“We’ve seen this movie before,’ Obama said at a town hall in Rapid City, S.D. ‘A leader who pursues the wrong course, who is unwilling to change course, who ignores the evidence. Now, just like George Bush, John McCain is refusing to admit that he’s made a mistake.‘” One more from the past week: He already has trouble distinguishing Sunni from Shia. Now, it seems, GOP nominee John McCain is woefully unaware of our current troop levels overseas, and yet — like a certain prez we could mention — even refuses to admit he made a simple error. Uh, been there, done that.
“Senator Clinton says that she and Senator McCain have passed a ‘Commander in Chief test’ – not because of the judgments they’ve made, but because of the years they’ve spent in Washington. She made a similar argument when she said her vote for war was based on her experience at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. But here is the stark reality: there is a security gap in this country – a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions. A gap between Washington experience, and the wisdom of Washington’s judgments. A gap between the rhetoric of those who tout their support for our troops, and the overburdened state of our military…We have a security gap when candidates say they will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but refuse to follow him where he actually is.“
On the fifth anniversary of the war, Sen. Obama delivers a speech on Iraq and national security in Fayetteville, NC, and takes time to poke McCain for his apparent and frightening misunderstanding of Mideast affairs. “Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al Qaeda. Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades.” Really, McCain’s oft-repeated error smacks of Dubya-level incompetence, and would be all over the news today if we were in general election mode, rather than collectively continuing to assuage Sen. Clinton’s vanity, by assuming she still has a chance. For shame.
“There’s a broader lesson here, and it speaks to the Bush administration’s present jam throughout the Middle East and in other danger zones. If the British had adopted the same policy toward dealing with Pakistan that Bush has adopted toward dealing with, say, Syria or Iran (namely, it’s an evil regime, and we don’t speak with evil regimes), then a lot of passenger planes would have shattered and spilled into the ocean, hundreds or thousands of people would have died, and the world would have suddenly been plunged into very scary territory.” In light of yesterday’s foiled plot, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan points out one of the critical flaws of Dubya Diplomacy (which, thankfully, the British do not share.)
“This has constrained U.S. foreign policy in many damaging ways…The United States does not have effective diplomatic channels for managing the situation, much less resolving it.” Former members of Bush administrations past and present criticize the Dubya White House for their complete lack of diplomatic avenues with Syria, Iran, the Palestinians, or anyone else that might be able to mitigate the current Middle East crisis. “As unattractive as they are, the Syrians are in a position to affect U.S. interests in Iraq and Lebanon…We should be having a broad-based dialogue with them — not as a favor to them but as a favor to ourselves.“
“We say that this fake regime [Israel] cannot … logically continue to live.” How ’bout some WWIII grandstanding to go with your Monday coffee? In a press conference early this morning (EST), Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes more freakshow statements about Israel, and Israel, rightly, is not amused: ‘Of all the threats we face, Iran is the biggest. The world must not wait. It must do everything necessary on a diplomatic level in order to stop its nuclear activity,’ [Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz told a conference on Iran at Tel Aviv University. ‘Since Hitler we have not faced such a threat,’ he added.”
“God may smile on us, but I don’t think so. The bottom line is that Iran cannot become a nuclear-weapons state. The problem is that the Iranians realize that only by becoming a nuclear state can they defend themselves against the U.S. Something bad is going to happen.” Although Dubya is personally dismissing the report as “wild speculation”, The New Yorker‘s Sy Hersh argues in a terrifying piece that the administration is actively planning for “regime change” in Iran, and — no joke — the use of tactical nuclear weapons (particularly “bunker-busters”) is on the table.
No doubt about it, this is trouble. A nuclear Iran would represent a grievous threat to the region (and particularly Israel), and must be prevented by diplomatic means if at all possible. But, after the Iraq WMD debacle, this administration has become the boy who cried wolf, and — just as the US is facing perhaps its thorniest diplomatic issue yet, neither our European allies nor many US observers trust Dubya’s motives or credibility any more, to say nothing of his basic competence. (“Speaking of President Bush, [one] House member said, ‘The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.’.”) And, needless to say, if Dubya and the neocons screw this one up, the consequences for both the entire Middle East and the war on terror — as well as our own homeland security — could be nightmarish. “If we move against Iran, Hezbollah will not sit on the sidelines. Unless the Israelis take them out, they will mobilize against us…If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle.“
Update: ““I’m announcing officially that Iran has now joined the countries that have nuclear technology.” The situation darkens with Iran’s successful (increased) enrichment of uranium. “Iran had previously enriched uranium to a level of about 2 percent, using a smaller cascade, and separately enriched uranium to about 15 percent during laser experiments in 2002. Bomb-grade uranium must be enriched to a level of well over 80 percent…Though it is technically possible, most nuclear experts agree it is unlikely Iran would be able to make bomb-grade uranium with the[ir current] 164-centrifuge cascade.” Still, Russia and Britain are decrying the advance, and Secretary Rice wants “strong steps” by the UN Security Council in reply.
Another terror strike: This time, a series of bombs in Amman kill 67 and wound 150, many of them guests at a wedding celebration. No one’s claimed responsibility yet, but Al Qaeda is obviously a good bet…word is they’ve tried to hit Jordan before. Update: Al Qaeda it is.
“After President Bush’s disastrous visit to Latin America, it’s unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can’t afford an American government this bad for that long.” The NY Times editorial staff come out swinging against Dubya.
As if the revelations of Syria’s role in the Hariri assassination weren’t disturbing enough, now the recently-elected president of Iran, a state with nuclear ambitions, is making nightmarish and freakshow statements reasserting the goal of Israel’s destruction. With rhetoric escalating and five years of Dubya’s “with-us-or-against-us” diplomacy helping to shore up hardliners across the Middle East, it seems Iraq may soon be the least of our problems in the region.