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Obama Dodges Critique of Spying, Spins Syria, Delegates Africa to France

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 24 -- Before US President Barack Obama began his speech Tuesday in the UN General Assembly, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff devoted much of hers to denoucing US spying programs.

Obama may have foreseen that -- Rousseff canceled a planned meeting with him -- but barely mentioned it. Rather as his staff had predicted, in a pre-speech call Inner City Press reviewed here, he focused on Syria, Iran and "the Middle East," meaning Palestine and Israel.

Even on that, the US for example has delayed or denied the visa of a State of Palestine First Secretary from coming to the GA, see Inner City Press story, here.

On Syria, Obama said that neither the US nor any other country should decide who will take over in Syria. One wonders if he says that to Saudi Arabia, which sponsored Syria rebel boss Ahmad al Jarba, poised for a back-door faux "UN briefing" hosted by a group of Gulf and Western journalists.

As predicted, Obama's speech was light on Africa. The mentions came near the end, of US support for France and then the African Union in Mali, chasing the Lord's Resistance Army in "East Africa," and bombing Libya -- with the fig leaf of a Security Council resolution, of course.

There was no mention of Sudan, which Obama and his adviser have said they care so much about. While Obama used "Rwanda" as a trope of genocide, along with Srebrenica, he did not mention the UN's one-sided approach in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- another country, like Mali and Ivory Coast, which the US has left to France.

  Obama cited Bahrain, calling it sectarian -- no mention of the 10 year sentence of US national Taqi Al Mayden. In the middle of his speech, the UN loud speaker in the UN Media Center, without enough seats or electrical outlets, pitched first a treaty signing by Russia's Sergey Lavrov, then a photo op of Ban Ki-moon and the State of Palestine's Abbas.

Later today Ban will also press the flesh with Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Obama said the US will take action to stop "mass atrocity" -- but it did not in Sri Lanka in 2009, and Obama did not mention the country. (As Inner City Press noted on Sunday, Samantha Power did, at the Social Good Summit.)

  After Obama, Turkey's president Gul zoned in on Syria, no mention of spying, nor of Rousseff's indirect criticism by contrast of Turkey's crackdown on Occupy Gezi in Taksim Square and elsewhere.

  Let the speech count begin: how many mentions of Syria? How many of the attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya? How few other mentions of Africa? How many mentions of the US' spying? Watch this site.


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Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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