President Barack Obama: Governance is Slightly Different from the Previous Administration; Other than Style Administration May be a Carbon Copy

[Addendum 7/24/10: The situation involving Shirley Sherrod can fit cleanly is the list of items I have identified previously. The preposterous idea of a “post-racial” America lead straightway to a complete abandonment of the sober consideration of issues when an outrageously edited video purporting to show anti-White racism and to a confirmation that Black people have absolutely no regard in this so-called post-racial society. Indeed, we may as well go back to Jim Crow. The whole affair was sickening and President Obama must accept full responsibility for all of the missteps. Belatedly, yes, he did call Ms. Sherrod, but by then the damage had been well and truly done.

Recall also that Whites are the majority race and hold all of the societal power. This is a fact that is conveniently and repeatedly forgotten.]

Over the past few months I have found myself questioning the direction of President Barack Obama’s Administration. It seems that he is projecting an image that he is centered and calm and does not consider that he can address a broken political system even while he sits at its center of gravity. This rationale is ill-conceived because even though he acts for himself, the consequences of the broken system, of which he and his official actions (or lack of) are a part, will be rightfully attributed to him. For this fact, I cannot accept the thesis of The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart. The President does not need to be angry to act, he needs simply to take productive action, period. Acting like the previous Administration is not productive action.

Several examples (not exhaustive) come to mind as I think about this issue.

Gaza blockade and flotilla killings-In this international incident, the Administration issued a sober, detached statement which indicated its regret for the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara that was headed to Gaza (by going through an Israeli-imposed blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip). This regret would be sincere only if the United States were truly not involved in the creation and enforcement of the blockade. Because the United States is intricately involved, it leads one to believe that perhaps they were aware of possible military action against the Mavi Marmara. The answers given by the Administration’s State Department while stating their “neutrality” constantly inferred its belief for the application of the law for blockades rather than the law for boarding civilian vessels at sea. The internal investigation scheduled to be completed during another holiday in the United States (July 4) will very likely find  little to no wrongdoing except by the passengers and crew aboard the Mavi Marmara. The President and the United States will be occupied watching the fireworks, etc.

The present Administration is very little different from its predecessor in its foreign policy in this area. Yes, the President gave a so-called address to the Muslim world in Cairo, but since then there has been little to no follow through on much of what the President discussed.

Iran-During the President’s inaugural speech, he stated that he was prepared to negotiate with Iran as long as Iran “unclenched its fist.” Well, the United States may have had an “outstretched hand” but it always has had a club behind its back (the world’s largest military and unilateral international political  and financial force). So even as the President was addressing the Muslim world in Cairo, he was laying the seeds for the “Green Revolution” for regime change in and the political isolation of Iran (something the previous Administration would have done).

Health Care Debate-This issue was covered somewhat on this blog. One thing that I noted is that the President criticized the behavior of lobbyists of acting against the passage of his original bill, but he never mentioned his side agreement with the same lobbyists for their support of the bill.

Note: After the health-care bill passed, the President, a Democrat, proclaimed that the bill was a Republican bill.

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United Nations & Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Addressed the UN Meeting on the Non-Proliferation Treaty

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the review conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty that is occurring at the United Nations during May.

During President Ahmadinejad’s address, certain representatives of several countries walked out of the auditorium. Whatever effect this may have had in the past, it no longer exists today because of the Internet and its unceasing demand for content.

Citizens of the world must read and review documents  and reach individual conclusions. Towards that end, I provide some of the documents of the NPT review conference in this post.

Chart of countries that walked out during Ahmadinejad speech

Text of Ahmadinejad speech (English) 5-3-10

Iran: President Barack Obama Comments on Unrest in Iran; President’s Noble Lecture Hinted at U.S. Policy

In my post summarizing the subtext of President Barack Obama’s Nobel Lecture, I noted the following observations:

Short of military action, social disturbance or destruction must be used or threatened to achieve U.S. objectives.

–The President defines “peace” as that which is based on the inherent rights and dignity of each person (which are human rights, the right to speak freely, worship as one pleases, choose their own leaders, assemble without fear, democracy, and economic security and opportunity [presumably the U.S’s rule of law beliefs].

There was an uprising in Iran and the President commented on the situation.

For months the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights.  Each time they have done so they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days.  And each time that has happened the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people, who are a part of Iran’s great and enduring civilization.

What’s taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country — it’s about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves.  And the decision of Iran’s leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away.  As I said in Oslo, it’s telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.

The West is likely involved in this social unrest. For example, in addition to the President’s comments, on PBS, there were representatives prepared to disseminate negative information about Iran as well. It seems that every day that is significant in Iran, the same unrest will take place, with the idea of destabilizing the government. With Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no need of further destabilized states.

Post script:

U.S. nominal GDP-$14 trillion

Iran nominal GDP-$385 billion

Yemen nominal GDP-$26.6 billion

Karim Sadjadpour

Trita Parsi

Nobel Peace Prize: Martin Luther King’s View of War and Peace Differs From President Obama’s View

President Barack Obama attempted to synthesize peace with war (two subjects that cannot be considered equivalents). The result was eloquently disgraceful. The implied insult of Dr. King was astounding. Overall, the President’s speech was a disappointment.

In his speech, the President referred to Martin Luther King, who was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in 1964. While the President mentioned Dr. King’s actions with regard to race, Dr. King’s Nobel Lecture also addressed poverty and war.

In fact, the President glossed over King’s lecture. What is key about the quote he selected is what he chose to cut—Dr. King actually opposes the view (war is a tool of and for peace) that the President presented in his Lecture. Dr. King’s Lecture also is prophetic.

Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

This is precisely the reason that the warcraft the President advocates will never lead to peace. War (or threat of warfare, which the President implies in his speech) never resolves problems. No matter how many troops are sent to Afghanistan, the conflict will not provide any humane resolution. Ultimately, the U.S. will leave Afghanistan without much progress, except that Afghanistan will be worse off for the experience.

At the root, soldiers train to kill, presumably in conditions where the adversarial force meets head on with the U.S. force. The last country to try (and fail) with this type of approach was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. This is what the U.S. military is operationally setup to handle. The problem is that people have learned this and fight using guerilla tactics. The U.S. is not operationally setup to handle this with its hierarchical command structure.

Also, militaries destroy; they cannot rebuild. This is the weakness of the U.S’s approach.

Warcraft is encouraged when there are U.S. business interests tied to the rebuilding of a country after it is delivered to near ruin (that is, U.S. companies that profit from the destruction of war.

He quoted from the portion that addressed racial justice, but ignored the portions addressing poverty and war. Given what Dr. King addressed, I can see why the President did not mention these inconvenient facts.

The reader should study Dr. King’s Lecture in full and compare it with the President’s Lecture. I will offer some selections of Dr. King’s Lecture below.

Dr. King on poverty—

The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for “the least of these”. Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value, the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth. If we feel this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with starvation and ill health when we have the means to help them. The wealthy nations must go all out to bridge the gulf between the rich minority and the poor majority.

Dr. King on war—

So man’s proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war – God forbid! – will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.

U.N. General Assembly: Brief Summary of Speech of Iran President Mahmoud Amadinejad

At the September meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, a number of high-level leaders from different countries gave speeches to the General Assembly. The newspapers attempted to provide summaries, but a better source these days is to read the text of the speeches yourself.

One speech that was noticed this week was the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A number of newspapers negatively characterized his speech. Reading the text showed that the speech was indeed critical (as President Barack Obama delivered critiques of President Ahmadinejad (President Ahmadinejad listened to President Obama’s speech, the representatives of a number of other countries walked out during Ahmadinejad’s speech–I’m not sure of the effectiveness of this tactic today with the Internet always seeking content) , but also well-composed.

I describe a short selection of his speech below. I recommend reading the text in full.

President Ahmadinejad described the theme of his speech at the beginning–the difference of to worldviews, one based on materialism and imperialism and another based on human dignity and respect for all people.

Specifically, President Ahmadinejad critiqued the policy of the United States just printing currency, which passes U.S. debt to other countries.

It is no longer possible to inject thousands of billions of dollars of unreal wealth to the world economy simply by printing worthless paper assets, or transfer inflation as well as social and economic problems to others through creating sever budget deficits. The engine of unbridled capitalism with its unfair system of thought has reached the end of road and is unable to move. The era of capitalist thinking and imposition of one’s thoughts on the international community, intended to predominate the world in the name of globalization and the age of setting up empires is over. It is no longer possible to humiliate nations and impose double standard policies on the world community.

President Ahmadinejad also criticized the use of democracy to bully other nations.

Approaches in which realization of the interests of certain powers is considered as the only criteria to weigh democracy, and using the ugliest methods of intimidation and deceit under the mantle of freedom as a democratic practice, and approaches  through which sometimes dictators are portrayed as democrats, lack legitimacy and must be totally rejected.

President Ahmadinejad also critiqued Israel’s was against Gaza in which Gaza was destroyed but is unable to rebuild. Gaza was unable to defend itself as it does not have a military or heavy arms to thwart an invasion. [Comment: That the “war” was ended simultaneously with the end of George W. Bush’s term is particularly galling.]

How can one imagine that the inhuman policies in Palestine may continue; to force the entire population of a country out of their homeland for more than 60 years by resorting to force and coercion; to attack them with all types of arms and even
prohibited weapons; to deny them of their legitimate right of self-defense, while much to the chagrin of the international community calling the occupiers as the peacelovers,  and portraying the victims as terrorists.

U.S. Foreign Policy: Summary of June 4, 2009, President Barack Obama’s Speech in Egypt

The essential idea was that challenges are shared among countries; therefore, the responses to them are also shared. The White House published the text of the President’s speech here.

[The election for the Presidency of Iran, who serves under the Supreme Leader, was on June 12, 2009.]

President Obama addressed four main areas in the speech:  violent extemism, Israel and Palestine, nuclear weapons, and democracy. [President Obama also discussed the matters of religious freedom, women’s rights, and economic development and opportunity briefly towards the end of the speech.]

Violent Extremism

The President stated that Afghanistan demonstrated the common goal of addressing violent extremism—opposing the killing of innocents. The United States has partnered with a coalition of 46 countries, the President explained, to address this goal.

In an aside, The President also mentioned that the questioning or justifying the events surrounding 9/11 is not supported by the facts:  Al-Queda killed 3000 people, the victims were innocents, and Al-Queda claimed credit for the attacks and state its intention to kill on a massive scale. [Note: It is unclear which person or persons are being referred to here.]

On Iraq, The President said that the world is better without Saddam Hussein, but events surrounding his removal from power have reminded the United States to use diplomacy and build international consensus.

Israel and Palestine

The President stated that the strong bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable because of cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

He also asserted that six million Jews were killed by the Third Reich. He continued that denying this is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. [Note: At the G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, the group announced its condemnation of statements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denying the holocaust.]

The resolution of the problems between Israel and Palestine is two states with each population living in peace and security. [However, one has a full military and nuclear weaponry, the other does not.]

The President explained that the Palestinians must resist violence. He stated that shooting rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus is neither a sign of courage nor power. [The damage created by Operation Cast Lead and other similar operations were not mentioned.]

The President attempted to compare the plight of the Palestinians with the struggles that Black Americans face. The President asserted that Black people won full and equal rights through the “peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.” This statement is not completely accurate because the history of Palestinans in their land has a different context from the story of Black people in America. [I critiqued former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a similar point. Perhaps it is best to avoid these type of comparisons]

In addition, the Palestinians must focus on what they can build, the President explained. The Palestinian Authority must develop the capacity to govern, Hamas must end violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Alternatively, the Israelis must acknowledge the Palestinian’s right to exist. The President noted that the United States does not have to accept the continued legitimacy of continued settlements. Israel, the President continued, has an obligation to ensure that the Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.

The Arab states were encouraged to do activities similar to what was being asked of the Palestinians.

Nuclear Weapons

On Iran, the President noted that the United States played a role in overthrowing a democratically elected Iranian government. He stated that Iran played a role in hostage taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.

The President explained that the United States is prepared to move forward without preconditions, except on the issue of nuclear weapons. The President explained that his purpose is to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. [However, one state already has nuclear weapons.]

The President acknowledged that some argue that some countries have nuclear weapons, while others do not. He stated that no one country should determine which nation has nuclear weapons. He also noted that Iran has the right to access peaceful nuclear power under the requirements of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (signatories).

Democracy

No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. The President is committed to support governments that reflect the will of the people.

The characteristics of governance that the United States supports are the following—free speech, opportunity to choose government, rule of law, equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and does not steal from the people, and the freedom to live as you choose.

U.S. Foreign Policy: Strait of Hormuz Issues Require Careful Scrutiny

In The New York Times’s Opinion section, David Crist, a columnist, presented his view on the recent event in the Strait of Hormuz between the Iran Navy and the United States Navy. The Strait of Hormuz is a critical body of water as oil is transported through it.

The central concern of Mr. Crist involved the protection of the shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz.

After the 9/11 attacks, several European navies (as well as Australia’s and Canada’s) sent large forces to augment the United States effort in safeguarding the sea lanes of the Middle East from terrorism. The Bush administration should harness this coalition by asking them to let Tehran know through their own diplomatic channels that any attempt by the Revolutionary Guards to interfere with the free navigation of international waters will be treated no differently from a terrorist attack.

Strait of hormuz
Strait of Hormuz (Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin)

 

However, the issue regarding the Strait of Hormuz is not as clear as Mr. Crist argues in his article. According to Dr. Kaveh Afrasiabi, in The Asia Times, there are no “international waters” in the Strait of Hormuz. The shipping lane is in Iran’s territorial waters.

Moreover, Dr. Afrasiabi explained that the United States Navy was citing advantageous provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, which the United States has not ratified, while not considering provisions that are within Iran’s territorial interests.

Given that the approximately three-kilometer-wide inbound traffic lane in the Strait of Hormuz is within Iran’s territorial water, the US Navy’s invocation of “transit passage” harking back to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS) is hardly surprising.

 

Although the US has yet to ratify the UNCLOS, it has been a strong advocate of its provisions regarding navigational rights, thus explaining the US officers’ availing themselves of “international law”.

 

[…]

 

However, irrespective of how Congress acts on the pending legislation on UNCLOS, the fact is that the US cannot have its cake and eat it. That is, rely on it to defend its navigational rights in the Strait of Hormuz and, simultaneously, disregard the various limitations on those rights imposed by the UNCLOS – and favoring Iran.

Dr. Afrasiabi explains the conflicting provisions of the UNCLOS as it applies to the Strait of Hormuz. The major issues involved are the ability to navigate through the Strait of Hormuz and the right of a state to protect land and waters within its territory.

As a result of events occurring in the Strait of Hormuz, people of good will must apply careful scrutiny of issues involving this area.