In September 2006, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addressed the United Nations General Assembly, a day after the then US President George W. Bush addressed the world body, he said the devil was here yesterday and the podium “still smells of sulphur.”
The remarks became an instant hit in the Arab World which was bearing the brunt of Bush’s gung-ho policies that served the interests of the capitalists, Israel and born-again fundamentalists who were seeking to fast-track their version of Armageddon.
In September 2009, when Chavez addressed the UN General Assembly, he said, “It doesn’t smell like sulphur anymore.” He was trying to make a point that the new President, Barack Obama, was not like the war-mongering Bush.
Speaking highly of Obama, the socialist leader said the new US president was an “intelligent man” and compared him to President John F. Kennedy.
“I hope God will protect Obama from the bullets that killed Kennedy. I hope Obama will be able to look and see, genuinely see, what has to be seen and bring about a change,” Chavez said.
But two months later, Chavez was disappointed that the new US president was no different from his predecessor. Addressing the world climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009, coincidentally after Obama spoke, Chavez said he could still smell sulphur at the podium. He accused the US president of carrying the same satanic scent that emanated from Bush. In his concluding remarks at the summit where the US stance was seen as a bulwark against the attempts to reach a global accord to protect the environment, Chavez referred to the Nobel-peace-prize-winning US president as the Nobel-war-prize winner.
Chavez is not expected to attend the current UN annual sessions, partly because he is fighting a battle for reelection on October 7 and partly because he is fighting a cancer which he says was the result of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plot to kill him.
If he had been in New York on Tuesday, he would have smelt sulphur again.
Yes, President Obama was economising on the truth, a fast dwindling commodity in the US political armoury. He spoke the half truth and boasted about American values in a speech aimed largely at the US voters ahead of the November 6 elections. In short, he said that everything that the US was doing was right and everything the “others” who did not agree with America were doing was wrong.
If values can be graded, speaking the truth and nothing but the truth will be on top. But we saw Obama armed with half-truths coming out strongly in defence of free speech in what eventually turned out to be an attempt to promote hate speech. The force with which he condemned the protests across the Muslim world was lacking when he deplored the anti-Islam video. With elections round the corner, he could hardly appear to be apologetic.
His speech began with the story of Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador who was killed in Benghazi, Libya during an unruly protest against an abominable movie which went beyond the boundaries of human decency in heaping insults on Prophet Muhammad.
Then he went on to defend the video.
“I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. And the answer is enshrined in our laws: Our Constitution protects the right to practise free speech. …. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.”
Wait a minute. Did I hear him say the Americans fought and died for free speech?
The Obama speech ends up in Goebbelsian garbage if one were to rekindle the memory of the cold war during which millions of people were massacred by invading US troops and their proxy rulers in Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia and other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, simply because the victims — peasants and workers — believed in an ideology of community welfare or a socio-political and economic order called Communism.
If free speech is guaranteed in the US constitution, why are the survivors of the Israeli attack on the US warship —USS Liberty — not allowed to relate their story? Why is the United States trying to gag WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange? Why does the Pentagon threaten to slap treason charges on Navy SEAL Matt Bissonette who wrote about his version of the raid on al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s hideout in his best selling book ‘No Easy Day’? Why is there a special envoy in the US State Department to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, but no such envoys to combat hate-speech against Muslims, who come under attack almost daily in the US, like what happened to the Jews in Adolf Hitler’s Germany?
In his speech he lumped together millions of Muslims who protested over the video with the terrorists who attacked the US. It was not simply political naivety on the part of Obama not to know that the Muslims in their millions came out to protest not only because they condemned the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ but also because they hate America’s policy in the Middle East. But Obama deliberately ignored this, though he said in his speech that one must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the current crisis.
If only the American Presidents had the honesty and the courage to stand up against Israel’s aggression and help the Palestinian people to achieve a just peace within the 1967 borders, 90 percent of anti-Americanism would disappear from the Middle East.
Obama’s posturing as a champion of free speech and democracy did not stop there.
He mustered all the power words could give him to project what was not the truth as the truth, when he said that sweeping democratic changes that were taking place in the Arab world were supported by the US. Whom is he trying to mislead? None but the American public. But the people in the Arab world know how uncomfortable the US was with the Arab Spring when it started. The Tunisians were angry that the US helped dictator Zine al-Abidine bin Ali with 630 million dollars worth of military aid. The Egyptians know how hard the US worked behind the scenes to keep Hosni Mubarak in power. The people in the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain know how the US and its regional allies have succeeded in protecting the dictatorship. The Libyans know how the US and the West hijacked their revolution and installed a virtual puppet regime there. And the Syrians know how their revolution is being hijacked by outsiders to serve the interests of the US, Israel and gas-rich-and-pipeline-hungry Qatar.
There were more contradictions: Obama, on the one hand, preached that conflicts could be resolved peacefully and diplomatically. On the other, he threatened Iran with war in an apparent bid to please Israel and the all-powerful Jewish lobby, whose financial and political clout plays a big role in US elections. What moral right does a country that has gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and is itching to start a conflict with Iran have to preach peaceful diplomacy to the rest of the world?
“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why… the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said, warning that “time is not limited” for diplomacy.
Here is a deliberate attempt to hide the fact that it is Israel which is the main destabilising factor in the Middle East. Israel possesses some 400 nuclear warheads. It is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has threatened to use its nuclear weapons against Iran. The primary source of the nuclear arms race in the Middle East is not Iran, but Israel.
The hypocrisy was more obvious when Obama said, “Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than 10 Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.”
Wait a minute. Did he say Afghanistan? If he did, then why did not he say that just nine days before he took to the podium at the UN headquarters, eight Afghan women and girls who were collecting firewood were killed in a US air strike? Why did not he say a word about a report that made news the very day he addressed the UN? The report by researchers at the Stanford and New York University schools of law says the US drone war in Pakistan not only kills and injures hundreds of civilians, but also traumatises the population and has led people to keep their children home from school.
Such was the hypocrisy of a morally bankrupt superpower. A majority of the American people are unaware of the moral nakedness of US politics. But they have little choice at the November 6 elections.
I too listened to the speech. I came away with something different from what the author tries to make out. If someone comes in front of the UN and reminds the members that if a distasteful movie has been made that we need to ask if that means people should go on the rampage over it. There are many things wrong here and everywhere but pointing to wrongs of other countries will not sort out our own deficiencies. It is obvious that the author did not and perhaps will not understand what President Obama said at the UN. A pity.
Thanga Saturday, 29 September 2012 12:19 AM
The Egyptian president who attended the UNO sessions this year is the first civilian president the country has produced. Island is the worst religion when it comes to tolerating dissent or criticism. They simply don't have the stomach to accept criticism. Innocence of Muslims is only a non-professional trailer that runs for 14 minutes, but full films have been produced denigrating Jesus. One such film is Jesus Nazareth.
Public Abilik Saturday, 29 September 2012 01:01 AM
Author's article is extremely biased. If someone was to Google Muslim protests in London 2010, it would be very evident of the horrific deeds they were promising Europe via their placards. That is called freedom of speech available in all civilized countries. Yet to see any kind of protest happening in a middle eastern country against the current regime/ beliefs of the country.
leelananda Saturday, 29 September 2012 03:51 AM
normally i don't read this writer's articles. he is dead against the west and america, not only that i have some notion that he is an Islamic extremist but some extent i can tolerate that because he is a muslim.
Nimal Saturday, 29 September 2012 10:38 AM
As Sri Lankans who are concerned about our future we should focus on "The moral nakedness of Sri Lankan politics". Hakeem & Sally went after government policies before provincial council election in East and after getting the Muslims vote, gave that mandate to the government for two cabinet posts. SInce we have big Sri Lankan communities, now we have Buddhist temples in Rome, Boston, New York, London etc. We have over 1 million people in middle east, They do not allow even to take a buddha statue through customs. By the way in Myanmar, & Tibet they have similar struggles with another super power. Dalai Lama do not ask people to burn & destroy things.
Hussain Saturday, 29 September 2012 02:58 PM
This guys articles are utterly biased against the USA and Israel. Why not worry about the mass murder going on in Syria, Somalia. Pakistan etc., or the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq etc. He isan Islamic fanatic & I am amazed that you allow such biased articles on your paper.
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