Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Better to be thrown accolades than shoes"

The bellowing indignation over Obama's Nobel certainly -- and rather successfully -- minimizes the intolerable hell the rest of the world endured during the previous eight years.

"Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes."

That's the take of Hillary Clinton's State Department on President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, according to her spokesman, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley.

Crowley was referring to the incident last December when an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during his final visit to Iraq of his presidency.

Muntader Zaidi, who worked for the Iraqi television station Al Baghdadiya, hurled both his shoes at Bush and called him a "dog" during a press conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He narrowly missed the president, who quickly ducked.

The shoe-throwing, considered one of the highest insults in the Middle East, illustrated the deep anger toward the United States over its invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Crowley's comments suggested a recognition by the Obama administration that the Nobel Prize was as much an indictment of the Bush administration as it was an effort to praise President Obama's outreach to improve the US image around the world.

Echoing comments by the White House, Crowley said the award was not just an "affirmation" of the Obama administration's foreign policy strategy of engagement, but also on its robust foreign policy agenda, which includes non-proliferation, dealing with Iran and North Korea, and pursuing peace in the Middle East.

"There is an opportunity here," Crowley said. "The tone has changed — but obviously we recognize that, while the tone in the world has changed, the challenges remain. They are very significant."

Forget the missing weapons of mass destruction and the Nigerian yellowcake and the smearing of an ambassador and the outing of his wife as a CIA agent. Overlook the torture of Iraqi POWs and the warrantless wiretapping of Americans (after all, Obama isn't moving nearly fast enough on either of those to satisfy me, for certain). Disregard even the photos of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse that continue to be shielded from public view, perhaps forever if Congress gets it way.

Consider only the non-American lives lost: the millions of innocent Iraqi civilians whose misfortune was to be in the way of the bombs and the bullets from both sides, the "coalition of the willing"'s soldiers whose leaders were browbeaten into supporting the war of lies, the deaths by torture and rape at the hands of American troops.

By all means, I expect Obama to actually accomplish a hell of a lot more than he has to this point. President Kumbayah has maxed out on victories by smile and speech.

But if the Nobel committee wants to bet on the come, good on 'em. It's their money. And if anybody wants to keep on playing the tear-down game, they're just stuck in Sore-Loserville.

And Harvey Wasserman, via The Rag Blog, is correct: this Nobel is a pay-it-forward request from the international community to get out of Afghanistan.

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