“More Respected Around the World”? Really?

Political speeches, by nature, push the limits of truth. Because of that, the process of sorting out truths from lies in political speeches has become something of a cottage industry. The bald-faced lie lie that Obama told in only his third sentence of last night’s State of the Union speech, however, doesn’t need a dedicated fact-checking organization to see the dishonesty. As Marcy has already pointed out, Obama framed his speech entirely around chest-thumping over the killing of Osama bin Laden. But let’s look only at that third sentence:

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world.

I won’t even go into the issue of whether the US is now safer due to the military misadventures started by the Bush-Cheney administration and continued enthusiastically by Obama. But the claim that the US is more respected around the world because of “this generation of heroes” displays the very militaristic arrogance that is the chief reason Americans are attacked. Because the bulk of these military activities take place in the Arab world, that seems the most appropriate place to look for evidence of Obama’s claimed “respect”. On July 13, 2011, the Arab American Institute Foundation released the results of a Zogby poll (pdf) conducted on their behalf. From the executive summary:

With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, favorable attitudes toward the U.S. more than doubled in many Arab countries. But in the two years since his famous “Cairo speech,” ratings for both the U.S. and the President have spiraled downwards. The President is seen overwhelmingly as failing to meet the expectations set during his speech, and the vast majority of those surveyed disagree with U.S policies.

In five out of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. was viewed less favorably than Turkey, China, France—or Iran. Far from seeing the U.S. as a leader in the post-Arab Spring environment, the countries surveyed viewed “U.S. interference in the Arab world” as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East, second only to the continued Palestinian occupation.

But Obama’s tone deafness in using the bin Laden killing as evidence for US respect is especially galling, since we have this:

The killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S.

In touting how the US is “more respected”, Obama is relying on the most prominent recent event that has caused a worsening of opinion of the US in the Arab world. It is behavior like this that has put the US now at an approval level in the Arab world that is ” lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia)”.

Of course it’s not just the killing of bin Laden or Obama’s chest-thumping that have angered the Arab world. Just in the last few days, there are numerous examples of US behavior that can only result in resentment in the Arab world.

On Monday, we heard from the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights:

United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay is voicing “deep disappointment” that the U.S. government has failed to close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), as President Barack Obama pledged on taking office three years ago.

Pillay, in a statement Monday, noted the 10th anniversary of the prison opening and the third anniversary of Obama’s inauguration promise to close the facility within 12 months.  She also said that prisoners remain “arbitrarily detained indefinitely,” and called the detentions “a clear breach of international law.”

The US fails miserably at policing its wrongs, as well:

The lone Marine convicted in his squad’s killing of two dozen unarmed civilians in one of the Iraq War’s defining moments escaped jail time Tuesday after defending his order to raid homes in Haditha as a necessary act “to keep the rest of my Marines alive.”

The sentencing of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich ends a six-year prosecution for the 2005 attack that failed to win any manslaughter convictions. Eight Marines were initially charged. One was acquitted, and six others had their cases dropped.

Wuterich admitted he ordered is squad to “shoot first, ask questions later” after a roadside bomb killed a fellow Marine as part of a deal that ended his manslaughter trial with a guilty plea Monday to a single count of negligent dereliction of duty.

That’s going to generate lots of respect, isn’t it?

And Pakistan also rejects our efforts at self-investigation when things go wrong:

Pakistan’s military on Monday rejected U.S. findings on a November 26 NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, reducing the chances of a resolution of the dispute and an improvement in ties which are at their lowest in years.

Pakistan does not agree with several portions and findings of the investigation report, as these are factually not correct,” the military said in a statement after a detailed review of the U.S. investigation.

The U.S. report released on December 22 found both American and Pakistani forces were to blame for the incident near the Afghan border, inflaming already strained ties.

In part because of this report, members of Pakistan’s parliament have renewed their calls for Pakistan to shoot down drones entering their airspace.

Finally, we have the renewed discussion on the issue of Afghan troops deciding to kill NATO troops despite being trained by them. By trying to retroactively classify a detailed report into the attitudes that fuel such rage, the US merely looks like it is trying to hide embarrassing information.

And now, amid all this “respect” that the US has generated in the Arab world, we are rattling our sabres toward the Persians. Yeah, that’s going to help.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
18 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    The SOTU is for re-election only, not much else. The references to the Bin Laden rubout and the third sentence were panders to us here to limit the RW Wurlitzer arguments, as if they had ethics. It will work about as well as the respect message. The other message worldwide: more of the same. No that isn’t going to help the new Ugly American image one whit.

  2. klynn says:

    It was difficult to hear his words of “respect” after a -issing video was seen around the world recently.

  3. Jerry Moe says:

    Thanks for the autopsy on O’s speech. I refused to watch it, so I’m glad you did. Marcy was dead on when she predicted there would be a lot of, “I’m bad. I killed an old man on dialisys instead of capturing him”

  4. rkilowatt says:

    Jim White and friends,
    if you were looking for the kicker that lured the Soviets into Afghanistan 1979, this official* usg report might do nicely:

    “…Green-on-Blue fratricide has been a part of Afghan history. As an example, in March 1979 IsmaelKhan, then a captain in the Afghan Army [and now the Afghan government’s Minster of Energy] orchestrated the murder of 50 Soviet Military Advisors and 300 of their familymembers in Herat Province., beheading many and parading the severed heads on spikes through the city. This atrocity served as a jue ad bellum for the december 1979 Soviet invasion….”

    IIRC, Mr. Brzezinski oft took elaborate credit for planning/arranging to bait for the Soviet troop entry into Afghanistan.

    From whom did Khan get his considerable support, even the idea itself, of such an activity? It could not be entirely homegrown.

    *In your recent reference to a most curious and official gov doc , see p.5 for the source of above quotation. It was clearly a matter hardly worth mentioning, as the author did not underline it. As for later becoming the “Min of Energy, that also is not newsworthy, I’m sure…as everyone knows about it.

    All in all, the whole 70-page doc is just weak tea, and of no historical interest. Eh?

  5. What Constitution says:

    If you substitute the word “fear” for “respect”, maybe Obama’s meaning is a little more clear and searching for validation in the parts of the world we’re militarily subjugating would be a little more fruitful. But in Obama’s mind, “fear” and “respect” don’t differ a whole lot.

  6. klynn says:

    @MadDog:

    How much of that article will get its’ sources re-classified?

    That was an upsetting read. Thanks for the link.

    I hope the UN gets loud.

  7. What Constitution says:

    @Jim White: Another word: “Constitution”. Unlike Obama’s nomination acceptance speech in 2008, where he repeatedly emphasized the Constitution and specifically acknowledged his looking forward to accepting the President’s obligation “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America”, in last night’s speech the word “constitution” appeared exactly once, as a rhetorical flourish near the end of the speech: “We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.” I would have liked some elaboration about that idea. Of course, that probably was what was in the sections on unauthorized warfare, drone strikes, assassination of American citizens, Guantanamo, Bradley Manning and, oh, “accountability” for torturers — oh, wait, those sections of the draft had to be cut down to zero due to time constraints. It was far more important to talk about complete restructuring of the US tax code in the next year, since the Constitution requires all tax legislation to originate in the House and we’re so likely to see that happen. Sorry, OT.

  8. Tom Allen says:

    @Greg Brown: Virgil Aeneid iv. 174] Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius alium, Rumour, than whom no other evil thing is faster.

    a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on’.
    [1859 C. H. Spurgeon Gems from Spurgeon 74]

  9. Gitcheegumee says:

    Anybody remember Haditha? Here from Yahoo UK and Ireland, an excerpt:

    Iraq vows legal action after US marine spared
    By Ammar Karim | AFP – 8 hours ago.. .

    The Baghdad government vowed Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005.

    The verdict, widely panned in Iraq as being too light, closed a case that fuelled anger and highlighted why authorities demanded Americans be subject to local laws in failed talks to extend the US military presence in the country beyond 2011.

    Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who led an eight-man squad whose other members have all been let off, was sentenced to 90 days’ confinement but will not serve the term, under a deal with prosecutors.

    Iraq Vows Legal Action After Marine – News Results
    Iraq vows legal action after US marine spared AFP via Yahoo! UK & Ireland News – 8 hours ago
    The Baghdad government vowed Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over…

    NOTE: To his credit, the Mr. Wuterich,according to other reportage, addressed an apology to the victims’ families.

  10. klynn says:

    Jim White,

    OT but thought of EW, bmaz and yourself when I posted the comment. Over at FDL there was a post on the Reporters Without Borders dropping the US freedom of the press ranking.

    We were noting the countries with the highest freedom of press rankings and saw corollaries between literacy rates, AAA credit ratings and STEM literacy rates. It appears use of alternative energy resources may also be an interesting data overlay.

    Just thinking out loud. The connection of human rights violations and endemic surveillance are interesting to add to the overlay of data points.

  11. CTuttle says:

    Aloha, Jim…! Excellent job in unpacking all that BS, Oily Bomber shoveled out in his SOTU…! Obummer needs to send his Peace Prize back to Oslo, most rickety-tick…! 8-(

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