Obama In Cairo

by Mumia Abu-Jamal, Prison Radio, Written 6/4/09; Recorded 06-04-09

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As in the election itself, President Barack Hussein Obama benefited more by who he wasn't, than who he was as he addressed an audience in Cairo.

He was not George W. Bush, a man known as a mangler of words, and one able to turn a speech into an instrument of torture.

With quiet confidence, a clear oratory, a well of knowledge and the power of his personal story, Obama played on strings never strummed by an American president.

Initially, it must be said, no other president would've tried such a stage, so conscious are they of security threats in regions where the U.S. is regarded as an imperial bully.

Where past presidents have projected arrogance, he evoked compassion; where his predecessor evoked idiocy, he demonstrated erudition.

For an act of political theater, his performance was masterful, but it was theater.

Politics is ultimately about power, and as the power of the U.S. empire is on the wane, this speech was a call for Arab and Egyptian "partnership" in America's imperial project against "violent extremism." As such Obama continues the 9/11 project begun under Bush-Cheney, but he seeks to avoid the unilateralism of past administrations. Thus, Afghanistan, he said, was a war of necessity; while Iraq was a war of choice.

Which makes it interesting why he chose Cairo as the site of this speech, or for that matter, any Arab capital. For while Egypt is a large Muslim country, it is far from the largest. That honor goes to Pakistan, which has almost three times Egypt's Muslim population. In fact, of the 10 countries in the world with the largest Muslim populations, Egypt comes in 7th -- and is the first Arab country. Most of the world's Muslims live in Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India and throughout Africa.

But, Egypt is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, both civilian and military, thus it all but guarantees a nice, elite reception. But, Egypt is as far from a democracy as a mouse is from the moon, a fact that Obama politely ignored. Further, why are almost all U.S. allies in the region dictatorships, where the leaders train the enmity of their militaries and police against their own people?

It says something about American trust in the very notion of democracy, does it not?

Brutal, lethal internal armies, secret police, and torture are the trifecta of America's favored allies, and these realities echo louder than the sweet and eloquent niceties of Obama's diplomacy.

But, in truth, Obama had them at "Salaam Aliekum", the universal Muslim greeting meaning "Peace be unto you."

Peace, sad to say, is hardly a reality when one's own government is at war with its people to defend its corrupt political leaders.

The Obama administration billed this as 'a new beginning', and that it was, given his extraordinary political and oratorical gifts. He cited the Quran at least twice; endorsed women's equality; and called the Israeli occupation, "occupation." As for what this is a 'beginning' of, only time will tell.

--(c) '09 maj

[Note: Mr. Jamal has recently published his latest book, Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners vs. the USA (San Francisco: City Lights Bks, Dr. Angela Y. Davis. For more info:; or write: City Lights Books, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133


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