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Andrew Clem Archives ~ Tsunami: A view from France

January 6, 2005 [LINK]

It's official: Bush wins!

A day that used to be a ceremonial, purely symbolic reaffirmation of our democratic heritage was spoiled by raucous and bitter debates over alleged voting irregularities in Ohio and elsewhere. Congress' role in certifying the Electoral College votes used to be supremely anti-climactic, but like everything else these days, it's an excuse for a pointless verbal brawl. The (Barbara) "Boxer Rebellion," the transparent attempt to undermine the legitimacy of President Bush's reelection, will surely fire up the Democrat activists for the next election, though the cost in terms of relations between the parties on Capitol Hill may be very high. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) began his remarks on the House floor by saying "We are not here as partisans of one candidate or another..." Well, perhaps not, but the timing of the objections certainly seem odd. Look at it from a different perspective: If he were in fact pursuing a partisan agenda, wouldn't today be the perfect opportunity for grandstanding and annoying his opponents?

The monumental scale of the disingenuousness on display by the Democratic side is quite breathtaking. Another House Democrat went so far as to say the United States has forfeited any right to judge the electoral practices of other countries such as Ukraine. Do they really expect us to take them seriously? As for the merits of the dispute, the Democrats certainly could have picked a more suitable occasion for ironing out problems if they were really aiming for cooperative action. After Florida 2000 the issue of voting rights received a huge amount of attention, and there was ample opportunity to put in place enough safeguards to erase any doubts about the electoral process. I heard a particularly articulate response to the Democrats' complaints while listening to the debate on the TV in another room, so I went in to see who it was. Wouldn't you know, it was good ol' Majority Leader Tom DeLay from Texas! Perhaps I should give him more credit, but I still think his role in the Texas redistricting was inappropriate. Anyway, late in the afternoon, the lower chamber of Congress finally confirmed the November 2 election results by certifying the Electoral College votes. Hooray!?

I checked the Carter Center Web site to see if they had any recent comments about the U.S. election or the Ohio recount. Not yet. Carter, you may recall (scroll down), approved last summer's referendum in Venezuela while claiming that the Florida 2000 elections were unfair. In fact, they still haven't weighed in on the hotly disputed Ukrainian elections, to my amazement. They are perhaps too busy monitoring elections in Palestine and Mozambique.

January 6, 2005 [LINK]

Tsunami: A view from France

In belgravia dispatch (via InstaPundit), Gregory Djerejian writes about French resentment that the U.S. is taking a lead role in the "humanitarian coalition." As for the "stinginess" accuastion, one of the posts on that belgravia dispatch page included a link (PDF) to a Defense Department list of U.S. forces that are involved in the tsunami relief operation. His blog post includes a cartoon from Le Monde portraying the U.S. as a presumptuous imperialist, and the text sarcastically implies that U.S. aerial photographic missions to survey the damage are part of a sinister Pentagon plot. That's absurd, and it's sad that so many French people think that way.

True, the past U.S. record in supporting the military regime of Suharto during and since the Vietnam War is a somewhat blemished one. Here's a twist, though: until the 1990s, U.S. policy toward Indonesia was accommodative of nationalist sentiment. It was during the Republican administration of Gerald Ford in 1975 that Henry Kissinger sent a signal tacitly approving Indonesia's takeover of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. It was under the Clinton presidency, in contrast, that the U.S. pushed Indonesia to let go of that culturally distinct half-island, angering the military leaders and infuriating nationalist sensibilities there. That was one of the best-justified examples of Clinton's aggressive global reformism, most observers would say, and the outcome in East Timor is certainly better than Bosnia or Kosovo. Because the destruction from the tsunami was centered in the province of Aceh, where there has been a violent separatist movement for many years, many Americans are for the first time getting a faint inkling of the complex ethnic strife in that far-flung island "nation." Students who have been in my Global Politics class know all about the ethnic and religious makeup of Indonesia, or should...

I was proud of Colin Powell for forcefully correcting the faulty premise of Diane Sawyer's interview query, that the U.S. response to the disaster was alllegedly tardy and weak. Few statesmen can speak as authoritatively and convincingly as he can. Have I mentioned he will be missed? Yes, I have.

For a grimly humorous review of the insipid mainstream Western reaction to the tragedy, see "The 12 most stupid tsunami quotes " at Beware, there are some extremely lame platitudes and expressions of utter ignorance. One woman letter writer from Kansas bewailed the "tsunami" wrought by the Bush administration on this country. Were 150,000 people killed by Bush?

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 14 Jan 2005, 5: 06 PM

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