Peace Be Upon You?

After the obligatory I-am-honored-to-be-here yada yada, President Obama, speaking in Cairo, gave a peace greeting in Arabic: “Assalamu Aleikum.”

Perhaps, as these words were heard around the globe, a US drone was incinerating civilians in Pakistan or Afghanistan while a smart bomb, targeting a “terrorist safe house” in Iraq, melted children who were playing soccer.

During 55 minutes, the length of Obama’s speech, a hell of a lot of shocks and awes can be unleashed.

Certainly, in the amount of time required to call for a “new beginning between the United States and the Muslim world,” a detainee could contemplate suicide–could commit suicide.

And in the moments it took Obama to reference the Koran, quoting: “Be conscious of and speak always the truth,” a general could decide to lie about fratricide.

When the president said: “I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11, but let us be clear–al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day,” I went back to the date, remembering the fear, the horror, and the weeks and months that followed, the demand for revenge and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. And I also remembered the deceitful plot, the Bush/Cheney disaster, to connect Iraq to al Qaeda. Yes, 3000 people died on September 11, 2001 and, now, almost eight years later, in two countries, 5000 coalition troops have lost their lives and in Iraq, alone, the country that Bush and Cheney were determined, prior to 9/11, to conquer, over a million civilians have died.

Expressing his knowledge of Islamic history and culture, Obama said it is his “responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” And he lectured that:

The same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.

During the minutes Obama spoke about 9/11, the rich fabric of Islam, and his denial that the USA is a “self-interested empire, people in countries affected by our very sophisticated weapons of imperialism are dying, their loved ones stricken with grief remaining with them as long as they live.

And as he sermonized about America’s respect for the “sovereignty of nations and the rule of law,” and referred to “extremists,” I thought of the egregious crimes of war, including torture, committed by Bush and Company, and, now, continued by Obama. In the time required for the president to expose the hypocrisy of this country, George Bush, a free criminal who may never be held accountable, could have walked around his exclusive Dallas neighborhood several times, carrying a plastic bag to pick up Barney’s shit.

At some point, Obama talked tension–between Israelis and Palestinians. “Palestinians must abandon violence,” he said. “Hamas must put an end to violence.” Nothing to Israel about their attempted genocide of the Palestinian people, using weapons made by the US.

And as he spoke, American-made violence continues its savage march in multiple countries.

In 55 minutes, an orator can give a passionate speech, using soaring rhetoric. I couldn’t finish reading it, though. The ooze of piety was giving me a headache.

But as I closed the page, I thought: Assalamu Aleikum. Peace be upon you. Please, peace.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: