I watched Obama’s Cairo speech live via YouTube (how amazing is that?). My initial impressions were very positive. I, like everyone else, was in awe at his smooth delivery and words of peace. He’s certainly a breath of fresh air as an American President after Bush (even if I do like to refer to him as ‘the infallible chocolate Jesus’, a term I borrowed from Bill Maher who, in turn, borrowed it from Tom Waits. Oh and anyone who thinks that makes me racist, grow a brain. One uptight American blocked me on Twitter for referring to Obama as chocolate Jesus. If I called him the ‘Black Messiah’, would that be racist?).
Anyway, I was impressed with Obama’s speech… until… I watched it again the next day and I started to think about it from the perspective of the citizens of the Middle East and what THEY want to hear Obama say.
Anyone who has read anything about the history of USA – Middle East relations, knows that the reason people in the Middle East are angry about the USA has nothing to do with religious differences or even George Bush specifically. They are angry because for 60 years the USA has been interfering in their countries, overthrowing their governments and taking their natural resources and wealth at the point of a gun. The USA have supported Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people. The USA have supported oppressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, and various African countries (eg Uganda) in return for access to the natural wealth of those countries while the citizens have remained in poverty.
None of this is news to people living in the Middle East. This is their history. This is their reality.
So if Obama genuinely wanted to "change" relations between the United States and the people living in the Middle East, he would have talked less about religious differences and said something more like:
"For the last 60 years, America has terrorized your countries, murdered your citizens and stolen your natural wealth. I am here to promise you that will never happen again and you no longer need to fear us."
Until the USA admits their past crimes and pays compensation to the victims, everything else is just blowing smoke.
It seems to me that Obama’s speech was targeted, not at the citizens of the Middle East, but at Americans who, after feeling ashamed (understandably) by Bush’s warmongering rhetoric, are just relieved not to be portrayed on the international stage as a bunch of neocons. Is this enough, though? I mean, I understand it, but if Americans want to be taken seriously on the international stage again, surely they need to be seen to be talking about the REAL ISSUES, not cosmetics?
Of course, most Americans haven’t read Chomsky or Pilger or Zinn or Monbiot or anything else written by critics of American policy (and I’m not talking about Democrat vs Republican which is just theatre distracting people from the real issues) so they don’t even understand what the real issues are. Most of them still don’t understand that the 9/11 attacks were RETRIBUTION and not terrorism. They were REVENGE for atrocities committed by Americans for decades against the people of the Middle East.
And, of course, most Americans have spent their entire lives being conditioned 24×7 by the American media, being told that they are the good guys, that even when they do wrong it’s an honest mistake made for the right reasons, that Americans are the saviours of the worlds (no wonder they think they’ve elected the messiah).
So few Americans can even begin to comprehend that their Presidential elections are a farce and that Obama is just another in a long line of candidates specially designed by PR professionals to appeal to a certain demographic. As I heard Bill Maher say on a recent show: "You don’t get to be President when you are 46 and black unless you have powerful friends in very high places who believe you will look after their interests. And so far all he’s done is look after the interests of his buddies he went to Harvard with, the American elite."
Obama is a Hollywood President. He looks good, sounds good, has a good backstory, he’s obviously smart, smooth, and can sell the sizzle. And after the Bush years, most Americans can’t get past the joy of the sizzle and ask "where’s the sausage?" They can’t even stand to hear criticism of Obama. Even Bill Maher gets booed on his show when he criticizes Obama.
Anywayyyy…. regarding the Cairo speech, apparently Noam Chomsky has the same concerns.