Tag Archives: US

Words Into Deeds? Obama Speaks to Middle East

If you read, listened to, or watched President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, you can’t help but be impressed with its comprehensive nature. He touched on virtually every issue of global concern in the Middle East, from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to respect for women. If you look closely at the early reaction, it seems to fall along predictable lines.

Barack Saudi medal

The question that comes out of all this is whether the Muslim world that Obama was speaking to will trust that American actions will mirror this president’s words. For some in the region, that could be a leap of faith (no pun intended). Many of the problems facing the Middle East, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have raged longer than Barack Obama has been alive.

What then will this president do differently?

He’s called for candor in discussions about areas of disagreement. He also repeated America’s resolve to fight terrorism where it rears its head. Can Muslim countries now believe that Americans can differentiate between radical and moderate Islam? It’s one thing for the president, with experience living in a predominately Muslim country to talk about tolerance.

It’s something else to get that message to the heartland.

Then of course there’s the need for many of the Islamic countries the president was addressing to do likewise. The scourge of ugly stereotypes knows no border or boundary. Muslims harbor them against Americans, Israelis, and yes, even other Muslims. As President Obama points out, no one speech is going to  sweep away these years of misconceptions. Now, however, is a good time to start.

One area that the Middle East will be watching closely is whether this president can convince the Israeli government to stop the spread of settlements in the West Bank. This is an area of serious disagreement between Israel and the US, and places like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan will be trying to figure out if Obama can convince Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to see things his way.

When it comes to translating words into deeds, that’s a first step. How he handles negotiations (if there will be any) with Iran will also serve as a litmus test. It was significant that President Obama mentioned that “no single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons”. Yet that’s exactly what America has been doing.

The Muslim world should find much to like about this speech. They are right  to want those words translated into concrete deeds, but that will come with time and effort on the part of all of the players.

How do you rate President Obama’s Cairo speech? Can he translate words into deeds?

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Uighurs! Will Europe Take GITMO Detainees? Not if We Don't!

One of the more bizarre aspects of the debate over where to relocate some inmates detained at Guantanamo Bay is this. Several European countries which had previously agreed to take some of them are now hesitating. Their reason?

It’s the reluctance to do the same right here in the USA.

We’re not talking about the high risk terror suspects who will remain locked up. We’re talking about people both military and federal courts said should be freed.

The Obama Administration planned to resettle about 50 detainees in a number of European countries, who had agreed to take them in. The drumbeat of opposition in the Congress to allowing detainees on US soil has until now largely been centered on those who would remain detained. Now, however, the ante has been upped in the case of 17 Chinese Uighur detainees.

Who, you may ask? Uighurs are Chinese Muslims, and all 17 were captured in Afghanistan after the Sept., 11th terror attacks.

keptewazc

Last October, a federal judge said none posed a security threat and should therefore be freed. Problem is, their attorneys say to return them to China would condemn them to certain imprisonment or possibly death.

The German government had tentatively agreed to resettle nine of the Uighurs in Bavaria, where a community of them already exists. However, the inability of the Obama Administration to reach agreement on resettling several of them in Northern Virginia has seen Germany’s willingness evaporate. The central question here is whether these people represent any security threat, either to the US or Germany.

The US courts have said no, and in fact have ordered the release of 21 GITMO detainees, including the Uighurs.

That’s not good enough for some members of Congress, who want no detainees on US soil, no matter what the courts may say. So then the question must be asked, not of the Europeans but of us. When and under what circumstances are we willing to admit the detention of some of those at Guantanamo was wrong?

We know some of our elected representatives on both sides of the partisan divide have no interest in this fundamental question of justice.

This is not, by the way, a call for freeing dangerous people onto the streets of America, and our elected officials know this (or should). We locked these people up. Dealing with the relocation of the innocent among them is our responsibility, not Europe’s.

So how do we solve this?

The Uighurs and their situation is metaphor for a lot more than simply where they end up. Do we trust our court system? Isn’t this at some point about the rule of law?

You tell me.

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