Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The State of the Union, Obama-Style


There is no question that President Barrack Obama is a gifted orator. He rose to fame as the junior senator from Illinois, and was propelled to the White House, at least partly because of his skills as a speaker. In his five years as president, he has often used that skill when addressing the public.

Yet his pretty words delivered in a dramatic, riveting style, have often proven to be no more than empty sounds, reminiscent of the well-known Biblical verse: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1Corinthians 13: 1).  During his recent State of the Union, Mr. Obama could easily be compared to a ‘sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal’. A look at a few excerpts from that speech is instructive.

“My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might but because of the ideals we stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them.”

This quotation is almost more than this writer can bear.  Yes, no other country in the world sends pilotless planes to bomb innocent people.  No other country invades other nations for their natural resources, or overthrows sovereign, democratically-elected governments if they appear to be too ‘leftist’ for the U.S.’s taste.

And to think that the ‘world turns to’ the U.S. on every issue is actually comical. The U.S. manufactures problems in nations whose government it disapproves of, and then goes in to ‘resolve’ those problems, whether the legitimate governments of those nations want such ‘help’, or not.

One can only wonder what ‘ideals’ Mr. Obama was referring to. Perhaps it was the ideal of forcing countries into submission to the U.S. will. Perhaps it is runaway consumerism, requiring more and more of the earth’s natural resources, which must be taken, by force if necessary, from other nations that possess them. Perhaps it is the ideal of providing oppressive foreign governments with vast amounts of money, while at least 15% of U.S. citizens live in poverty, U.S. cities are crumbling, and U.S. education standards fall far below that of other industrial nations.

The ‘burdens we bear’ are not uniformly borne; the wealthy seldom fight the U.S.’s imperial wars, nor do they pay the financial burden through taxes.

“As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in the difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the state of Israel — a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.”

American ‘diplomacy’ has helped to keep the Palestinians oppressed for generations, and is doing nothing to assist them now. Negotiations can only take place between two parties when each has something the other wants, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel, an apartheid regime if ever there was one, has been given free reign by the U.S. to take whatever it wants from Palestine. And as it is taking more and more land every day, and killing and oppressing the Palestinians, the U.S. rewards it with nearly $9,000,000.00 every single day.  So much for ‘American diplomacy’.

The president also, in this sentence, declared Israel to be a Jewish state. To what, one wonders, does this relegate all the non-Jews living in Israel?

And his talk about ‘security’ for the state of Israel is disingenuous at best. Israel is the only nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East, and has the military might of the U.S. behind it, mainly because of the Israel lobby group, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee. Diplomacy has no place in a government where political contributions rule the roost.

“And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Is this, indeed, a goal we all share? If Israel and the U.S., two nations that inflict unspeakable terrorism around the globe, are allowed to have nuclear weapons, why shouldn’t Iran have them? Shouldn’t the government of Iran have the right and capability to defend itself and its citizens from an Israeli attack?

“American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.”

This statement might lead one to believe that the U.S. led the way in crafting a diplomatic solution to the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons.  One’s memory is short, indeed, if one has forgotten that it was, in fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin who spearheaded that effort, as the U.S. Congress was blathering away, trying to decide on a bill to authorize a U.S. invasion. Perhaps Mr. Obama had a brief memory lapse during his speech.

“And finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe, to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.”

The ‘threats’ the U.S. defends itself against are often mythical, dreamed up by government officials to start a war to gain natural resources, or destroy a democratically-elected leftist government. ‘Opportunities to do good’ are destroyed with each and every drone strike. The ‘understanding around the globe’ that the U.S. fosters is its well-deserved reputation as a terrorist nation.

Once again, a U.S. president has stood before the nation and the world, briefly mentioning some of the challenges facing the country, but mainly acting as a cheerleader for that most dangerous of lies, U.S. exceptionalism. Nothing will change; the partisan divide, fueled by an unrelenting conservatism favored by a small minority, but sufficient to terrify whatever may be left of mainstream Republicanism, will continue to stonewall any meaningful progress on any front. And next January, Mr. Obama will again stand before the world, praising all the common U.S. self-delusions, while throughout the world, people continue to suffer because of them. ‘Hope and change’ should not be anticipated by anyone.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Dill Press).


Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Inside the Invisible Government; War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump
Andrew Levine
The Hillary Era is Coming: Worry!
Gary Leupp
Seven World-Historical Achievements of the Iraq Invasion of 2003
Paul Street
Standing Rock Water-Protectors Waterboarded While the Cleveland Indians Romped
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel: 1984 Everlasting
Michael Brenner
American Foreign Policy in the Post-Trump Era
Luciana Bohne
Crossing the Acheron: Back to Vietnam
Robert Hunziker
The Political Era of Climate Refugees
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution was an Atrocity
Ira Helfand
Nukes and the UN: a Historic Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
Pete Dolack
Work Harder So Speculators Can Get More
Joyce Nelson
Canadians Launch Constitutional Challenge Against CETA
John Laforge
US Uranium Weapons Have Been Used in Syria
Paul Edwards
The Vision Thing ’16
Arshad Khan
Hillary, Trump and Sartre: How Existentialism Disrobes the Major Presidential Candidates
Peter Lee
It’s ON! Between Duterte and America
Chris Zinda
The Bundy Acquittal: Tazing of #oregonstandoff
Joseph Grosso
Starchitects in the City: Vanity Fair and Gentrification
Patrick Carr
Economic Racial Disparity in North Carolina
David Swanson
Public vs. Media on War
Chris Gilbert
Demo Derby in Venezuela: The Left’s New Freewheeling Politics
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Stephen Cooper
Alabama’s Last Execution Was an Atrocity
Sam Albert
Kids on Their Own in Calais: the Tip of an Iceberg-Cold World
Binoy Kampmark
Nobel Confusion: Ramos-Horta, Trump and World Disorder
Russell Mokhiber
Lucifer’s Banker: Bradley Birkenfeld on Corporate Crime in America
Ron Jacobs
Death to the Fascist Insect! The SLA and the Cops
Cesar Chelala
Embargo on Cuba is an Embarrassment for the United States
Jack Smith
And the Winner Is….
Ken Knabb
Beyond Voting: the Limits of Electoral Politics
Matt Peppe
An Alternate Narrative on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
The Israeli Trumpess
James Rothenberg
Water Under the Bridge
Louis Yako
Remembering Rasul Gamzatov: The Poet of the People
Brian Cloughley
The US, NATO and the Pope
When Nobody Returns: Palestinians Show They are People, Too
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Simon Jones
The Human Lacunae in Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake”
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?