President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world has been a welcome development after eight years of President Bush’s “us vs. them” approach. “Let me say this as clearly as I can,” he told the Turkish parliament yesterday. “The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.” He told Turkish students today, “You will find a partner and a supporter and a friend in the United States of America.” Middle Eastern leaders are embracing Obama’s outreach already.
But apparently, the conservative establishment finds such outreach objectionable. On Fox News yesterday, John Bolton, Bill Kristol, and Sean Hannity all derided Obama’s comments to the Turkish parliament. They argued that in fact, the Iraq war served as evidence of America’s concern for Muslims. CNN’s Lou Dobbs also decried Obama’s praise for the “great civilization of Iran”:
BOLTON:There are an enormous amount of things we’ve done to benefit Muslims in countries all over the world. We have nothing to apologize for.
KRISTOL: But could Barack Obama say something that would be mildly unpopular to an audience which he was speaking? No. Could he say that the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq are just and that we have fought for Muslims, incidentally under President Clinton we fought for Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo?
HANNITY: It seemed to me…that this was an attempt to apologize for toppling Saddam Hussein and the war on terror.
DOBBS: In his efforts to charm our allies, President Obama noted that Islam helped shape the world for the better, including the United States. He even declared Iran to be a great civilization.
Charles Krauthammer said Obama’s parliament speech was “not original and not terribly important.” Kristol responded that Krauthammer was being “too nice.” Watch a compilation:
In his first trip abroad, Obama also extended a hand towards Europe, saying that America had “shown arrogance” and had “been dismissive, even derisive” towards Europeans in the past. Again, the right wing saw this as evidence of Obama’s anti-Americanism.
The outreach is desperately needed. Over “70 percent of Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Moroccans believe the United States is trying to weaken and divide the Islamic world,” an April 2007 WorldPublicOpinion poll said. It seems that for the far right, however, the best outreach is always through bullets and bombs.
In a press conference alongside Obama in Iraq today, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki remarked: “I appreciate very much the call for dialogue that President Obama mentioned, especially between East and West, between Islam and Christianity, and also work to solve the Palestinian issue that will help reduce violence in the area drastically. It will help in giving people their rights also produce peace that we’ve been looking forward for a few years.”