Friday, January 21, 2005

Ground control to Major Tom

Thomas Friedman is officially off the wagon again, sucking down anecdotal evidence like it's 200-proof truth:

Funnily enough, the one country on this side of the ocean that would have elected Mr. Bush is not in Europe, but the Middle East: it's Iran, where many young people apparently hunger for Mr. Bush to remove their despotic leaders, the way he did in Iraq.

An Oxford student who had just returned from research in Iran told me that young Iranians were "loving anything their government hates," such as Mr. Bush, "and hating anything their government loves." Tehran is festooned in "Down With America" graffiti, the student said, but when he tried to take pictures of it, the Iranian students he was with urged him not to. They said it was just put there by their government and was not how most Iranians felt.

Iran, he said, is the ultimate "red state." Go figure.

Now, while it's true that Iran may just be Texas without the football (American-style football anyway; the Iranians actually fielded a halfway decent soccer team in the 2002 World Cup, prompting a momentary crisis of conscience in a Persian exile friend of mine), offering up a slice of youth culture as proof positive for a widespread "hunger" for a big steaming plate of Liberte a la Bush might be pushing it a bit.

Tommy, can you hear me - kids are always hating on The Powers That Be (tm), no matter what the country or system of government. The MTV demographic here in the States had it in for American imperialism, torture, homophobia, and our pretzel-chokin' prez in droves but I didn't see you pointing to Sean Jean's "Vote or Die" campaign as an example of Americans yearning deep down to be free of the tyranny of George "No Eye Contact" Bush.

And speaking of the whole "Liberty is good" Inaugural speech that had Republican callers wetting their pants on NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday afternoon - one poor fellow couldn't decide whether to compare Dubya to Lincoln or to Walt Whitman, which must have prompted a lot of restless grave-rolling - the Washington Post reminds us that the Bush Administration only brings freedom to the tyrannies that defy us:

President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.

Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism -- including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan -- are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about freedom - what true-blue American isn't? But to kick around the Middle East while pussy-footing it around countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - i.e., the nations most responsible for 9/11, the former a paranoid repressive monarchy and the latter a paranoid repressive dictatorship - makes this whole glorious crusade a big fucking joke. And while there may in fact be a hunger in places like Iran for liberty, I sincerely doubt that the Iranians really want us to bring it to them the way we have to the Iraqis and Afghanis, Alexander the Great-style...

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