Saturday, September 28, 2013

American Exceptionalism? Obama’s Argument Deeply Flawed

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

Obama's argument deeply flawedSept 27, 2013- The United States is exceptional, President Barack Obama insisted on Tuesday addressing the United Nations General Assembly, clearly in a bid to refute Russian President Vladmir Putin's criticism of American exceptionalism in a recent article published in The New York Times.

In fact, Obama's speech was exceptional as he tried to lecture the leaders and representatives from countries around the world. He said that next year an international coalition will end its mission in Afghanistan, having achieved its task of dismantling the core of al-Qaida that attacked the US on 9/11.

However, Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation and a former special adviser at US Special Operations Command, has long argued that al-Qaida is far from defeated as there has been a net expansion in the number and geographic scope of al-Qaida affiliates and allies over the past decade. It would be surprising if the US president was not aware of this.

Obama also claimed that the US has limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing imminent threat to the US, where capture is not feasible and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.

But was he admitting that he had not exercised enough caution and apologizing because he had dramatically increased drone attacks in the past years?

Obama has not got the anger at his use of drones. For example, in Pakistan, it is not just the "collateral damage" of innocent civilians that enrage people, it is also the disrespect and violation of their nation's sovereignty. Even if a bad guy is finally killed, they do not want a bomb from another country dropping from the sky and blowing up their villages.

Obama also claimed that the US is transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But for months more than 100 detainees at Guantanamo held a hunger strike, and US military officials said on Monday that a core group of 19 prisoners are still on hunger strike.

Obama said the US has begun to review the way that it gathers intelligence so that it properly balances the legitimate security concerns of its citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share. But he did not address the revelation by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US is spying on countries all over the world.

At the UN General Assembly session, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff blasted the US' spying, accusing the US of violating international law. Rousseff cancelled a recent trip to the US because the US failed to apologize for eavesdropping on the Brazilian president's phone calls and spying on Brazilian oil companies and citizens. Brazil is just one of the many countries that are waiting for an explanation and apology from Washington.

Obama claimed that the evidence is overwhelming that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in his own country, but the evidence he gave was "these rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods".

Such logic is deeply flawed, as Obama with his background as a lawyer well knows, and is similar to then US secretary of state Colin Powell holding a model of a vial of anthrax during a presentation to the UN 10 years ago.

Obama was furious that he had not received support both at home and abroad for his planned military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. "It's an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack."

For Obama to suggest that so many people in the world cannot reason, simply because they reason differently to the exceptional reasoning of the US president, is insulting.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

(China Daily 09/27/2013 page8)

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