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All the President’s Speeches

By Middle EastMay, 2011December 12th, 20236 min read

President Barack Osama has made another pivotal speech directed to the Muslim world. Again, for those who don’t want to read or watch the whole thing, here is an abridged version that will give you the gist of what all the fuss was about:

Thank you. Thank you (applause). Thank you. Please have a seat. I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton. I count on Hillary every single day, and I firmly hope and believe that she will go down as one of the finest politicians never to have achieved the position of President.

In over two years as President of what used to be the most powerful nation in the world, I have learnt one most important lesson: the power of speeches. In the absence of any meaningful or effective policies, nothing – I repeat, nothing – stirs the hearts of people around the world more than one of my speeches. And today will be no exception.

For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And all of this has nothing – I repeat, nothing – to do with our foreign policy, and everything to do with the steps taken by my predecessor George W Bush, and the powerful effect of the internet and social media as the great equalizer of the 21st century.

After years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was no more a Muslim than I am. If I suggest he did anything in the name of Islam, some people will get very upset, so instead, I will talk to you about the terrible things he did only in the context of generic terms like violent extremism, which almost everyone is happy to condemn.

The story of the Arab Spring revolution should not come as a surprise, although our best analysts sure didn’t see it coming. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. Our country was happy to support these despots, because we figured it was a case of “better the devil you know”, and besides, our own citizens were mostly free and safe. But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore. Which is why we too have mostly abandoned these strategies.

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region that results in huge increases in the price of oil. (Thunderous applause.)

I’m going to encourage Tunisian and Egypt with huge amounts of aid, and condemn the Syrian regime for chosing the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. I’m not going to mention another place where violence and suppression rules – Gaza – because that might offend the Palestinians, nor will I have mention Saudi Arabia, who support continued suppression in Bahrain and other places, because we are really scared of those Wahabis. However, this I promise: once the power of the people truly tips those places or any others in the region, we will proudly stand up for them and try to take credit for their democratization.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. The fact that the Palestinian refugees are being discriminated against by all their Arab neighbours in an effort to position them as only Israel’s problem is completely lost on me. As is the relative importance of this particular conflict to the region, despite the clear evidence of the last six months.

The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Palestinian state cannot be fulfilled with the continued presence of Jews in the region.

Now, let me say this: The recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? I recognize how hard this will be. But we will do our level best to make them talk anyway, and to continue to prop up the expectations of the Palestinians regarding issues that Israel has clearly stated are non-negotiable.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. We’re not giving any territory back, but that doesn’t mean we won’t expect the same of Israel.

The words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa. It will not be easy. They will hate us no matter what we do or don’t do.

But the United States of America was founded on the belief that white people should govern themselves. We now finally accept that this belief may just apply to other races too. And now we cautiously stand by and observe those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that we haven’t yet worked out how to measure the success or failure of their efforts, and and hoping that the EU will get off their lazy asses, realize what a problem Muslim immigration has caused in their part of the world, and stop depending on us to put out the fires caused by their post-Ottoman empire screw ups.

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.

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