Friday, 05 June 2009

Obama’s Cairo Speech

Written by  Steven J. DuBord

Obama in CairoPresident Barack Obama tried to strike a conciliatory tone with his June 4 speech at Cairo University. The president referred to such developments as algebra and the magnetic compass as being part of “civilization's debt to Islam.” He included verses from the Koran and the traditional Muslim greeting meaning “peace be upon you” (“Assalaamu alaykum”). He said: “I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.  Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Well-spoken words, but it does bear pointing out that choosing to speak these words in Egypt makes them ring a little hollow. Amnesty International has just released its 2009 report on The State of the World’s Human Rights. The report states that Egypt’s government has kept the country in a state of emergency for close to 30 years. “The state of emergency, in force continuously since 1981, was renewed in May, pending the introduction of a new anti-terrorism law that was expected to equip the authorities permanently with emergency-style powers similar to those which currently facilitate serious human rights violations.”

Mentioned, among others, were these violations: “grossly unfair trials continued before military and special courts”; “thousands of political prisoners continued to be held in administrative detention … many of them for more than a decade”; “torture and other ill-treatment were systematic in police stations, prisons and … detention centres”; “authorities used repressive laws to clamp down on criticism and dissent”; and “human rights defenders … who sought to expose abuses or defend torture victims were harassed and prosecuted by the authorities.” There must be a better venue than Cairo for a speech seeking a new beginning based on “justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Location aside, the president was applauded when he claimed that America would “remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012.” He said that both the Israelis and the Palestinians had a right to exist in their own states. He affirmed his belief that “any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

This international focus may have gone over well with the UN and some Muslim nations, but it did not bode well for America. President Obama said the United States plans to “invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced.” He declared that “we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.” He vowed that “we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries,” and “we'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.” He announced “a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio,” and an expansion of “partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.”

No wonder someone from the audience interrupted the president’s speech with “Barack Obama, we love you!” The president was indeed spreading the foreign-aid love far and wide in the form of American taxpayer dollars. With the national debt now over $11 trillion, the unemployment rate at 9.4 percent (the highest it's been since August 1983), and the economy slumping, no indication was given as to where this give-away money would come from. Plus, this aid will only further involve the United States in the internal affairs of Muslim nations when many just want to be left alone. On June 4 AP quoted Wahyudin, the director of a hard-line Islamic boarding school in Indonesia, as saying that Obama is “promising to be different. But that's all it is, a promise. We want action. We want to see an end to all intervention in Muslim countries. That's what we're fighting for.”

Obama stated in his speech: “There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” It’s too bad the president doesn’t seem to want to recognize that sometimes what you “do unto others” is leave them alone so that they will leave you alone. It would also be nice if he would do unto the hard-working American taxpayer as he expects them to do unto the world.

Photo: AP Images

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