Published on
The Toronto Sun

Obama Fails to Impress

SIFNOS, GREECE -- President Barack Obama's masterfully written, artfully delivered recent speech in Cairo was filled with just what the Muslim world had been waiting for.

After eight years of the George W. Bush administration's relentless anti-Islamic hostility, the world's 1.5 billion Muslims at last heard an intelligent, respectful speech from President Obama calling for normalized relations with the Muslim world, including former "betes noires" Iran and Syria, co-operation, and advancement of democracy and human rights.

Very nice. But the Muslim world was not as taken by Obama's silver-tongued oratory as many Americans. The general response there was, "actions speak louder than words. Show us."

Rather than a friendly, helpful U.S.A., many Muslims saw Obama expanding the war in Afghanistan that he could easily have ended upon taking office. They saw the U.S.-rented Pakistani army create three million refugees in its Swat offensive against rebellious tribesmen, continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq, and CIA's covert campaign to destabilize Iran and Syria.

Muslims saw Israel's rightist government thumbing its nose at Obama's sensible calls for a halt to its colonization of the West Bank and Golan, and the U.S. Congress applauding Israel's hard line like trained seals.

These facts speak a lot louder than the president's mellifluous oratory.

We would like to give the new president the benefit of the doubt. He has been in office only four months and will need a lot more time to begin repairing the catastrophic damage inflicted by the Bush administration on U.S. interests and standing in the Muslim world and Europe. Here in Greece, for example, anti-U.S. sentiment reached an all time high, but is now declining thanks to Obama.

However, the White House's recent actions belie the new president's promises.

Exhibit A: Obama unfortunately chose Egypt from which to deliver his message to Muslims of amity, democracy and human rights.

Egypt's U.S.-backed dictator, Husni Mubarak, has ruled for 37 years and is grooming his son to replace him. This leading Arab nation is run by a corrupt oligarchy, the military and secret police.


Egypt has become notorious for torture and human rights violations. Opponents of the regime are intimidated or arrested and tortured. Elections are crudely rigged.


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Egypt is America's most important Muslim ally, along with Saudi Arabia. Are these repressive states what Obama means when he calls for democracy and human rights? He should have given his speech from democratic Indonesia, or the progressive United Arab Emirates and Qatar, rather than Egypt, a pillar of America's Mideast raj.

Exhibit B: Lebanon's June 7 parliamentary elections. A U.S.-French-Saudi-backed coalition of Sunni, Christians, and Druze was pitted against a Syrian-Iranian backed Hezbollah-led coalition that included Armenians and a Christian splinter faction.

Late last month, U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden went to Lebanon and threatened to cut off all U.S. aid to that nation of 3.9 million if the democratically elected Hezbollah coalition won. Hillary Clinton made similar crude threats.

Imagine the uproar if the Saudi crown prince came to the U.S. just before elections and threatened to raise oil prices if Democrats won.

The United States, Saudi Arabia and France spent millions of dollars bribing Lebanon's rentable politicians and voters. The U.S. has been mucking around in Lebanon since 1957.

Iran spread some money around as well. Nothing new about that: Lebanon's politicians are among the most corrupt and easily bought on earth.

Vote rigging

All the western "baksheesh" and some fancy vote rigging helped the U.S.-backed May 14 coalition, headed by Saad Hariri, win 71 seats. The Hezbollah-led coalition, which speaks for the nation's Shia, won only 57 seats. This left sectarian, fragmented Lebanon just where it was before this sleazy election.

Is this what Obama means by promoting good government in the Muslim world?

Many Muslims and non-Muslims alike see Obama as an honest, decent, well-intentioned leader who has not yet managed to impose his will on the aggressive financial-military-industrial complex that seemingly remains the real power in Washington.


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Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

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