Posted on June 06, 2008 in Washington Watch

(A review of items of interest to the U.S.-Arab relationship – covering developments in Washington, political campaigns and the U.S. Media)

On Capitol Hill

Schumer on Saudi Arms

Not to be outdone, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has introduced legislation that makes a dangerous and spurious connection. Schumer’s bill would block a $1.37 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia unless it increases oil production by 1 million barrels per day. In a statement on the Senate floor, Schumer opined, “As we all know, the principal cause underlying the rise in gasoline prices has been the spike in crude oil prices…. Because American gasoline refiners purchase crude oil on the world market, the price they pay and ultimately pass on to consumers is highly sensitive to the level of crude oil production. … The largest member of OPEC, Saudi Arabia, controls one-fifth of the world’s crude reserves and constitutes more than 10 percent of world daily production of crude oil, making it one of the most critical suppliers influencing this market.”

Qualitative Edge

On the May 15 the House passed the “Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008.” Like most legislation these days, the name belies the actual content of the bill. In this case, the bill focuses rather exclusively on maintaining Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” and requires that any proposed arms sales to countries in the Middle East other than Israel certify that they do not challenge the technological edge that Israel enjoys in terms of war fighting equipment.

Of dubious Constitutional legitimacy, the bill is simply another example of the election year pro-Israel hoop-jumping.

On the Trail

The Other Campaign Against Obama

Since beginning his run for the Presidency, Barack Obama has had to contend with a viral email campaign that has portrayed him as unpatriotic or a foreign implant out to subvert America. At first dismissed as the work of “quacks,” the effort continued and, sadly, has had some effect. As reported by Politico, these emails , while absurd, have come to be believed by some. Polling, for example, shows that between 11% and 15% of Americans believe Obama to be a Muslim. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence pointing to some voters’ beliefs that he is “unpatriotic,” “not an American,” “a radical black nationalist,” and a few other untruths.

The New York Times interviewed American Jews in Florida for a May 22 piece and reported the following statements: “Mr. Obama is Arab.” “He is part of Chicago’s large Palestinian community.” “Al Qaeda is backing Obama.” “Obama might fill his administration with followers of Louis Farrakhan.”

The virulence of those charges and their persistent hold over a small but significant portion of the population probably explain why Obama has continued to reach out to American Jews for help in correcting the record.

Arab Americans and Muslims Making Congress More Diverse

On the ballot this November will be a record number of Arab Americans and American Muslim candidates for federal office. Running for reelection in the Senate will be John Sununu, the junior Senator from New Hampshire. (Challenging him will be former Governor Jean Shaheen, the wife of Arab American Bill Shaheen.)

Running for reelection to the U.S. Congress will be three Arab Americans: Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Darrell Issa of California and Charles Boustany of Louisiana. Two African American Muslims will be running for reelection, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana.

And at least four Arab Americans will be running to replace incumbents in the Fall. They include John Steven of New Hampshire; David Capiello of Connecticut; Robert Abboud in Illinois; and Sam Rasoul in Virginia who, at 26, is the youngest major party candidate for Congress this year.

In the Press

Dumb and Dumber: Voices on Islam

It’s one thing for wacky preachers like Pat Robertson and Rod Parsley to demonstrate their ignorance about Islam, it is quite another thing for the pages of New York Times and members of Congress to do the same.

On May 12, Edward Luttwack was given a central New York Times op-ed space to print a perfectly bizarre “analysis” of the reaction of the Muslim world to Barack Obama if he were elected President. Far from improving relations between the U.S. and Dar al-Islam, asserted Luttwack, an Obama presidency would exacerbate tensions. Why? Because as an apostate he would “horrify the Muslim world,” and his election would “compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the United States….” Luttwack even claimed that some Muslim nations would not allow Obama to enter.

Just who is Luttwack? He first came to prominence in the aftermath of the 1973 war while working as a defense analyst in Israel, when he criticized the “timidity” of Israel’s defense establishment for not taking Cairo and Damascus in the war. Argued Luttwack, such advances would only have cost a few thousand Israeli troops which, he noted, was a number so small it was within the margin or error in the census of Israel! For that attitude he was drummed out of Israel only to show up as a defense hawk in the Reagan transition team in 1980!

Still dumber is Congresswoman Sue Myrick’s “Wake up America” campaign. Myrick’s campaign calls for, among other issues: investigations of U.S. military and prison chaplains, as well as the selection process for Arabic translators at the FBI and department of Defense. The campaign further calls suspending the student visa program with Saudi Arabia; restricting religious visas for Imams from countries that don’t allow reciprocal visits from non-Muslim clergy; cancelling contracts with the Saudi police and other forces unless it detains all repatriated prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay (who were released because there was no evidence to hold them.)

Myrick also has an interesting past. Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, she was quoted as saying, “You know, and this can be misconstrued, but honest to goodness (husband) Ed and I for years, for 20 years, have been saying, `You know, look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.’ Every little town you go into, you know?

Misconstrued? No fear Congresswoman. Your meaning is quite clear!

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