The Emperor’s Speech

The speech Barack Hussein Obama gave before the UN General Assembly aimed to assure the world that the Atlantic Empire was still the world’s hegemon, strong as ever, and committed to persevere in the historical mission of ridding the world of things that weren’t nice. While meant to sound inspirational and even triumphant at times, it came off more as an attempt at self-reassurance, a plea to the world to ignore the observable reality and continue to accept the myth of Imperial omnipotence.

Meaningless Peace

Almost at the start, Obama began making excuses. He inherited the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, but is about to end them "from a position of strength." Those who have to say they are strong usually are not. And though he claimed both countries will soon enjoy a "normal relationship" with the U.S. as "sovereign nations," Obama promised an "equal partnership" with Iraq and "enduring partnership" with the Afghan people – meaning that in practice, they won’t be rid of U.S. garrisons, drones, spies and bribes just yet, and maybe not ever.

So, in Empire-speak, "sovereignty" is entirely meaningless, and "partnership" means taking orders without question. File that for future reference.

The False Spring

The "tide of war is receding," Obama proclaimed. Al-Qaeda had been "degraded" and Osama bin Laden is dead. Freedom is erupting all over the world, with the "help" of Empire and its allies. In Obama’s narrative, everything is part of the inevitable historical march of "equality", from the civil wars in Ivory Coast and Libya to the "revolutions" in Tunisia and Egypt.

Never mind that the situation in Ivory Coast was not quite as simple, or that the popular revolts in north Africa all seem to have been at least partly driven by Imperial agents. Never mind that the UN authorized a no-fly zone in Libya, not a six-month bombing campaign and "regime change". Forget about the Shariah Democrats or whatever the Al-Qaeda in Libya calls itself now, having been installed in power by NATO. When facts come up against the narrative, the facts lose.

Notice also the different standards for different places. The Empire wants governments in Syria and Yemen gone, so they are told to surrender to the protesters – or else. Yet in Bahrain, a major US naval base, the Empire prefers "a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is responsive to the people" and believes " the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart."

It’s Always 1938 in Washington

When all one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Having chosen to cast itself as the preventer and punisher of genocide anywhere it may happen, the Empire proceeded to find genocides everywhere. Somewhere in the world, there is always a Hitler that needs stopping. Anything else would be appeasement, no?

Obama did not use the g-word, but he did wax euphemistic that the Libyan rebels were "threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century." What else was the U.S. to do but bomb for peace?

Ironic, then, that he chose to emphasize how the Libyan "liberation" was a triumph of the will ("the will of the coalition proved unbreakable"). Freudian slip? You decide.

The biggest dollop of hypocrisy was surely the claim that Libya represented a shining example for the future:

"This is how the international community is supposed to work — nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights."

Really? So it wasn’t really a clandestine operation gone horribly wrong, which had to be bailed out by a "kinetic military action" of bombers and special forces on the ground? Not an evil little war that was all about regime change and not in the least about the purported humanitarian concerns? Not a complete mockery of the UN? Well, then, if Obama says so, it must be true…

Balkans Standards

The portion of the Emperor’s speech concerning the Palestinian push for statehood wasn’t so much hypocritical as it was facetious.

One can find no flaw with the argument that "[u]ltimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over", and that the parties involved ought to "sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and each other’s fears." These aren’t just good sound bites, they actually make sense.

Why, then, is the Empire outright ignoring these supposedly firm beliefs and convictions in places such as Bosnia, or Kosovo? 

How come there is never any talk of compromise there? Why is there no concern for the hopes and fears of people the Empire commanded "must live together" in Bosnia, or those impacted by Empire’s creation of the "independent" Kosovo? Ah, but that is different – because the Empire says it is. How very Orwellian.

The Empire argued itself hoarse that Kosovo was a "unique case" and would not establish any precedents. Except it did. Could it be that the irritation with Mahmoud Abbas has less to do with Israel than with his attempt to exploit a loophole of Empire’s own making? Quod licet Iovi, etc.

Last, but not least, how come the Balkans was not mentioned in the speech at all, even though interventions there were clearly a model for the "liberation" of Libya from itself, and the current events in Kosovo had caused an acrimonious session of the Security Council just days prior?

Freedom to Obey

On and on the contradictions mount. Obama talked about nuclear disarmament, a new START treaty with Russia and the threat of Iran – but left out that the U.S. was building a ballistic missile shield (albeit one with doubtful functionality) not around Iran, but around Russia.

Similarly, while proclaiming the belief that "each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people" is all fine and good, setting Washington up in practice as the ultimate arbiter of both that course and those aspirations is much less so.

The promise that the U.S. will "pursue a deeper engagement with governments, but also with civil society — students and entrepreneurs, political parties and the press" sounds downright sinister when one considers the example of Serbia, a country practically occupied by an unelected government installed by the Empire and "civil society" funded by American and European taxpayers. In Serbia, the Empire demands unquestioned obedience. That’s a mighty strange definition of "freedom".

Dangerous Delusions

Though the Emperor painted an optimistic picture of human progress, declaring that the entire world needs to band together to achieve democracy and freedom from poverty, global warming, discrimination and all the usual utopian shibboleths, his vision lacked any grounding in reality.

It is not at all clear whether events in Africa are really as connected as Obama claims, or if the only thing they have in common is Empire’s hope to direct and control them. Such a delusion would be no less dangerous than the pernicious belief in harnessing the power of Islamic jihad to achieve geopolitical goals – a belief that persists despite the proof to the contrary offered by that September morning ten years ago.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.