Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Tale of Three Speeches

Current Affairs ---

The 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly has been concluded. Highly anticipated was the speech given by His Holiness, Pope Francis and the speeches given by President Obama and President Putin. Pope Francis, as has been his custom, spoke in generalities without specifically naming or calling to account the states and institutions responsible for the violence, inequality, and environmental crisis in our world. President Obama touched on some nice themes in his speech, underlining the need for cooperation, adherence to international law, and other nice-sounding things. However, the actions of the United States throughout its history have reflected nothing close to those ideals that Obama claims it embraces. It has acted on the philosophy that might makes right. It has imposed its will on weaker states. It has asserted its power in contravention of international law. It has paid lip-service to the principle of freedom and instead seeks to project its power globally. It has imposed its own version of "stability" on foreign lands. It has been responsible for the slaughter of countless number in its own land and elsewhere in the world, and it continues to promote the lie that it supports the advancement and emergence of democracies on every continent. 

President Putin's speech also pushed for cooperation among states and for the adherence of all states to the norms and principles of international law and of the UN Charter. The speech was right on the money, and it was obvious that the chief violator he had in mind was the United States, but he, like Pope Francis, didn't name names and didn't call anyone to account. What was even more disappointing was that even before the session of the General Assembly had come to an end, President Putin got into doing that which everyone else was doing - he got into the bomb-dropping game in Syria. I had hoped he would have continued to stay above the fray, eschewing violence and militarization. If you drop bombs from on high, at some point those bombs will fall on innocent civilians, and now that Putin is also raining bombs on terrorist positions in Syria, it is only a matter of time (regardless of claims of precision bombing) before his hands also become stained with the blood of innocent civilians.

Lastly, one glaring omission from the speeches of these three world leaders was the situation of the Palestinians. Not a single mention by any of these men of the continued subjugation and humiliation by Israel of the Palestinian people. 

[photo art by Ric Couchman]