Michael Jackson’s Secrets Exposed By Ex Wife Debbie Rowe! Jackson Not The Biological Father Of His Children! AND…Rowe IS NOT THE BIOLOGICAL MOTHER!
All of Michael Jackson’s deepest darkest secrets are oozing out at an alarming, steady rate. It is absolutely nauseating to witness, yet shockingly fascinating to learn about the inner workings of Michael Jackson, the man, and not the musical iconic figure that the world knew him to be.
The latest in this voyeuristic journey into the world of Michael Jackson comes courtesy of ex-wife number two, Debbie Rowe. In an allegedly exclusive interview with a news media outlet, Rowe claims that she was artificially inseminated by an anonymous sperm donor. This arrangement was made after Jackson’s failed marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, whom Rowe allegedly says refused to have children with Michael Jackson.
According to Debbie Rowe, Michael Jackson was “unhappy” and “lonely.”
“I offered my womb, it was a gift. It was something I did to keep him happy,” Rowe elaborated, even though she signed a multimillion dollar confidentiality agreement to keep quiet about the surrogacy and her relationship with Jackson. Then to really add to the shock factor, allegedly Rowe confides to the journalist that she was “just a vessel. The sperm wasn’t Michael’s.”
And on that note, TMZ and US Weekly are reporting that Debbie Rowe is not the biological mother of the Jackson children. An anoymous donor supplied the eggs and the fertilization took place outside of Rowe’s body and was implanted soon after. Perhaps that explains Debbie Rowe’s last comments:
“I got paid for it, and I have moved on. I know I will never see my children again…I never felt any attachment to them. It was a better feeling giving them to him (Jackson) than it was keeping them aas my own.”
Who knows what is really going on with this situation. The one true fact that can be substantiated is that Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine, received temporary custody of the children and on August 3, 2009, a second hearing will be held to determine a permanent solution.
Public Viewing Scheduled For Music Icon Michael Jackson! Private Memorial Services Will Be Held On Sunday!
The family of Michael Joe Jackson, music and entertainment icon, has announced that a public viewing has been scheduled for Friday, July 3, 2009, at Neverland Ranch.
A private memorial service will be held on Sunday, July 5, 2009 at an undisclosed location. No further info was released concerning burial arrangements for Michael Joseph Jackson.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson‘s family wants a private autopsy of the pop icon because of unanswered questions about how he died and the doctor who was with him, the civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said Saturday.
“It’s abnormal,” he told The Associated Press from Chicago a day after visiting the Jackson family. “We don’t know what happened. Was he injected and with what? All reasonable doubt should be addressed.”
People close to Jackson have said since his death that they were concerned about the superstar’s use of painkillers. Los Angeles County medical examiners completed an autopsy Friday and said Jackson had taken prescription medication.
Medical officials also said there was no indication of trauma or foul play. An official cause of death could take weeks.
The coroner’s office released the body to Jackson’s family Friday night. There was no immediate word on whether the second autopsy was being performed right away. Jesse Jackson described the family as grief-stricken.
“They’re hurt because they lost a son. But the wound is now being kept open by the mystery and unanswered questions of the cause of death,” he said.
Two days after Jackson died at a Los Angeles hospital, his most famous sister, Janet, arrived at the mansion Jackson had been renting. She drove up in a Bentley and left without addressing reporters.
Moving vans also showed up at the Jackson home, leaving about an hour later. There was no indication what they might have taken away.
There was also no word from the Jackson family on funeral plans. Many of Jackson’s relatives have gathered at the family’s Encino compound, caring there for Jackson’s three children.
A person close to the family told The Associated Press they feel upset and angry about a lack of information about those who were around the pop superstar in his final days. The person requested anonymity because of the delicate nature of the situation.
Jackson had been rehearsing for 50 London concerts aimed at restoring his crown as the King of Pop. He died Thursday at age 50 after what his family said appeared to be cardiac arrest.
A 911 call from Jackson’s rented home reported that his personal doctor was trying to revive him without success. Police have talked to Dr. Conrad Murray and have said they intend to speak with him again but have stressed he is not a criminal suspect.
Murray has yet to speak publicly since Jackson’s death. Police towed his car from Jackson’s home hours after Jackson died and said later it could contain medication or other evidence. Coroner’s officials also said Jackson was taking prescription medication but declined to elaborate.
A lawyer at a Houston firm, William M. Stradley, confirmed Murray had hired his firm and said one of its partners was meeting with Los Angeles police on Saturday. Stradley said Murray accompanied Michael Jackson to the hospital.
“He was there from the beginning and he’s been cooperating with police from the very beginning,” Stradley said. “Dr. Murray has never left L.A. since Mr. Jackson’s death, and he remains there.”
Murray lives in Las Vegas but apparently left his practice and moved in with Jackson about two weeks ago. No one answered the door Saturday at his Las Vegas home, which property records show Murray bought five years ago for $1.1 million.
The promoter of the series of London concerts that Jackson was to begin next month has said Jackson personally insisted Murray be on the payroll.
Also Saturday, spiritual teacher Dr. Deepak Chopra said he had been concerned since 2005 that Jackson was abusing prescription painkillers and most recently spoke to the pop star about suspected drug use six months ago.
Chopra said Jackson, a longtime friend, asked him for painkillers in 2005 when the singer was staying with him following his trial on sex abuse allegations. Chopra said he refused. He also said the nanny of Jackson’s children repeatedly contacted him with concerns about Jackson’s drug use over the next four years.
He said she told him a number of doctors would visit Jackson’s homes in Santa Barbara County, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Whenever the subject came up, Jackson would avoid his calls, Chopra said.
******THANK YOU ASSOCIATED PRESS******
Funeral arrangements for television icon Farrah Fawcett are set for Tuesday, June 30, 2009, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of The Angels, in Los Angeles at 4pm (PST).
Farrah Fawcett lost her courageous battle with anal cancer, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Fawcett was diagnosed with the disease in 2006. She was 62.
Redmond O’Neal, Farrah Fawcett’s son with actor Ryan O’Neal, is reportedly scheduled to attend his mother’s services. Redmond O’Neal is currently jailed on drug charges.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted “King of Pop” who emerged from childhood superstardom to become the entertainment world’s most influential singer and dancer before his life and career deteriorated in a freakish series of scandals, died Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. He was 50.
The person said Jackson died in a Los Angeles hospital. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear. Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told the newspaper.
Jackson’s death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music’s premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.
His 1982 album “Thriller” – which included the blockbuster hits “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” – remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 26 million copies.
He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves, his high-pitched voice punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove and tight, military-style jacket were trademarks second only to his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.
As years went by, he became an increasingly freakish figure. His skin became lighter and his nose narrower. He surrounded himself with children at his Neverland ranch, often wore a germ mask while traveling and kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions.
In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. He had been accused of plying the boy with alcohol and groping him. The case took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital as word of his death spread. The emergency entrance at the UCLA Medical Center, which is near Jackson’s rented home, was roped off with police tape.
In New York’s Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cell phone.
“No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow,” Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend sent to his telephone. “It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”
Chris Brown Takes Plea Deal! California Judge Issues Light Sentence And A Slap On The Wrists! Whaaat?
Well, the California courts have had their say in the final chapter of the Chris Brown / Rihanna abuse case. A judge today accepted a plea deal entered into by pop star Chris Brown and sentenced the singer to five years probation and five months of community “labor.” Whatever that means. Also, the judge has imposed a retraining order that demands Brown to keep fifty yards away from Rihanna and only ten when they are attending “industry functions.”
What I wanna know is how did Chris Brown get off with only a slap on his wrists for beating the absolute crap out of Rihanna? There are a lot of bloggers and entertainment insiders who say that the judge in this case made the ruling based on Brown’s clean record up until this point. Others say that Chris Brown was handed a sentence that regular Joe Blow abusers receive from the California justice system.
I say that if that is the case, then the California court sysytem needs to be overhauled. How in the world does a man get away with nearly choking his ex girlfriend to the point of unconsciousness and receive probation and not some jail time? Chris Brown should be serving a minimum five month jail sentence instead of picking up trash along the interstate for five months!
The pictures leaked from the Los Angeles police department featuring the beat up and bruised Rihanna should have sent some type of wave of compassion and sense of justice to the judge presiding over the case. But of course, a trial might have been necessary in order to have those pics weigh in on the sentence. Who really knows?
But the most shocking thing about this case is that women and girls all across this country are lining up to support Chris Brown and diss Rihanna. A lot of ignorant people are saying that this whole situation is Rihanna’s fault. Like it is okay to say nothing while your boyfriend disrespects you by accepting phone calls and sexy text messages from his past jump-offs! Come on! Ladies, be honest, if you were in Rihanna’s shoes, would YOU have really let that slide?
How about the fact that according to Chris Brown’s own words, he was planning to beat the you know what out of Rihanna when they arrived home? Sounds like this type of behavior had been playing out for awhile in their relationship. The beating that Rihanna took wasn’t an amateur one. Chris Brown beat her like a man he had fought before. And I don’t care what any of you crazy women out here say in Chris Brown’s defense either because if it was YOU getting your $%#@ whupped like a man, you would have been screaming like Rihanna was that night, too! Remember the neighbors heard the beat-down and called the police, not knowing who was in the car, but concerned for the woman being battered.
Perhaps all the women who are defending Chris Brown should wear a t-shirt that says “I like getting my @#$% beat on the regular. Wanna be my boyfriend?” Or, “I suffer from low self-esteem. You can beat me at will. Wanna party?” because if you are a woman that sides with a violent man, you deserve to get your behind kicked 24/7.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that all of those sistas who are so sympathetic to Chris Brown’s domestic violence issues, are not too hip to the idea of taking a beat down from a boyfriend or husband and that baffles me. If YOU ladies aren’t willing to accept a royal @#$% kicking from your man, why is Rihanna expected to take it no questions asked?
Finally, if you are a Chris Brown fan, support your boy in getting the help that he needs. Statistics have shown that a batterer usaully moves on to the next victime and becomes progressively worse. Just check out your local news for reports of missing women who eventually turn up dead courtesy of their abusive boyfriends or husbands. So, we can debate the Chris Brown / Rihanna situation for entertainment purposes, or we can chose to look at the broader picture of domestic violence and began to put faces of those closer to home to us in place of Chris Brown and Rihanna.
Maybe then, we will all come to realize that the face of domestic violence is a universal one.
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
June 20, 2009
As we continue to recover from an historic economic crisis, it is clear to everyone that one of its major causes was a breakdown in oversight that led to widespread abuses in the financial system. An epidemic of irresponsibility took hold from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street. And the consequences have been disastrous. Millions of Americans have seen their life savings erode; families have been devastated by job losses; businesses large and small have closed their doors.
In response, this week, my administration proposed a set of major reforms to the rules that govern our financial system; to attack the causes of this crisis and to prevent future crises from taking place; to ensure that our markets can work fairly and freely for businesses and consumers alike.
We are going to promote markets that work for those who play by the rules. We’re going to stand up for a system in which fair dealing and honest competition are the only way to win. We’re going to level the playing field for consumers. And we’re going to have the kinds of rules that encourage innovations that make our economy stronger – not those that allow insiders to exploit its weaknesses for their own gain.
And one of the most important proposals is a new oversight agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. It’s charged with just one job: looking out for the interests of ordinary Americans in the financial system. This is essential, for this crisis may have started on Wall Street. But its impacts have been felt by ordinary Americans who rely on credit cards, home loans, and other financial instruments.
It is true that this crisis was caused in part by Americans who took on too much debt and took out loans they simply could not afford. But there are also millions of Americans who signed contracts they did not always understand offered by lenders who did not always tell the truth. Today, folks signing up for a mortgage, student loan, or credit card face a bewildering array of incomprehensible options. Companies compete not by offering better products, but more complicated ones – with more fine print and hidden terms. It’s no coincidence that the lack of strong consumer protections led to abuses against consumers; the lack of rules to stop deceptive lending practices led to abuses against borrowers.
This new agency will have the responsibility to change that. It will have the power to set tough new rules so that companies compete by offering innovative products that consumers actually want – and actually understand. Those ridiculous contracts – pages of fine print that no one can figure out – will be a thing of the past. You’ll be able to compare products – with descriptions in plain language – to see what is best for you. The most unfair practices will be banned. The rules will be enforced.
Some argue that these changes – and the many others we’ve called for – go too far. And I welcome a debate about how we can make sure our regulations work for businesses and consumers. But what I will not accept – what I will vigorously oppose – are those who do not argue in good faith. Those who would defend the status quo at any cost. Those who put their narrow interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans. We’ve already begun to see special interests mobilizing against change.
That’s not surprising. That’s Washington.
For these are interests that have benefited from a system which allowed ordinary Americans to be exploited. These interests argue against reform even as millions of people are facing the consequences of this crisis in their own lives. These interests defend business-as-usual even though we know that it was business-as-usual that allowed this crisis to take place.
Well, the American people did not send me to Washington to give in to the special interests; the American people sent me to Washington to stand up for their interests. And while I’m not spoiling for a fight, I’m ready for one. The most important thing we can do to put this era of irresponsibility in the past is to take responsibility now. That is why my administration will accept no less than real and lasting change to the way business is done – on Wall Street and in Washington. We will do what is necessary to end this crisis – and we will do what it takes to prevent this kind of crisis from ever happening again.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Over the past few days, I’ve been traveling through the Middle East and Europe working to renew our alliances, enhance our common security, and propose a new partnership between the United States and the Muslim world.
But even as I’m abroad, I’m firmly focused on the other pressing challenges we face – including the urgent need to reform our health care system. Even as we speak, Congress is preparing to introduce and debate health reform legislation that is the product of many months of effort and deliberation. And if you’re like any of the Americans I’ve met across this country who know all too well that the soaring costs of health care make our current course unsustainable, I imagine you’ll be watching their progress closely.
I’m talking about the families I’ve met whose spiraling premiums and out-of-pocket expenses are pushing them into bankruptcy or forcing them to go without the check-ups or prescriptions they need. Business owners who fear they’ll be forced to choose between keeping their doors open or covering their workers. Americans who rightly worry that the ballooning costs of Medicare and Medicaid could lead to fiscal catastrophe down the road.
Simply put, the status quo is broken. We cannot continue this way. If we do nothing, everyone’s health care will be put in jeopardy. Within a decade, we’ll spend one dollar out of every five we earn on health care – and we’ll keep getting less for our money.
That’s why fixing what’s wrong with our health care system is no longer a luxury we hope to achieve – it’s a necessity we cannot postpone any longer.
The growing consensus around that reality has led an unprecedented coalition to come together for change. Unlike past attempts at reforming our health care system, everyone is at the table – patient’s advocates and health insurers; business and labor; Democrats and Republicans alike.
A few weeks ago, some of these improbable allies committed to cut national health care spending by two trillion dollars over the next decade. What makes this so remarkable is that it probably wouldn’t have happened just a few short years ago. But today, at this historic juncture, even old adversaries are united around the same goal: quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
Now, I know that when you bring together disparate groups with differing views, there will be lively debate. And that’s a debate I welcome. But what we can’t welcome is reform that just invests more money in the status quo – reform that throws good money after bad habits.
We must attack the root causes of skyrocketing health care costs. Some of these costs are the result of unwarranted profiteering that has no place in our health care system, and in too many communities, folks are paying higher costs without receiving better care in return. And yet we know, for example, that there are places like the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and other institutions that offer some of the highest quality of care in the nation at some of the lowest costs in the nation. We should learn from their successes and promote the best practices, not the most expensive ones. That’s how we’ll achieve reform that fixes what doesn’t work, and builds on what does.
This week, I conveyed to Congress my belief that any health care reform must be built around fundamental reforms that lower costs, improve quality and coverage, and also protect consumer choice. That means if you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.
I also made it very clear to Congress that we must develop a plan that doesn’t add to our budget deficit. My budget included an historic down payment on reform, and we’ll work with Congress to fully cover the costs through rigorous spending reductions and appropriate additional revenues. We’ll eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in our health care system, but we’ll also take on key causes of rising costs – saving billions while providing better care to the American people.
All across America, our families are making hard choices when it comes to health care. Now, it’s time for Washington to make the right ones. It’s time to deliver. And I am absolutely convinced that if we keep working together and living up to our mutual responsibilities; if we place the American people’s interests above the special interests; we will seize this historic opportunity to finally fix what ails our broken health care system, and strengthen our economy and our country now and for decades to come.
The following is exclusively from the Commitee To Protect Journalists, www.cpj.org. There has been absolutely no word or information concerning the trial or verdict of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, now taking place in North Korea.
Monitoring the Lee, Ling case in North Korea
By Bob Dietz/Asia Program Coordinator
I’ve been staying up nights waiting for news on journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who are detained and facing trial in North Korea. The government in Pyongyang, through its official Korean Central News Agency, posted this terse item on Thursday: “The Central Court of the DPRK will start a trial of American journalists Laura Ling and Seung-eun Lee from 3 p.m. Thursday on the basis of the indictment already brought against them.” (Seung-eun is Euna’s name in Korean.) The people I’ve been in touch with in Seoul–journalists working for Western news agencies, Korean journalists, and one government contact–don’t know much more.
My sources say they’re scrambling for information as much as everyone else. The U.S. State Department has put a lid on press comments except for the most innocuous and reassuring statements. The Swedish ambassador, who has acted as a go-between in Pyongyang, has conducted himself with diplomatic discretion, and the Swedish government has shared only basic information. Analysts and academics offer a wide range of opinion. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) personnel at the United Nations have not answered my phone calls.
Here’s what we can say with a fair degree of accuracy: The women are being held in a government guest house outside of Pyongyang. In letters and phone calls to their families, and according to the Swedish government, they are comfortable and not being physically abused, although they are not free to leave and cannot see each other. As of this posting, the status of their trial on charges of illegally entering the DPRK and unspecified “hostile acts” is entirely unclear. It remains uncertain what happened on March 17, when they were arrested near the Tumen River. The only American witness, Current TV producer Mitchell Koss who has since returned to the United States, is not speaking publicly. Neither are other Current TV staffers.
Before the women left the United States to work on a story about North Korean refugees living in China, they told their families they had no intention of crossing into North Korea itself. The families have apologized if, in fact, the pair did cross the border. The Tumen River forms a surprisingly porous border with China.
Their innocence or guilt might be a side issue in determining their fate. Ling’s sister, the journalist Lisa Ling, said that when Laura spoke to her by phone (and everyone assumes calls are closely monitored) she stated clearly that the only way they would be released is if the United States and North Korea spoke directly, one-on-one–a longstanding DPRK demand. The United States has never met that demand, always dealing jointly with South and North Korea or in the context of the Six-Party Talks started under the first Bush administration.
What has worked in the past is for a prominent American figure to travel to Pyongyang to speak with the DPRK. Bill Richardson, the former congressman and current New Mexico governor, is a prime example: In November 1996, he won the release of Evan Hunziker, an American who swam across the Yalu River into North Korea.
The challenge for the State Department is to carry off something similar and do it in as short a time period as possible for the benefit of Lee, Ling, and their families. North Korea’s leadership is in a tenuous period of transition in which Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, appears to be groomed for succession. Most of the analysts I’ve been speaking with read the recent spate of nuclear tests and missile launches as part of that succession process.
Lee and Ling are caught up in this political situation. It would be wonderful if North Korea and the United States, and all the others involved in those Six-Party Talks (China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea) could agree that the fate of two reporters, who were pursuing a tough story in the best traditions of journalism, transcended decades of hostility and inertia and joined to get them released.
And there’s a step you can take. Here’s a Facebook page–Detained In North Korea : Journalist Laura Ling and Euna Lee, please help–that is being used to organize efforts on behalf of the two women. The families fully back the effort and finds the public support reassuring.
***Thank You, Commitee To Protect Journalists & Bob Dietz!***
First Lady Michelle Obama Fires Jackie Norris And Promotes Friend Susan Sher To The Post Of Chief Of Staff!
First Lady Michelle Obama replaced Jackie Norris as her Chief of Staff and named Susan Sher to the post. There has been some speculation as to why this East Wing shake-up occured but one thing about this change should be noted.
Susan Sher and Mrs. Obama are friends, yes. But the connection is an even deeper one. Up until early 2008, Mrs. Obama, Susan Sher and Obama campaign chief strategist David Axelrod were involved in the Urban Health Initative Program. This program that some critics say was crafted by the First Lady, was geared at what is called “dumping” poor and uninsured prospective patients that normally flow through the emergency room of the University of Chicago Medical Center, to ill-equiped and under staffed urgent care facilities across the South Side of Chicago for medical assistance. The logic of this program supposedly would be in the shortened length of time that a ‘really sick and insured patient’ occupied the emergency room.
Needless to say, this program, the Urban Health Initative, met with tremendous opposition in the communities that would be greatly affected and was eventually legally halted pending further review.
WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCES EAST WING STAFF CHANGES
Jackie Norris to Senior Advisor to Corporation for National and Community Service, Susan Sher to Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama
WASHINGTON, DC – The White House announced today that the First Lady’s Chief of Staff Jackie Norris has been appointed as Senior Advisor to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Susan Sher, a longtime colleague and friend of the First Lady’s, has been promoted to Chief of Staff. The First Lady, Mrs. Norris and Ms. Sher all released statements on the moves, included below:
Statement from Mrs. Obama:
Jackie Norris has been a colleague and friend since the earliest days of the Iowa campaign. She has built a strong organization in the East Wing and made tremendous progress on issues that are important to me and the President, particularly in the area of national service. In assuming the role as Senior Advisor to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Jackie will work closely with my office and the Administration as we move forward to implement the new Serve America Act and we will continue to count on Jackie’s leadership and passion for this cause.
Susan Sher is a trusted advisor, longtime mentor and friend dating back to my work at the City of Chicago and later the University of Chicago. Since the beginning of this Administration, Susan has served as a senior member of the East Wing and West Wing teams providing legal counsel, working as a member of the health care reform task force and leading Jewish outreach, and her transition to chief of staff will be seamless.
Statement from Jackie Norris:
I am grateful to President and Mrs. Obama for the opportunities and friendship they have given me over the last few years and I am looking forward to becoming an integral part of this Administration’s efforts to advance the cause of national and community service.
Statement from Susan Sher:
Mrs. Obama and I have worked together for many years on issues that we both care deeply about and I appreciate the opportunity to be of greater service to her and this Administration.
Remarks By President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, World-Renowned Author & Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel – Transcript
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA,
GERMAN CHANCELLOR MERKEL, AND ELIE WIESEL
AT BUCHENWALD CONCENTRATION CAMP
3:58 P.M. (Local)
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As translated.) Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. Here in this place a concentration camp was established in 1937. Not far from here lies Lima, a place where Germans created wonderful works of art, thereby contributing to European culture and civilization. Not far from that place where once artists, poets, and great minds met, terror, violence, and tyranny reigned over this camp.
At the beginning of our joint visit to the Buchenwald memorial the American President and I stood in front of a plaque commemorating all the victims. When you put your hand on the memorial you can feel that it has warmed up — it is kept at a temperature of 37 degrees, the body temperature of a living human being. This, however, was not a place for living, but a place for dying.
Unimaginable horror, shock — there are no words to adequately describe what we feel when we look at the suffering inflicted so cruelly upon so many people here and in other concentration and extermination camps under National Socialist terror. I bow my head before the victims.
We, the Germans, are faced with the agonizing question how and why — how could this happen? How could Germany wreak such havoc in Europe and the world? It is therefore incumbent upon us Germans to show an unshakeable resolve to do everything we can so that something like this never happens again.
On the 25th of January, the presidents of the associations of former inmates at the concentration camps presented their request to the public, and this request closes with the following words: “The last eyewitness appeal to Germany, to all European states, and to the international community to continue preserving and honoring the human gift of remembrance and commemoration into the future. We ask young people to carry on our struggle against Nazi ideology, and for a just, peaceful and tolerant world; a world that has no place for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and right-wing extremism.”
This appeal of the survivors clearly defines the very special responsibility we Germans have to shoulder with regard to our history. And for me, therefore, there are three messages that are important today. First, let me emphasize, we Germans see it as past of our country’s raison d’être to keep the everlasting memory alive of the break with civilization that was the Shoah. Only in this way will we be able to shape our future.
I am therefore very grateful that the Buchenwald memorial has always placed great emphasis on the dialogue with younger people, to conversations with eyewitnesses, to documentation, and a broad-based educational program.
Second, it is most important to keep the memory of the great sacrifices alive that had to be made to put an end to the terror of National Socialism and to liberate its victims and to rid all people of its yoke.
This is why I want to say a particular word of gratitude to the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, for visiting this particular memorial. It gives me an opportunity to align yet again that we Germans shall never forget, and we owe the fact that we were given the opportunity after the war to start anew, to enjoy peace and freedom to the resolve, the strenuous efforts, and indeed to a sacrifice made in blood of the United States of America and of all those who stood by your side as allies or fighters in the resistance.
We were able to find our place again as members of the international community through a forward-looking partnership. And this partnership was finally key to enabling us to overcome the painful division of our country in 1989, and the division also of our continent. Today we remember the victims of this place. This includes remembering the victims of the so-called Special Camp 2, a detention camp run by the Soviet military administration from 1945 to 1950. Thousands of people perished due to the inhumane conditions of their detention.
Third, here in Buchenwald I would like to highlight an obligation placed on us Germans as a consequence of our past: to stand up for human rights, to stand up for rule of law, and for democracy. We shall fight against terror, extremism, and anti-Semitism. And in the awareness of our responsibility we shall strive for peace and freedom, together with our friends and partners in the United States and all over the world.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Chancellor Merkel and I have just finished our tour here at Buchenwald. I want to thank Dr. Volkhard Knigge, who gave an outstanding account of what we were witnessing. I am particularly grateful to be accompanied by my friend Elie Wiesel, as well as Mr. Bertrand Herz, both of whom are survivors of this place.
We saw the area known as Little Camp where Elie and Bertrand were sent as boys. In fact, at the place that commemorates this camp, there is a photograph in which we can see a 16-year-old Elie in one of the bunks along with the others. We saw the ovens of the crematorium, the guard towers, the barbed wire fences, the foundations of barracks that once held people in the most unimaginable conditions.
We saw the memorial to all the survivors — a steel plate, as Chancellor Merkel said, that is heated to 37 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the human body; a reminder — where people were deemed inhuman because of their differences — of the mark that we all share.
Now these sights have not lost their horror with the passage of time. As we were walking up, Elie said, “if these trees could talk.” And there’s a certain irony about the beauty of the landscape and the horror that took place here.
More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished. I will not forget what I’ve seen here today.
I’ve known about this place since I was a boy, hearing stories about my great uncle, who was a very young man serving in World War II. He was part of the 89th Infantry Division, the first Americans to reach a concentration camp. They liberated Ohrdruf, one of Buchenwald’s sub-camps.
And I told this story, he returned from his service in a state of shock saying little and isolating himself for months on end from family and friends, alone with the painful memories that would not leave his head. And as we see — as we saw some of the images here, it’s understandable that someone who witnessed what had taken place here would be in a state of shock.
My great uncle’s commander, General Eisenhower, understood this impulse to silence. He had seen the piles of bodies and starving survivors and deplorable conditions that the American soldiers found when they arrived, and he knew that those who witnessed these things might be too stunned to speak about them or be able — be unable to find the words to describe them; that they might be rendered mute in the way my great uncle had. And he knew that what had happened here was so unthinkable that after the bodies had been taken away, that perhaps no one would believe it.
And that’s why he ordered American troops and Germans from the nearby town to tour the camp. He invited congressmen and journalists to bear witness and ordered photographs and films to be made. And he insisted on viewing every corner of these camps so that — and I quote — he could “be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever in the future there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda.”
We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished. To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened — a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts; a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.
Also to this day, there are those who perpetuate every form of intolerance — racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and more — hatred that degrades its victims and diminishes us all. In this century, we’ve seen genocide. We’ve seen mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground; children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war. This places teaches us that we must be ever vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not our problem and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests.
But as we reflect today on the human capacity for evil and our shared obligation to defy it, we’re also reminded of the human capacity for good. For amidst the countless acts of cruelty that took place here, we know that there were many acts of courage and kindness, as well. The Jews who insisted on fasting on Yom Kippur. The camp cook who hid potatoes in the lining of his prison uniform and distributed them to his fellow inmates, risking his own life to help save theirs. The prisoners who organized a special effort to protect the children here, sheltering them from work and giving them extra food. They set up secret classrooms, some of the inmates, and taught history and math and urged the children to think about their future professions. And we were just hearing about the resistance that formed and the irony that the base for the resistance was in the latrine areas because the guards found it so offensive that they wouldn’t go there. And so out of the filth, that became a space in which small freedoms could thrive.
When the American GIs arrived they were astonished to find more than 900 children still alive, and the youngest was just three years old. And I’m told that a couple of the prisoners even wrote a Buchenwald song that many here sang. Among the lyrics were these: “…whatever our fate, we will say yes to life, for the day will come when we are free…in our blood we carry the will to live and in our hearts, in our hearts — faith.”
These individuals never could have known the world would one day speak of this place. They could not have known that some of them would live to have children and grandchildren who would grow up hearing their stories and would return here so many years later to find a museum and memorials and the clock tower set permanently to 3:15, the moment of liberation.
They could not have known how the nation of Israel would rise out of the destruction of the Holocaust and the strong, enduring bonds between that great nation and my own. And they could not have known that one day an American President would visit this place and speak of them and that he would do so standing side by side with the German Chancellor in a Germany that is now a vibrant democracy and a valued American ally.
They could not have known these things. But still surrounded by death they willed themselves to hold fast to life. In their hearts they still had faith that evil would not triumph in the end, that while history is unknowable it arches towards progress, and that the world would one day remember them. And it is now up to us, the living, in our work, wherever we are, to resist injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take, and ensure that those who were lost here did not go in vain. It is up to us to redeem that faith. It is up to us to bear witness; to ensure that the world continues to note what happened here; to remember all those who survived and all those who perished, and to remember them not just as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed just like us.
And just as we identify with the victims, it’s also important for us I think to remember that the perpetrators of such evil were human, as well, and that we have to guard against cruelty in ourselves. And I want to express particular thanks to Chancellor Merkel and the German people, because it’s not easy to look into the past in this way and acknowledge it and make something of it, make a determination that they will stand guard against acts like this happening again.
Rather than have me end with my remarks I thought it was appropriate to have Elie Wiesel provide some reflection and some thought as he returns here so many years later to the place where his father died.
MR. WIESEL: Mr. President, Chancellor Merkel, Bertrand, ladies and gentlemen. As I came here today it was actually a way of coming and visit my father’s grave — but he had no grave. His grave is somewhere in the sky. This has become in those years the largest cemetery of the Jewish people.
The day he died was one of the darkest in my life. He became sick, weak, and I was there. I was there when he suffered. I was there when he asked for help, for water. I was there to receive his last words. But I was not there when he called for me, although we were in the same block; he on the upper bed and I on the lower bed. He called my name, and I was too afraid to move. All of us were. And then he died. I was there, but I was not there.
And I thought one day I will come back and speak to him, and tell him of the world that has become mine. I speak to him of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of good will — in America, where I live, or in Europe or in Germany, where you, Chancellor Merkel, are a leader with great courage and moral aspirations.
What can I tell him that the world has learned? I am not so sure. Mr. President, we have such high hopes for you because you, with your moral vision of history, will be able and compelled to change this world into a better place, where people will stop waging war — every war is absurd and meaningless; where people will stop hating one another; where people will hate the otherness of the other rather than respect it.
But the world hasn’t learned. When I was liberated in 1945, April 11, by the American army, somehow many of us were convinced that at least one lesson will have been learned — that never again will there be war; that hatred is not an option, that racism is stupid; and the will to conquer other people’s minds or territories or aspirations, that will is meaningless.
I was so hopeful. Paradoxically, I was so hopeful then. Many of us were, although we had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one’s life with dignity in a world that has no place for dignity.
We rejected that possibility and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future, because the world has learned. But again, the world hasn’t. Had the world learned, there would have been no Cambodia and no Rwanda and no Darfur and no Bosnia.
Will the world ever learn? I think that is why Buchenwald is so important — as important, of course, but differently as Auschwitz. It’s important because here the large — the big camp was a kind of international community. People came there from all horizons — political, economic, culture. The first globalization essay, experiment, were made in Buchenwald. And all that was meant to diminish the humanity of human beings.
You spoke of humanity, Mr. President. Though unto us, in those times, it was human to be inhuman. And now the world has learned, I hope. And of course this hope includes so many of what now would be your vision for the future, Mr. President. A sense of security for Israel, a sense of security for its neighbors, to bring peace in that place. The time must come. It’s enough — enough to go to cemeteries, enough to weep for oceans. It’s enough. There must come a moment — a moment of bringing people together.
And therefore we say anyone who comes here should go back with that resolution. Memory must bring people together rather than set them apart. Memories here not to sow anger in our hearts, but on the contrary, a sense of solidarity that all those who need us. What else can we do except invoke that memory so that people everywhere who say the 21st century is a century of new beginnings, filled with promise and infinite hope, and at times profound gratitude to all those who believe in our task, which is to improve the human condition.
A great man, Camus, wrote at the end of his marvelous novel, The Plague: “After all,” he said, “after the tragedy, never the rest…there is more in the human being to celebrate than to denigrate.” Even that can be found as truth — painful as it is — in Buchenwald.
Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to come back to my father’s grave, which is still in my heart.
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Preet Bharara, of New York, to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York for the term of four years, vice Michael J. Garcia, resigned.
Julia Akins Clark, of Maryland, to be General Counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority for a term of five years, vice Colleen Duffy Kiko, resigned.
Tristram J. Coffin, of Vermont, to be United States Attorney for the District of Vermont for the term of four years, vice Thomas D. Anderson, resigned.
Ernest W. Dubester, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority for a term of five years expiring July 29, 2012, vice Dale Cabaniss, resigned.
Jenny A. Durkan, of Washington, to be United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington for the term of four years, vice John McKay, resigned.
Paul Joseph Fishman, of New Jersey, to be United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey for the term of four years, vice Christopher James Christie, resigned.
B. Todd Jones, of Minnesota, to be United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota for the term of four years, vice Rachel K. Paulose, resigned.
John P. Kacavas, of New Hampshire, to be United States Attorney for the District of New Hampshire for the term of four years, vice Thomas P. Colantuono, resigned.
Christopher H. Schroeder, of North Carolina, to be an Assistant Attorney General, vice Elisebeth C. Cook, resigned.
Joyce White Vance, of Alabama, to be United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama for the term of four years, vice Alice Howze Martin.
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts: Anne S. Ferro, Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Department of Transportation; Ernie DuBester, Member, Federal Labor Relations Authority; and Julia A. Clark, General Counsel, Federal Labor Relations Authority.
President Obama said, “As we work to confront the many challenges our nation faces, I am grateful that these fine public servants have chosen to join my administration in fighting for working families and putting America on a path to prosperity. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:
Anne S. Ferro, Nominee for Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Department of Transportation
Anne S. Ferro served as Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administrator between 1997 and 2003 where she established a strong record in highway safety, regulatory compliance and agency leadership. She has extensive experience in driver and vehicle safety having led the agency’s efforts to establish a graduated licensing program for new drivers in Maryland as well as a model for older driver research. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Cote d’Ivoire, Ferro is currently President of the Maryland Motor Truck Association and serves on several regional advisory committees relating to freight planning, highway safety and transportation funding. In 2008 she was selected as Maryland’s Port Woman of the Year. Ferro earned a Masters degree in Public Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis.
Ernie DuBester, Nominee for Member, Federal Labor Relations Authority
Ernie DuBester served as Chairman (and Member) of the National Mediation Board (NMB) from Nov. 1993-August 2001. Nominated to that position by President Clinton, he was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate twice. DuBester has 35 years of experience in labor-management relations, working as a public servant, advocate, mediator, arbitrator, and as an academic. He has nearly 20 years of experience with the federal government. He began his career at the National Labor Relations Board serving as counsel to former Chairman (and Member) John Fanning (1975-81). From 1981-84, he was a Union attorney with the firm of Highsaw & Mahoney. DuBester served as legislative counsel to the AFL-CIO from 1984-93. After serving as Chairman (and Member) of the NMB, DuBester was a Professor and Director of the Dispute Resolution Program at George Mason University School of Law (GMUSL) (2001-2005). While at GMUSL, he also worked as an arbitrator and mediator of labor & employment matters. He also previously taught collective bargaining & arbitration at the Catholic University of America School of Law. Since July of 2005, he has worked as a mediator at the NMB. DuBester received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, his law degree from the Catholic University of America School of Law, where he was Recent Developments Editor of the Law Review, and his Masters of Law in Labor Law from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Julia A. Clark, Nominee for General Counsel, Federal Labor Relations Authority
Julia Akins Clark currently serves as General Counsel of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO. She received her J.D. in 1980 from the American University, Washington College of Law, and her B.A. in 1977 from Oklahoma Baptist University. She started her legal career as an Honors Program trial attorney in the United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division. For the past 20 years she has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of unions and workers and before federal courts and agencies, including the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the National Labor Relations Board, the National Mediation Board and the Personnel Appeals Board of the General Accountability Office.
President Obama Delivers Historic Speech In Cairo! Remarks Focus On Peace And The End To The U.S. Presence In Afghanistan!
President Barack Obama delivered a very powerful and historic speech in Cairo early Thursday that attempted to heal wounds and mend fences between the U.S.and the Islamic world. Some critics of President Obama say that this speech was nothing more than mere talk that will translate into more U.S. dominance in the Middle East.
Yet, there are still some in the Muslim / Judeo center who believe that President Obama is taking strides to effect strong change in the way the U.S. has dealt with the Middle East, steering away from military occupation and force, while implementing the philosophy of diplomacy as a means of establishing peace.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON A NEW BEGINNING
1:10 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I’m grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I’m also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities — (applause) — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library. (Applause.)
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words — within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum — “Out of many, one.”
Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores — and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes — and, yes, religions — subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.
In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I’m aware that there’s still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military — we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.
And that’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths — but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace.
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who’ve been displaced. That’s why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”
Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future — and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people — (applause) — I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. And that’s why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)
So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)
For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)
That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.
This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It’s about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that’s why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I’m hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know — I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld — whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can’t disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
In fact, faith should bring us together. And that’s why we’re forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That’s why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know — and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now, let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations — including America — this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities — those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.
And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century — (applause) — and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I’m emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We’ll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I’m announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.
I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There’s so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country — you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us: “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”
The Holy Bible tells us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Applause.)
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
LeBron James: I Had Every Right To Stump Off And Pout Like A Five Year Old When We Lost To The Magic!
When the Orlando Magic whipped the behinds off LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers the other night, it became very interesting to note how a celebrity athlete takes defeat. Ten minutes after the game had concluded, reporters were telling each other that LeBron James had stormed off the basketball court refusing to congratulate the Orlando Magic players and snubbed waiting reporters. After awhile hanging around the Cleveland locker room to speak with LeBron James, word got out that James had slipped out of the stadium undetected, and on purpose.
LeBron James had this to say about his unprofessional conduct and poor sportsmanship:
The trial of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee begins today in North Korea. Journalists all over the world are anticipating the release of these two women who are being held as ‘enemies of the state’. The families of Ling and Lee have engaged in a media blitz to inform the American public and the world about their loved ones plight.
As a fellow journalist, it is with much anticipation and anxiousness that I await the verdict of a kangaroo-style North Korean justice system that is so obviously stacked against my fellow journalists and sisters. It is my hope that Laura Ling and Euna Lee are returned to the United States and their loving, worried families.
Below is a special message from the Ling and Lee families:
Tracey Ricks Foster, Publisher/Editorial Director
We, the families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee—the two American journalists currently detained in North Korea—are gravely concerned about their well-being. It has been nearly three months since their arrest. We have been holding our breath every day as we’ve watched the political situation on the Korean Peninsula grow increasingly tense. Our loved ones sit in the midst of it. We desperately urge the governments of the United States and North Korea to keep our issue separate from the larger geopolitical standoff. We hope that our two countries can come together to secure the expeditious release of Laura and Euna on humanitarian grounds.
Euna Lee is the mother of a 4-year old daughter. And Laura was being treated for an ulcer prior to her departure, and in our limited communication with her we fear it has become more serious since her detainment and requires immediate medical attention.
Furthermore, Laura and Euna are journalists who were simply doing their job. They have been charged with “illegal entry” and “hostility to the Korean nation.” We aren’t certain of the details of what happened on March 17, but we can say with absolute certainty that when the girls left U.S. soil, they never intended to set foot onto North Korean territory. If at any point a transgression occurred, we sincerely apologize on their behalf.
We desperately hope that at the conclusion of the June 4 trial, the government of North Korea will show clemency and allow the girls to return home to their families.
Our families have been comforted by the unexpected and overwhelming support for Laura and Euna. We would like to thank all of those individuals who are organizing to secure the release of the girls. We are humbled and deeply touched by your well-wishes and efforts.
— The families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee
INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT
BY MICHELE NORRIS AND STEVE INSKEEP
OF NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
June 1, 2009
4:02 P.M. EDT
Q Mr. President, welcome to the program.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
Q Mr. President, thank you for joining us — that we could join you, in this case. If you want to improve relations with the Muslim world, do you have to change or alter in some way the strong U.S. support for Israel?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t think that we have to change strong U.S. support for Israel. I think that we do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace, and that that’s going to require, from my view, a two-state solution; that it’s going to require that each side — Israelis and Palestinians — meet their obligations.
I’ve said very clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements including natural growth is part of those obligations. I’ve said to the Palestinians that their continued progress on security and ending the incitement that I think understandably makes Israelis so concerned — that that has to be — those obligations have to be met.
So the key is to just believe that that process can move forward and that all sides are going to have to give. And it’s not going to be an easy path, but one that I think we can achieve.
Q Mr. President, you mentioned a freeze on settlements. The Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is quoted today saying to Cabinet members in Israel that he will not follow your demand for a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, that it’s not going to happen. What does it suggest that Israel is not taking your advice?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s still early in the process. They formed a government, what, a month ago? I think that we’re going to have a series of conversations. Obviously the first priority of a Israeli Prime Minister is to think in terms of Israel’s security. I believe that strategically the status quo is unsustainable when it comes to Israeli security; that over time, in the absence of peace with the Palestinians, Israel will continue to be threatened militarily and will have enormous problems along its borders.
And so it is not only in the Palestinians’ interest to have a state; I believe it is in the Israelis, as well, and in the United States’ interest as well.
Q But if the United States says for years that Israel should stop the settlements, and for years Israel simply does not, and the United States continues supporting Israel in roughly the same way, what does that do with American credibility in the Muslim world, which you’re trying to address?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think what is certainly true is that the United States has to follow through on what it says. Now, as I said before, I haven’t said anything yet because it’s early in the process. But it is important for us to be clear about what we believe will lead to peace and that there’s not equivocation and there’s not a sense that we expect only compromise on one side; it’s going to have to be two-sided.
`And I don’t think anybody would deny that in theory. When it comes to the concrete, then the politics of it get difficult both within the Israeli and the Palestinian communities. But, look, if this was easy it would have already been done.
Q Many people in the region are concerned; when they look at the U.S. relationship with Israel, they feel that Israel has favored status in all cases. And what do you say to people in the Muslim world who feel that the U.S. has, repeatedly over time, blindly supported Israel?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I’d say is there’s no doubt that the United States has a special relationship with Israel. There are a lot of Israelis who used to be Americans. There is huge cross-cultural ties between the two countries. I think that as a vibrant democracy that shares many of our values, obviously we’re deeply sympathetic to Israel.
And I think I would also say that given past statements surrounding Israel — the notion that they should be driven into the sea, that they should be annihilated, that they should be obliterated, the armed aggression that’s been directed towards them in the past — you can understand why not only Israelis would feel concern, but the United States would feel it was important to back this stalwart ally.
Now, having said all that, what is also true is that part of being a good friend is being honest, and I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory in the region is profoundly negative not only for Israeli interests, but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.
Q Does it undermine your effort, reaching out to the Muslim world, which you’ll do with the speech in Cairo, that you’ll be speaking in a country with an undemocratic government that is an ally of the United States?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind I already spoke in Turkey. They have a democracy that I’m sure some Turks would say has flaws to it, just as there are some Americans who would suggest there are flaws to American democracy –
Q Are you about to say Egypt is just a country with some flaws?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, what I’m about — don’t put words in my mouth, Steve, especially not in the White House. (Laughter.) You can wait until the postscript.
There is a wide range of governments throughout the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, and the main thing for me to do is to project what our values are, what our ideals are, what we care most deeply about — and that is democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.
Now, in every country I deal with, whether it’s China, Russia, ultimately Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, allies as well as non-allies, there are going to be some differences. And what I want to do is just maintain consistency in affirming what those values that I believe in are, understanding that we’re not going to get countries to embrace various of our values simply by lecturing or through military means. We can’t force these approaches. What we can do is stand up for human rights; we can stand up for democracy. But I think it’s a mistake for us to somehow suggest that we’re not going to deal with countries around the world in the absence of their meeting all our criteria for democracy.
Q Michele Norris.
Q You’ve mentioned many times the importance of reaching out to Iran with an open hand, trying to engage that country. Are you also willing to try to engage with Hezbollah or Hamas, entities that have now had significant gains in recent elections?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let’s just underscore a point here. Iran is a huge, significant nation state that has, I think, across the international community been recognized as such. Hezbollah and Hamas are not. And I don’t think that we have to approach those entities in the same way. In the –
Q — does that change with their electoral gains?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, if at some point — Lebanon is a member of the United Nations — if at some point they are elected as a head of state — or a head of state is elected in Lebanon that is a member of that organization, then that would raise these issues. That hasn’t happened yet.
With respect to Hamas, I do think that if they recognize the Quartet principles that have been laid out — and these are fairly modest conditions here — that you recognize the state of Israel without prejudging what various grievances or claims are appropriate, that you abide by previous agreements, that you renounce violence as a means of achieving your goals — then I think discussions with Hamas could potentially proceed.
And so the problem has been that there’s been a preference oftentimes on the part of these organizations to use violence and not take responsibility for governance as a means of winning propaganda wars or advancing their organizational aims. At some point, though, they may make a transition — there are examples of — in the past, of organizations that have successfully transitioned from violent organizations to ones that recognize that they can achieve their aims more effectively through political means, and I hope that occurs.
Q Mr. President, because you mentioned Iran I want to ask a question about that and about your efforts to engage with the Muslim world in a different way. I’d like to know which development you think would be more harmful to America’s prestige in the Muslim world, which is worse: An Iranian government that has nuclear weapons, or an Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not going to engage in these hypotheticals, Steve, but I can tell you that my view is that Iran possessing a nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilizing to the region — not just with respect to Israel’s response, but the response of other Arab states in the region, or Muslim states in the region that might be concerned about Iran having an undue advantage.
More broadly, I’ve got a concern about nuclear proliferation generally, something that I talked about in my speech in Prague. I think one of the things that we need to do is to describe to the Iranians a pathway for them achieving security, respect and prosperity that doesn’t involve them possessing a nuclear weapon. But we have to be able to make that same argument to other countries that might aspire to nuclear weapons, and we have to apply some of those same principles to ourselves, so that — for example, I’ll be traveling next month to Moscow to initiate START talks, trying to reduce our nuclear stockpiles, as part of a broader effort in the international community to contain our nuclear weapons.
Q And you want other nations to restrain themselves until you can complete that process?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s going to be the challenge. That’s why we’re so busy around here all the time.
Q Let me ask about one other challenge if I might.
Forgive me, Michele, go ahead.
Q No, go ahead.
Q Is your effort to engage the Muslim world likely to be complicated or even undermined by the fact that you’re escalating a war in a Muslim country, Afghanistan, with the inevitable civilian casualties and other bad news that will come out of there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there’s no doubt that anytime you have civilian casualties that always complicates things, whether it was a Muslim or a non-Muslim country. I think part of what I’ll be addressing in my speech is a reminder that the reason that we’re in Afghanistan is very simple, and that is 3,000 Americans were killed and you had a devastating attack on the American homeland; the organization that planned those attacks intends to carry out further attacks and we cannot stand by and allow that to happen.
But I am somebody who is very anxious to have the Afghan government and the Pakistani government have the capacity to ensure that those safe havens don’t exist. And so it’s — I think will be an important reminder that we have no territorial ambitions in Afghanistan. We don’t have an interest in exploiting the resources of Afghanistan. What we want is simply that people aren’t hanging out in Afghanistan who are plotting to bomb the United States. And I think that’s a fairly modest goal that other Muslim countries should be able to understand.
Q Mr. President, you have talked about creating a new path forward on Guantanamo, on the relationship that the U.S. has with countries in the Muslim world, and on several fronts. But at the same time, the former Vice President has been out talking about the policies in the former administration. He’s forceful, he’s unapologetic, and he doesn’t seem willing to scale back his rhetoric. How much does that undermine or complicate your effort to extend a hand, to explain the Obama doctrine and draw a line of demarcation between that administration and yours?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he also happens to be wrong. Right? And last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn’t get a very good grade.
Does it make it more complicated? No, because I think these are complicated issues and there is a legitimate debate to be had about national security. And I don’t doubt the sincerity of the former Vice President or the previous administration in wanting to protect the American people — and these are very difficult decisions. If you’ve got a — as I said in my speech, if you’ve got an organization that is out to kill Americans and is not bound by any rules, then that puts an enormous strain on not only our intelligence operations, our national security operations, but also our legal system.
The one thing that I’m absolutely persuaded by, though, is that if we are true to our ideals and our values, if these decisions aren’t made unilaterally by the executive branch, but rather in consultation and in open fashion and in democratic debate, that the Muslim world and the world generally will see that we have upheld our values, been true to our ideals, and that ultimately will make us safer.
Q It’s unusual for the debate to be playing out in a public forum, though. Have you picked up the phone? Have you talked to him? Have you had a conversation?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think it’s that unusual. As I remember, there were some speeches given by Vice President Gore that differed with President Bush’s policies. And I think that’s healthy; that’s part of the debate. And I don’t in any way begrudge, I think, anybody in debating, sometimes ferociously, these issues that are of premium importance to the United States. And I am constantly listening and gauging whether or not there’s new information out there that I should take into account.
I will tell you that based on my reviews, I am very confident about the policies that we’ve taken being the right ones for the American people.
Q We’re told that our time is up. So you’ve been very generous.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, guys.