Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Onion

Satirizing Our Syria Policy

Sometimes satire can capture the truth in ways that “straight” reporting simply cannot. Case in point: the new issue of Private Eye, Britain’s version of the Onion, has a mock headline: “Obama Warns Syria ‘Kill People Properly’.” It imagines President Obama issuing a warning to Bashar Assad against the use of chemical weapons: “There are ethical ways to murder your own people and there are unethical ways and it’s very clear what the difference is. If President Assad fails to keep killing people in the approved manner, we will have no option but to send an unmanned drone from thousands of miles away.”

I thought of that mock news item as I read the real news from Syria, which is that Assad is now firing Scud missiles at his own people–the very same missiles that Saddam Hussein fired at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. These are blunderbuss weapons that are hard to aim and as likely to wipe out a kindergarten as a military installation. The fact that Assad is firing them on his own territory is a sign of how much control he has lost and how desperate he has become–as well as a sign of how he is increasingly reluctant to use manned aircraft now that the rebels appear to have gotten their hands on some portable surface-to-air missiles.

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Sometimes satire can capture the truth in ways that “straight” reporting simply cannot. Case in point: the new issue of Private Eye, Britain’s version of the Onion, has a mock headline: “Obama Warns Syria ‘Kill People Properly’.” It imagines President Obama issuing a warning to Bashar Assad against the use of chemical weapons: “There are ethical ways to murder your own people and there are unethical ways and it’s very clear what the difference is. If President Assad fails to keep killing people in the approved manner, we will have no option but to send an unmanned drone from thousands of miles away.”

I thought of that mock news item as I read the real news from Syria, which is that Assad is now firing Scud missiles at his own people–the very same missiles that Saddam Hussein fired at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. These are blunderbuss weapons that are hard to aim and as likely to wipe out a kindergarten as a military installation. The fact that Assad is firing them on his own territory is a sign of how much control he has lost and how desperate he has become–as well as a sign of how he is increasingly reluctant to use manned aircraft now that the rebels appear to have gotten their hands on some portable surface-to-air missiles.

The use of the Scuds is a significant escalation of the conflict, but because the missiles are not equipped with chemical warheads they fall short of the “red line” that Obama has laid out for unspecified American action in Syria. So the Scud attacks are unlikely to provoke an American response. In short, the Obama administration really does seem to be telling Assad that it’s OK for him to kill his people with missiles–but not with chemical weapons. This is an illogical and macabre distinction that deserves the mockery it receives from Private Eye.

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The UN Human Rights Circus Plays On

Foreign Policy (honest, it’s not the Onion) reports:

Last week just as a senior Iranian cleric declared that women’s un-Islamic garb — meaning a wisp of hair showing — is the root of men’s immorality and the cause of earthquakes, the regime moved to secure a seat on the UN’s Commission for the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW, comprising 45 countries, voted in by regional blocks, is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to the advancement of women. Its mandate is “to evaluate progress, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.”

Hmm. We haven’t heard much about Iran’s atrocities against women from the Obami. But then we don’t hear very much about Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey or any other misogynistic haven in the “Muslim World.” The Obami don’t spend too much time “bearing witness” to the regime’s assault on its girls and women:

In the past year, it has arrested and jailed mothers of peaceful civil rights protesters. It has charged women who were seeking equality in the social sphere — as wives, daughters and mothers — with threatening national security, subjecting many to hours of harrowing interrogation. Its prison guards have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and raped female and male civil rights protesters.

The Ahmadinejad government has also initiated systematic discriminatory action against women in every other sphere. In universities where women have represented over 60 percent of the student body, the government is now banning women from key areas of study. Childcare centers are being shut down to hamper women’s ability to work outside their homes. Healthcare and reproductive care services provided to men and women, that had turned Iran into a global success story for family planning, are being withdrawn. Women’s publications that addressed gender equality have been shut down. The regime is attempting to erase decades of struggle and progress.

But really, why not put Iran on the CSW? It already includes such human rights models as Cambodia, China, and Cuba. And this is the international community whose approval the Obami covet. The victims of these regimes? Not so much. Hillary Clinton should put it on her to-do list: stop being mute about the atrocities against women by despotic regimes.

Foreign Policy (honest, it’s not the Onion) reports:

Last week just as a senior Iranian cleric declared that women’s un-Islamic garb — meaning a wisp of hair showing — is the root of men’s immorality and the cause of earthquakes, the regime moved to secure a seat on the UN’s Commission for the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW, comprising 45 countries, voted in by regional blocks, is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to the advancement of women. Its mandate is “to evaluate progress, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.”

Hmm. We haven’t heard much about Iran’s atrocities against women from the Obami. But then we don’t hear very much about Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey or any other misogynistic haven in the “Muslim World.” The Obami don’t spend too much time “bearing witness” to the regime’s assault on its girls and women:

In the past year, it has arrested and jailed mothers of peaceful civil rights protesters. It has charged women who were seeking equality in the social sphere — as wives, daughters and mothers — with threatening national security, subjecting many to hours of harrowing interrogation. Its prison guards have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and raped female and male civil rights protesters.

The Ahmadinejad government has also initiated systematic discriminatory action against women in every other sphere. In universities where women have represented over 60 percent of the student body, the government is now banning women from key areas of study. Childcare centers are being shut down to hamper women’s ability to work outside their homes. Healthcare and reproductive care services provided to men and women, that had turned Iran into a global success story for family planning, are being withdrawn. Women’s publications that addressed gender equality have been shut down. The regime is attempting to erase decades of struggle and progress.

But really, why not put Iran on the CSW? It already includes such human rights models as Cambodia, China, and Cuba. And this is the international community whose approval the Obami covet. The victims of these regimes? Not so much. Hillary Clinton should put it on her to-do list: stop being mute about the atrocities against women by despotic regimes.

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Nah! Really?

The New York Times, not the Onion, reports:

The White House on Wednesday invoked the separation of powers to keep Desiree Rogers, President Obama’s social secretary, from testifying on Capitol Hill about how a couple of aspiring reality television show celebrities crashed a state dinner for the prime minister of India last week. “I think you know that, based on separation of powers, staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress,’’ Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters during his regular briefing. “She won’t — she will not be testifying in front of Congress.’’

They are kidding, right? Nope. Dead serious. Even the usually supportive media and law-professor contingent is gobsmacked by this hooey:

“I’d completely fall out of my chair if they invoked Executive privilege with regards to a social secretary arranging a party,” said Mark J. Rozell, a public-policy professor at George Mason who recently wrote a book on Executive privilege. “There is no prohibition under separation of powers against White House staff going to Capitol Hill to talk about what they know.”

You recall how loudly Democrats squawked when Karl Rove and other Bush advisers involved in real matters of executive deliberation balked at testifying before Congress. Now the most transparent administration in history is invoking executive privilege (which, according to my former Justice Department gurus, doesn’t “count” unless the president invokes it himself) to prevent the social secretary from testifying about a security breach at the White House. The arrogance and, yes, lack of transparency over an issue that has no policy implications (but that may prove embarrassing for a pal of White House honcho Valerie Jarrett) is remarkable, even for the Obami.

The New York Times, not the Onion, reports:

The White House on Wednesday invoked the separation of powers to keep Desiree Rogers, President Obama’s social secretary, from testifying on Capitol Hill about how a couple of aspiring reality television show celebrities crashed a state dinner for the prime minister of India last week. “I think you know that, based on separation of powers, staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress,’’ Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters during his regular briefing. “She won’t — she will not be testifying in front of Congress.’’

They are kidding, right? Nope. Dead serious. Even the usually supportive media and law-professor contingent is gobsmacked by this hooey:

“I’d completely fall out of my chair if they invoked Executive privilege with regards to a social secretary arranging a party,” said Mark J. Rozell, a public-policy professor at George Mason who recently wrote a book on Executive privilege. “There is no prohibition under separation of powers against White House staff going to Capitol Hill to talk about what they know.”

You recall how loudly Democrats squawked when Karl Rove and other Bush advisers involved in real matters of executive deliberation balked at testifying before Congress. Now the most transparent administration in history is invoking executive privilege (which, according to my former Justice Department gurus, doesn’t “count” unless the president invokes it himself) to prevent the social secretary from testifying about a security breach at the White House. The arrogance and, yes, lack of transparency over an issue that has no policy implications (but that may prove embarrassing for a pal of White House honcho Valerie Jarrett) is remarkable, even for the Obami.

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