Stepping on Toes
On March 19, it will be four years since the US invaded Iraq. In May, we will also see the fourth anniversary of Bush’s now infamous and preemptive claim of “mission accomplished” in Iraq. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the huge political embarrassment and military tragedy currently plaguing them, the Republicans are showing no sign of shying away from military action in the Middle East.
Popular liberal blog Daily Kos, said it all: “Bush’s ‘No plan to attack Iran’ a big fat lie.” George W. Bush, however, framed the topic a little differently; The Financial Times recently reported Bush as claiming, “We believe we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically… It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them,” a fairly ambiguous statement, even by U.S. government standards, and one that rang as deeply insincere with many left-leaning journalists.
Bush has been playing the same “diplomacy” line for close to a year. In April of last year, Seymour Hersh began an essay in The New Yorker by saying, “The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack.” Statements from the administration regarding Iraq have come in small waves, which are easy to interpret in any way one could wish. Bush stated, within the context of his revised Iraq policy, that he intends to “interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria.” Z Magazine commented, “The Bushites say their ‘strategy’ is to end Iran’s nuclear threat. In fact, Iran possesses not a single nuclear weapon, nor has it ever threatened to build one; the CIA estimates that, even given the political will, Iran is incapable of building a nuclear weapon before 2017, at the earliest.” This confusion of theoretical terrorism matched with hypothetical nuclear power is starting to sound eerily familiar.
The Young and the Moderate
Where Barack Obama stands on the Republican’s military policies is a little unclear; the Illinois Senator, shining light of some semblance of hope within the Democratic Party, announced on February 11 that he would be running for President. Obama’s stance on Iraq is clear; in January he introduced the “Iraq war de-escalation act of 2007” into Senate. The bill’s ultimate goal is to redeploy all troops out of Iraq by March 31, 2008.
However, Obama’s policies on Iran and Israel are less staunchly liberal. Obama’s short political career has, since his election to the Senate, included public support for reasoned military pressure on Iran. In 2004 he stated to the Chicago Tribune that, “In light of the fact that we’re now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in… on the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has professed his belief that Israel be “wiped off the map,” and has a history of holocaust denial, including the staging of an exhibition of cartoons mocking the holocaust, by way of retaliation against the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that were published in Denmark last year.
Such a level of threat against Israel, from Iran, could well explain Obama’s policy regarding Israel. Obama told Haaretz that his “view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.” It’s unlikely that open support of Israel will do little for Obama’s image amongst young liberal voters, rather, it would appear to be an attempt by Obama to gain favor with more middle-ground Democrats.
Send in the Clowns
However, Obama is not safe from the wrath of Fox News, or the Australian Prime Minister. Australian PM John Howard claimed that, as reported on NPR, “terrorists in Iraq should be praying that Barack Obama will be the next president.” Meanwhile Fox News zeroed in on Obama for their first, truly abysmal, attempt at humor. A two-minute preview, or “leak,” of Fox News’ “Half Hour News Hour” was entirely focused on Obama. Lines, which were accompanied either by canned laughter or an audience comprised of four very drunk crewmembers, included “Illinois Senator Barack Obama admits that as a teenager he sometimes used cocaine. This news sent Obama’s approval rating among Democrats plummeting to an all time low of 99.9%.” The clip then degenerates into what appears to be unintentionally racist humor.
As Bob Cesca stated on his Huffington Post blog, “It’s no stretch to suggest that successful artists are generally liberal. Creating effective art requires an open mind and, generally speaking, conservatives tend to have trouble with, you know… the whole open-mindedness thing.” The formal preview, however, is hilarious, if you want to see Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter fail miserably in their attempts at self-deprecating humor.
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Some politicians in the U.S. are busying themselves with somewhat unusual concerns. Carl Kruger, a Democratic State Senator in New York, has proposed legislation that would ban residents from using electronic devices such as ipods and blackberrys while walking in public. Speaking to Reuters, Kruger stated “… this electronic gadgetry is reaching a point where we have a major public safety crisis at hand…Government has an obligation to protect its citizenry.” Citizenry has an obligation to look where they’re going.
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Meanwhile, other nations are proving very effectively just how much damage “absolute power” can do to a country, and to the person in power. At the beginning of February, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez assumed complete control of the nation in order to implement his plans for a socialist infrastructure. A week later the AP reported that “Meat cuts vanished from Venezuelan supermarkets this week, leaving only unsavory bits like chicken feet, while costly artificial sweeteners have increasingly replaced sugar and many staples sell far above government-fixed prices… Authorities… raided a warehouse in Caracas and seized seven tons of sugar hoarded by vendors unwilling to market the inventory at the official price.”
In Kathmandu, the ruling Nepalese monarch King Gyanendra was attacked by protestors hurling stones. The BBC reported that Gyanendra assumed absolute power in 2005, and then stepped down a year later following protests. The elected parliament is now “set to decide the future role of the monarchy or whether it should be abolished.”