“… we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war”


After five years, President Obama returned to Berlin today and delivered another “historical” speech for about 4000 invited guests and probably millions watching him on TV. A bit boring (since we had already heard Mayor Klaus Wowereit and Chancellor Angela Merkel evoking the famous quote by John F. Kennedy from fifty years ago), also Obama referred to the young and charismatic president of the Cold War who took pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner”.

But more importantly he quoted a central admonition by Kennedy,

“So let me ask you […] to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.”

Did he address the Germans and their government here? It is Obama who seems to be constantly in conflict with his own standards. Many have lost any hopes that this talented speaker will ever live up to his own aspirations. What can we do with these sentences?

“[…]I drew inspiration from one of our founding fathers, James Madison, who wrote, ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’ James Madison is right — which is why, even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war.  And in America, that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo. It means tightly controlling our use of new technologies like drones.  It means balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy.

And I’m confident that that balance can be struck.  I’m confident of that, and I’m confident that working with Germany, we can keep each other safe while at the same time maintaining those essential values for which we fought for.” (Emphasis added.)

When did Obama ever fight for those indeed essential values?

“Our current programs are bound by the rule of law, and they’re focused on threats to our security — not the communications of ordinary persons.  They help confront real dangers, and they keep people safe here in the United States and here in Europe.  But we must accept the challenge that all of us in democratic governments face:  to listen to the voices who disagree with us; to have an open debate about how we use our powers and how we must constrain them; and to always remember that government exists to serve the power of the individual, and not the other way around.  That’s what makes us who we are, and that’s what makes us different from those on the other side of the wall.”

There are plenty of reasons for distrust. And how does that fit to relentless prosecution of whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden? Who else is digging truth? Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in this context, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is, of course, indecent.

19 June 2013 @ 5:41 pm.

Last modified June 20, 2013.

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