Reality Check: The Profound Hypocrisy of President Obama's Speech on the Middle East
by Brian Becker and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
President Obama took to the airwaves today to discuss the revolts and
conflicts spreading throughout the Middle East. The U.S. dominance over this
strategic and oil-rich region has been the pivot of U.S. foreign policy for
decades. Utilizing a system of proxy and client regimes, in addition to its
own vast military forces in the region, the United States has supported a
network of brutal dictatorships and the Israeli regime for decades.
Now that this system of imperial control has been shaken by the popular
risings that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt and elsewhere, the Obama
administration spoke today at the U.S. State Department as part of an effort
to reassert U.S. leadership over the swiftly changing region.
Using the rhetoric of democracy and freedom to mask the responsibility of
U.S. imperialism in the enduring oppression and suffering of the peoples of
the Middle East, President Obama's speech was a demonstration of profound
Hypocrisy: President Obama said that the "greatest untapped resource in the
Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people."
Reality: The U.S. strategy is based on control of the Middle East's most coveted resource:
two-thirds of the world's known oil supply. The U.S. government has given
billions of dollars and armed the most brutal dictatorships in the Middle
East for decades, a practice fully continued by the Obama administration.
The U.S. government never cut funds to the Mubarak dictatorship even while
the regime murdered more than 850 peaceful protestors. More than 5,000
civilians in Egypt have been convicted and jailed since Jan. 25 following
trials conducted by the Egyptian military. The United States continues to
provide massive funding to Egypt's military in spite of the ongoing
repression against the people.
Hypocrisy: President Obama stated, "it will be the policy of the United
States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy."
Reality: The only governments in the Middle East that have been targeted for
invasion, economic sanctions and overthrow by the U.S. government are those
that pursue policies that are independent of U.S. economic, political and
military control. The U.S. never imposed economic sanctions on the Mubarak
dictatorship and only came out publicly against Mubarak when the tide of
revolution had become irresistible. Likewise, the U.S. supports the brutal
Hypocrisy: President Obama championed for the people of the Middle East the
"basic rights to speak your mind and access information," stating, "the
truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately
depend on active and informed citizens."
Reality: The Obama administration has gone out of its way to punish those
who would inform the public by shedding light on the activities of the U.S.
government. Bradley Manning remains jailed with the threat of life in
prison, having been held in brutal conditions that caused the U.N. Special
Rapporteur on Torture to seek an investigation. The Justice Department is
working at full speed to find a way to prosecute Julian Assange of Wikileaks
for disclosing government documents to the public, many of which expose the
U.S. role in the Middle East. The Obama administration has undertaken a
major campaign more aggressive than any prior administration to criminally
prosecute whistleblowers who expose the truth of illegal government actions.
Hypocrisy: President Obama stated: "The United States opposes the use of
violence and repression against the people of the region."
Reality: The United States under Obama is involved in the invasion,
occupation, and bombings of four predominantly Muslim countries
simultaneously: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan. Moreover, the head of
state who has been the single biggest violator of the basic human rights of
Arab people and the perpetuator of violence in the region is George W. Bush,
whose illegal invasion of Iraq cost the lives of more than one million
people. The March 19, 2003, invasion was a war of aggression against a
country that did not pose any threat to the United States or the people of
the United States. The invasion and occupation of Iraq led to the deaths of
more Arab people than have been killed by all the dictatorships in the
region combined. President Obama today called Osama Bin Laden a mass
murderer. September 11, 2001, was indeed a great crime that took the lives
of thousands of innocent working people, but measured in order of the
magnitude of victims killed, Bush's crime of mass murder in Iraq is
unmatched. George W. Bush has not been arrested for the mass killings of
Iraqi people but is treated honorifically by the Obama administration.
Hypocrisy: In an effort to appease Arab public opinion, President Obama's
speech made it appear as if the United States was insisting that Israel
return to its pre-1967 borders. Obama stated, "precisely because of our
friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is
unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace."
Reality: Israel's war against the Palestinian people would be impossible
without U.S. support, which continues unabated. The single biggest recipient
of U.S. foreign aid is the state of Israel, which uses the $3 billion it
receives annually to lay siege to the people of Gaza, continue the illegal
occupation of the West Bank and prevent the return of the families of the
750,000 Palestinians who were evicted from their homes and villages in
historic Palestine in 1948. The United Nations in various resolutions has
condemned the 1967 Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza, the West Bank,
and Syria's Golan Heights. Far from imposing economic sanctions, President
Obama has promised Israel a minimum of $30 billion in military aid over the
next 10 years, thus functioning as a partner in the occupation. Obama's
speech also made it clear that the United States would support Israel
retaining vast swaths of the West Bank. This is what he meant by referring
to "land swaps." In the coming days, Obama will have private meetings with
Benjamin Netanyahu and will be a featured speaker at the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. He will undoubtedly reinforce
the strong U.S.-Israeli military ties and U.S. financial support.
Hypocrisy: President Obama stated: "We support a set of universal rights.
Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom
of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right
to choose your own leaders - whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa
or Tehran .... [W]e will continue to insist that universal rights apply to
women as well as men."
Reality: While the U.S. government - along with Britain and France (the
former colonizers of the Middle East and Africa) - are bombing Libya with
the latest high-tech bombs and missiles in the name of "protecting
civilians" and "promoting democracy," the Obama administration offered the
most tepid pro-forma criticism of the Bahrain monarchy as it and the Saudi
monarchy kill and imprison peaceful protestors in Bahrain. No sanctions have
even been hinted at for Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. The Saudi monarchy is the
ultimate negation of democracy, depriving women of all rights, depriving
workers of the right to form unions and depriving all sectors of the
population of any right to free speech, assembly or press. There has never
been an election in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi monarchy functions as a
client of the U.S. government and, as such, is not targeted for economic
sanctions or "regime change" as are the governments of Syria and Libya. The
Bahrain monarchy likewise functions as a U.S. client and allows the U.S.
Fifth Fleet to use Bahrain as its home port, which is why he referred to the
monarchy as "a long-standing partner."
Hypocrisy: President Obama denounced the Iranian government, stating that
"we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal
rights," and condemned what he called Iran's "illicit nuclear program."
Reality: He failed to mention that it was the CIA along with its British
counterpart that staged the overthrow of Iran's democratic government in
1953 and reinstated the Shah's monarchy. They overthrew Iran's democracy
when Iran nationalized its own oil from AIOC/British Petroleum. The U.S.
only broke relations with the Iranian government when the Shah's
dictatorship was overthrown by a populist national revolution. Regarding
nuclear weapons, the Israeli government has refused to sign the nuclear
non-proliferation treaty and has accumulated 200 "illicit" nuclear weapons.
Of course, the United States has thousands of nuclear weapons and remains
the only country to have used nuclear weapons, destroying Hiroshima and
Nagasaki in 1945.
Hypocrisy: President Obama told the world that the United States shares the
goals of the Arab revolution, that "repression will fail, that tyrants will
fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable
Reality: The U.S. government, whether it is led by Democrats or Republicans,
views the oil-rich Middle East through the lens of empire. Operating through
a network of proxy regimes including Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Mubarak
dictatorship in Egypt, the Shah of Iran until his overthrow in 1979, and
other regimes in the region - and supplemented by tens of thousands of U.S.
troops positioned in U.S. bases throughout the region and on aircraft
carriers - the United States aims to dominate and control a region that
possesses two-thirds of the world's known oil supply. It has and continues
to finance a network of brutal client dictatorships, and it has funded the
Israeli war machine and staged repeated invasions, bombing campaigns, and
occupations against the people of the region.
[In return for his call for the establishment of a Palestinian state based
on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, without defining the size of these
lands, Obama accepted Netanyahu's demands for strict security arrangements
and a gradual, continuous withdrawal from the West Bank.--Aluf Benn, "Obama granted Netanyahu a major
diplomatic victory," Haaretz, May 19, 2011]
[Facts on the ground will decide whether the United States really "values
the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the
So let's start with a fact. For US President Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia is
not in the Middle East. Maybe the House of Saud has relocated the deserts
and the oil to Oceania without telling anyone. In his major speech on
Thursday from where the opening quote comes, and where, according to the
Reuters gospel, he would "lay out a new US strategy toward a skeptical Arab
world", the skeptical Arabs, and the whole world for that matter, never
heard these fateful two words, "Saudi" and "Arabia". Even India, Indonesia
and Brazil were mentioned.
That goes a long way to explain how the US, once again according to the
Reuters gospel, plans to "shape the outcome of popular uprisings"; by not
even naming the Middle Eastern power behind the ongoing counter-revolution
against the great 2011 Arab revolt.
Obama tried to shape what Clintonites define as "ambitious realism". It was
more like ambitious fiction. By insisting on America's set of "principles"
and not so subtly trying once again to monopolize the moral high ground -
issuing dispensations on regime change from Muammar Gaddafi (already gone)
to Syria's Bashar al-Assad (reform or go), Obama tried to rewrite history by
inscribing Washington at the heart of the Arab-wide push for democracy. It
may fool Americans. It didn't fool the Arab street.--Pepe Escobar, "What Obama
could not possibly say," atimes.com, May 21, 2011]
[As far back as the 1967 United Nations Resolution 242, which Israel signed,
it has been the stated policy of the entire world (including Israel) that
Israel would return to the '67 borders, with alterations made, as necessary,
to guard Israel's security. Every American president has said that and every
Israeli government has accepted it.--M J Rosenberg, "The Fake Outrage Of The
Israel-Firsters", Foreign Policy Matters, May 20, 2011]
[If Obama is serious about supporting self-determination, here's a
to-do list: remove state department warnings and give tax breaks to
Americans holidaying in Egypt and Tunisia; grant a temporary tax amnesty to
Egyptian imports; find our stolen money and hold it until our elections;
regulate the US security industry; stop US aid to Israel and Egypt; close
tax loopholes that encourage US citizens to fund settlements in Palestine;
encourage Israeli transparency regarding its nuclear weapons.--Ahdaf Soueif,
"Our revolt is not Obama's: Barack Obama
says he wants change in the Arab world yet insults us with the same old bad
policies", Guardian, May 21, 2011]
[PM's aides describe speech as 'befitting,' say Obama's clarifications about
1967 borders particularly pleasing. 'I'm determined to work with president
Obama to find a way to reignite the peace process,' Netanyahu says--Attila
'pleased' with Obama's AIPAC address", ynetnews.com, May 22, 2011]
[Many Palestinians, on the other hand, did not like Obama's assertion that
it made little sense for them to go to the UN General Assembly this
September and win recognition for a Palestinian state based on the 1967
borders. Surely they also noticed that shortly after saying that "every
state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend
itself," the president said that the Palestinians would have to be content
with "a sovereign non-militarized state," which means that they will not be
able to defend themselves against Israel or any other state for that
matter.--John Mearsheimer, "Doomed to
Disappoint - Obama and the Iron Cage", counterpunch.org, May 23,
[Welcome to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), formed in 1981 by top dog
Saudi Arabia plus the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and
Oman. A more appropriate denomination would be Gulf Counter-Revolutionary
Council--Pepe Escobar, "The
counter-revolution club", atimes.com, May 28, 2011]
[This month, in the Middle East, has seen the unmaking of the President of
the United States. More than that, it has witnessed the lowest prestige of
America in the region since Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz on the USS Quincy
in the Great Bitter Lake in 1945.
While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in
Washington - Obama grovelling as usual - the Arabs got on with the serious
business of changing their world--Robert Fisk, "Who cares in the Middle
East what Obama says?", Independent, May 30, 2011]