The boring messiah

I’ve read through the Cairo speech. For the most part, it’s quite boring, just as all of Obama’s wildly hyped “big” speeches are. Here are a few passages from it with my responses.

Obama: So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

“Partnership” to Islamic ears can only mean subservience to Islam.

Obama: 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.

There’s an example of subservience. What is Obama talking about, that Americans have been “punished” for seeking to restrict the hijab? He makes himself sound like an enforcer of Islamic law on America.

When Obama comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there are, inevitably, the “musts”:

Obama: Palestinians must abandon violence…. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people…. Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.

And if the Palenstians do not do the things that Obama says they “must” do in order to achieve a state (and which GW Bush said they “must” do in order to achieve a state), how can Israel be required to acknowledge a Palestinian right to a state, the essential requirement for which Palestinians themselves have not met? For all his endless touting of himself as a leader leaving behind the “nonsense” and the discredited rhetoric of the past, Obama does almost nothing but rehash the nonsense and discredited rhetoric of the past. He’s BORING.

The positive is that defenders of Israel should feel reassured that Obama seems to be simply continuing the same ridiculous policy and fantasies as before, rather than threatening to force Israel to surrender to the Palestinians.

Obama: Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society.

If he means that Israelis must allow Palestinian to work in Israel, how can they be expected to do that, if Palestinian are still using terror against Israel? And how is Israel to “ensure” that Palestinians develop their society?

Obama: I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

Ok. That’s one change from Bush I welcome. But then, with slight changes of emphasis and tone, he basically repeats Bush’s democracy policy:

Obama: That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

“But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things”! Whoa! That’s the standard Bush line about everyone in the world, all moms and dads in two hundred countries, all longing for freedom.

Obama: Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit—for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism.

Obama mentions the need to accept Muslim female dress three times in the speech. That seems to be his main initiative for promoting the spread of Islam in America.

Obama: On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

This doesn’t sound different from the kinds of things Mitt Romney was urging during the presidential campaign, the promotion of technological and business development, rather than the spreading of democracy.

- end of initial entry -

Larry G. writes:

Dark forces are in control of the land. Time to reread Tolkien.

Karl D. writes:

One line struck me in particular but did not surprise me in the least:

“Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people.”

“Traditions of its own people.” A line that holds no relevance to the United States, Europe or any other majority-white nation state. As we know “Traditionalism” is the antithesis of liberal thought. Something musty, stodgy and dare I say “Counter revolutionary.”

LA replies:

Good catch. But I’d say the meaning of this is that he is defending the traditions of Muslims countries, not of Western countries.

Gintas writes:

Three things:

You wrote:

“Partnership” to Islamic ears can only mean subservience to Islam.

“Partnership” is used for our consumption, he’s using the common meaning. The esoteric meaning, hidden from us, is exactly what you said. It’s the theme of James Burnham’s Suicide of the West: a real decline (subservience to Islam) will be transmogrified into Progress [TM] (“Partnership”). “Things are looking better every day. It’s a Golden Age!” says the Progressive, slipping on his turban.

Second, you wrote:

Obama mentions the need to accept Muslim female dress three times in the speech. That seems to be his main initiative for promoting the spread of Islam in America.

I’ve read V.S. Naipaul’s Among the Believers and Beyond Belief, his travelogues of his journeys to non-Arabic Muslim countries. One powerful theme that runs through them is the constant fixation among Muslims about women’s dress. Naipaul’s take on it was that it looked like the key to a proper Muslim society, in Muslims’ eyes, was getting the women covered. If Obama is talking about women’s dress, someone is keenly in tune with Muslim sensibilities.

And third, you wrote:

This doesn’t sound different from the kinds of things Mitt Romney was urging during the presidential campaign, the promotion of technological and business development, rather than the spreading of democracy.

Mainly to outsource jobs to cheaper labor overseas. India is getting too expensive, and China will soon enough. We need more, more, MORE cheap labor! And as the Free marketers know, the free flow of jobs and goods also means the free flow of people.

LA writes:

Perhaps I should also quote the part in the speech about Islam’s supposed contributions to our civilization. Some people get steamed up about this, but, really, isn’t it the standard pro-Muslim lie that the entire elite culture of the West now repeats incessantly? That’s why, as I was reading the speech, I put this section in the “boring” category, and didn’t initially quote it. The only aspect of this that is not boring is the fact that the Hannity’s and Limbaugh’s are attacking it, while refusing to acknowledge that GW Bush said pretty much the same things. Let’s face it . By their constant, overheated criticisms of Obama, unaccompanied by any admission that Busherino said many of the things for which they are attacking Obama, the pro-Bush commentators have revealed themselves as a bunch of partisan hacks without an ounce of intellectual conscience.

Here’s Obama on Islam’s great contributions, without which we’d all be living in caves. The reality is that, had not our Western forebears spent a thousand years fighting back the Muslim menace, we’d all be Muslims today. And then what great power would there be to lift us out of our hopeless economic and civilization backwardness?

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. 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.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers—Thomas Jefferson—kept in his personal library.

Dale F. writes:

Maybe Obama should have called it “our tallest remaining building.”

LA replies:

ACtually, what building was he referring to? I missed that. He just said “our tallest building.”

Dale replies:

Sears Tower. The lead structural engineer, Fazlur Khan, was of Bangladeshi origin.

LA replies:

Ahh. But does everyone listening to messiah man’s speech know that?

Dale replies:

No, I think very few do. Architecture is an amateur interest of mine, and Chicago was the birthplace of the skyscraper.

Robert B. writes:

I do not know where to begin, but the engineer did not build the building—the contractor and his sub-contractors did.

Long before there were Muslim arches, there were Roman aqueducts. The most famous mosque in Islam was once the Sophia Hagia. The Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantines kept learning alive through the so-called “Dark Ages” that gave an entry to the Enlightenment—but it was the Venetian defeat of the Islamic navies on the Mediterranean Sea that gave birth to Europe’s new age. At that moment in time, the West broke Islam’s death grip and trade was opened up to the East. That is where the wealth flowed from.

The Venetians were most certainly the descendants of Romans—Venice was founded by the survivors of the sack of Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Roman Empire.

June 5

Jonathan L. writes:

What is particularly striking to me about Obama’s Cairo speech is its sheer incompetence. There are of course the infelicitous turns of phrase: “But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things”—wow, how that “self-evident truths” guy who wrote the Declaration must be spinning in his grave now with envy! But more importantly, the examples used to buttress the speech’s main points are so grossly false they stimulate conclusions exactly the opposite for which they were designed. Alluding obscurely to the fact that a Muslim was involved in the design of the Sears Tower will only remind normal people of Muslim attempts to fell the World Trade Center. And bringing up the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli will remind most Americans of even modest education the Marine Corps’ excursion there 20 years later to stop jihad-inspired piracy.

Though one is tempted to attribute such gross mendacity to a totalitarian need to humiliate one’s helpless audience by making them swallow the most outrageous lies, I suspect the truth is simply that when your chief speech writer is a 27 year old who writes your inaugural address while overdosing on coffee in Starbucks, the Cairo speech is simply what you get sometimes, as looking up credible Muslim contributions to civilization will take a back seat some nights to downloading the latest episode of “Entourage” while Twittering on Facebook.

PS: The assertion that Islam “paved the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment” is on par with the claim that Herman Goering single-handedly preserved Europe’s artistic heritage. While Muslims were fine-tuning their understanding of algebra (developed mainly, I once read, to ascertain which lesser portion of a man’s inheritance a 2nd daughter should receive compared to a 5th son) they were at the same time burning Byzantine libraries and monasteries, at least several of which must have contained copies of Archimedes’ calculus-defining “The Method.”.

LA replies:

Jonathan has presented us with a real puzzle. Is the explanation of Obama’s outrageous statements “a totalitarian need to humiliate one’s helpless audience by making them swallow the most outrageous lies,” or sheer ignorance? My thought was something like the former. But it seems to me that the latter is possible.

Alan Levine writes:

I read the text of Obama’s speech twice, with rather the same reaction as you and others had. I did not feel it was quite as hostile to the West or American self-respect, but was even more struck by the painful a**-kissing tone of the attitude toward Muslims, the nonsense about how many Muslims there are in the U.S., the absurd exaggeration of the central nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the apologetics about torture in a part of the world where it is routinely employed, and so forth …

But I’ll confine my remarks to more purely historical matters:

(1) It would have been perfectly possible to say reasonably complimentary things about how the West profited from borrowings from the Muslim world. But almost everything Obama said was complete nonsense. Algebra was invented in Hindu India, the compass in Europe, probably in Italy, and printing in China. Printing with movable type was invented in Germany and Korea and OUTLAWED for Muslims at least in the Ottoman Empire for centuries. I don’t expect a professor of law to know such things, but this speech was supposedly worked on by experts for weeks or months! [LA replies: Be sure to see the Washingon Post article Jonathan linked, a profile of Obama’s 27 year old chief speech writer; no experts here, just a kid typing away on his laptop in Starbucks.] It is at least a sorry comment about O.’s staff if not Obama himself! And where did they get this nonsense about how diseases spread? I never knew Louis Pasteur was Muslim!

2) The comments about Islam’s tolerance and racial equality are below even this. Obama seems to be worried about the opinion of Muslims, but any self-respecting Hindu must be thoroughly disgusted.

What tolerance the Muslims had was only for Christians and Jews, and there was not all that much of that.

3) The blather about colonialism: Bad in general, and in NO case did Western empires deny Muslims the free exercise of their religion.

4) The Muslim nations were not mere pawns in the Cold War; but participants, often on the other side. It is notorious that most Arab nations were pro-Soviet if not outright allies of the Sovie.

(5) The offensive and ridiculous exaggeration of the practically non-existent role of Muslims in American history.

6).The usual a**-kissing blather about our overthrowing an “elected” Iranian government: Mossadegh was democratically chosen, but had dissolved parliament and made himself dictator. The complaints of the ayatollahs about 1953 were and are sheer hypocrisy, since at the time they supported the coup.

7) Obama and his advisers could not even get the ritual reference to the Holocaust right. Buchenwald was a “normal” concentration camp that had very little to do with the destruction of the Jews and very few Jews were there.

N. writes:

Reading the article about the 27-year old speechwriter for President Obama one finds that he met with Peggy Noonan while in the course of writing drafts of the inaugural address. I cannot but wonder if this is not associated with her swoon over the inauguration itself.

Reading between the lines, it is evident that Obama’s head speech writer is a product of the modern education system and thus a know-nothing save in a few very narrow areas. No doubt that makes him a very useful tool. One cannot but suspect that the “shout out” terms used in the Cairo speech towards Islam were placed there by Obama himself, since he is quite adept at using such key terms. With all of this, I still am at a loss to say for certain whether the speech is simply a mass of platitudes resulting from ignorance, or a piece of a calculated long-term project.

As an aside, the sheer fawning tone of the article makes it difficult to read. I do not recall reading anything in the Washington Post like this since Jimmy Carter’s first year. But then, I did not read the Post much in the 1990s, so perhaps I missed similar adulation of Clinton.

Paul K. writes:

Here’s one part of Obama’s speech particularly sticks in my craw: “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… I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal…”

Do Muslim women necessarily “choose” to cover their hair in the sense that our president implies? Is it not the case that in much of the Islamic world a woman will be stoned for going out without covering her head?

Obama promises to use the full power of the U.S. government to back the wearing if the hijab, but what about the burqa? I haven’t heard much objection to head scarves; the real controversy involves Muslim women who want to cover their faces while being photographed for their driver’s licenses, or while teaching school. Does Obama side with them on this issue? [LA replies: please don’t say ok to the hijab; they also are the announcement of an alien power among us.]

N. writes:

Paul K. brings up a significant point regarding the hijab. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the U.S. has tried to ban such garb. The issue is he says, when Moslem women demand a driver’s license photo of them wearing essentially a kind of ski mask. There has also been at least one case in Britain where a Moslem woman was called as a witness in a trial, and she refused to expose her face in the courtroom. This particular gesture is extremely repugnant, as it strikes directly at one of the roots of Anglo-American jurisprudence: the right to confront one’s accusers in open court. When a witness is allowed to testify in essentially a disguise, there must be an extraordinary reason to justify it, and “It’s my religion” is not sufficient.

This speech merely reinforces the fact that Barack Hussein Obama isn’t an American in any but the most pro forma sense. He’s consciously a “citizen of the world,” and that’s one reason the elites adore him.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 04, 2009 02:34 PM | Send

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