Tuesday, September 25, 2012

United Nations General Assembly - Confusion Between Justice And Revenge Remains In American President’s Conciliatory U.N. Speech

Full text of the U.S. President‘s speech, before the UN, can be found at the National Journal.
Under The New York Times headline, In U.N. Speech, Obama Warns Time Runs Short on Iran By HELENE COOPER it was noted – President Obama challenged the Arab world to use its newfound embrace of democracy to ensure protection for freedom of religion and speech and even life, using the last address of his first term to the General Assembly on Tuesday to call for a renewed focus on the “painstaking work of reform.”
The Times states the 800 lb. Gorilla on the planet is being faced, printing – Mr. Obama took on a number of issues at play between America and the Muslim world, vowing that the “United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and warning that time to diplomatically resolve the Iranian nuclear issue “is not unlimited.” But he refused to go further than what he has said in the past, that “a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” despite pleas from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israelto establish a new red line.
Though not repeating himself at the U.N. hardly connotes refusing to say what he’s said in the past and ignoring pleas from the Israeli Prime Minister to establish a new red line. On one hand The press can reduce leaders to mere rhetoricians and on the other run the chest-thumping into the ground themselves. All basically blamed on the public’s limited ability to delve into issues, while wanting their political entertainment served on a digestible platter. So to speak.
The Times quotes Mr. Obama saying, “America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe there is still time and space to do so. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace.”
The Times continues – But he spent most of his 30-minute speech on the Arab democracy movement and its fallout. Just two weeks after the beginning of violent anti-American protests that led to the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, Mr. Obama vowed that even as the United States works to bring the killers to justice, he will not back down from his support of democratic freedoms in the Muslim world. But he also gave a spirited defense of American freedom of speech and the spirit of tolerance that allowed the inflammatory anti-Muslim video that prompted the protests.
Yes. Pats on the back are well deserved.
Mr. Obama said “As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day. And I will defend their right to do so.” For that, he received cheers in the cavernous hall.
But – While condemning the “crude and disgusting” video that prompted the protests in Libya and throughout the Muslim world, the president worked to explain, before a sometimes skeptical audience that has never completely bought into the American idea that even hateful speech is protected, why the United States values so highly its First Amendment.
A mouthful for The Times, yet addressing reality as the president seems to do.
President Obama said “We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.” Americans, he said, “have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their view.” And pointedly said, “there is no speech that justifies mindless violence. … no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.”
The Times states – It was the president’s first truly expansive response to the anti-American protests over the American-made video, and it came at a politically fraught time, just as his campaign is battling attacks from his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, that Mr. Obama has projected weakness abroad, a charge the Obama campaign has vociferously disputed.
So, as it should be – Traffic-clogged New York was the scene on Tuesday of dueling speeches from Mr. Obama and Mr. RomneyMr. Romney spoke first at the Clinton Global Initiativeabout development, and managed a smile when former President Bill Clinton, a recent Obama surrogate, jogged onto the stage after his remarks to thank him. Mr. Obama spoke in the afternoon.
While at the UN the president said, “I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens, in a somber reference to the American ambassador to Libya who was killed with three other Americans two weeks ago during the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Mr. Obama spoke of Mr. Stevens’s “love and respect” for the people of North Africa and the Middle East, of his penchant for “walking the streets of the cities where he worked, tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic and listening with a broad smile.”
And at the close of his remarks, he returned to Mr. Stevens, who was well known to many of the diplomats gathered before him. “Today I promise you this, long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’s legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, ‘Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.’”
And so it goes, rightfully so, that the tragic killings not be ignored. But, still, calling for justice is beating the drum of vengeance that got Mr. Stevens killed no matter what details come to light. Either we all grow up together or our cultures will not grow up at all.

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