Memo to Osama bin Laden re: Your latest audio release; It ain't working anymore, pal. You've become like the Doobie Brothers and released one album too many, and now it's time to hit the Oldies Circuit. You're yesterday's news, with a strong, charismatic competitor for the souls of Muslim youth throughout the Middle-East. All over your imaginary Caliphate, young people are replacing the Osama wall posters with Obama posters. One offers hope, the other offers death. No wonder you released a frantic communique criticising Obama's historic address in Cairo to the Muslim world. If the enormous youth population of the Arab Crescent begin to believe that an erudite man named Barack Hussein Obama can be elected president, maybe the U.S. isn't the "Great Satan" their radical coreligionists have led them to believe.
Obviously, no single speech can erase the chasm that exists between cultures, or diminish the zeal of holy warriors on either side, but Obama's superb address did more to influence the next generation of Muslim youth than eight years of Bush's selling them Democracy as, "God's gift to mankind." Obama is uniquely qualified to deliver a speech of this magnitude, and approached his massive Muslim audience with two things they never heard from the last administration; humility and respect. Making the speech in Cairo must have been particularly galling to Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's Dick Cheney, who claims that turf like the Gangsta Disciples. Islamic extremists, who use a great deal of religious symbolism in recruiting, must have freaked-out when they saw the Obama-like hieroglyph in the Great Pyramid at Giza. I know I did. The Pyramid is known to have great mystical powers and astronomical accuracy, and is a recorder of the past and predictor of the future. If Obama is somehow able to jump-start the Arab-Israeli peace talks, this country's Evangelical right, already in a frenzy over his references to the "Holy Koran," will be holding the President down in order to shave his head and search for the sixes.
Regardless of your opinion of the President, it took some courage and finesse to speak those hard truths. Like Daniel in the lion's den, he said the U.S.'s bond with Israel was "unbreakable" in the capitol city of an Arab country, while insisting that Hamas and Hezbollah must reject and rebuke violence. Simultaneously, Obama insisted that Israel cease settlement expansion in the West Bank in preparation for a Palestinian state. He was the first President to use the word "Palestine," and also the first to acknowledge the complicity of the CIA under Eisenhower to topple the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953. That was our original beef with Iran, which was more pro-Western than not, when we feared our oil might become more expensive, and so staged a coup, giving them the Shah instead of the people's choice as leader. While some criticize Obama for "apologising," he merely owned up to some unpleasant history that needed to be addressed. The Iranian elections are coming, Ahmadinejad is in political trouble, and their young voters were paying close attention to this speech. Could it tip the balance?
President Obama also represents, as an honest broker, the best chance for peace in the Holy Land that we may yet have seen. The Netanyahu government of Israel will make a lot of groaning noises, but they have the proven alliance of Hillary Clinton to assure their interests are protected, and the persuasiveness of George Mitchell to begin the process. Netanyahu is like Nixon or Ariel Sharon, in that he is bellicose and unyielding right up to the moment he realizes history could record him as a peacemaker, then he's a realist. As a result of the positive reception to Obama's Cairo speech in the Muslim world, the Palestinians may begin to moderate their stance. It's only a beginning, but what an absolute dilemma for Al-Qaeda. When the U.S. is represented by a man who tells his Egyptian audience, "I am a Christian," yet is able to quote from the Koran, who will Osama bin Laden demonize to recruit new suckers? Other than the Republicans, who can hate this man? What a delight to have a leader who understands the benefits of community organizing.