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Countdown: Vol. 10, No. 2

Tuesday June 21, 2011

That Which Doesn’t Kill Us Gets Appointed
Republican presidential candidates had their first major debate last week, hosted by CNN in New Hampshire. With Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain present, those anticipating a good dose of Islamophobia were not disappointed. Cain reiterated his inflammatory statements about not appointing Muslims to his administration, noting that while some Muslims are good, others want to "kill us." Unlike Cain, we're of the opinion that we should be uncomfortable appointing anyone who wants to kill us, regardless of religion...but that's just us. Gingrich rolled out a two-pronged plan to root out insidious plots: first, use McCarthy-era tactics that have worked so well in the past. Then, ask Muslims if they're really loyal to the United States before hiring them. Whew! Glad we've resolved that issue. In marked contrast, frontrunner Mitt Romney took the high road, reminding viewers that the United States was founded on the principle of religious tolerance.

Hey, Those Bombs Weren't Cheap!
On planet earth, when you destroy something that belongs to someone else, you bear the responsibility of fixing it. On planet Rohrabacher, when you destroy something, its owner owes you for your hard wrecking labor. As of last week, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is no longer welcome in Iraq, following his suggestion that Iraq should reimburse the United States for the cost of the U.S.-led war. Rohrabacher's suggestion demonstrates yet again the disconnect of some members of Congress and the media from reality. Rohrabacher and a CNN anchor had a venting session in which they expressed outrage and confusion over Iraqi anger at his proposition, failing to understand why the country we bombed, invaded and occupied would be so ungrateful. Meanwhile, those of us with a modicum of common sense will continue to advocate for a policy in which the United States leaves Iraq in a more secure and prosperous state than it was before the misguided invasion.

Just When You Thought Weinergate was Over...
Is Anthony Weiner a secret Muslim? If you are actually pondering this question, you may be on the wrong email list. Like most of you, we found the question absurd, but the prospect was seriously raised in an article in The Washington Times. Though the original article was taken down, Salon's Justin Elliott saved a copy for all of us at the bottom of his post—you have to see it to believe it. The conspiracy goes like this: neoconservative PR operative Eliana Benador speculated that Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, is part of an insidious plot to push a Muslim agenda on America. Don't expect Weiner's recent exit from Congress to put this hysteria to rest. Folks like Eliana Benador are creating an environment in which any public official affiliated with Muslims—even ardent pro-Israel hawks like Anthony Weiner—risk being accused of secretly fomenting a "Muslim plot."

Pass the Turkey
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) was elected to its third majority term last week in Turkey, beating out its main rival, the secularist and pro-military Republican People's Party (CHP). The AKP did not, however, secure the super majority it needed to unilaterally alter Turkey's constitution, which has led most analysts to expect another four years of political bickering. We sympathize, Turkey!

"Prislam" a la King
Congressman Peter King (R-NY) held a second round of his infamous hearings last Wednesday on "The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons. " King's panel of "experts" talked at length about "prislam," a terrifying hybrid of prison psychopathy and Islam. A number of committee members patiently explained to Congressman King that a proper investigation should include all forms of radicalization; that gangs are a far more dangerous prison population than Muslims; that the best way to combat prison radicalization is to reform the prisons; and that only two cases of Muslim American prisoners planning terrorist attacks have ever been recorded. In response, King accused them all of being overly "politically correct."

What Lebanon Doesn't Need
Arab American Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-CA), Charles Boustany (R-LA), and Nick Rahall (D-WV) joined forces with Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA) in introducing the Anti-Terrorism Act (HATA), H.R. 2215. The legislation is ostensibly aimed at preventing U.S. aid to Lebanon from falling into Hezbollah’s hands. HATA will prohibit U.S. assistance to the Lebanese government (because Hezbollah is now a part of the majority coalition), but the prohibition has “built-in exceptions” which essentially account for all current aid to Lebanon: “humanitarian, democracy-building, and educational assistance, [as well as] IMET funding, in order to allow for continued contact with the Lebanese military.” This is already what accounts for U.S. aid to Lebanon since the recent suspension of arms shipments. The bill also contains boilerplate language that gives the President the authority to waive its enforcement to “support necessary American national security initiatives in Lebanon, as well as our friends in Lebanon.” In effect, the bill is a bit of posturing which allows for the status quo of U.S. policy to remain. With Lebanon a tinderbox ready to explode, it is dangerous for members of Congress to be playing with matches. 

Penny-wise and...just Foolish
The President's pitch on Libya has been tough to sell. Preventing what appeared to be an imminent massacre may be difficult to oppose on moral grounds, but some Republicans in Congress (in what we'll pretend is a "mystifying" reversal of their attitude under the Bush administration) are now serious about not wasting money when our "vital national security interests" are not at stake. Hence the pursuit of legal action against the President on the grounds that he has violated the War Powers Clause by authorizing attacks on Libya. Strangely, although the U.S. hasn't declared war since World War II, no other suits have been brought to contest our extensive military activities in, say, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate real fiscal concerns (given the inconsistency in which they arise) from political pandering and opportunism.

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