". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Miami Herald's Transcript of the Obama SA Summit Press Conference

Posted on Sun, Apr. 19, 2009
Transcript of Obama news conference
THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago)

Following are the three bits pulled from the Press Conference that were of the most interest to me personally:

[ "But one of the things that I mentioned in both public remarks as well as private remarks is that the United States obviously has a history in this region that's not always appreciated from the perspective of some, but that what we need to do is try to move forward, and that I am responsible for how this administration acts and we will be respectful to those democratically elected governments, even when we disagree with them." ]

This is the Obama version of the end of history; he labels it 'moving forward.' But this isn't going to take place when all the structures, forms and even the actual personages are all still in place who have created that "perspective of some," that the U.S. is a military bully operating for U.S. and multi-national corps' interests, first-second-third-and-only, that tortures, that commits and supports massacres as in Guatamala -- well we can go on, can't we.

[ "One thing that I thought was interesting -- and I knew this in a more abstract way but it was interesting in very specific terms -- hearing from these leaders who when they spoke about Cuba talked very specifically about the thousands of doctors from Cuba that are dispersed all throughout the region, and upon which many of these countries heavily depend. And it's a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence and have -- have a beneficial effect when we need to try to move policies that are of concern to us forward in the region." ]

Amen, Brother O. But nevermind, you'll just go on to repeat the same old same old though you insist it's the end of history, er, a fresh start.

[ "Look, what I said and what I think my entire administration has acknowledged is, is that the policy that we've had in place for 50 years hasn’t worked the way we want it to. The Cuban people are not free. And that's our lodestone, our North Star, when it come to our policy in Cuba.

It is my belief that we're not going to change that policy overnight, and the steps that we took I think were constructive in sending a signal that we'd like to see a transformation. But I am persuaded that it is important to send a signal that issues of political prisoners, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, democracy -- that those continue to be important, that they're not simply something to be brushed aside.

What was remarkable about the summit was that every leader who was participating was democratically elected. We might not be happy with the results of some elections; we might be happier with others; we might disagree with some of the leaders, but they all were conferred the legitimacy of a country speaking through democratic channels. And that is not yet there in Cuba.
Now, I think that as a starting point, it's important for us not to think that completely ignoring Cuba is somehow going to change policy, and the fact that you had Raul Castro say he's willing to have his government discuss with ours not just issues of lifting the embargo, but issues of human rights, political prisoners, that's a sign of progress.

And so we're going to explore and see if we can make some further steps. There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners. They could reduce charges on remittances to match up with the policies that we have put in place to allow Cuban merican families to send remittances. It turns out that Cuba charges an awful lot, they take a lot off the top. That would be an example of cooperation where both governments are working to help Cuban families and raise standards of living in Cuba." ]

I'd like to see all this implemented right here in the U.S., including the closing of our secret prisons and secret arrest and stocking of those prisons with political prisoners, who still seem to be tortured, among other things. I'd like to see these same policies implemented then, that Cuba is being ordered to implement, with China and North Korea and many, many other of this nation's 'friends.' I loathe this nation's lying hypocrisy.


K. said...

Obama's remarks must be considered in the context of past American policy toward Latin America, which essentially viewed the region through the prism of the Cold War. This misguided approach found us supporting the Allendes and Somozas of the region for no other reason other than that they were anti-Communist, looking the other way as they oppressed their own people.

Obama at least implicitly admits to the wrongness of that policy and wants to move beyond it. Politically, he can't do a mea culpa for the United States without also arguing that we are to an extent unfairly viewed in the region. You don't have to agree with this to realize that domestically he can't say otherwise.

One of the macro issues with American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War is that we haven't moved our thinking forward. For example, Friday's Times reported on the Taliban's success in taking control of a region of Pakistan by forcing a semblance of land reform. I would say that it's beyond me why we've provided Pakistan with billions of dollars in aid without requiring land reform, but it's not: It's a product of Cold War "diplomacy."

Now, it's clearly in our interests to develop a human-rights based foreign policy. This is the point we as progressives must make at every chance.

Foxessa said...

Cold war diplomacy was unsuccessful, and created devastation of kind in the places where the U.S. practiced it, including right here in the U.S.

Additionally, this cold war diplomacy was also, at least partly, and even in great part, protectionism for U.S. capitalist corporations, who reaped the benefits of low prices for resources, cheap labor and safety from any legal retaliation for their criminal and immoral behaviors.

Love, C.