Obama’s speech about San Bernardino

I can’t bear to watch politicians on TV but the transcripts can be interesting. Here’s one from Sunday night: President Obama speaking about the shootings in San Bernardino.

But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.

Obama is now a scholar of Islam? How is he qualified to say what is a legitimate and what is a “perverted” interpretation of this religion?

As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and co-workers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino. I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris.

People without children don’t have feelings or opinions that are worth noting, though they are useful because we can tax them to subsidize Americans with children.

The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.

How can we know this? What stops an organization from getting hold of nuclear weapons, for example, and wiping us out?

We’re working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria

Turkey wants advice on border control from a country with 11+ million unauthorized immigrants (Pew)?

Fourth, with American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process and timeline to pursue cease-fires and a political resolution to the Syrian war.

Perhaps we can email the folks in Syria an ISO 9000 notebook for ending their power struggle. Once they have the thoroughly documented process that they have previously sought in vain, surely they will stop fighting immediately.

This is our strategy to destroy ISIL. It is designed and supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition.

These ISIL guys are stronger than 66 countries combined.

Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.

So everyone on the no-fly list needs to have at least one friend who can buy a gun?

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons, like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.

So that Americans waging jihad will concentrate on making better bombs, as the Tsarnaev brothers did?

For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of air strikes against ISIL targets.

U.S. air strikes are not effective against ISIL targets.

ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death.

Does ISIL actually have a “cult of death”? Or are they just trying to capture territory, rule that territory, and maintain a culture with which they are comfortable? We did a lot of violent stuff when taking over North America from the Indians and we seldom engage in that kind of violence anymore. If ISIL did manage to get a secure hold on a country is there evidence that they would be more violent than the U.S. government?

Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda promote, to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

If we truly have freedom of religion, why can’t Muslims interpret Islam any way that seems correct to them? Why does Islam have to become compatible with the values that Barack Obama chooses to state?

We were founded upon a belief in human dignity that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.

Can this be true? My understanding is that our country was founded by guys who owned slaves and set up laws specifically so that those slaves would not be their equals under the law.

Let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. … So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt that America will prevail.

There was no mention of the fact that San Bernardino stayed true to the California tradition of promising to pay large amounts to retired public employees and to bondholders who had lent the government money. Yet the city did not prevail. In fact, it went bankrupt in 2012 (SB Sun). The citizens of San Bernardino did not turn out to be exceptional to the point that they could ignore actuaries and arithmetic.

My take-away from the transcript is that the government doesn’t have any new or practical ideas for preventing a recurrence of the sad events of last week and, further, that political leaders tend to be as overconfident on ISIL as they have been on pension commitments. I do wonder if attacks like this are not a priority for our top leaders because they personally are not at risk. Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik would not have been able to get anywhere near President Obama, for example.

Readers who watched this: Was it persuasive/reassuring as an audio/video experience?

20 thoughts on “Obama’s speech about San Bernardino

  1. “why can’t Muslims interpret Islam any way that seems correct to them? Why does Islam have to become compatible with the values that Barack Obama chooses to state?”

    That’s it, basically. Also applies to all religions and or philosophies. Every time someone uses religion as an excuse for [whatever] and my friends come out in defense of said religion, saying that it is really a peaceful/kitten loving religion, and has been perverted by the perpetrators, I like to use this spiel:

    “I completely agree. Every time there is a mass shooting and all the hoplophobes show their true colours only the NRA has the decency to point out that the overwhelming majority of gun owners are decent law abiding people who have never committed, and will never commit andy crime or act of violence. Bigots are quick to find videos of lunatics posturing with their guns and talking trash, and they tarnish all decent sport men and women, all decent gun collectors with the same brush. Sorry, you were not talking about gun? Not about the NRA? I did not mean to point out your inconsistent and irrational political and social position, sorry”.

    I am losing friends currently.

  2. I guess the speech in general is a political instrument, and not be judged by the standards of engineering folk; since it was given by the king of the most powerful country on earth, my default assumption is that is is probably a pretty good example of its kind.

    On guns: all my gun-owner friends are perfectly nice, responsible people, and I’m happy to admit that shooting guns with them is great fun.

    However… there was a time when the ease of purchasing really high-quality rifles in the USA led directly to us having to contend with irritatingly well-armed domestic terrorists. Funnily enough, these terrorists were also versed in explosives, which they could manufacture locally, without the bother of smuggling them over from Boston – I guess sometimes, they just preferred to shoot people, and a nice American Barrett Light 50 is a pretty great tool for that, especially if you think your victims might be unkind enough to return fire and you are unsporting enough to want to get your rounds in from a safe distance.

    For sure, making firearms harder to buy is no guarantee of stopping any particular incident – but really, America has a pretty embarrassing rate of death by shooting (mostly suicides), as compared to basically any vaguely equivalent country (Canada, any European country, even Finland). Tens of thousands per year, more than half of them suicides? Room for improvement, surely?

    On suicides, one would think that a determined suicide would find plenty of other ways to do it – but apparently, most suicides are rather impulsive, not so determined, and absent a convenient bridge or pistol, will live to die another day.

  3. I agree with most of the post, except the first item. You don’t have to be a “scholar of Islam” to understand that the ISIS version is heretical (though granted this term doesn’t mean in Sunni Islam what it means in Christianity) and really weird. They practice Wahhabism, which really is a perverted brand of Islam. The Saudis, for example, who are (or are allied with) Wahhabists, wanted to completely destroy Mecca when they took it over, but they were dissuaded by the prospect of warfare with the rest of the Islamic world, and the lost of revenue from pilgrims. They have settled for destroying most of the historical city outside the Great Mosque.

    The problem with this part of the speech is that the US government’s biggest allies among Islamic countries are Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both have been key backers of ISIS, and the Saudis are the main proponent of this “perverted brand of Islam”. This means that the US government itself has been backing ISIS at least indirectly.

    The Yabba Dabba Doos of San Bernardino were almost certainly Wahhabists, as shown by the burqua. The Saudis have spent alot of money promoting their brand of Islam.

  4. Les E: I’ve read that Atlantic article, but don’t accept the author as a prophet. I don’t see how anyone can extrapolate reliably from how a group behaves while conquering territory to how they would be behave if in secure possession of territory.

    Another Ed: If there is no Pope, who is to say that Wahhabism is “perverted” or “heretical”? Is there a scientific test that can be run to establish that one interpretation of a religion is correct and another one is incorrect?

  5. For their first few hundred years Christians went around killing each other over which of the 30+ gospels was better. Finally the Roman emperor Constantine had enough, and ordered church leaders to come up with something they could all agree on to end the violence. The result was the original 30+ gospels were edited into 4 (Mathew,Mark, Luke, John), and all others were banned under penalty of death. It took a few generations, but the violence did subside and today few Christians even know of the existence of the original gospels.

    The same thing needs to happen with mohamedism. Their religious texts need an editing to purge the bits about “waging global war until all non-believers have been converted, enslaved, or killed”.

    Until then mohamedists will continue to kill thousands of people every month, just as they have for the last 1400 years.

  6. The following from Obama’s speech is laughable:

    “Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL …”

    I have not seen a shred of evidence of the following “continue working with us” or “decisively and unequivocally reject” this ideology. When was the last time Muslim leaders marched in masses after a Friday prayer to reject ISIL? Or gave sermons that ISIL is not Islam?

    Obama’s overall speech was crafted so carefully to make sure it does not offend the Saudis and the like leaders. If he cannot publicly call out Muslim leaders and countries by name, I hope he is doing it privately, and doing so with a strong warning to those leaders.

  7. George: Even one or more “Muslim leaders” criticized this interpretation of Islam, why would that make a difference to people who disagreed? For example, there is no dispute that the Pope is the leader of the Catholic church. But if the Pope says something there is nothing requiring Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, et al. to agree with the Pope’s interpretation.

  8. @philg: It will make a difference because “leaders” have a huge influence on society, directly or indirectly. Here is why.

    For example, I disagree with the unhuman public punishments that are carried out in Saudi Arabia. The fact that Muslim leaders don’t speak in force about it, sends the message that this is acceptable form of justice to be carried out. As a result, those with extreme ideology apply it to to further their cause and believe by brain washing those around them that this is justice.

    Sure, there are those who will disagree with the Pope, but the Pope speaks against killing [1] while Muslim leaders keep numb on such topics.

    [1] This is not to say that past Pope’s or leaders never did wrong, Crusades is well documented.

  9. So what do you think about banning all Muslims from coming in? Isn’t thinking different from acting?

  10. One difference between Islam and Christianity is the relative lack of a clerical bureaucracy in Islam that can pronounce ideas and practices as heretical and un-Islamic. Shia Islam has such a bureaucracy, but it covers only a minority (about 10%) of Muslims. Sunni Islam has a structure more similar to fundamentalist Protestantism, where you have loosely coordinated independent churches/ mosques. But most Christians worldwide (though maybe not in the US) adhere to a bureaucratically organized church.

    However, Islam does have a doctrine developed from the argument of recognized scholars/ theologians. Wahhabism developed from a fringe follower of a rather fringe scholar. It contains a number of concepts that are just not found in the rest of Islam, such as the idea that jihad can be waged on other Muslims. It is important because the Saudi royal family backs it, and they control both Mecca and Medina and about a quarter of the world’s oil reserves.

  11. Jack: A ban on Muslim immigration could never happen in the U.S., I don’t think, for the reasons cited in http://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2015/09/27/immigrants-will-boost-our-economy/

    (There are a lot of Americans who have a financial stake in accepting immigrants who can be plausibly suspected of being involved in, or planning, violence against America. Our political system tends to resolve issues like this in favor of the smaller group that stands to benefit most significantly. Also, accepting immigrants who are perceived as dangerous creates public acceptance of more resources going to the Great Father in Washington who will protect us from the danger.)

  12. Can anyone explain to me why almost all Western leaders since 9/11 have almost universally claimed to know the mind of God by declaring that True Islam (and all religions) must conform to present secular values and that anyone who rejects modern human rights is an apostate? This bizarre irony continues to hopelessly confuse me.

    It has been obvious to anyone who has cared to look: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/

    Even since the time of Thomas Jefferson: http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_2_urbanities-thomas_jefferson.html

    That most followers of Mohammad don’t share social values with the first world and live in cultures that reject free speech, equal legal rights for women, non-believers, etc.

    But in spite of this it is as if a force from the fourth dimension compels the representatives of secular democracies to speak for God himself. As if it is within the power states like France and America to also act as a sort of secular-church.

    Why can’t political leaders just say, “Anyone who opposes personal freedom is a threat to our democracy. Any religious teaching which threatens our freedom of expression is a threat to our society.” Instead of invoking the name of God/Allah? Like if Obama ended his speech with Allahu Akbar it would just be redundant!

    Western societies are already composed of believers (voters) who by the definitions of their religions already live in a world where all gods are created in the image of man except one or less. So pandering to the minority flock of Allah doesn’t even make political sense…what’s worse is that it is actually heretical to most foreign Muslims and probably a significant portion of American ones.

    Why, why does Obama and others in similar positions anoint themselves as prophets for Allah? I have struggled with this for years :/

  13. Why has no one declared a war on the political ambitions of Mohammed and his followers for its own sake? That seems to be the threat…

    Such a campaign would have steps something like this:

    1. Acknowledging the prejudices of the followers of Mohammed: a. Their hatred of Jews and Israel. b. Their tradition of rampant sexism. c. Their contempt for unbelievers and secular culture. d. Their devotion to the oppressive political system of Sharia Law. Their declaration of Jihad against the nations which reject these things.
    2. Resolving to try and not aggravate any of these sensibilities in order to avoid terrorism by: a. Not invading Muslim majority countries and imposing democracy upon their citizens or supporting further oppression of Muslim people. b. Limiting immigrants from Muslim majority countries to reduce cultural conflict. c. Desperately trying to integrate Muslims who cannot be deported without offending them.
    3. Working to subvert the traditions of Mohammed by: a. Secretly working to make Mohammedanism seem inferior to its followers. b. Secretly working to explain the virtues of secular values to the followers of Mohammed. Secretly, otherwise it’s just heresy and promotes an immune response.

    What else can Western society do? Is this not practical?

    Separately, why can’t the public discourse come to a consensus on defining this threat with a standard term? Thomas Jefferson used Mohammedan/ism. That seems good enough. Mohammed married pre-teenage girls, sawed off heads, established extreme sexism and subjugated (or worse) the unbeliever. Islamism is sort of a nebulous term. But Islam’s prophet is a perfect personification of all the religions threatening qualities. Is anyone else in favor of bringing back the noun/adjective Mohammedan? Although it would be offensive his transgressions against modern secularism are so obvious this seems like it would at least get whichever public figure started using it a lot of air-time.

    Finally, why isn’t anyone comparing ISIS to The Kingdom of Suadi Arabia? The media loves reversing the comparison – comparing Saudi oppression to ISIS best practices, but Saudi Arabia has been practicing institutionalized Sharia Law for generations, of course it’s going to run a lot smoother than it does in Syria today. What differences exactly would there be between the new Islamic Caliphate a hundred years from now and Saudi Arabia today? I can’t think of any. Would this point of view not drive a lot of add impressions?

    It seems like there really is a supernatural force compelling secular representatives to speak for it, I wish I could feel it too…can anyone teach me?

  14. Al Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, has a PhD in Islamic theology so I think that he is credible and qualified when he says that what ISIS is doing is compatible with, indeed demanded by, his religion. If Islamic clerics in the West aren’t saying the same thing, it’s because they are preaching a watered down, Westernized version of their religion (or talking out of both sides of their mouth for a Western audience), not because al Baghdadi is wrong.

  15. Jack: You motivated me to hit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr_al-Baghdadi . If true, I think that this guy’s background does show how little we know and perhaps ever will know about ISIL: “contemporaries of al-Baghdadi describe him in his youth as being shy, unimpressive, a religious scholar, and a man who eschewed violence.” Also the fact that he was detained and released by the U.S. “as a low level prisoner.”

  16. Fun fact: The successor to Muhammad after his death and first Muslim Caliph (ruler of all Muslims) and the founder of the Sunni tribe was also named Abu Bakr.

    From his Wikipedia, “He is considered by sunnis as the greatest of all the companions of Muhammad”

    I wonder how providential this must seem in that area of the world.


    That Western infidel leaders would claim to know the mind of God when they are going up against a guy like this is beyond my understanding.

  17. Consider this similarity from the Wikipedia of Abu Bakr, the first Muslim Caliph,

    “After assuming the office of Caliphate Abu Bakr’s first address was as follows:

    I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God wills; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God wills. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger. But if I disobey God and His Messenger, you owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer, God have mercy upon you.

    And this rough English translation of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s first video address to the new Muslim Caliphate

    https://youtu.be/F7Jt_t5N3x4?t=583 Relevant transcript excerpt:

    “I have been tested with this trust, a heavy trust, and been appointed as a guardian over you, and I neither am the best of you nor am I better than you. So if you see me on the truth, then assist me. And if you see me on falsehood then advise me and correct me. And obey me as long as I obey Allah regarding you, but if I disobey Him, then there is no obedience for you to me. … Arise for your prayer, God have mercy upon you [end of address].”

    What possible benefit could there be for Western leaders to wade into the spiritual dimension? Why do they try to have a theological debate instead of reminding us all of the virtues of secular democracy, personal freedom, etc? Does anyone know? Why Merkel and Hollande and Obama insist upon criticizing religious motives instead of defending secular principles and humanism in general? Is Allah clouding their vision? I just don’t understand.

    FDR didn’t declare a war on sneak attacks when Japan torpedoed Pearl Harbor. What prescience led King Bush II to declare a war on Terrorism? It’s just a method. Jefferson used Mohammedan. That seems apt.

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