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Wrong-Side-of-History Obama’s UN Speech: 10 Issues

Obama’s speech to the UN on Tuesday was slick and creepy -- dangerously threatening at times, especially its rejection of any serious commitment to the basic UN charter, and hypocritically jingoistic at other times, particularly in rationalizing “military humanitarian intervention” and conflating US imperialism with benignly “stabilizing the globe.”

Finian Cunningham in “Obama and the Usual American 'DAM' Exceptionalism – Delusion, Arrogance and Mendacity” credits Obama with being a good speaker with “flawless technical delivery.” However he also cites the “cloying disconnect in his words with harsh reality.” Cunningham:

It is like listening to a conman whose initially charming words begin to grate on your sense of reason, truth and forbearance as he fumbles in your pockets.

Bill Van Auken in “Obama’s UN speech and the crisis in US policy” maintains that Obama is “playing for time” re a military strike against Syria, just “going through the motions of diplomatic efforts”, ever ready for the next opportunistic pretext for military intervention.

Glen Ford in “Obama Reeks of Sulfur at the UN” of Black Agenda Report angrily writes:

President Obama went to the United Nations this week and declared war against the UN’s most fundamental founding principles, all the while claiming the U.S. is the world’s one indispensable, unique and exceptional nation.

Here is a list of Obama’s talking points’ categories that concerned me the most:

1. Defiance of International Law

Obama began his speech:

... each year we come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution.

Yet that is so not what Obama did!

Finian Cunningham emphasizes that Obama as Commander in Chief was and is willing to launch “unilateral military strikes” against Syria without a UN mandate, which is in direct violation of the UN Charter and international law. Much like Obama has defied constitutional rights on a national level as well as supported deregulation on a domestic economic level. Obama prefers to exercise his own moral and legal relativism and not be hemmed in by law.

Obama was very emphatic about his intention to use military force for US interests. The UN charter endorses the use of force ONLY in the case of self-defense. Obama messaged that the US would do exactly as it pleases in terms of its “core interests” as well as its so-called “humanitarian intervention” determinations.

Bill Van Auken in "Obama at the UN: A defense of unilateral aggression":

That Washington’s militarist policy is stated so nakedly before the United Nations is one more indication of the uncontrolled eruption of American imperialism and the growing danger that US threats against Syria and Iran could turn into a regional war and even a global conflagration.

Obama’s interpretation of the Assad government’s alleged (though not probable) use of chemical weapons as a threat to US national security is an illegitimate stretch. Clearly the Congress and the majority of the American people disagree with his view much to his recent frustration and surprise. Obama willfully disregards their -- our -- perspective and chooses to throw in with the neocons, war-mongering corporate predators and allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Glen Ford had this to say:

There was nothing conciliatory about President Obama’s speech to the UN. His message was blatantly subversive of the UN Charter, reserving the right to launch pre-emptive wars for “humanitarian” purposes and to circumvent the world body through proxies and “coalitions of the willing” in quest of regime change. No less than George Bush’s message in 2006, it was a declaration of war against peace.

Obama is pushing the UN Security Council to authorize a “Chapter 7” authorization to resort to military force to punish, control, defeat Syria if it does not fulfill its chemical weapons removal.

At one point in the speech Obama states:

And our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point: The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.

Nevertheless, we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent, or supporting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is more of the Obama “lesser evil” pragmatism, his lack of a moral compass. The Egyptian army gunned down or wounded hundreds of unarmed sit-in protesters. The lack of a clear, moral reaction to such slaughter by the Obama administration, its refusal to officially acknowledge the reality that the Egyptian army had perpetrated a coup against the legitimately elected Muslim Brotherhood government, and the administration’s decision to continue financially enabling the rogue Egyptian army with a $1.5 billion yearly stipend.

Obama declared his pride for and intention to continue to pre-emptively act in defiance of international law if necessary, to assume the right to do as he pleases and chooses militarily:

I’ve made it clear that even when America’s core interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights. But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone.

In Mali, we supported both the French intervention, but successfully pushed back Al Qaida, and the African forces who are keeping the peace. In eastern Africa, we are working with partners to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army to an end. And in Libya, when the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians, America joined a coalition that took action. Because of what we did there, countless lives were saved and a tyrant could not kill his way back to power.

Obama uses the “terrorism” excuse to promote US imperialism. His bragging about protecting Libyans is profoundly repulsive since that country has been reduced to chaos and terror thanks to battling jihadist militias. Concern for humanity was the pretext not the real motive. Regime change was. Imperialism was.

2. The US is covertly enabling Al Qaeda in Syria

Bill Van Auken on Obama’s speech in regard to the Obama administration’s enabling of Al Qaeda fighters in Syria:

No one would suspect from the US president’s remarks that Washington is employing and arming Al Qaeda in Syria, as it did in Libya in 2011, as a proxy force in a war for regime change, or that it has deliberately stoked sectarianism, together with its reactionary Arab allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for the same purpose.

Obama pretends that the United States is a concerned bystander nation watching the evil government of Assad abusing self-defending rebels. The so-called civil war is being waged primarily by mercenary jihadist fighters including Al Qaeda militias that are supported by weapons and intelligence funneled to them from the the United States via Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other ally petro-monarchies in the Middle East.

As for Obama’s assurance that “regime change” is not a current goal of the US regarding Syria, Finian Cunningham points out that General Wesley Clark back in 2001 revealed that Syria was one of 7 countries on a “regime change” hit list of the Washington’s neocons.

The bloodbath of this so-called Syrian civil war, a seeming genocide considering the executions of Alawites and Christians, has been going on over two years with over 100,000 Syrians dead and 2 and a half million displaced.

Obama disclosed that $340 million will be given further to aid for Syria beyond an already $1 billion. That is a positive. But David Swanson assures us that vast amounts of money, far more than for humanitarian aid, is going to US military black budgets to fortify and accelerate support for the US-backed mercenaries in Syria to continue the blood-shedding.

Ali E. Erol in "Time to Call the Syrian War What It Is" proposes healthy country to country involvment:

Instead of supporting armed groups, the international community should lend their support and give voice to non-violent resistance and call for cease-fire across all the groups—the only way to stop further increase in the number of IDPs and refugees—matched with an increased help in dealing with the refugee crisis. Violence among armed groups, opposition or not, only ensures that generations of Syrians grow up with no education, trauma, poverty and other terrors of war. And that is a systematic way to eradicate people based on who they are. That is genocide.

Alex Lantier in "US-backed Syrian opposition forces reject political leaders, align with Al Qaeda" has written about the latest coalition of Syrian opposition forces this week:

They called on “all military and civilian forces to unite under a clear Islamic framework based on Sharia, which should be the sole source of legislation.”

Thirteen militias signed the document. The first signatory was the Al Nusra Front, one of the two main Al Qaeda-allied militias in Syria, which Washington has declared a terrorist organization. Several key militias previously loyal to the FSA’s Supreme Military Council also signed, including the Liwa al-Tawhid (Monotheism Brigade), Liwa al-Islam (Islam Brigade), and the Falcons of the Levant (Suqour al-Sham) Brigade.

The militias that signed Tuesday’s declaration are active in much of Syria, but are particularly powerful in northern Syria. ... Al Qaeda forces have imposed a reign of terror enforced by Islamist death squads, largely financed by looting the population by means of emergency taxes.


The Northern Storm Brigade—a group of smugglers and kidnappers based in the northwestern Syrian town of Aazaz, who met with US Senator John McCain during his surprise visit to Syria in May—also endorsed the statement.


They added: “Well over half of the fighters in the FSA believe they are fighting a war against Alawites, and more generally against the Shiites, as a result of Bashar’s alliances with Iran and Hezbollah. They are simple young men, from the poorer classes. They have no education, and the weapons have gone to their heads. They have become cruel. Killing has become ordinary.”

3. US Double Standardism & Cherry-Picking of International/Moral Law

The US supplies the world with 75% of its weapons. To pretend to mourn global violence but to supply sophisticated and lethal weaponry that so substantially enables chaos and violence to small and fragile nation states or to further empower repressive, dictatorial ones is hypocritical as well as economically profiteering from death and destruction.

The United States has helped arm some of the world’s most repressive regimes -- governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Israel, as David Swanson offers.

Stephen Zunes in "What Obama Didn't Say in His UN Speech":

Human rights abuses in Syria, Iran, Sudan and other autocratic regimes opposed by the United States indeed must be challenged. But the continuing flow of U.S. arms and other security assistance to repressive dictatorships and its attacks on the UN Human Rights Council and reputable international jurists for documenting war crimes by U.S. allies makes it difficult for the Obama Administration to take the high moral ground.

Van Auken explains that Obama on the one hand convinces the Security Council to levy harsh sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment program, but has used its own veto power to block accountability of its allies that have nukes already, such as Israel.

Bill Van Auken in "Obama at the UN: A defense of unilateral aggression":

Much of the rest of Obama’s speech dealt with Iran and unsubstantiated US allegations that it is developing nuclear weapons. Despite his statement that “the diplomatic path must be tested” in US-Iran relations, Obama’s remarks consisted largely of ultimatums to Tehran, the implicit threat of military force and no concrete offer to lift the decades of US-driven sanctions that Rouhani in his own speech to the General Assembly described as “violent—pure and simple,” adding, “It is the common people who are victimized by these sanctions.”

4. US Double Standardism Particularly with Israel

Obama declared:

I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.


Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.

Obama has no serious motivation or commitment to enhance the welfare of Palestinians. More lying.

Stephen Zunes points out that Obama and his war-mongering team vilify Russia for its willingness to veto a military strike on Syria. Russia recognized it should never have helped authorize the no fly zone that helped destroy Libya and is resolved not to let Syria be destroyed in the same manipulative way.

Zunes explains that since 1971 when China joined the UN Security Council, China has used its veto power 8 times. Russia during that period has used its veto 18 times. The US has used its veto 83 times!!! Often and most recently to remove its ally, Israel, from accountability to international law. The last time the US used its veto, the only country in the Council to make such a determination in that vote, was over Israel expanding illegal settlements on occupied territory.

David Swanson in "Top 45 Lies in Obama's Speech at the U.N." has this to say about Obama’s label as the present scenario of Israel and Palestine as an “Arab-Israeli conflict”:

That's a misleading way of naming the conflict between the government of Israel and the people it ethnically cleanses, occupies, and abuses -- including with chemical weapons.

Finian Cunningham makes this interesting comment:

On other matters, there was more cant rhetoric about how the US was supporting the creation of “a Palestinian sovereign state” predicated on a “secure Israel”. In other words, as long as the US-backed Israeli regime continues waging war on neighboring states and stealing other people’s land – and thus always feeling insecure as a result of such criminality – then the Palestinians can forget about their rights.

David Swanson writes:

"[A]n Iranian government that has ... threatened our ally Israel with destruction." [Obama's words] It hasn't. And piling up the lies about Iran will make Iran less eager to talk. Just watch.

5. Defense of Drone Attacks


The United States -- these new circumstances have also meant shifting away from a perpetual war footing. Beyond bringing our troops home we have limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible and there’s a near certainty of no civilian casualties.

What a gobsmacking lie! In Pakistan alone, it is estimated that more than 2,500 people have been killed in drone strikes, most of them civilians. Some of these civilians killed by the notorious “double tap” whereby first responders to drone victims are themselves droned by a second drone showing up with the intention of annihilating them.

David Swanson explains that under the Bush regime there were 51 drone strikes. During Obama’s regime there have been 323.

6. Lack of Substantial Evidence Re Chemical Weapon Abuse by Assad

Obama lied to the General Assembly that the evidence is OVERWHELMING the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on August 21. Finian Cunningham calls out Obama for citing the UN Report led by Ake Sellstrom as back up for his contention. That was not an absolute conclusion of the UN Report. There is still a strong case it was the rebel mercenaries who brought in and used the chemical weapons
Cunningham also asks why the US does not present its own incontrovertible evidence to the UN if it is so convinced.

Syria and Russia contend that the US-backed rebels staged the attack to provoke US military intervention.

7. Assertion Obama Has Been Working Diligently to Close Gitmo


We’re transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

There is a special place in hell for Obama for this lie. Five years ago Obama promised to close Guantanamo and yet the many innocent detainees are still there suffering and abandoned, undergoing daily force-feeding torture.

8. Assertion that US Has Contributed to Global Stability

Obama declared:

Together we’ve also worked to end a decade of war. Five years ago nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in harm’s way, and the war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world. Today, all of our troops have left Iraq. Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of Al Qaida that attacked us on 9/11.

Bill Van Auken writes:

For the past two decades, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, it has been the policy of successive US administrations to utilize American imperialism’s military preeminence as a means of offsetting the erosion of its economic dominance. This has been expressed principally through a succession of wars and interventions in the strategically vital and energy-rich regions of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

It is far from clear, however, that Washington’s use of its military assets has served to advance these aims. Each of its wars has ended in debacle. While Obama bragged in his speech about ending the war in Iraq, the reality is that over 1,000 people are being killed every month in sectarian political violence, while the government is more closely aligned with Iran than with the US. Afghanistan, where Obama claimed that the US occupation forces had “achieved their mission,” the results threaten to be as bad or worse. And Libya remains crippled by violent clashes between rival militias, even as China appears poised to make the greatest gains in oil contracts.


Aside from the self-serving contention that Washington’s unending military interventions—from Somalia to the Balkans, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Central Africa and elsewhere in the past two decades alone—are in the “interest of all,” this use of the term American exceptionalism betrays a historical ignorance that is unintentionally revealing.

9. Obama’s Self-Congratulation on Global Financial Recovery


Now, five years after the global economy collapsed, and thanks to coordinated efforts by the countries here today, jobs are being created, global financial systems have stabilized and people are once again being lifted out of poverty.

This is as colossally shameless as the “ending Guantanamo” self-congratulations. Over one-third of American citizens have sunk below the poverty level. The only Americans enjoying FABULOUS economic recovery these days are Obama’s one percenter cronies. Those many banksters getting that $85 billion stimulus from the Fed every month while Congress and the Obama administration slash the safety net more and more, and economic desperation spreads among more and more citizens.

10. Assertion that Intelligence Gathering Balances Security Concerns


And just as we reviewed how we deploy our extraordinary military capabilities in a way that lives up to our ideals, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

Obama tucks the horrifying issue of mass government surveillance in the second half of a compound sentence near the end of his speech. Something that concerns not only Americans but all global citizens. By grotesquely minimizing total global surveillance he once again defies the rights to privacy of American citizens. Our innocent until proven guilty status as citizens.


Obama ended his speech:

Last month, I stood where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. told America about his dream at a time when many people of my race could not even vote for president. Earlier this year, I stood in the small cell where Nelson Mandela endured decades cut off from his own people in the world.

Obama the ruthless imperialist, the assassin-in-chief and the uber corporate crony who happens to be Black -- the anti-MLK, the anti-Mandela. How exploitive of Obama to the memory of those great men of courage and conscience to presume even to be on their side of history.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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