After beginning his speech with a nice homespun heartfelt story about U.S. diplomat Chris Stevens, President Obama turned the rest of his UN speech into a series of lies that are all too common in U.S. rhetoric, lies that are concealed by fine sounding platitudes and homilies. Some of the lies are direct, but there are also lies of concealment, avoidance, willful ignorance, and perhaps, genuine ignorance.
After the introduction, Obama continues by extending his ideas to the UN itself and the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded—the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.
Sounds great, I would buy into it—except for the reality behind the statement. That reality is that the U.S. is one of the countries least disposed to “resolve their differences peacefully.” The global spread of U.S. military bases, generally considered to be well over 750, in over 120 countries in the world, speaks differently about “solving differences peacefully.” Obama reverses the general trend of U.S. history by saying that “diplomacy can take the place of war” when U.S. policy generally tends to be “we’ll threaten and manipulate first and then attack—overtly or covertly—if that fails.”
That trend can be seen in the history of Latin America and Asia in particular, with his later focus on Iran not accounting for the history of U.S. intervention there. In 1953 the U.S. and the UK covertly overthrew the democratically elected Mossadegh government of Iran, with all its decades of subsequent events, in Iran, and elsewhere in the world where the Iranian model of displacing uncooperative governments was put into place, the next in line being Guatemala in 1954 (Operation PBSUCCESS).
Finally, in an interdependent world, such as we have now, the “greater opportunity and security for our citizens” tends to speak for the one per cent, the global corporations, rather than the 99 per cent of the rest of the world.
Obama then focuses on the crisis, the attacks on the U.S. embassies set off by the hate propaganda produced by the Christian right in the U.S.: “we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis—because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common.”
And then, he leaves it at that, there is absolutely no honesty in speaking about the “deeper causes of the crisis” being, in my view, “the forces that would drive us apart.” Volumes have been written about the deeper causes of the crisis—to witness, Mossadegh’s Iran and Arbenz’s Guatemala as above, the oil agreements with the Saudi’s after World War II that maintains this bastion of Arabic feudalism to this day, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians under Suharto’s U.S. supported leadership, the unilateral support of Israel without acknowledging its nuclear threats and proliferation as well as its international humanitarian law abuses against the Palestinians, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the ongoing drone wars in Pakistan—a few among the many military interventions brought about by U.S. forces.
Some Real Lies
“We insisted on change in Egypt…. We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen….We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council….we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop.”
Not true, as the U.S. did and said nothing when the Egyptian protests started and continued, hoping to maintain the status quo of their militarily supported puppet regime. Not true, as the leadership in Yemen remained under the control of the same regime, backed by the Saudi’s. As for Syria, still unsettled business, the suffering could well have stopped before it started if the U.S. and its coalition partners (the Saudi’s, Bahrain, all the GCC countries, all well-known authoritarian governments) were not supplying the rebel groups with armaments but instead worked on replacing war with diplomacy.
“Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.”
I think I covered this above, but let me add a few more. How about Vietnam and its denial of the UN promised vote on unification and the subsequent killing of millions of people? Or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a bombing that served only to demonstrate to the Soviets that the U.S. had and was willing to use nuclear weapons? Or what about the overthrow of Allende and the autocratic setup of Pinochet in Chile? The ongoing senseless blockade of Cuba? It goes on and on….Haiti, Argentina, Brazil, Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Columbia, Indonesia, East Timor, Laos, Hawaii….
“And on this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.”
Fine, then the best thing for the U.S. to do is be quiet until they bring their military home and stop causing much of the mindless violence and the killing of innocents.
“Now, let me be clear: Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not and will not seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad.”
In modern times, Libya and Syria notwithstanding, perhaps you did not “dictate” the outcome, but overt operations—as in Yugoslavia and Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan—combined with more covert operations and influences—as in the ‘color’ revolutions in the Ukraine, Kirgizstan, and Georgia, along with the all the meddling in post-Soviet Russia—have certainly had large effects on populations in those areas.
“A politics based only on anger—one based on dividing the world between ‘us’ and ‘them’—not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces.”
Whoa horses! (To use a U.S. cowboy metaphor.) “Us” and “them?” Really? Unfortunately Obama has carried forward and improved upon many of the Bush era practices from his statement about being “with us or being with them.” Yes, all of us do have an interest in standing up to these forces, while remaining clear with where it originated.
Israel and Palestine
“Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard, but the destination is clear—a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.”
If the destination is clear and you are prepared to “walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey” then peace would already have been achieved. Otherwise, this statement is also a lie. The revelations of the Palestinian Papers by al-Jazeera demonstrated that the Palestinians would go to great lengths to achieve peace; and discussions with most Palestinians show that they wish peace and are resigned to accepting only about 22 percent of their original homeland to achieve that.
On the other hand, Israel continues to illegally build settlements in occupied territories and confiscate and annex land and resources from the Palestinians. Both Hamas and Fatah have indicated by their actions that they are capable of working towards a peaceful solution. Israel on the other hand has used the “peace process” as a mask to continue with its settlement projects. It also has been the aggressor in most of its wars, most recently with its invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09, both resulting in large civilian casualties. Israel is content with the status quo, with the its sense of ‘victimhood’ and with the U.S. as ally, its creation of the ‘war on terror’, an unending war that satisfies the political-religious-corporate-warrior elements of both governments.