Friday, May 22, 2009

Prelude to Cairo speech

On June the 4th, President Obama will hold a keynote speech in Cairo, adressing ¨the Muslim World¨, those who follows me on twitter might have noticed that i would prefer the al Azhar University , to be the venue for the speech. I might dwell on that in a blog post, in the coming week , but for now i only wish to share two different speeches, that was held at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies , UK and at the national arhives in Washington, the first by Great Britain´s Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the second by President Obama.

Miliband adresses the mistakes made over centuries from King Charles Street(The Foreign Office).

As British Foreign Secretary, it is my privilege to represent a country of extraordinary diversity and remarkable history. But it is as well to be clear about the prejudices that British history generates, not just in Muslim majority countries, but elsewhere too. Decisions taken many years ago in King Charles Street are still felt on the landscape of the Middle East and South Asia. Ruined Crusader castles remain as poignant monuments to the religious violence of the Middle Ages. Lines drawn on maps by Colonial powers were succeeded, amongst other things, by the failure – it has to be said not just ours - to establish two states in Palestine. More recently, the invasion of Iraq, and its aftermath, aroused a sense of bitterness, distrust and resentment. When people hear about Britain, too often they think of these things.

The most interesting part of Miliband´s speech in my view , is what he said about a two-state-sollution in Israel and Palestine:

The power to create peace in the Middle East is dispersed. It requires Fatah and Hamas to engage in transformational politics not violent conspiracies. It requires the new Israeli government to freeze settlements and accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. It requires the 22 states of the Arab league to be entrepreneurs for coexistence with Israel.

The full speech can be found here.

Barrack Obama´s Speech was not on the Muslim World as such, it was on National Security, but it can partly be seen as something that had to be addressed before coming to Cairo, in order to stay on track of what was one of his corner stone election promises, namely to close down Guantanamo, and also aknowledge that the creation of Guantamo, for purposes of making U.S.A safer , backfired , and in fact may have created more terrorists than it detained and also facilitated recruitment for al Qaida.

There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America's strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. In fact, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law -- a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected. Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.

So the record is clear: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. That's why I argued that it should be closed throughout my campaign, and that is why I ordered it closed within one year.

The full text of the speech can be found here.

Both speeches are important reading, and should perhaps serve as a testement to those who doubt Obama´s and Miliband´s intentions when it comes to dealing with the Muslim and Arab World, both seem keen on both talking, and listening, and perhaps it´s not too much to ask, to at listen to what they have to say? Both of them and their governments will surely look out for national interests as their top priorities. Their work description is exactly that, but it seems to me that right now, that agenda goes hand in glove with much of the prioritized interests of both the Muslim and the Arab World. On one issue i have great doubts still, and that´s on human rights and democracy, during the first 110 days of administration, both Secreatary of Defence, Gates and Secretary of State, Clinton has visited the region, and left with statements that was, to put it mildly, vague on human rights, democracy and citizens and rather strong in support for the so called ¨moderate¨ leaders of the friendly states , Saudi, Jordan and Egypt. That worries me a great deal, i hope that the dialogue that both statesmen want to engage in with citizens and civil society in the neighbourhood is given priority, and proves not only to be empty words. Both Bush JR, and Condi Rice talked at length(Rice more eleqeuently than Bush), on democracy, human rights and so on, but their implementation on the ground never came close to the lofty words, not even prior to the tandem Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas election success.

Having said that, i will still listen with an open mind to what President Obama will have to say in Cairo, and i will keep listening, even if i will be dissapointed, because neither Obama´s or Milibands grows on threes, and they deserve the benefit of a doubt, much more than the average politician, they can´t walk on water, perhaps they can´t deliver a comprehensive peace(mostly because they have strange bedfollows as partners),but Obama can deliever on Guantamo and on leaving Iraq, and finally yes, who knows what can be achieved, the sky is not the limit , but if the limit is Jerusalem, negotiated peace within 1967 borders, and USA as a partner in multilateral politics, and not an administration,busy bullying those not agreeing with it until January 2013, then i can live with that.



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