We are told that Barack Obama gave a "major address" on the subject of US-Muslim relations. He was speechifying in Cairo, capital of one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East, following a sleepover with the Saudi king, Abdullah, ruler of one of the most repressive regimes on earth.
Regarding the deep impact of this landmark event, we defer to the observations of Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, who provides this incisive commentary:
Who cares about what Obama will say or not say? I mean, why should people care about what the visiting White Man (yes, as soon as you run for the American presidency you assume the role of the White Man, regardless of the color of your skin) will preach to Egyptians and Muslims? I await that speech the way I await sequels to Rocky movies.
We heartily recommend the professor's website for a whole series of pertinent views on Obama's trip -- and for information and analysis of the region generally. He also points us to this piece by Hossam el-Hamalawy, who was graciously vouchsafed a small scrap of space in the New York Times:
President Obama should not have decided to come to Egypt. The visit is a clear endorsement of President Hosni Mubarak, the ailing 81-year-old dictator who has ruled with martial law, secret police and torture chambers. No words that Mr. Obama will say can change this perception that Americans are supporting a dictator with their more than $1 billion in annual aid....
As for the other host of the president’s visit, Al Azhar University, one of its students, Kareem Amer, is languishing in prison after university officials reported his “infidel, un-Islamic” views to the government, earning him a four-year sentence in 2007. In advance of the visit, Egyptian security forces have rounded up hundreds of foreign students at Al Azhar.
We do want allies in the West, but not from inside the White House. Our real allies are the human rights groups and unions that will pressure the Obama administration to sever all ties to the Mubarak dictatorship. Their visits to Egypt are more meaningful, even if unlike Mr. Obama, they do not get a lavish reception.
We might also note the nature of President Obama's journey through the capital of this friendly, close American ally. From the NY Times:
Mr. Obama arrived in Cairo at 9 a.m. and was greeted by the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmad Aboul Gheit. The streets surrounding the university and across the city were largely quiet and empty on Thursday. Many workers in the Egyptian capital had been told to stay home. The sidewalks were closed to people, but lined by hundreds of uniformed soldiers — some dressed in black, others in white — who had been standing in place for hours before Mr. Obama arrived.
As you can see, "they love him, they really love him," as Professor Juan Cole eagerly informed us earlier this week.
But strangely enough, even as the president was meeting with the unelected despot of Saudi Arabia and the authoritarian tyrant-for-life in Egypt, over in Iran -- which, as we all know, is the site of a monolithic mullah state bent on nothing less than the destruction of the world -- they were having a heated debate on national television, with the nation's president -- whom we all know is an absolutist dictator just like Adolf Hitler -- being roundly denounced by his political opponent, who assailed him for, among many other things, questioning the Holocaust.
(As we noted here last year, one of the most popular television shows in recent Iranian history was a series about an Iranian diplomat who worked to rescue Jews in wartime Paris. But nothing will shake the carefully cultivated Western caricature of Iran as a horde of slavering anti-Semites -- not even the fact there is a Jewish community, and Jewish member of Parliament, in Iran -- something you would never see in the judenfrei realm of Obama's "wise and gracious" friend, King Abdullah.)
During the speech, we heard many nicely-turned phrases and heartfelt pieties from President Obama as he sought to "correct the misunderstandings" that Muslims have about America and its benevolent policies around the world. But what speaks far more loudly to the reality of those policies is a small story already being shunted aside by the tsunami of gushing press devoted to the empty flapping of presidential jaws in Cairo -- the suicide of a Yemeni man held captive, without charges, in the Guantanamo concentration camp since 2002:
A Yemeni captive died in an apparent suicide at the detention center for foreign terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base in Cuba, the U.S. military said on Tuesday....A military statement said 31-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, also known as Al Hanashi, "died of an apparent suicide" on Monday night, but did not say specifically how he died....
The dead man had been held without charge at Guantanamo since February 2002. He had been on hunger strikes in the past to protest his detention, but was not among the more than two dozen long-term hunger strikers currently being force-fed at the camp, a Guantanamo spokesman said....
Human Rights First condemned the death as "a stark reminder of the inhumanity of indefinite detention without charges or trial." The American Civil Liberties Union said it illustrated the need to resolve the detainees' fate in a regularly constituted court with long-established rules.
"There is no room for a system of indefinite detention without charge or trial under our Constitution," the ACLU said. "Those against whom there is no legitimate evidence must not be given a de facto life sentence by being locked up forever."
It would of course be superfluous in us to point out that the progressive president who even at this moment is in Cairo telling Muslims how they misunderstand American values is himself a staunch supporter of "indefinite detention" and "preventive detention" and is seeking ways to entrench these unconstitutional (not to mention immoral) concepts into a formalized imperial law.
But we would certainly not want the Muslim world to misunderstand America's abiding commitment to justice, freedom, liberty and peace. We are sure the president made it all crystal clear in this "major speech" from the heart of a brutal, repressive, American-funded regime. Let's just hope there are no major mass civilian slaughters in America's Terror War operations in the Muslim lands of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan today, after the president's lyrical waxing in Cairo about how America "rejects the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children." That would sure put a crimp in the old PR.
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This story was published on June 4, 2009.