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January 27, 2009


"My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that."

Absolutely key, to me, is this positioning of the US as a (previously, potentially) anti-colonial or even postcolonial power. He was playing with this in the inaugural too, I think, with the references to the early days when "the outcome of our revolution was in doubt." It's hard to take it very seriously, with the empire of bases scattered across the globe unchanged, but even a rhetorical gesture is something to start working with, words we can try to make more real.

It's also nice--after his timidity on the subject during the campaign--to hear him speaking openly and warmly about his Muslim relatives and his years living in the Islamicate world.

The interview was good. I watched it and read the entire transcript. Obama is reasonable, intelligent, firm and cautious. At the same time he is not afraid to say things that will be controversial, or to take bold actions. I worry about some of the comments that represent the old fanatical unthinking positions on both sides. What is to be done about those who continue to think that way?

Thank you, Beth. Listening and respect. That's a radical change. Amen.

Damn it's weird, having people who sound like grown-ups in the White House. I just can't get used to it.

To jump from one moving train onto another takes pluck. If the target one is going in the opposite direction, it takes courage of a rare order. Am I going to have to abandon four decades of profound scepticism?

I just went to whitehouse.gov and sent a message to the President saying that, as a rabbinic student and an ardent Jew, I thank him both for the fact of this interview and for the things he said during the interview. (I imagine he's going to get a lot of flack from the AIPAC crowd; I want him to know that there are Jews out there who deeply support the positions he's taking. Support, hell; I'm so grateful I could cry.)

Absolute breath of fresh air: well said and well done Obama! I couldn't believe what I was hearing because my ears are so weak and tired of receiving the usual uninformed, unhelpful, uneducated, arrogant tat - I nearly cried tears of joy and relief. Here in the UK, people are just so bloody grateful for his existence.

Oops, meant to say though, that India should have been included in the whole peace talks enterprise (as was the new government's original intention).

Felt a real disappointment this morning hearing on BBC Radio 4 that even after Obama went personally to speak to the House Republicans (and listen seriously to their ideas and thoughts on the issue) that not a single one found it within themselves to rise above partisan politics as usual and thrill not just the US but the world! What an opportunity Obama gave the Republicans to rise above the politics as usual: he'll probably get a better result with the Iranians.

Hello good people: I'm really amazed that you are so impressed by this. Obama talks as if the US weren't a major player in the conflict but it is (massive aid to Israel). He feels bad for Palestinian suffering but isn't willing to actually do anything to stop Israel's criminal actions. He hasn't uttered a critical peep about what Israel has been doing to Gaza.

George Bush also liked to tell Muslims that the US isn't their enemy. That really doesn't count for much in the long run since he is willing to be silent about Gaza and the settlements, to bomb Pakistan, and to escalate in Afghanistan. Yes he is doing some good things. Mitchell is a good choice. But Obama needs to ACT on the basis that ALL people are of equal value and that ALL governments should be held to the same standards of justice. I do not see any signs of that. He wants aid to Gaza; oh they need it, but the reason they need it is because they can't get justice.

Here is Chomsky on Obama's stance on Gaza:


Dear Priscilla - you are right, and I agree with you. Obama's silence on Gaza and on Israel's criminality does nothing; in fact, words do nothing. All of us for whom this is a central issue are impatient - desperate, even - for action. What I'm reacting to is the fact that the rhetoric is subtly changing, and the fact that this is an intelligent man who knows he cannot come out, in the AIPAC-reality of today's Washington D.C., and do an overnight about-face on these policies. Maybe he never will, but there is a chance now that hasn't been there for a decade. Obama was a friend of Rashid Khalidi. He listened to him and read his books. He is not the same sort of person as Bush/Cheney at all, nor is he a puppet for Israeli policies, with an administration full of neocons who used to work for the Israeli lobby or defense interests. We have to give him a chance.

Thanks a lot for your comment, and I hope you'll keep reading and writing your opinions here.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.