I blogged about Mehdi Kazemi’s plight earlier today. The latest news on the case is just in: Mr. Kazemi’s request for asylum in the
Posts For: March 11, 2008
I blogged about Mehdi Kazemi’s plight earlier today. The latest news on the case is just in: Mr. Kazemi’s request for asylum in the
The networks all call Mississippi for Barack Obama. The margin in early returns is not huge, but may widen as the night goes on. (If not, expect Hillary Clinton to claim this as a sign her opponent “could barely eke out a victory in a must-win state.”) Most interesting (and worrying for Democrats) are these figures from the exit polls: 48% of Democrats think Clinton is not honest and trustworthy and only 26% of whites voted for Obama (but 90% of blacks did). Will Clinton’s negatives be sky high by the end of the primary race? Has Obama lost his bi-racial appeal? Both may be true.
When Barack Obama advisor Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a “monster,” Clinton called for her head and Power was gone. (Her departure may also have been related to her suggestion that Obama was not going to stick to any silly campaign promises about getting out of Iraq.) When Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro says that Obama would not be where he is if he were white, the Obama camp goes ballistic and Clinton brushes it off. In fact, her campaign manager goes to far as to suggest Obama is playing racial politics.
Is it any wonder that observers suspect Obama is a wimp, playing by some outmoded set of rules against the in-it-to-win-it Clintons? One sign of whether he believes he can stay on cruise control all the way to the convention will be how he uses his time tonight and tomorrow after an expected win in Mississippi. He’s chosen to do cable news interviews rather than another speech, which is a smart move. More of the same rhetoric (“change,” “turn the page,” “I was right on Iraq” etc.) would, I think, be a missed opportunity. If he uses his free media time to pound home his counterattack talking points–Clinton isn’t actually that experienced and would take the country back to the bad old days of scandal and political venom–we will know he’s “in it to win it.”
John McCain has done the right thing in condemning Representative Steve King’s creepy assessment of an Obama presidency’s impact on the world. Here’s Newsmax.com on the Iowa Republican’s comments:
“I don’t want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name, whatever their religion their father might have been,” King said.
“I’ll just say this: When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected president of the United States, I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam?”
King then said: “I will tell you that if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this war on terror.”
If by “optics” King meant (and I think he must have) the color of Obama’s skin, his statement was not merely offensive, but amazingly dumb. Radical Muslims are far more accustomed to killing people of darker shades than to killing Caucasians. The geography and ethnography of Asia and Africa make this a natural fact. An Islamist does not, on the whole, consider the race of the infidel target. But of the instances in which racism does work its way into extremist violence, the inclination tends to be of the old-fashioned “go after the dark ones” variety—Arab racism against blacks thrives in various parts of northern Africa today. So, King’s optics argument is a non-starter. (By the way, so is the related argument made by Obama’s supporters who claim his racial composition a diplomatic asset in U.S.-Muslim relations.)
However, Islamic terrorists may indeed prefer that the U.S. be led by Obama—because of his policies. Iran’s mullahs, for example, are undoubtedly looking forward to a president whose vision of deterrence centers around talk. And they may very well dance if he’s elected, too. After all, we saw their joyous Rockette kicks when their scientists enriched uranium.
“Everybody has understood that Iran is the number one power in the world,” said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the end of last month, launching another broadside against domestic critics and foreign enemies. “Today the name of Iran means a firm punch in the teeth of the powerful and it puts them in their place,” he continued. The comments of the fiery leader came as he defended his record before Friday’s parliamentary elections. The elections are correctly seen as a referendum of his policies.
The outcome of the contest is not in doubt: his most capable adversaries have been eliminated by the Guardian Council, the country’s constitutional watchdog. Yet he needs a strong turnout and high votes for his candidates. Because Ahmadinejad cannot run on his domestic record–he has not delivered on the populist pledges he made in 2005–he has chosen to raise the flag of nationalism by campaigning against foreigners. “You can see how some people here . . . try to materialize the plans of the enemies by showing that Iran is small and the enemy is big,” he said on February 28 on state television. “These are the people who put the enemies of humanity in the place of God.”
Since then, Ahmadinejad’s allies have tried to use every foreign indication of disapproval of the regime in their campaign. “They adopted a hasty resolution in order to influence the elections, so that people would not go and vote,” said senior cleric Hojatoleslam Ahmad Khatami, referring to the Security Council’s third set of sanctions against Iran, last Friday. “But with the help of God, Iranians will surprise them, and both the United States and the Security Council will be blinded.”
Surprises are always possible in Iran’s rigged elections. Ahmadinejad, for instance, was not exactly a front-runner three years ago. This time, reformists, who can point to the president’s mismanagement of the economy, could derail his chances for re-election in June next year by scoring big this week–or as big as they will be allowed. In general, the Iranian people want free elections, change, and a better economy. Many of them even want better relations with the United States. They won’t get any of these things after this week’s poll, but they will be able to signal their discontent, just as they did in Tehran’s municipal elections in 2006.
Ahmadinejad’s campaign against the Great Satan is losing its appeal with most voters in Tehran and even in his strongholds outside the capital. The fact that he continues to rail against outsiders indicates he has nothing else to offer. If he fares poorly on Friday, the international community can expect him to be even more hostile in the months ahead.
In 2003, when Paul Wolfowitz said that freed-up Iraqi oil would help pay for the Iraq War, the statement was seized upon by members of the anti-war crowd for, shall we say, dual-use purposes. Depending upon what faction was arguing, it was either evidence of the Bush administration’s imperialist worldview or a demonstration of Wolfowitz’s logistical naiveté. That is, we were going in either as rapacious capitalists bent on making the Iraqis pay for our war or as bumbling armchair generals with laughable dreams of turning Iraq’s decimated oil facilities into a viable source of revenue.
So I was understandably surprised to find out that Senator John Warner (who has over the years crept deeper into the anti-war camp) and Senator Carl Levin (who was against the war from the start) wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting that they look into securing some of the Iraq oil profits to pay for Iraq’s reconstruction. Four years after Paul Wolfowitz’s much-derided statement, asking Iraq to pay for its own future is apparently both moral and possible. From the letter:
How much has Iraq and the United States, respectively, spent annually during that time period on training, equipping and supporting Iraqi security forces, and on Iraq reconstruction, governance, and economic development?
[. . .]
We believe that it has been overwhelmingly U.S. taxpayer money that has funded Iraq reconstruction over the last five years, despite Iraq earning billions of dollars in oil revenue over that time period that have ended up in non-Iraqi banks.
This is how the anti-war argument shape-shifts. Of course, the senators do raise an important point—especially for those of us who support this war. By all means let’s get more Iraqi oil money into Iraqi reconstruction and hold accountable those who have prevented this from happening. But the calculated politicking behind the Warner/Levin move is likely to turn any inquiry into a demagogic slog and to produce one more anti-war talking point. In the end, it may just provide those who oppose the U.S. effort in Iraq with a fresh argument about how disgraceful America has become. What a waste.
What does Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson see when he watches Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m.” TV ad? Birth of A Nation. No, really. From the New York Times:
I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.
The evidence of this? The children in the ad were not African American. At best they were “ambiguous.” He also finds it “significant” that the ad was used in Texas, where Clinton led narrowly among whites, and not in Ohio, where she had a comfortable lead. (And don’t make any lame crypto-racist excuses about only spending money where it’s needed! Stop that rationalizing right now!)
Read the whole thing to appreciate how remarkable it is that Harvard employs, and no doubt celebrates, scholars whose reasoning is so specious that . . . well, I was going to write that “they would not pass a freshman class in logic at Harvard.” But maybe that isn’t quite right.
The BBC has released a survey of public opinion in 31 countries on Iran’s nuclear program and how to confront it. Conducted after the release of the NIE, its findings are what one would expect. Support for tougher measures against Iran has dropped in all but four countries: Turkey, South Korea, Israel and China. And in only three countries was support for tougher measures higher than support for diplomacy or no action at all: Israel, South Korea, and the U.S.
Of all the swings in opinion across the world, it is the picture in Europe that gives most reasons to worry. German support for softer measures jumped from 48 to 61 percent of respondents. In Great Britain the swing was from 53 to 57 percent. In Spain it went from 49 to 54 percent. In Italy support for a softer approach shifted slightly, from 55 to 56 percent. In France it remained steady at 54 percent.
This means that all the European countries most involved diplomatically and economically in efforts to dissuade Iran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program are the ones where the public’s appetite for tougher action–never too strong in the first place–has shrunk considerably. Given intelligence assessments of how close Iran may be to the point of no return, this is bad news. Governments will find it hard to make a case for more sanctions, let alone the possibility of military action if sanctions fail. It leaves the burden of action on those countries where governments and people agree on the threat that Iran poses-the U.S. and Israel.
But it also raises a question about the failure of governments to educate their public to the strategic environment they confront or the success of influential media outlets to obfuscate it. The BBC’s commentary on its own poll is a case in point. The organization preferred to say that “the U.S. government says it still sees Iran as a significant danger, and Israel says it believes it is aiming to build nuclear weapons.” The fact is that the U.S and Israel are far from being the only ones concerned about the true nature of Iran’s nuclear aims. Former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy denounced Iran’s nuclear activities as a cover for a “clandestine weapons program” two years ago. And as late as last week, the EU-3 (France, Germany and Great Britain) questioned Iran’s responses to the IAEA because of evidence-based concerns that Iran is studying “how to weaponize nuclear materials.”
And as shown by growing support for tougher sanctions in Turkey, Iran’s neighbor, and South Korea, a country threatened by its nuclear neighbor, there is still serious international belief in the threat posed by Iran’s enrichment aims. But the BBC prefers to suggest that Israel and the U.S. are disingenuous warmongers, that Iran’s program is presented by these two countries as a threat but is in fact harmless. No wonder that public opinion in Europe is shifting.
Perhaps Spitzer will realize he has disgraced himself and that his political situation is untenable and resign swiftly. Perhaps. But a savvy ex- attorney general knows that in a prosecution of a public official (one potentially involving the Mann Act and financial hanky panky as well) a significant bargaining chip is the official’s resignation from public office. Why would Spitzer leave without a deal with the feds on potential charges? It’s not like he has shown a prediliction to put the interests of his family, his Party or his state above his own. Suspecting that he won’t go on his own, New York GOP leaders have now threatened impeachment.
In the 1990′s, two Soviet moles, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, penetrated, respectively, the CIA and the FBI. In the wake of their exposure and capture, strict new counterespionage procedures were said to have been put in place to prevent a recurrence of a calamity that destroyed America’s human intelligence in the USSR and its successor states.
But when it came to light last fall, the case of Nada Nadim Prouty, a Lebanese immigrant who moved from sensitive positions in the FBI to sensitive positions in the CIA, even as she maintained close ties to Hizballah and even as she arrived in the U.S. on the basis of a fictitious marriage, exposed the fact that internal security remains a critical weak point.
Michael Sulick, the head of CIA human intelligence, has openly expressed worry about the harm that could be wrought by an al Qaeda mole in CIA ranks. The Prouty case is only one piece of evidence that this is not an idle fear.
The Evening Standard reports that “four police officers in Britain’s top force are reportedly under close secret service surveillance after being identified as Al Qaeda spies.” MI5, the British equivalent of the FBI, believes their function was to alert al Qaeda of pending anti-terror raids.
Clearly, we are facing a sophisticated adversary. The question is: are we sophisticated ourselves?
Former Bill Clinton aide (and current Barack Obama supporter) Greg Craig has released a memo essentially accusing Hillary of résumé fraud. She did not, according to Craig, bring peace to Northern Ireland or open borders to fleeing refugees from Kosovo when her husband was President. And her Beijing speech in favor of women’s rights was just a speech. In other words, she is just as unqualified as Obama on foreign policy. Craig also beats the “Obama was right on Iraq” drum, which is a popular (but increasingly stale) line for the Democratic base.
Meanwhile, Clinton hits Obama on the “double talk” front, this time on energy policy. On NAFTA, Iraq, and now energy, Clinton claims that Obama rhetoric does not match even his meager voting record.
It is hard to see how this “No, he’s unqualifed and unreliable”/”No, she’s unqualified and unreliable” argument does not wind up bolstering McCain, big time. This is free ad time for him, in essence, as the Democrats whack each other over the head with charges of puffery and inexperience. It all will come back in ads in the fall. But for now it is giving liberal pundits the shakes.
The Eliot Spitzer sex scandal has to be a nightmare for Hillary Clinton. On the crudest level, Spitzer’s alleged dalliances remind everyone of Bill Clinton, his intern, his cigar, her dress, his claim, and his impeachment—the sum of which spells Hillary’s humiliation. Having finally figured out that her husband’s PR magic was rusty, Hillary pulled him from the spotlight. Now, his very worst qualities are front and center in the nation’s minds.
This sets her back slightly on the “hear me roar” front, too. As Hillary is in the midst of a push to prove herself as the battle-hardened, Batphone-answering candidate, there stands Silda Spitzer, the governor’ wife, looking every inch the betrayed woman. The fact that Hillary is a prominent Democrat from New York can’t help either. Spitzer enthusiastically threw his support behind Hillary. And any additional associations with him, even subliminal ones, can work against a candidate who is trying to emerge from the perception of distrust.
Last night, at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, Hillary dodged questions about Spitzer. “I don’t have any comment on that. Obviously I am sending my best wishes and thoughts to the governor and to his family” she said. But things could get appreciably stickier for Hillary if Spitzer keeps people guessing about his resignation. At that point it becomes a Democratic issue and a New York issue, and Hillary is going to have to weigh in. (There’s talk that Spitzer is holding off on resigning in order to work it into a plea deal.) If that drags on, Hillary can expect a barrage of questions that won’t be sidestepped so easily. Advising Spitzer to quit, after her husband stood his ground in the face of the vast right wing conspiracy, will require Hillary to draw on her not-so-ample supply of political finesse. And just to make matters more complicated, Spitzer is a superdelegate. If he resigns, his superdelegate status goes too, and Hillary loses one potential convention vote.
Remember when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, in his speech at Columbia University, that there are no gay people in Iran? He insisted that they “don’t have that in Iran.” Anyone familiar with the human experience would find this statement ridiculous. Anyone familiar with Iran’s human rights’ record would recognize that this statement might be true–only because the legal penalty for male homosexuality in Iran is death.
But it appears that someone might almost take Ahmadinejad’s words at face value, after all. Take the case of Mehdi Kazemi. Kazemi came to London to study in 2004. His boyfriend was executed in Iran in 2006, after being forced to reveal Kazemi’s identity as his sexual partner. Fearing for his life if he returned home, Kazemi applied for asylum in the UK, but his application was turned down.
Incredibly, as reported in The Independent, “The Home Office’s own guidance issued to immigration officers concedes that Iran executes homosexual men but, unaccountably, rejects the claim that there is a systematic repression of gay men and lesbians.” That currently there is no place for homosexuals in Iran is made clear by Iran’s policies and the views of its leaders: only a more benign regime will be prepared to accommodate basic human rights. What is more striking is that the victims of this kind of persecution may not, it seems, hope to find shelter in Europe. I guess the EU states are too busy giving asylum and shelter to hundreds of Islamic militants.
In the blur of yesterday’s news about Eliot Spitzer’s self-destruction came two unrelated comments that should have gotten more attention. First, there was the latest Michelle Obama utterance, this time insulting men. As we learned yesterday, some men do put themselves first. But trashing an entire gender hardly seems fair or politic. Her list of the mean and rotten things in life is growing longer: America, men, college loan payments. Western civilization as a whole is surely next.
Then there was Geraldine Ferraro, who said that no one would be talking about Barack Obama if he were white. (She also showed a little self-awareness and admitted she would never have been Walter Mondale’s VP if she were a man.) Clinton’s spokesman responded with a terse “We disagree with her.” Clearly after Bill Clinton’s South Carolina outburst comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson, this is not something the Clinton folks want to touch with a ten-foot pole. (They’re too busy patronizing Obama with an offer of the VP slot, provided he can bone up on foreign policy by the convention.)
John McCain couldn’t have had any idea that his jaunt to Israel and Europe would provide such a contrast between himself and his Democratic opponents. Who knew the gravitas gap would be so large? There are times when it is good to appear entirely above the fray. And this is one of those times.