Until his speech during his Middle East tour. Naturally, many on the left saw it as just more platitudes little more than what Bush might spout off and more or less came back and back again to a certain refrain:
the point here is that pretty speeches mean nothingOr rather, that Obama said what Bush said, and that there's neither a difference in their rhetoric nor in the effective it could have.
I can't sit back and let this be said. It's categorically wrong. The collection of Bush quotes masqueraded as lines from Obama's speech don't even cut to the meat of the matter. Obama went further than Bush's lip service ever dared to consider. Please, just read for a moment what Obama apologized for or admitted to an American role in:
More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.He just admitted American culpability in virtually every anti-democratic state in the Muslim world since the fifties. If that's not monumental, you don't know what is. In the case of Iran, one of the pillars of the Muslim world, and to a lesser extent, Pakistan, another major Muslim country, this is the major point of contention with the US - our support for a bloodthirsty tyrant out of fear of an imagined communist threat.
But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth."Again, the left often shrieks that Bush said virtually the same thing - praising the Koran and speaking positively of the Muslim faith, yet he never actually quoted from the Koran when asking for a free and open dialogue between Western and Islamic societies. Obama just showed the Islamic world his willingness to speak to them while acknowledging their beliefs and understanding of the world in way the Bush never managed. The Islamic world called Bush on his bluff and he did nothing. Obama's laying his cards down on the table and showing them at least a few jacks.
It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.In one long paragraph, Obama acknowledged in depth the debt of Western society owes to various Islamic cultures which reigned supreme as the intellectual center of the world for its inventions. Another major issue for would-be Islamists is the apparent lack of respect that much of the modern world shows for Islamic societies all the while living within situations made possible by the advances under Islamic learning. Just as before he's deflating their argument - forcing a necessary change both in terms of American policy and (hopefully) Islamic perception of the United States.
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.Or, the shorter version, the US isn't France - we respect the religious rights of Muslims, neither hiding behind a false claim to secularism nor outright attacks on a religious minority, but respect the Muslims in our lands. These few words alone undermine much of the Islamist boogie-man perception of America with excellent skill, explaining that our customs are not their customs, but that we respect their individual rights to continue those practices with minimal interference to others within our borders.
We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan 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 have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.The antagonistic invasive empire will... rebuild hospitals? Again with the Islamist narrative destroying.
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.Yes, he says in the abstract, but a direct call from the US President to cease building Israeli settlements and for Israel to actively assist development in Palestine is not just words. It's a clear challenge to decades of Israeli-American policies that ignore or actively attack Palestinian sovereignty, legitimacy, solidarity, and equality. That's not nothing.
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.
In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government.Holy crap! He just outright said exactly what every one in the Middle East has been saying for years - that the US played a central role in violent anti-democratic suppression of Muslim-majority countries, that we killed Iran's nascent democracy and led them down a road of brutal dictatorship. There are people out there claiming that this is nothing important? Imagine, if you will, China not only refusing to admit the clear suppression and illegitimacy of its rule in Tibet but moreover that every major official in China refused to speak on the role of their government in Tibet, to even acknowledge the existence of a previously independent Tibet. Now imagine such a policy existing for generations, in ever medium - educational, administrative, economic, etc, no one acknowledged that Tibet had at one point been an independent state, not that it was justified in being such an entity, but that it even was. Imagine that even non-state-associated media goes along with a total gag order. Unsurprisingly, after more than forty years, the entire population has guessed, based on the total vacuum of information that the entire populace of the country would largely be ignorant of this simple fact. (This isn't terribly different from the real situation, but the insanity's been cranked up to US-on-Mossadeq level.)
China wouldn't be the laughing stock of the international community but outright feared and hated. They weren't just oppressing people, refusing to acknowledge their role, but refusing to acknowledge the existence of the oppression, and on an extensive scale.
That is why there were and still often are rallies filled with chants of "Death to America" in Iran. They hate us. They hate us more than most people can possibly understand, because until a few weeks ago the average American knew nothing of Iran except that they hurt us by taking hostages and that they're presided over by a despotic theocracy. Mossadeq? Reza Pahlavi Shah? Savak Secret Police? Those meant nothing to the average American.
And Iranians knew it. We didn't look away, but explained that the existence of a car with our license plate in their living room was coincidental.
In short, that is why they hate us. And to suggest that a brave speech addressing precisely these issues is indistinguishable from "they hate us for our freedom" or any other example of Bush-esque rhetoric is to fail to understand the impact the lack of self-criticism America has shown has had on the world.
It wasn't a pretty speech. It was ugly. And both the Islamic world and America needed that exact speech at that exact moment.