should be possible to stop the bombing of civilians. In the adoption of such principles, Germany sees a better means of pacification and security for peoples than in all the assistance pacts and military conventions.

The German Government is ready to agree to every limitation leading to abandonment of the heaviest weapons which are especially suitable for aggression. These comprise, first, the heaviest artillery and heaviest tanks.

Germany declares herself ready to agree to the delimitation of caliber of artillery and guns on dreadnoughts, cruisers and torpedo boats. Similarly, the German Government is ready to adopt any limitation on naval tonnage, and finally to agree to the limitation of tonnage of submarines or even to their abolition, provided other countries do likewise.

The German Government is of the opinion that all attempts effectively to lessen tension between individual States through international agreements or agreements between several States are doomed to failure unless suitable measures are taken to prevent poisoning of public opinion on the part of irresponsible individuals in speech, writing, in the film and the theatre.

The German Government is ready any time to agree to an international agreement which will effectively prevent and make impossible all attempts to interfere from the outside in affairs of other States. The term ‘interference’ should be internationally defined.

If people wish for peace it must be possible for governments to maintain it. We believe the restoration of the German defense force will contribute to this peace because of the simple fact that its existence removes a dangerous vacuum in Europe. We believe if the peoples of the world could agree to destroy all their gas and inflammable and explosive bombs this would be cheaper than using them to destroy one another. In saying this I am not speaking any longer as the representative of a defenseless State which could reap only advantages and no obligations from such action from others.

I cannot better conclude my speech to you, my fellow-figures and trustees of the nation, than by repeating our confession of faith in peace: Whoever lights the torch of war in Europe can wish for nothing but chaos. We, however, live in the firm conviction our times will see not the decline but the renaissance of the West. It is our proud hope and our unshakable belief Germany can make an imperishable contribution to this great work.

How many people in the world, including numerous highly educated Germans, reading or hearing that speech in 1935, doubted that Adolf Hitler was a sincere man of peace and an inspiring, visionary leader?

Posted by: b real | Jun 9 2009 17:17 utc | 25

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