Obama's Cairo Speech (Updated)

Rick Moran
I have just finished watching President Obama's address at Cairo University and I'm sure some of my colleagues here at AT will be weighing in with their opinions of the speech.

My immediate impression was a sense of sadness. The president's interpretation of the history between Islam and the west is tragically, even dangerously mistaken. He has drawn the wrong lessons from this history and is proceeding from some false assumptions, that if carried through to their logical conclusion, will make the situation between Islam and the west worse. This is because inevitably, his efforts at altering the dynamics of change in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and the Israeli-Palistnian conflict will fail - with unknown consequences for us all.

The assumption that Islam has a history of "tolerance" for all religions is a dubious one. Tell that to the Christians in Iraq, the West Bank, Egypt itself, and other Arab nations where persecution is the rule not the exception. Obama mentioned Indonesia which does indeed "allow" Christians to worship but also features a history of hostility to the Christian faith and where Christians are second class citizens in many areas of that country.

Another assumption of Obama's that raised alarm bells for me was his belief that no one nation can dominate in his brave new world. Someone should have told our president that the only way the US can be prevented from dominating the world - a domination made manifest by our economic power and spread of our culture as much as our military prowess - is by subsuming our interests to those of other nations or the UN. Of course, this is what liberals have been agitating for - at least since Viet Nam - and Obama is apparently going to give it to them.

But it was Obama's lecture to Muslims about terrorism that fell flatest with his audience.

Nothing highlighted this more than how his audience reacted to much of his analysis about the problems with Islamic extremism. You could hear the crickets chirping as Obama, in his best analysis of the speech, took all of Islam to task for things like 9/11 and Holocaust denial, denial of Israel's right to exist (absolute silence when he said that "Israel isn't going anywhere"), support for al-Qaeda, support for Palestinian violence, and a host of other problematic considerations by Muslims in their conflict with the west.

His words on Iraq were greeted with cheers only when he mentioned American "sins" like torture and "war of choice." Dead silence greeted his announcement that the war in Afghanistan was forced upon us by 9/11. In short, the reaction of his audience, which was made up of non-typical Muslims in that these were largely the educated elites in Egypt, and not the "man in the souk" who makes up the bulk of Muslims in the world, showed that this first effort at outreach failed to move many minds.

The standing ovation given to the president at the end of the speech was significant. It showed that if an American president can humble himself and his country before close minded elites, he will get nice write ups in Arab newspapers and praise from those "moderate" Muslims who are always eager to point out America's sins but rarely give their own transgressions much thought.

This ultimately is why the president will fail to build a bridge to all but those Muslims predisposed to his message of democracy and human rights. The vast majority of his target audience wasn't listening, doesn't want to listen, and rejects his critique of extremist Islam anyway.

The president aimed high and fell flat.

Update:

Here's a text of the speech from the New York Times.

Also, liberal Craig Crawford's nauseating, gushing, swooning take on the speech:

For the first time since Jimmy Carter's Camp David accords we have a president with the skills, understanding and commitment to make a real difference in a region that has bedeviled the world for generations. Carter's 1978 brokering of a deal between Egypt and Israel to recognize each other and pursue peace still stands as the only lasting agreement of its kind since those days.

Obama's phenomenal speech gracefully shifted from historical tensions to current conflicts between Muslim nations and the western world. Without taking sides he was not shy about noting the wrongdoing of extremists on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance.

Perhaps his most controversial words at home will turn out to be calling Afghanistan a war of necessity, while labeling Iraq a "war of choice." Although Obama has said such things before, his political foes will probably seize upon his decision to say it on foreign soil.

But acknowledging that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake -- or at least seeming to say so -- will probably do more to impress the Muslim world than just about anything else in this historic speech.

Crawford writes that Obama "knocked it out of the park." No doubt for the left, he did.
 
Sammy Benoit adds:
 
President Obama's speech in Cairo was historic.  No other President has gone to a foreign nation to so publicly throw a strong ally under the bus. Once again the President, pandered to the Muslim world by dissing Israel, downplaying the role of terrorism, making Hamas look like a rowdy Boys Glee Club, calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem, and using the Palestinian party line to describe the Israeli presence not only in the West Bank and Gaza but its very existence at all.

He started his Israel/Palestinian discussion by talking about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism:

"The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

"America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

"Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve."

You notice that how he discusses anti-Semitism, without mentioning the fact that the Muslim Middle East is the major supplier of anti-Semitic fervor in the world.

Obama then goes on to talk about the 60+ years of Palestinian suffering, taking the Palestinian view that the very creation of Israel was bad. He mixes the "Christian" Palestinians with the Muslim ones, ignoring the horrible persecution of Palestinian Christians by their Muslim neighbors. Obama also discusses Gaza as an occupied territory.

Mr. President, maybe you didn't read the newspapers in August 2005, but Israel pulled out of Gaza almost four years ago.  I saw the preparations -- I was in Jerusalem at the time.

"On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."

Obama also forgot to mention the role of Egypt and Jordan in making sure that the Palestinians stayed in camps and the fact that there were more Jews thrown out of Muslim countries in 1948 than Arabs leaving Israel. A mistake he repeats:

"For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

Displacement? I am almost surprised he didn't use the word nabka (catastrophe) that's what the Muslims call it. Again accepting Muslim propaganda, the President doesn't make the point that the Arab Palestinian's weren't thrown out, they were told to leave by the Arab League states.

"That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.

"Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered."

Violence? You mean Terrorism? No he doesn't, because in the next few lines he reaches out to Hamas:

"Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist."

He makes Hamas seem like naughty children, "OK Hamas stop hitting your brother." Here again what Obama doesn't say is just as bad as what he says, "recognize Israel's right to exist." The words he missed were, "as a Jewish state". Neither Hamas or the supposedly moderate Fatah recognize Israel as a Jewish State, they both call for flooding the country with millions of Muslims to ensure that Israel becomes another Muslim country:

"At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

Not only is Obama throwing Israel to the international wolves, he is ignoring agreements that previous administrations made with Israel about natural growth of existing settlements.

"Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress."

This was one of Bibi Netanyahu's campaign promises, but not as an obligation as a way to peace.  This is not Israel's obligation; this is the obligation of Egypt and Jordan who created the problem.

His discussion of the "humanitarian crisis" was a bit disingenuous. Maybe he should have mention why Israel closed the borders, and the fact that Hamas has been stealing many of the supplies heading to Gaza.

"Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past."

Again he doesn't call for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Now he calls for the internationalization of Israel's capital Jerusalem:

"America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

"Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer

"During the campaign, I warned all lovers of Israel, that Barack Obama would abandon the state of Israel; today he foreshadowed that abandonment to the Muslim world"

Sammy Benoit is the Editor of the Political Blog, The Lid
I have just finished watching President Obama's address at Cairo University and I'm sure some of my colleagues here at AT will be weighing in with their opinions of the speech.

My immediate impression was a sense of sadness. The president's interpretation of the history between Islam and the west is tragically, even dangerously mistaken. He has drawn the wrong lessons from this history and is proceeding from some false assumptions, that if carried through to their logical conclusion, will make the situation between Islam and the west worse. This is because inevitably, his efforts at altering the dynamics of change in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and the Israeli-Palistnian conflict will fail - with unknown consequences for us all.

The assumption that Islam has a history of "tolerance" for all religions is a dubious one. Tell that to the Christians in Iraq, the West Bank, Egypt itself, and other Arab nations where persecution is the rule not the exception. Obama mentioned Indonesia which does indeed "allow" Christians to worship but also features a history of hostility to the Christian faith and where Christians are second class citizens in many areas of that country.

Another assumption of Obama's that raised alarm bells for me was his belief that no one nation can dominate in his brave new world. Someone should have told our president that the only way the US can be prevented from dominating the world - a domination made manifest by our economic power and spread of our culture as much as our military prowess - is by subsuming our interests to those of other nations or the UN. Of course, this is what liberals have been agitating for - at least since Viet Nam - and Obama is apparently going to give it to them.

But it was Obama's lecture to Muslims about terrorism that fell flatest with his audience.

Nothing highlighted this more than how his audience reacted to much of his analysis about the problems with Islamic extremism. You could hear the crickets chirping as Obama, in his best analysis of the speech, took all of Islam to task for things like 9/11 and Holocaust denial, denial of Israel's right to exist (absolute silence when he said that "Israel isn't going anywhere"), support for al-Qaeda, support for Palestinian violence, and a host of other problematic considerations by Muslims in their conflict with the west.

His words on Iraq were greeted with cheers only when he mentioned American "sins" like torture and "war of choice." Dead silence greeted his announcement that the war in Afghanistan was forced upon us by 9/11. In short, the reaction of his audience, which was made up of non-typical Muslims in that these were largely the educated elites in Egypt, and not the "man in the souk" who makes up the bulk of Muslims in the world, showed that this first effort at outreach failed to move many minds.

The standing ovation given to the president at the end of the speech was significant. It showed that if an American president can humble himself and his country before close minded elites, he will get nice write ups in Arab newspapers and praise from those "moderate" Muslims who are always eager to point out America's sins but rarely give their own transgressions much thought.

This ultimately is why the president will fail to build a bridge to all but those Muslims predisposed to his message of democracy and human rights. The vast majority of his target audience wasn't listening, doesn't want to listen, and rejects his critique of extremist Islam anyway.

The president aimed high and fell flat.

Update:

Here's a text of the speech from the New York Times.

Also, liberal Craig Crawford's nauseating, gushing, swooning take on the speech:

For the first time since Jimmy Carter's Camp David accords we have a president with the skills, understanding and commitment to make a real difference in a region that has bedeviled the world for generations. Carter's 1978 brokering of a deal between Egypt and Israel to recognize each other and pursue peace still stands as the only lasting agreement of its kind since those days.

Obama's phenomenal speech gracefully shifted from historical tensions to current conflicts between Muslim nations and the western world. Without taking sides he was not shy about noting the wrongdoing of extremists on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance.

Perhaps his most controversial words at home will turn out to be calling Afghanistan a war of necessity, while labeling Iraq a "war of choice." Although Obama has said such things before, his political foes will probably seize upon his decision to say it on foreign soil.

But acknowledging that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake -- or at least seeming to say so -- will probably do more to impress the Muslim world than just about anything else in this historic speech.

Crawford writes that Obama "knocked it out of the park." No doubt for the left, he did.
 
Sammy Benoit adds:
 
President Obama's speech in Cairo was historic.  No other President has gone to a foreign nation to so publicly throw a strong ally under the bus. Once again the President, pandered to the Muslim world by dissing Israel, downplaying the role of terrorism, making Hamas look like a rowdy Boys Glee Club, calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem, and using the Palestinian party line to describe the Israeli presence not only in the West Bank and Gaza but its very existence at all.

He started his Israel/Palestinian discussion by talking about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism:

"The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

"America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

"Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve."

You notice that how he discusses anti-Semitism, without mentioning the fact that the Muslim Middle East is the major supplier of anti-Semitic fervor in the world.

Obama then goes on to talk about the 60+ years of Palestinian suffering, taking the Palestinian view that the very creation of Israel was bad. He mixes the "Christian" Palestinians with the Muslim ones, ignoring the horrible persecution of Palestinian Christians by their Muslim neighbors. Obama also discusses Gaza as an occupied territory.

Mr. President, maybe you didn't read the newspapers in August 2005, but Israel pulled out of Gaza almost four years ago.  I saw the preparations -- I was in Jerusalem at the time.

"On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."

Obama also forgot to mention the role of Egypt and Jordan in making sure that the Palestinians stayed in camps and the fact that there were more Jews thrown out of Muslim countries in 1948 than Arabs leaving Israel. A mistake he repeats:

"For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

Displacement? I am almost surprised he didn't use the word nabka (catastrophe) that's what the Muslims call it. Again accepting Muslim propaganda, the President doesn't make the point that the Arab Palestinian's weren't thrown out, they were told to leave by the Arab League states.

"That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.

"Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered."

Violence? You mean Terrorism? No he doesn't, because in the next few lines he reaches out to Hamas:

"Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist."

He makes Hamas seem like naughty children, "OK Hamas stop hitting your brother." Here again what Obama doesn't say is just as bad as what he says, "recognize Israel's right to exist." The words he missed were, "as a Jewish state". Neither Hamas or the supposedly moderate Fatah recognize Israel as a Jewish State, they both call for flooding the country with millions of Muslims to ensure that Israel becomes another Muslim country:

"At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

Not only is Obama throwing Israel to the international wolves, he is ignoring agreements that previous administrations made with Israel about natural growth of existing settlements.

"Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress."

This was one of Bibi Netanyahu's campaign promises, but not as an obligation as a way to peace.  This is not Israel's obligation; this is the obligation of Egypt and Jordan who created the problem.

His discussion of the "humanitarian crisis" was a bit disingenuous. Maybe he should have mention why Israel closed the borders, and the fact that Hamas has been stealing many of the supplies heading to Gaza.

"Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past."

Again he doesn't call for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Now he calls for the internationalization of Israel's capital Jerusalem:

"America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

"Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer

"During the campaign, I warned all lovers of Israel, that Barack Obama would abandon the state of Israel; today he foreshadowed that abandonment to the Muslim world"

Sammy Benoit is the Editor of the Political Blog, The Lid