“Not since John Kerry has America had such an outstanding candidate for the Presidency”

February 05, 2008

* Grave concerns about Barack Obama and the Middle East (see below).

* First “Super Tuesday” result just in: Democrats Abroad in Indonesia (“home to the world’s largest Muslim population”) give Obama a landslide (albeit with a tiny American-Indonesian electorate).

* Robert Fisk (as “told” to satirist Peter Briffa): “Nobody seriously believes George “Dubya” Bush will allow this election to take place. Franklin Roosevelt stood for election four times, using the War on Japan and Germany as his excuse to break his own constitution. What’s to stop Bush nuking Iran, and then postponing the elections, Musharraf-like, on similar grounds?”



1. Barack Obama and the Middle East
2. Some dubious advisors
3. Hardline Iranian press embraces Barack Obama
4. And the Oscar goes to Hillary Clinton...
5. “Not since John Kerry has America had such an outstanding candidate for the Presidency”
6. Hackers declare war on Scientology after YouTube removes Tom Cruise clip

[Note by Tom Gross]

This website primarily concerns the Middle East. However, this dispatch contains items connected to the American election because the choice of the next U.S. president will, of course, have a great bearing on the future of the Middle East. This dispatch also contains some lighter, humorous items.

Just in case anyone doesn’t know, today is “Super Tuesday,” when voters in 24 American states go to the polls in a series of primaries and caucuses. The Democratic race is particularly tight with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running neck and neck.


Among the five major candidates remaining in the Democratic and Republican Party races, Barack Obama is the only one that raises serious concerns when it comes to foreign policy.

Obama may be articulate, charming and charismatic on television and in public rallies, but – as far as we can see – his policies for the Middle East may very well set back the interests of America, of Muslim democrats and liberals, of Israel, and of peace and freedom in general.

In an interview with Paris Match (January 31, 2008) Obama said one of the very first things he would do once elected is “to organize a summit in the Muslim world with all the heads of state... We must also listen to their concerns.”

In other words, Obama will listen to the “concerns” of these despots and dictators, including (he has made clear) the regimes in Damascus and Teheran, rather than to the pro-west opposition movements struggling to bring democracy to the Muslim world.

Many of these heads of state actively promote terrorism and anti-Semitic incitement in their state-controlled media.

We know that one of the prime “concerns” of these dictators is Israel’s existence.

Nowhere in the Paris Match article does Obama condemn the repeated terrorist strikes and incitement against Israel – the only stable democracy in the region.

Furthermore Obama has said he will swiftly withdraw from Iraq, come what may, leaving the poor, suffering civilian population there at the mercy of al-Qaeda – who last week tricked two Down’s Syndrome women into becoming suicide bombers.



Obama has appointed ardent critics of Israel as his foreign policy advisors. They include:

* Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser;
* Robert Malley, a relentless apologist for Yasser Arafat;
* Samantha Power, who has also called for the elimination of foreign aid to Israel and its redirection to “Palestine”.

Among the conservatives Obama has said he may call upon to advise him are (according to an interview Obama gave in the February 4, 2008 issue of Newsweek) Senators Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel, possibly the most anti-Israel figures among Senate Republicans.

When asked by Newsweek “Would you have Republicans in your cabinet?” Obama replied, “No decisions, but Dick Lugar embodies the best tradition in foreign policy. Chuck Hagel is a smart guy who has shows some courage, even though we disagree on domestic policy.”

Among their record on foreign policy:

On July 24, 2001, the Senate voted 96 to 2 to renew the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act to help deny Iran and Libya money that they would spend on supporting terrorism or acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The only two senators who opposed the measure were Lugar and Hagel.

On November 11, 2003, the Senate voted by 89 to 4, to pass the Syria Accountability Act, which authorized sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism and its occupation of Lebanon. Hagel refused to vote for it.

On April 6, 2001, 87 members of the Senate sent President Bush a letter saying Yasser Arafat should not be invited to meet with high-level officials in Washington until he renounced terrorism against Israel. Lugar and Hagel declined to sign the letter.



The hardline Iranian government-controlled Fars news agency writes positively here of Barack Obama.

It seems they hope that he would serve the Ahmadinejad regime’s interests better than John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney.



... Or at least the maker of this clip (made in Australia) should get an Oscar for best short.



British satirist Peter Briffa devises some columns that leading British newspaper columnists might have written. Here are a few from those writers who are also known to an American audience.

Robert Fisk (Middle East correspondent for The Independent):

Western liberals may find this hard to believe, but for the poor people in the Arab marshes the forthcoming US election barely registers on the imagination. What with the starvation, the poverty, the polluted water, and the daily rapes and murders being inflicted on them by the American troops who casually stroll the streets looking for new worlds to conquer, which rich white American takes over from the current rich white American is not an issue that sets the pulse racing.

In any case, nobody seriously believes George “Dubya” Bush will allow this election to take place.

Franklin Roosevelt stood for election four times, using the War on Japan and Germany as his excuse to break his own constitution. What’s to stop Bush nuking Iran, and then postponing the elections, Musharraf-like, on similar grounds?


Max Hastings (columnist for The Guardian):

America may not have invented racism, but true to its capitalist roots, it was the first country on earth to realise its commercial potential and export it across the world like a package from DHL. To be black in America means to be poor: where the only career choices available are as either as a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, or as an extra on NYPD Blue playing a drug dealer. Maybe there’s a third. For one in a million African Americans there is the vague possibility that he might become a “gangsta rapper”.

It is a measure of Barack Obama’s potential that he has transcended these categories and is now in the box seat to become the President. If he achieves this extraordinary feat – and make no mistake, white America will do everything it can to stop this from happening – then he has the chance like no man before him to completely alter the political landscape, once and forever.


Sir Simon Jenkins (former editor of The Times of London; now a Guardian columnist):

Hillary Clinton is the most dangerous woman alive. Not since Margaret Thatcher herself have we seen a woman who exuded the power urge with such naked avarice. She is the wife of the man who had Ricky Ray Rector executed, she is a woman who would steal the gold teeth of your still alive grandmother, who would nuke Iran so long as it polled well in Delaware, and unleash a herd of man-eating penguins on the tiny island of Tuvalu for the sheer damn hell of it. In short, Hillary’s Clinton’s blood lust makes George W. Bush look like a doe-eyed pacifist.

And yet, were I am American, I would have little hesitation in voting for her.


Polly Toynbee (prominent feminist and columnist for The Guardian):

A tidal wave is sweeping across America. A tsunami of liberalism is washing across the Eastern Seaboard, wiping away the cobwebs of capitalism and Christianity, ushering in a new era of progressive secularism.

John Howard despatched in Australia. Tony Blair in the UK. Could George Bush be the third and most notable victory for those of us who campaigned against the Iraqi invasion?

Could we in Europe finally see the election of a President ready to institute health care for all, Sure Start centres for the children of the very poor, and an economy based more closely on the Swedish model?

Is America ready for Hillary Clinton?


David Aaronovitch (columnist for The Times of London):

I remember the first time I met Hillary Clinton. I’d flown into Washington in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and there among the throng of journalists and tv crews all awaiting an interview with the beleaguered President, I suddenly saw her, standing in a corridor, quite alone, while her husband conducted what was fast becoming known as a charm offensive.

The press were obsessed with Lewinsky. Her full rounded cheery Jewish smile, her curvy figure, full bosom, and luscious lips. But for me it was Hillary who exuded a languid, repressed eroticism that hinted at dark, shadowy waters. Perhaps she was wearing a whalebone corset, just like a school-teacher on the Waltons.

It was then that I first realised that human sexuality is a complex octopus: it may have one face but it has many limbs, whose template cannot be contained by rules, divine, social, or otherwise.


Nick Cohen (former leftist; columnist for The Observer):

It’s Barack this and Barack that. Lentil-chewing liberals who six months ago couldn’t have spoken his name let alone spell it, are propping up the bars throughout my part of North Islington, and in between the adulation for George Galloway, and the moaning about house prices, are twittering about Barack Obama like superannuated teenagers at a Take That reunion concert.


Gary Younge (Britain’s best known Black columnist):

Ignore the media-generated hysteria of the New York Times and the San Antonio Gazette. The election of Barack Obama as President would be a disaster for all Afro-Americans. For all his courting of the disaffected Muslim vote, his boyish appeal to the soccer moms of the midwest, and his sly cultivation of impressionable east coast liberals, the man is a mere front for the vested interested of the Washington neocon establishment. They wouldn’t have let him get this far if he was a genuine radical.

Indeed, if President Coconut wins the next election, this could be the biggest setback to the civil rights movement since the death of Malcolm X.


William Rees-Mogg (former editor of and now columnist for The Times of London):

Barack Obama is the one to watch. Morally concerned without being moralistic, sociable without being socialist, egalitarian yet meritocratic, profoundly secular yet deeply religious, he is the change candidate who offers continuity. Obama is the candidate who embodies the moment, yet one whose roots are seared deep into America’s shared past.

Not since John Kerry has America had such an outstanding candidate for the Presidency. Why then, do I feel it in my bones, that the next President of the United States will be Fred Thompson?



A highly organized international group of Internet hackers has launched an online campaign against the Church of Scientology.

They have successfully carried out a “denial of service” attack on the organization’s international website, causing it to crash. And they have engaged in a sustained campaign of “Google bombing” – manipulating the way the Google search engine works – to ensure that the Church of Scientology is returned as the first hit whenever anyone enters the search “dangerous cult”.

The decision of hackers to target the self-styled church – which is banned in several European countries as a “criminal enterprise” – is believed to have stemmed from YouTube’s decision to remove a video from the site showing Tom Cruise hailing Scientology as “a blast”.

The Hackers allege that YouTube acted after a campaign of intimidation by Scientologists.

A worldwide day of “direct action” against the Church of Scientology is planned for next Sunday, to voice concerns about its growing power and economic muscle.

Last week the actress Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, became the latest Hollywood star to fall prey to the Church of Scientology and handed over $10m to the organization.

You can still see parts of the Tom Cruise clip in the campaign spoof in item 4 above.

-- Tom Gross

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.