Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's in a name (Hussein)?

Someone once said ignorance is bliss, but they were not living in the United States of America today.

Now, ignorance is just ignorance and a strategic tool for appealing to what is worst in us.

We saw ignorance in the West Virginia primary where the light of knowledge has been extinguished by the darkness of grim poverty.


Many supporters Sen. Barack Obama have adopted the moniker: Susan "Hussein" Smith and John "Hussein" Jones are how they identify themselves in the frenetic back-and-forth through cyberspace that so characterizes the candidate's grass roots.

But not everybody gets its.

A West Virginia woman was videotaped saying she would not vote for Obama because of his middle name. She's had "enough of Hussein" she explained.

And her vote weighs the same as someone more thoughtful and less fearful.

But the more thoughtful and less fearful are not whom George W. Bush staked his reelection on and they were not who he targeted in his speech before this Israeli Knesset on Thursday.

Lousy at governance, but effective at campaigning, Bush was reaching out to the ignorant West Virginian in every state, because no territory has a monopoly on darkness any more than one can exclusively represent the pure light of reason.

Taking aim at Obama who, alone among the presidential candidates, has admitted that we must talk with those who threaten us, Bush said, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have it all wrong."

Which is to get the first part right and the second part wrong while putting words in someone else's mouth.

Nobody who has seen the horror of random terror on civilian populations can hope there are arguments that "dissuade."

But we need forums, ongoing ones, at which arguments can be aired, steam blown off, common ground found or developed, and solutions rooted in something other than designed violence.

White House press secretary Dana Perino replied to the Obama campaign's promp protests in the snarky fashion made popular by FOX News and so readily adopted by the Bush administration: "I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you - that is not always true and it is not true in this case."

Is it not?

Or is the president so irrelevant and his belated attempts at Middle Eastern diplomacy so hopeless that the only way to inject himself into the national dialogue is by referencing the man who has become the biggest story in the country for nigh on four months now?

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," said Bush who went on to make the tired and ridiculous parallel between Adolf Hitler's daunting war machine and the low-intensity evil of today's shadowy cabal of militant Muslims.

But the "delusion" is that Mr. Bush's solution of bombing a country until it is a pile of rubble has somehow worked. That his mild increase in troop size coupled with the walling off of Baghdad neighborhoods from each other is some kind of success.

That delusion is born of ignorance, too. For the president and his party not only fan the flames of fear, but manufacture their own brand as well.

The photo above is from this month's "Columbia Journalism Review" (CJR). It is the kind of place an Obama-backing, latte-swilling, college-educated person has to go for such fare, because long ago the administration forbade photographs of our returning war dead.

Over time, ignorance of the war's wages has spread as news coverage, never encouraged, has decreased.

Beneath the picture is some text explaining how the photo is of Maria Calle beside the coffin of her fallen son, Private George Delgado, who may or may not have been the four-thousandth casualty of Bush's war.

CJR said that the 4,000 marker, while noted, has hardly been absorbed, with more than one-third of those queried in a Pew Research Center survey thinking the number was just 3,000, and 11 percent pegging it closer to 2,000 dead.

And that's because the American people have engaged in what the periodical called an "emotional distancing" from the war coupled with a notable decrease in press coverage.

To wit: When Bush announced his surge in January 2007, nearly a quarter of news stories across all media was devoted to Iraq, whereas this March the number had dropped to 5 percent.

Delusion indeed.

Into this darkness ride the Swift-boaters and wedge-issuers, not the least of whom is John McCain who told John Stewart that Obama is Hamas' preferred choice for the next American president.

"So you're taking Hamas at its word!" quipped the Daily Show's brilliant host, but McCain should know better and, if he doesn't, shouldn't be running for president.

To the extent he does not know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, McCain has no business mocking someone else's plan for getting the hell out of Iraq, but the fact he would peddle in pure ignorance should disqualify his candidacy were it not for everybody else's ignorance.

A few days ago, the "New York Times," ran a Op-ed column by a gentleman named Edward Luttwak, fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It was called "President Apostate?" and designed to blow holes in the idea a President Obama could live up to the "unrealistic hopes," his remarkable candidacy is engendering, but ended up as useful foil to McCain's ruse.

Luttwak addressed the idea that Obama's presidency would be a welcome development in the Arab world and effectively debunked it, while debunking McCain's use of Hamas to tar Obama at the same time.

It would seem that Obama, who was born Muslim and converted to Christianity, is actually guilty of "irtidad" or "ridda," which is a kind apostasy to all Mohammedans.

So severe is this offense, Luttwak writes, that it, "would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards."

It is simple information worthy of discussion, but hardly heard at all beneath the clanking and clutter about "Hussein."

"Change We Can Believe In," is okay for an Obama campaign slogan, but, "What's In A Name?" might have been more to the point.

No comments: