Thursday, December 07, 2006

Global Hopscotch


First, the silly: The U.S. and UN are threatening to cut off North Korea’s 600-odd ruling families from importing certain luxury goods. Here's a Chicago Tribune editorial on the subject:

On the U.S. list, according to the Associated Press, are such Kim favorites as Johnny Walker scotch whiskey, Cadillac cars, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, yachts, plasma TVs, Rolex watches, Segway scooters, Jet Ski personal watercraft and iPods. Japan includes beef, caviar, fatty tuna, expensive cameras and cars on its list of banned items. Many European nations are still working on their lists.

This just proves Thomas Friedman’s old point about how warfare is evolving from state-vs.-state to state-vs.-man. We’re not even trying to kill a single guy, like Usama bin Ladin, in this case; the U.S. is reduced to attempts to keep Kim Jong Il from getting bombed on the wrong scotch—a brand that, incidentally, is available in every airport duty-free store in the world.

Second, Arianna Huffington continues her march from bluster toward substance with a modest proposal:

Well, it appears [Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s] government wants us out six months from now. And what about the Iraqi people, those purple-fingered symbols of democracy in action? What about what they want?

If Bush is all about the Tenacious D(emocracy), why not have the Iraqi people "express their desires and wishes" and hold a plebiscite on the most pressing question facing the country: Should the United States withdraw its troops from Iraq -- Yes or No? (Talk about your Pick of Destiny).

Simple, in a vicious sort of way, with all parties in Iraq having to do something they don’t want to: Sunni insurgents would be discouraged from trying to stop the election, since it would likely go their way (U.S. out!). The al-Maliki government would be embarrassed into a get-of-the-vote effort to counter a high Sunni turnout. And the U.S., when its troops are told to go, has to leave, except for whatever right it asserts to protect Iraq’s oil wealth for export.

Finally, Minnesota congressman-elect Keith Ellison wants to be sworn in this January with his hand on a Qur’an, prompting predictable outrage from Christian conservatives. One of the most prominent has been pundit Dennis Prager, who called Ellison’s proposed action "an act of hubris ... that undermines American civilization. ... Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."

Prager’s remarks are resounding throughout the nation and around the world, which must be extremely interested to see how America’s most prominent Muslim elected official (Zalmay Khalilzad is an appointee) is treated.

Of course, it turns out that Prager is Jewish, meaning he has not only soured the fragile U.S. reputation for religious tolerance in the Muslim world, he has managed to single-handedly unite the ADL and CAIR for one glorious moment:

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement calling his argument "intolerant, misinformed, and downright un-American." Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, says the text used should be that which "is most sacred to the individual taking the oath. To ask ... otherwise is not only disrespectful to the person and to an entire religious tradition, but is asking the public official to be hypocritical."

The Council for American-Islamic Relations has called for Prager to be dropped from his recent presidential appointment to the Holocaust Memorial Council. "He is trying to marginalize Muslims by making it seem as though any practice of American Muslims is different or 'other' than what America stands for," says Arsalan Iftikhar, CAIR's legal counsel.

(Thanks to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Review for the Tribune and Huffington items.)

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