Sunday, August 31, 2008

Democratic National Convention

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on August 28th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

Tonight I will be in the crowd of 80,000 US citizens, along with other media representatives from around the world, witnessing history in the making at Denver Colorado’s Mile High Stadium. Senator Barack Obama will be giving his Democratic Party Presidential nomination acceptance speech before the largest audience to ever attend such an event. The only other time a United States (US) Presidential candidate has given an acceptance speech at an outdoor arena was back on 15 July 1960, when John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination before an estimated 50,000 Americans at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.
But five long weeks ago, Senator Obama spoke before a much larger crowd from the base of the Victory Column in Tiergarten Park in Berlin; a crowd consisting of over 200,000 Germans and citizens from every other country in Europe as well as many other countries in the rest of the world. In fact, this was Senator Barack Obama’s largest audience yet as a US Presidential candidate. As such this huge crowd of non-US citizens stands as a testament to the fact that, despite the well deserved battering my country’s image has taken over the last six years around the world, America is still regarded as the world’s best hope for leadership in solving the many problems which stand before us.
But if one closely listened to the substance of Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin, you would have noticed that he was not only also speaking to Americans back home in the US, but that Obama was also outlining his vision of future American foreign policy positions that many here in Europe would disagree with. While Senator Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war and his plan to withdraw American forces from that country after he is elected draws broad support from Europeans, Obama’s position on the conflict in Afghanistan is another matter.
Senator Obama spoke eloquently of the need for the US and Europe to stand together against Iran’s desire to develop nuclear weapons and asked for both Europe and Germany’s help on the frontlines of the global “war on terror” in Afghanistan. He did so knowing full well that German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes sending more German troops to Afghanistan because many if not most Germans are against the idea. Senator Obama sought to remind his German audience that the harsh reality of the world today is that no country can escape the dangers posed by pseudo-religious terrorism nor can any single country defeat this threat. Obama noted that “None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth.”
Senator Obama then pointed out that the end of the Cold War that was symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall had given rise to new dangers that were not constrained by national borders or even by oceans. Obama reminded his German hosts that the September 11th terrorists hatched their plot in Hamburg and then trained for their mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan and across the border in Karachi, Pakistan. Then in an acknowledgement of another borderless global problem, Obama noted that it was a combination of CO² emissions from cars in cities like Boston, Massachusetts along with factories in Beijing, China that were melting our polar ice caps.
Unfortunately, in the minds of many Germans and Americans as well as citizens of other countries, President Bush’s illegitimate war in Iraq has become intertwined with legitimate efforts to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. The fact that this misconception has been embraced by so many people means that President Bush and his political hacks have largely succeeded in their attempts to link their Iraq war with the global “war on terror.” While I expect there are many who would disagree with me, I continue to believe that the US led multi-national invasion of Afghanistan was justified as a necessary measure to thwart the threat posed by pseudo-religious Islamic inspired terrorists.
The Taliban regime in Afghanistan provided both a government sponsored sanctuary as well as training bases for Osama bin laden’s al Qaeda terrorist organization. The initial US military response involved the use of a small number of Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan in recognition of the fact that you don’t attack a network like al Qaeda with a field army. It took fewer than 200 US Special Forces A-team troops to effectively topple the Taliban regime and put bin laden and al Qaeda on the run.
But then President Bush took the heat off of bin laden and al Qaeda by deciding to finish the job his Daddy didn’t by invading Iraq and falsely justifying his actions as a necessary response to the terrorism threat posed by Saddam Hussein. The decision to turn what was essentially a Special Forces counter-terrorism guerrilla operation in Afghanistan with little or no media publicity, into a headline grabbing conventional war in Iraq helped Bush win political re-election, but at a horrendous cost in terms of American lives in addition to our economic, military and political power.
. Many Europeans see the second coming of John F. Kennedy in Obama. Many also believe that Obama is the antidote for the disease of unreasoning fear that the Bush administration has been spreading for the last 6 years in the US and the rest of the world. But I would caution all of those who feel this way to be careful and not “put the cart before the horse.” Granted, Barack is a breath of fresh air and a source of hope and inspiration for millions of Americans and others around the globe. But he is still only one man and America is only one country.
Obama noted the real solution to the world’s problems in Berlin; “Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice. It is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.”

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