Obama, Acknowledging U.S. Misdeeds Abroad, Quietly Reframes American Power

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It would have seemed surprising from any other president, but has become practically routine for President Obama in his final year in office: acknowledging the United States’ unsavory history in a country he was visiting.

This week, it was the C.I.A.-led bombing and paramilitary campaign that devastated Laos during the Vietnam War. While the president stopped short of apologizing, he was, in his words, “acknowledging the suffering and sacrifices on all sides of that conflict.”

Mr. Obama had similarly confronted American misdeeds this year in Cuba, Argentina, Vietnam and Japan, each time raising decades-old but still sensitive actions, framed in the language of reconciliation. In comparison, the last Democrat in the White House, President Bill Clinton, did so once and only indirectly: admitting, in a speech delegated to his secretary of state, the United States’ role in Iran’s 1953 coup.




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