If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made

“A few months ago I told the American people that I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that is true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not.”—President Ronald Reagan, 1987 [1]

On April 23, speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, President Barack Obama told his assembled audience that as president “I’ve done my utmost . . . to prevent and end atrocities.”

Do the facts and evidence tell him that his words are not true?

Well, let’s see . . . There’s the multiple atrocities carried out in Iraq by American forces under President Obama. There’s the multiple atrocities carried out in Afghanistan by American forces under Obama. There’s the multiple atrocities carried out in Pakistan by American forces under Obama. There’s the multiple atrocities carried out in Libya by American/NATO forces under Obama. There are also the hundreds of American drone attacks against people and homes in Somalia and in Yemen (including against American citizens in the latter). Might the friends and families of these victims regard the murder of their loved ones and the loss of their homes as atrocities?

Ronald Reagan was pre-Alzheimer’s when he uttered the above. What excuse can be made for Barack Obama?

The president then continued in the same fashion by saying: “We possess many tools . . . and using these tools over the past three years, I believe—I know—that we have saved countless lives.” Obama pointed out that this includes Libya, where the United States, in conjunction with NATO, took part in seven months of almost daily bombing missions. We may never learn from the new pro-NATO Libyan government how many the bombs killed, or the extent of the damage to homes and infrastructure. But the President of the United States assured his Holocaust Museum audience that “today, the Libyan people are forging their own future, and the world can take pride in the innocent lives that we saved.” (As I described in last month’s report, Libya could now qualify as a failed state.)

Language is an invention that makes it possible for a person to deny what he is doing even as he does it.

Mr. Obama closed with these stirring words; “It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty. It’s tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do.” But Barack Obama is not one of those doubters. He knows there is something he can do about man’s endless capacity for cruelty. He can add to it. Greatly. And yet, I am certain that, with exceedingly few exceptions, those in his Holocaust audience left with no doubt that this was a man wholly deserving of his Nobel Peace Prize.

And future American history books may well certify the president’s words as factual, his motivation sincere, for his talk indeed possessed the quality needed for schoolbooks.


1. Washington Post, March 5, 1987

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org.

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