President Barack Obama's speech today in Cairo hit all of the right notes and was exactly what he needed to say after eight years of saber rattling, racist diatribes about "Crusades," and Biblical quotes affixed to "Worldwide Intelligence Updates." For years we've heard mouthpieces from the American Right uttering every offensive slur against Arabs and Muslims imaginable. Obama's contrast in tone as he addressed directly the world's 1.2 billion Muslims could not have been further from the toxic mixture of arrogance and incompetence that characterized the Bush-Cheney years.
Elliot Abrams emerged from Dick Cheney's dark nether regions of the federal government to write an op-ed in The Washington Post -- cited as important "news" by The New York Times' Ethan Bronner -- that Obama is betraying some kind of weird pact that Bush made with Ariel Sharon that allows for more Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, longer apartheid walls, and more lethal repression. Obama's reaching out to Arabs and Muslims, Abrams predictably sees, as undermining a set of failed policies he sees as sacrosanct. Abrams will probably end up on the right-wing talk show circuit pitching his bastard critique of Obama's needed shift in Middle East policy. And why not? He lied to Congress about his role in the Iran-contra scandal and along with John Bolton, Michael Ledeen, and others did all he could to yoke American foreign policy to the perceived interests of the Israeli Far Right.
President Obama today telegraphed to the world that he understands that history is not on the side of neo-colonialism and the neo-conservatives who serve it. No nation -- not the United States, not Great Britain, and certainly not Israel -- can afford the pretense of remaking the world in its own image through military violence. Colonialism is dead. And no matter what Abrams or Ledeen or Bolton say about the matter, Obama recognizes that someday apartheid walls and military occupations will be seen as relics from a past era on par with the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Pact.
President Obama has taken the first tiny step today toward building a new mutually respectful relationship between the United States and the Arab and Muslim worlds. If they understand our point of view maybe they'll be more likely to help us guard against the religious nihilists who wage jihad against the West. But also perhaps Obama can begin to inoculate ourselves from the religious extremists in our own country -- people who assassinate abortion doctors or people in Israel who believe "god" gave them all the Palestinians' land. Obama has called for a "new beginning" in U.S. relations with the peoples of the Middle East and those who practice Islam worldwide. He seeks to move the world into the 21st Century and pull it out of the Bush-Cheney years that were characterized by the very 12th Century practices of torture, denial of habeas corpus, and aggressive war.