What Obama Could Have Said

by FATEMEH KESHAVARZ

Presidential debates are not meant to be in-depth or analytical exchanges. The candidates are unlikely to reveal new information or venture into unexplored and risky territory.  Neither are they encouraged to make bold and original comments. However, as safe and familiar scenarios, carefully polished and tested out by campaign strategists, are dished out to national audiences of these debates, a small doze of reality could be refreshing. The first presidential debate left much to be desired with regard to the candidate’s vision of a foreign policy informed, realistic, and able to deal with changing global conditions.

I am not referring to the fact that Senator McCain would still perpetuate the myth of a world so dangerous it cannot be handled in anyway other than being crashed with military might. We are by now used to the fact that he presents the Iraq war as if a military victory (if it were possible) would justify everything including the faulty intelligence which started war, namely the Iraqi connection with al-Qaeda and the WMDs. Naturally, it is not surprising that in the debate he attributed the recent reduction of violence solely to the troop surge which he supports and ignored completely the 70% or more Iraqi’s who view the U.S. army as occupiers and wish to see us leave immediately.

As an American with multi-cultural background, a person who travels and finds the opportunity to view world politics from a variety of national lenses, one of the saddest parts in the debate was the two candidates’ disregard for other nations’ well-being (almost as an indication of their patriotism.) Senator Obama, for example, was quick to mention the Iraqi surplus and the responsibility of the country to manage its own affairs.  But while citing the calamities of the war, he would only refer to the over 4,000 American causalities and not as much as hint at the few hundred thousand Iraqis dead and millions displaced. It was almost as if such a reference would have made him less American in our eyes. Are we, despite being a superpower, so small that our patriotism would be marred unless it is totally self-centered? I tend to think not.

The biggest fiasco of the evening, however, was Senator McCain’s total and patriotic opposition to unconditional negotiations with Iran. He is, of course, entitled to his views and proposed policies.  Neither am I naïve enough to expect Senator Obama to intervene on behalf of Iran and say something totally unpatriotic such as “Iran is a large, diverse, and young country. Wouldn’t it be wise to think about turning it into an asset for America in the region?”  He would certainly be committing political suicide if he went a step further and cited facts such as “We would have not won our initial war with the Taliban if it were not for Iran’s help through its connections with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan” or, “Iran is the only country in the region in which al-Qaida does not have a safe haven.”

But when Mr. McCain made fun of his opponent, lampooning his way through an imaginary scenario in which diplomatic contact between the U.S. and Iran was reduced to a silly exchange between the two presidents during which the evil one proclaimed “I want to wipe Israel off the map!” and the good (but weak) one endorsed the evil deed with his presence, he should not have got away with it. Senator Obama didn’t have to do anything risky such as explaining that foreign policy of a nation requires a more solid base than a mistranslated sentence. Neither did he have to point out that Israel is not an ink blot to be wiped off a piece of paper. It is a country equipped to defend itself (not to mention that her Western friends could do things to Iran that would make the Iraqi casualty figure look modest). As fun as it would have been, no one could expect him to suggest that Mr. McCain better stop using Israel as a step in his political dance to the next war.

But Mr. Obama could have done something really cool. He could have pulled out a shocker, a piece of news no one seems to have had access to so far. “John,” he could have said “I have news for you! No American president would be able to negotiate with Mr. Ahmadinejad, no matter how much he would like to. The guy’s term in office is coming to an end in May … and his popularity beats that of Mr. Bush.”

That might have made Mr. McCain turn around and look at him.

FATEMEH KESHAVARZ is Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Washington University and the author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran.

Your Ad Here

 

 

 


Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalences on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Off-Shore Drilling
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises