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Rubin Reports

The Secret Document That Set Obama’s Middle East Policy

March 14th, 2013 - 9:42 am

What did Obama and his advisors think would happen? That out of gratitude for America stopping its (alleged) bullying and imperialistic ways and getting on the (alleged) side of history, the new regimes would be friendly. The Muslim Brotherhood in particular would conclude that America was not its enemy.

You know, one Brotherhood leader would supposedly say to another: all of these years we thought the United States was against us, but now we see that they are really our friends. Remember Obama’s Cairo speech? He really gets us!

More likely he’d be saying: we don’t understand precisely what the Americans are up to but they are obviously weak, cowardly, and in decline.

In fact, that’s what they did say. Remember that President Jimmy Carter’s attempts to make friends with the new Islamist regime in Iran in 1979 fed a combination of Iranian suspicion and arrogance which led to the hostage crisis, and Tehran daring to take on the United States single-handed. America, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said at the time, can’t do a damned thing against us.

Incidentally, everyone except the American public — which means people in the Middle East — knows that Obama cut the funding for real democratic groups. His Cairo speech was important not for the points so often discussed (Israel, for example) but because it heralded the age of political Islamism being dominant in the region. Indeed, Obama practically told those people that they should identify not as Arabs, but as Muslims.

In broader terms, what does Obama’s behavior remind me of? President Jimmy Carter pushing Iran’s shah for human rights and other reforms in 1977, and then standing aloof as the revolution unrolled — and went increasingly in the direction of radical Islamists — in 1978.

As noted above, that didn’t work out too well.

Incidentally, the State Department quite visibly did not support Obama’s policy in 2011. It wanted to stand with its traditional clients in the threatened Arab governments, just as presumably there were many in the Defense Department who wanted to help the imperiled militaries with whom they had cooperated for years. And that, by the way, includes the Turkish army, which was being visibly dismantled by the Islamist regime in Ankara.

While the State Department backed down on Egypt, it drew the line on Bahrain. Yes, there is a very unfair system there in which a small Sunni minority dominates a large Shia majority, and yes, too, some of the Shia opposition is moderate, but the assessment was that a revolution would probably bring to power an Iranian satellite government.  

But the idea — that they’re going to be overthrown anyway so let’s give them a push — did not apply to Iran or Syria or Hamas-government Gaza or Hizballah-governed Lebanon and not at all to Islamist-governed Turkey.

It makes sense that this basic thinking also applied to Libya, where dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi was hardly a friend of the United States, but had been on better behavior lately. As for Syria, the U.S. government indifference to who actually wins leadership of the new regime seems to carry over from the earlier crises.

Credit should be given to the U.S. government in two specific cases. Once the decision to overthrow Qadhafi was made, the result was a relatively favorable regime in Libya. That was a gain. The problem is that this same philosophy and the fragility of the regime helped produce the Benghazi incident. The other relatively positive situation was Iraq’s post-Saddam government, to which most of the credit goes to Obama’s predecessor but some to his administration. Still, Iraq seems to be sliding — in terms of its regional strategic stance, not domestically — closer toward Iran.

At any rate, the evidence both public and behind the scenes seems to indicate that the Obama administration decided on two principles in early 2011.

– First, let’s help overthrow our friends before someone else does so, and somehow we will benefit from being on the winning side.

– Second, it doesn’t really matter too much who takes power, because somehow they will be better than their predecessors, somehow we will be more popular with them, and somehow U.S. interests will be preserved.

Landler definitely thought he was making Obama look good.

Instead, he was showing us that the bad thinking and disastrous policy was planned and purposeful.

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There are many who believe that Obama is with traitorous intent purposely destroying American interests and power, but your analysis is more subtle. He is doing it with the best of intentions - specifically trying to realize what you would expect of a suddenly empowered, left leaning college professor: reshape the world guided by a post colonial vision. How could we expect otherwise when our children, and my grandchildren by the way, are routinely taught that Americans have nothing to be proud of and everything to be ashamed of courtesy of the late Howard Zinn? I remember Harry Truman who stopped the communists in Korea and was as despised as Bush for his troubles. And I have been looking at Korea again and noticing the differences between North and South and how very clear it is that Truman's unpopular war has been justified. He was, it seems, to use a Bolshevik category of thought, on the right side of history.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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I love how those who parrot the Green-Red Alliance talking points deny the history of the world since 600 A.D. (or C.E. for you sensitive types) !! Did anyone read what the King of Jordan just said the other day about the Muslim Brotherhood ??! Yet CAIR-HAMAS runs assine ad campaign trying to convince us that Jihad is about stamp collecting and yoga training ! USA will be destroyed because the Green-Red Alliance and no real resistance to it !!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mr Rubin's article displays the cognitive dissonance of adherence to conflicting memes of a certain group in our party that is at bottom the question of whether Western value best exemplified by America are universal or not. We see the same thing in Andrew McCarthy and many other Republicans. We see it most in the Democrats, but we expect that from Libs.

It may well be that Obama fomented revolution in the region intentionally. At any rate, I take it that he unceremoniously dumped an ally in Mubarak unwisely, and it riled our allies. Not smart. Stupid in fact. But it it that smart to believe as Rubin claims to that it is "easy" to "ensure that moderate, pro-democratic forces win the power struggle over radical Islamist" influences? Easy? What if it requires civil wars to do that just like it did with our ancestors? I also deplore Obama's ignoring the Green Movement in Iran, but is giving lip service to it only any better? What did the previous administration do about democratic forces in Iran? Nothing, though I think it wanted to and probably even intended to. But why didn't it? Well, a large part of it was that the State Department that Rubin has so much confidence in didn't agree with it and actively participated in a war with the administration over it with the CIA, and won! That and the vicious attacks over Iraq war conducted by the Lib intelligentsia. So Bush can be forgiven for not engaging the Green Movement because you can only fight so many battles at once.

Rubin is right in hinting that the primary question is whether the lid can be kept on the powder keg of tyrannical governments indefinitely. But he's wrong to think it can, and wrong to have confidence that the lid can be torn off without violence and instability. He's just another advocate of the Church of Stability that has reigned since Yalta and before. Of course tyrannical governments are unstable, and of course we can't prop them up forever without denying our values. And the steps to gradual reform get reversed by good intentions as well as bad. We're far enough away from 9/11 that people now feel safe again and are right back there again with sticking their heads in the sand.

Backing the Brotherhood was stupid but as an oppressed group it is likely they'd have won power anyway. That is human nature. The problem isn't that they won power, but that we're now bailing them out with billions so they can act like Islamofascists and not care about governing their own people, which would moderate them or drive them from power.

It could actually be that if the democratic forces that are rioting in Egypt that Rubin can't see for his faith in the global power brokering reminescent of past generations, and the narrow squint spawed by a lack of confidence in Western values (unlike those who've seen the results of not having them, say Ayaan Hirsi Ali http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/09/16/ayaan-hirsi-ali-on-the-islamists-final-stand.html), can continue to hang on and weaken Morsi from doing what he'd like that something positive will come out of it.

Sound idealistic? Any more than that what Rubin claims is "easy" will be done despite the fact that even administrations who wanted to weren't able to do it? So even though we have the most left-wing and misguided president in history, it could be that his bad intentions might actually be a case of accidentally doing something that turns out better than all the good intentions of those who did nothing for various reasons. It all depends on whether we actively choose the wrong side now, as Obama is wont to do but the Republicans should oppose, not whether we should have tried to prop up a dictator longer.

Of course an Egyption revolution was inevitable, despite Rubin's quaint idealistic hope in dictators.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have argued from the beginning that America should NOT oppose freely elected Islamists. If Islam is the single greatest force for failure in the middle east, then elected Islamists will quickly discredit themselves without a U.S.-backed dictator or interference to blame the failure on.

This exact scenario is being played out in Egypt. Egyptians oppose the Brotherhood-ization of Egyptian institutions and Morsi has had his every move challenged. Believe it or not, many long for the days of army rule. Remember, the revolution was not about a democracy per se, but fair play within a system that already largely existed but was corrupted. There is not a single day that goes by without street protests somewhere.

The same thing is happening in Tunisia where thousands are in the streets demanding the dissolution of the Islamist gov't. Islamists who thought they'd have things their own way are not dealing with the fact these people don't want to trade one yoke for another.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Don't mistake a few thousand, or even a few hundred thousand, protesters in Egypt as being what the majority of Egyptians want. That was the mistake that most MENA "experts" made during the Arab Spring folly. They were shocked when the people voted in Islamists by large percentages.

They should not have been surprised!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And yet people who predicted such things had no mechanics of how such a thing might occur to back up their predictions. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. They have no facts with which to predict the next elections either. It's a crap shoot claiming the powers of prognostication and simply ignoring everything else they're wrong about.

And explain how the Arab Spring in Egypt was a folly. For who? You?

I wrote an essay in Feb. 2011 explaining how the MB couldn't take over or succeed in Egypt other than by the vote when everyone else was whining they'd simply overrun the place.

Now people are admitting the Islamists were VOTED in and pretending there's no such thing as term limits. Say the worst and that's a prediction. That's just always betting the same number and howling in glee when the wheel stops on negative.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If Comrade Obama were a Muslim agent acting in furtherance of the aim of re-establishing the Caliphate, what would he do differently?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There has never been "the" Caliphate and the word itself shouldn't be used since it implies distinctions that in fact don't exist. In short, the way it is commonly used is results in nothing more than semantic gibberish. In fact no uniform concept of a caliphate has ever existed. The term carries no more specific meaning in actual fact and history than a kingdom which is also Christian. All empires have a religion and culture and law flow from those religions. So how many "Caliphates" existed in England and which was "the?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Caliphates are by definition Moslem. It is dar al Islam.

The last one, aka the Ottoman Empire, fell during WWI.
1 year ago
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The triumph of folly. When a Nobel Peace Price was granted undeservedly to a flamboyant politician on the ascent, were we able to discern the warning of more acts of folly to come?

Positioning oneself "on the side of history" maybe the ultimate rationalization of one who chose to let the worst trends of history to proceed unabated. May we learn from the tragic deeds of King Caboose the First.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

Well, if the old USofA isn't at war with Islam (that beautiful political ideology in religious clothing) that's a crying shame be cause Islam (that beautiful political ideology in religious clothing) sure is at war with the rest of the world.

Islam is the millstone. If your plan doesn't include constraining, undermining, or eradicating Islam, you don't have a plan. What you have is a hope.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Islam is not at war with the world. Certain radicalized and politicized expressions of it are, and they are in the great minority. Today, in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is daily becoming more and more reviled. If they can't even win over their own country, how in the hell are they supposed to manage others? I can guarantee you Morsi will not win re-election. He may not even run in order to avoid the black eye it'll give the MB. But they'll run someone, so the black eye can hardly be avoided.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Islam is permanently at war with the non-muslim world. The jihad continues everywhere muslims happen to be. The day to day politics in this or that country come and go but the war (jihad) continues. Allah wills it. Read the Koran, Fail.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings, Fail Burton:

I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my assertions, but no sale. The last time I went through that Korany thingy, that Dar-al-Islam versus Dar-al-Harb business seemed pretty clear to me. Your argument is somewhat akin to saying that, during World War II , most Germans weren't Nazis or weren't in the Wehrmacht. That Muslims are content to stand by and doing nothing to enlighten their confused brethren and sistren makes it a rather mute point.

As to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, I wouldn't go getting ahead of myself by predicting its demise. It seems to have set its roots in those entitlement oriented, low-information voters like another ruling party of which I have heard and which seems to be doing unfortunately well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think the argument goes more like Germans were Christians and so the entirety of Europe should've been fully on board with them. Obviously they were not.

The idea Muslim nations share that type of solidarity for good or ill is just plain dumb. Nationalism far outweighs religion in the ME. Egyptians are all angry right now cuz a Copt, a Christian but an Egyptian, was killed in Libya and have been burning Libyan flags in front of the embassy in Cairo.

And no they're not all Christians, and if they were, that would put paid to the idea Christians are skulking the streets of Cairo like rats, keeping their heads down.

And 2 years on, what happened to Iran on the Nile everyone here was predicting while I laughed?

I am not predicting the demise of the MB, but I am saying their credibility has been severely compromised with non-MB folks.

Islam is not at war with the West. Indonesia doesn't give a squat about Jordan nor Jordan give a squat about Muslim Turkish Kurds.

The point is that the situation in Islamic countries is far more nuanced than blithe readings of the Koran and invoking "Caliphates" will give you. Look at who gets angry about Koran burnings and stupid videos and who goes "So what?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings, Fail Burton:

One of my influences as to things Islamic is Fouad Ajami who has written that those are the lands of "I against my brother; my brother and I against our cousin; and my cousin, my brother, and I against the stranger." I think that that's about as nuanced as it gets with those folks. I see the miracle of Islam as nothing more than the globalization of your basic 7th Century Arab tribal culture under the guise of religious belief. I agree that Muslims "nations", in spite that whole "ummah" thingy, don't share a type of solidarity other than "Let's stick it some more to some kuffars. Allahu akbar." Even Indonesia, which you cited as an outlier is currently in conflict with a bunch of its co-religionists from the Philippines. I haven't yet figured out whether that makes the invader/occupiers "cousins" or "strangers".

Islam was a mess from the very beginning and now its a 14 centuries old mess. Granting it ideological sanctuary by pretending it is other than what it says it is a guarantor of ongoing difficulties.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
11B40 & Fail Burton: I appreciate the discussion you're having with each other. May I offer an attempt to reconcile your views somewhat. I agree with Fail Burton that seeing this in terms of religion is a mistake. Even Islamicists admit they see no distinction between religion and politics, so it isn't even a religion in Western terms. And 11B40, you're right by characterizing what Fouad Ajami said as "tribal culture", but I'd add that this is simply a nasty form of the "honor culture" phenomenon of the old world. The antebellum South had an honor culture too. Not comparing it to Pakistan in any way, but simply saying that honor cultures have an internal logic that isn't irrational, however irrational it seems to us. It has an internal logic of its own as all the others have before it. Islamisicm it is the last gasp of a modernist revolt, and must be overcome militarily like all the other violent honor cultures. The same as it ever was.

Again, I'm in no way comparing the Old South with Pakistan, but if you want to understand honor cultures, the subtleties of it in the Old South are a great place to grasp how alien they are to us and the logic that prevails within them, and the progressive rejection of this culture by modernizing nations.

-"Southern Honor" by Bertram Wyatt Smith
-"Vengeance and Justice" (only first chapter) by Edwin L. Ayers
-"Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch: The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry" (journal article) by Elliott J. Gorn

The problem, as I've said already, isn't that we aren't managing this perfectly or well, but that we're trying to manage it without violence. Rubin et al have worshipped at the Church of Stability for so long he even absurdly believes the way is "easy" and the State Department knows what to do if only we'd let them. That is comical. Those are the bureaucratic drones most responsible for the status quo from our side. Our revolution was violent, and it was closer to a reform movement. All revolutions are violent. Let them fight each other and support the right side. Even if Obama has bad intent, and he likely does, if he's destroyed the Church of Stability by ignorance he might have done us a favor. The Church of Stability will get us nuked, because we're complicit in support and maintenance of tyrannical rule over people that then hate us for what we're doing to them, and then the radical Islamicists form terrorists groups who opportunistically sieze on this to justify nuking us with a smuggled bomb for the fact that they are living ancient lives. Even though it is their backwards-ass honor culture that is doing it to them in reality.

We need a policy like this:

1) Support the good guys, or at least DON'T support the bad guys
2) Islamicists aren't the good guys
3) Until groups in ME nations decide that we're not the bad guys, we're going to watch these groups fight each other until they come up with the right answer. Then the rules above can be applied.

Our complicity in the oppression of ME nations, what Rubin is advocating or advocating, was the one thing Bin Laden was right about. Have we learned nothing from 9/11? Apparently not.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings, itsmark:

I'm certainly in agreement that Islam conjoins religion and politics in a "wolf in sheep's clothing" kind of way and with the politics being of the supremacist sort.

As to the "honor" culture aspect, however commonly accepted that term is, I prefer "dishonor" culture because of its immense capacity to use its scriptures to validate behavior that ranges from the unrestrained to the purely evil. If there is an internal logic to it, it is the strong over the weak, the guarded over the open, the paranoid over the rational. Not that that particularly distinguished Islamic culture from other tribal sorts. I have long thought that instances of what are now finally becoming known as "honor killings" have roots in either sexual or economic lusts.

And, having been to war, I certainly don't agree with the pussyfooting approach we have adopted in dealing with our Islamic enemies. Our rulers ability not only to construct an ideological sanctuary for our sworn enemies but to tie one of our war fighters arms behind their back through non-consensual, non-reciprocal "Rules of Engagement" gives new meaning the the term "sophomoric". One of my war fighting guides was "To hunt the tiger, you must learn the ways of the tiger." However trite some may find that aphorism, part of that Korany thingy tell its believers that those People of the Book they conquer must pay extortion money and feel themselves subdued. That would be my strategy's goal.

Thus my "constraining, undermining, or eradicating" approach to Islam and all things Islamic. Limiting imports and immigration, attacking the many goofball and dangerous tenets of Islam, and punishing them severely and not necessarily discriminately for any military attacks would be mainstays of my approach. If someone is to feel themselves subdued, it's not going to be us.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings. itsmark:

Thank you for your participation. Your reply has a lot (for me) in it and I'm a bit of a muller, so I don't really have a quick response other than this.

I'm grateful but not familiar with the tomes you recommended but there are two books that I found along the way that influenced my thinking in regard to Arab tribal culture. One was "Culture and Conflict in the Middle East" by Philip Carl Salzman.

The other, believe it or not, was "Comanches: The History of a People" by T.R. Fehrenbach.

While the first rather short book was specifically addressing fairly current Arab culture, the second surprised me more than a bit in all the similarities that I saw between the Comanches and today's Muslims, and I don't mean positive ones.

Again, I appreciate your time and effort and I hope to find some of both tomorrow.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And what does Islam say it is? If you don't know the difference between a the country of Indonesia and Malaysia, then what do you know?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
More Greetings, Fail Burton:

I don't understand your immediately above question, but you are right that I confused Indonesia with Malaysia. However, I believe that my point about the Islamaniacs ability to keep their borders bloody even when they are with another Muslim country is accurate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you are pointing to Indonesia and Malaysia as bastions of Islamic tolerance and peace, maybe you shouldn't be questioning what others may or may not know!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am pointing out they are two different countries. As for being bastions of anything, go there before commenting. I have. I speak Indonesian. I'll defer to myself when it comes to someone telling me about nuanced arguments who can't even get the country right in the first place. Those occupiers are in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually, false hope, because the real thing can inspire you to act for salvation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings, Professor Guvinoff:

I don't disagree. I just try not to give readers too much to chew on lest they choke.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...to realize what you would expect of a suddenly empowered, left leaning college professor: reshape the world guided by a post colonial vision." (Igude)

Twixt Obama's large progressive ears, a lingering contempt for injustices perpetrated by colonialists, from Africa to the Americas, does drive his so called foreign policy. Dreams from Dad has the theme plus Dinesh d'Souza at length.

The defining characteristic of leftist "thinking" on any topic is an undying commitment to the narrative. Facts, actual outcomes, like Egypt predictably going into the sewer under Islamists, be damned.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That quote by Badri is pure MB Sayd Qutb ideology. Not surprisingly, it is also rather pure liberal ideology.

It reads like this: those who have conspicuously failed in history's competitions now claim to eschew the very rules of those competitions. The rules have been altered so that the actual winners are the losers. Morality, it turns out, determines the winner, in a classic display of The Fox and the Grapes. Ironically, it is reminiscent of the religion started by the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, where one gives Caesar his due. Very generous of them with a boot on their necks.

To the MB, and liberals, Jews, Christians and whites are acknowledged to be very clever at putting craft on Mars and making smart bombs but are morally and spiritually empty. It is a child's fantasy - like a 5 yr. old wishing he had the power of invisibility.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"But if Obama wants to take personal credit for the new U.S. policy that means he also has to take personal blame for the damage it does."

Actually, it means nothing of the kind. Sure, that's what a MORAL person should do but Obama is marching to the beat of a different drummer. The ends justifies the means, every time. And as one of Obama's fellow travellers (Stalin) once noted: "Victory has a thousand fathers. Defeat is an orphan."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Part 1: There is now added value in returning to examine Barack Obama’s personal connections to Islam in the light of the Barry Rubin article above, but also on the eve of the president's trip to Israel. There, he will probably be trying to influence the Israel government to desist from striking Iran's nuclear installations and instead to support his longstanding plan to accommodate the ayatollahs' nuclear ambitions.

"I'm a Christian," said President Obama in his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech. He himself volunteered to broach the sensitive matter of his personal religious affiliation. This statement had some political utility because consistent public-opinion polling reveals that most Americans want a political leader to have strong religious belief, and are interested in learning something about their leader's religious faith. Thus, commentators are also fully entitled to discuss these delicate religious questions that President Obama himself sometimes raises. Barack Obama converted to Christianity at some point before his October 1992 marriage to Michelle Robinson. For about two decades he attended services at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, where the Reverend Jeremiah Wright frequently used the pulpit for anti-Israel and anti-USA rants. During the 2008 Democratic nomination campaign, candidate Obama made the improbable claim that he had been unaware of the bitterly anti-Israel and anti-USA pronouncements of his long-time pastor. But, these self-serving denials directly contradict what had previously been written about Wright in Obama's 1995 autobiography, "Dreams From My Father." In the Cairo speech, Obama also said, "My father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the 'azaan' at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk." Psychologists tell us that childhood experience is significant. And, the Jesuits believed: "Give me the child until the age of seven and I will give you the man.” Because President Obama is a pivotal public figure who himself raises the matter of his Muslim roots, we are fully entitled to ask about his childhood to help us better understand the foundations of his current worldview and perhaps predict his policy directions, including with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In early 2008, both Barack Obama and his campaign staff flatly denied that he had ever been a Muslim. However, there is more to be said about this important question. Islam regards all children to be born Muslim and to remain such until adults teach them otherwise. Child Obama was a Muslim also because: (1) his paternal grandfather in Kenya was Muslim; (2) his Kenyan father (though ideologically Marxist) was born Muslim, always kept his two Muslim names ("Barack" and "Hussein"); and when he died, his family wanted him buried with Muslim rites; (3) at birth he was given two Muslim names, "Barack" and "Hussein"; (4) his Indonesian stepfather was also Muslim; (5) his Indonesian classmates and playmates recall that he attended religious services both at school and in mosques, when they believed him to be Muslim; (6) he was registered as "Muslim" at two elementary schools in Indonesia; (7) he then studied the Koran; (8) an Indonesian teacher recalls that child Obama was also learning Arabic recitation of the Koran, which adult Obama can still recite by memory, as demonstrated during a 2007 interview with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof; and (9) reflecting on her childhood with her older brother, Obama's half-sister Maya Soetoro in 2007 significantly told the New York Times: "My whole family was Muslim." (continued in Part 2 below.)
1 year ago
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