Reacting to President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world yesterday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) decried the president’s speech as “un-American” and even suggested Obama might be on the side of terrorists:
Sen. Jim Inhofe said today that President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo was “un-American” because he referred to the war in Iraq as “a war of choice” and didn’t criticize Iran for developing a nuclear program.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, also criticized the president for suggesting that torture was conducted at the military prison in Guantanamo, saying, “There has never been a documented case of torture at Guantanamo.”
“I just don’t know whose side he’s on,’’ Inhofe said of the president.
Unsurprisingly, actual Iraqis and Iranians — a couple of the key audiences for Obama’s speech — viewed it far more favorably than Inhofe. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the speech reflected greater understanding of Mideast culture and “reduces the chance of growth of extremist ideas that are trying to tarnish the image of Islam in the world.” “Obama’s speech was extraordinary. I loved it,” said 24-year old Iranian Morteza Sinaie. “I wish every Iranian would hear it. I think it would dramatically change their opinion about Obama and the United Sates.”
Reporting from Iraq, NPR correspondent JJ Sutherland noted one family said they wished Obama’s words “to be real. We wish what he’s saying to be real.” Reporting from Iran, Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson wrote, “Mr. Obama’s pledge that America was ‘ready to move forward’ with ‘courage, rectitude, and resolve’ will be welcome in Tehran.”
One of the important goals of Obama’s speech was to stop creating an “us versus them” mentality with the Muslim world, the very approach that Inhofe is still espousing. In his speech, Obama tried to end language that suggests the Muslim world and the U.S. are on competing sides:
I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
The Wall Street Journal reports, “Muslims in the Middle East and beyond praised U.S. President Barack Obama for the tone of his speech Thursday.” Al-Jazeera, the Arab world’s leading satellite channel, celebrated the speech as “an attempt at forging a new relationship between Washington and the Muslim world.” If the Muslim world is on America’s side, whose side is Inhofe on?
The Financial Times reports, “Even Saudi Islamists expressed their satisfaction after Mr Obama spoke on Thursday. ‘It is a beautiful speech in general,’ said Mohsen al-Awaji, an activist. ‘He talked about peace in Islam and we are saying yes, Islam is a religion of peace towards those who are peaceful with us but a religion of war for those who are fighting us.’”