The Lowe Down

Category: Middle East (29)

Chan Lowe: War with Syria


Thank you, Cheney, Rummy, Condi, Wolfie and the rest of the hubristic cabal that felt they alone held the solution to the geopolitical puzzle. Thank you, George W. Bush — who couldn’t find the Middle East on a map before September of 2001 — for giving them the keys to the car.

The Iraq debacle looms over any discussion about what to do in Syria, since we’re still recovering from the burns received from the last time we placed our hand on the hot Middle East stove.

Iraq, according to the neoconservative strategists of the Bush administration, was the key to stability in the region. If we toppled Saddam, a grateful Iraqi people would allow us to establish a model Jeffersonian democracy, creating a thirst for freedom among their neighbors. They in turn would overthrow their dictatorships, establish U.S.-friendly governments, and our source of oil would be secure for generations to come. Win-win.

They made a couple of mistakes. First, there is no such thing as an Iraqi people. “Iraq” is a construct whose borders were imposed by Europeans with little concern for the ethnicity, creed or compatibility of the enclosed peoples.

Second, in a “nation” with no democratic traditions, what the locals prize most isn’t freedom, but stability. The former concept is strange and abstract, the latter is very real and concerns daily life in the streets. Saddam Hussein, for all his sins, provided a healthy dose of social order. The daily mayhem in Iraq is taking a back seat to the news about Syria, but there are many Iraqis who believe life was a lot better for them before the Americans came.

It’s no surprise that our leaders are reluctant to involve us in Syria. We hate to stand back while a dictator gases his own people, but we’ve learned the meaning of “mission creep” the hard way. Besides, if we did get rid of Assad, a hostile Islamist faction could well replace him.

The American people would like to be the good guys, but thanks to the misadventures of the past, intervention — even for the most humanitarian of reasons — has become a political third rail.

As British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said in 1938 during the Czechoslovakia crisis:

How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.

For post-Iraq America, that utterance doesn’t sound as craven as it once did.

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Chan Lowe: End of the Iraq War III


There were some who argued that the government should have imposed rationing of fuel, foods and consumer goods, as we did in World War II. Not because we needed to, but just to be a constant reminder that there was a war on.

It was somehow unseemly that people blithely gassed up their gargantuan SUVs while our troops were fighting in the oil fields. But the Bush administration felt that the best way to keep Americans from getting in the way of executing the strategy (whatever it was) was to keep the war below the radar. The American people, above all, should not suffer privation. Privation costs votes.

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Chan Lowe: End of the Iraq War II


It’s telling that several years ago, I drew a cartoon using the same trope of Nouri al-Maliki-as-hand-puppet, but back then the puppet-master was Uncle Sam. Maliki, at the end of Sam’s arm, had just poked him in the eye⎯it was about something he’d done in direct and public contravention of U.S. interests.

Like Hamid Karzai, his fellow stooge, Maliki felt it necessary once in a while to establish his bona fides as a home grown leader by sticking it to his patron. Appearing to be two-faced and ungrateful toward the superpower is the only way to command respect in that part of the world. Since we paymasters have nobody else to invest in, we’re forced to smile indulgently and suck it up.

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Chan Lowe: End of the Iraq War


Well, that was certainly a bust. In hindsight, it looks like our trillion bucks and thousands of casualties didn’t exactly produce the shining democratic example to other Middle Eastern regimes the neocons were hoping for.

Instead, we’re leaving behind a weak sectarian government that will be a puppet of the Iranians, the very bad guys Saddam was doing a fine job of containing before we took him out. Nice job.

Not that our troops let us down. They went in there and fought for their country, the way they wanted to and the way they were expected to. It was the civilian leadership that failed in its duty by squandering them in a pointless endeavor.

If you want to blame somebody for Iraq, blame Florida voters (and not for the reason you’d think). The late Lawton Chiles got tired of being a U.S. Senator from Florida and came back home to run for governor back in 1994. Had he not edged Jeb Bush out in that election, the smart son would have been the heir apparent to the presidency. Instead, W., as governor of Texas, was the only Bush left standing to anoint.

Jeb, whether or not you agree with his politics, would have been competent enough that Poppy Bush wouldn’t have felt compelled to attach training wheels to his boy’s administration in the form of Dick Cheney. Jeb probably wouldn’t have allowed Cheney and his paranoid fellow travelers anywhere near the White House, anyway.

Which is to say that we here in Florida had plenty of chances to screw things up, and we took advantage of every one of them.

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Chan Lowe: Bibi's stamp of approval


It’s in keeping with the bizarre way the 2012 elections are shaping up that the most important endorsement any candidate of either party has managed to land so far is from a foreigner.

Considering that President Obama cannot win reelection without Florida’s electoral votes, and that our recession-ravaged state could easily swing either way a year from now, anything that might get disillusioned Sunshine State Obama voters off their sofas and down to the polls could spell the difference between national victory and defeat.

This is purely anecdotal, but I talk to a lot of people down here in New York’s sixth borough, and their sentiments about the president’s handling of Israel⎯and the Middle East conflict in general⎯range from bewilderment to disappointment to anger to disgust. “He hasn’t even visited Israel as president yet. What’s he thinking?” one person said to me. Symbolism means a lot in this thorny corner of politics.

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Chan Lowe: Dems lose Weiner's district!


Talk about having the whole shebang blow up in their faces! Back during the height of Weinergate--or Twittergate, or whatever silly name you care to put on it--Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic congressional leadership were falling all over themselves to railroad America’s favorite exhibitionist out of office.

They could perform with such sanctimony because they knew with certitude--to borrow one of former Congressman Weiner’s more famous utterances--that his district would remain in Democratic hands, as it had since the 1920s. There is no grandstander like a pol who can pontificate risk-free. Had Weiner’s NY 9 been less politically reliable, the calls for his resignation would, no doubt, have been much more muted.

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Chan Lowe: Gadhafi ousted


We’re all glad Moammar Gadhafi’s gone. The man was a ruthless despot who harbored terrorists and hanged his opponents in the public square as an example to would-be plotters. We hope he’ll be tracked down soon and brought to well-deserved justice.

Nevertheless, as he passes from the public stage, we must tip a hat to his sense of personal flair. Not since Fat Hermann strutted in his sky-blue field marshal’s outfit has there been a political leader who displayed a similar comic opera appreciation of military uniforms. And Gadhafi’s sartorial daring didn’t stop there. His collection of Bedouin robes and unique headgear treatments even outshone the capes and karakul lamb filling-station attendant caps of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In one of his recent speeches, the be-turbaned strongman looked as though he were channeling the Gloria Swanson character in Sunset Boulevard.

Compared to Gadhafi, everyday butchers like the Castro brothers and Kim Jong Il look positively drab. Dictators around the world could all learn something from the eccentric colonel. If you’re going to keep your population oppressed, deprived and terrorized, at least leave ’em laughing.

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Chan Lowe: Anti-Afghanistan war sentiment


Don’t you remember way back, like four or five years ago, when to talk about winding down a war was condemned as “cutting and running?” When to even question the president’s thinking on the matter of our various foreign military involvements was labeled as unpatriotic, that it was undermining our brave troops who were out there in harm’s way?

Well, today’s Republicans are betting you don’t remember, either. Now that we have a Democratic president running things, it’s all right to question motives like getting involved in a war overseas just to topple a dictator. And now that Afghanistan has lost its luster, we can simply label it “Obama’s War,” and agitate to withdraw the troops without fear that we’re undermining their morale in the process. That’s the wonderful thing about short memories.

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Chan Lowe: Obama's Israel stumble


The ongoing Middle East conflict is so sensitive, so nuanced and so tinder-dry that any alteration in what is said, what is not said, the timbre of the saying of it, and which parts are emphasized and de-emphasized can cause a conflagration to break out.

Added to these variables are the one that has been occupying the news of late: Who says it. George W. Bush, who was considered a “Friend of Israel,” could say that peace negotiations should use as their basis the pre-1967 borders with mutually-agreed swaps. No ripples in the waters of the status-quo. But Barack Obama says it, and suddenly it’s an international incident.

A colleague who has been to Israel several times, and who has her finger on that country’s political pulse, says that our president is not a popular figure in Israel. This is putting it mildly. She says the general feeling there is that Obama “is too busy trying to suck up to the Arabs.”

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Chan Lowe: Obama's Middle East speech


Some would say the Israelis are being intransigent, and have always been. Of course, if you look at it from the Israeli point of view, their homeland is an area about the size of New Jersey, and all their neighbors would like to annihilate them. When they balk at making any concessions that might erode their ability to defend themselves, one can hardly blame them.

Some would say the Palestinians are being intransigent, and have always been. Of course, if you look at it from the Palestinian point of view, a bunch of foreigners arrived in their homeland carrying this sense of entitlement in their collective breast, stole their property, threw them out of their own country, and continue to squat there with no intention of ever giving it back. When they balk at making any any concessions that amount to institutionalizing and legalizing this perceived crime against their nation, one can hardly blame them.

Barack Obama is the latest American president to plunge into the fray. He must do so because every president before him has done so, at least since the establishment of the State of Israel. American presidents are expected to try to broker an accord; the rest of the world and the American electorate demand that they at least try. It’s part of the job description.

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Chan Lowe: Arm the Libyan rebels?


We’ve done so well until now. Let’s not go and shoot ourselves in the foot. What little we know about this ragtag band of so-called “freedom fighters” is that they come from a part of Libya that is a popular recruiting ground for al-Qaida.

The UN mandate empowered the coalition to “do whatever is necessary” to protect innocent civilians from harm. We’re already stretching that language to the limit with our aggressive action, regardless of how you euphemize it (Did William Tecumseh Sherman really say, “Kinetic military engagement is hell?”).

“It wouldn’t be prudent,” to quote a former president, not to find out for certain that these people aren’t arsonists before we put gasoline and matches in their hands. Let’s take note, also, that the materiel we would supply to them isn’t exactly of the simple point-and-shoot variety. It’s sophisticated, as befits weaponry for which the U.S. taxpayers paid plenty in order that our defense contractors could bedazzle the bejeezus out of our military procurement people.

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Chan Lowe: Obama's Libya speech


In his speech about Libya the other night, President Obama hit all the right patriotic notes. After all, he was selling something, and there’s no better way to move merchandise than to butter up your customers.

Americans like to hear that they are an exceptional nation, and Obama, who has often been accused by conservatives of not properly accepting this notion, turned the tables and presented our exceptionalism as the key justification for intervening in the Libyan conflict.

For us to stand by and let Gadhafi massacre his own people, he asserted, would be to violate our very character as a people. It’s true that of all nations, we’re the ones most likely to involve ourselves militarily to protect the human rights of others, on the premise that to allow someone else’s rights to be trampled puts those of all in jeopardy.

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Chan Lowe: Send in the Marines?


Will they never learn?

We’ve had troops mired for years in two theaters, and they’re spread so thin that the stress of repeated tours of duty is breaking them. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Secretary of Defense said that anybody who considers getting involved in another Middle East conflict ought to have his head examined.

Yet, the armchair hawks in congress are ready to go to war all over again in Libya, and they have the gall to chastise the president for moving too slowly. Sure, it plays well back home, where people are screaming about gas prices. But it’s President Obama who, if he gets us involved militarily, will be lying awake nights with those lives on his conscience.

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Chan Lowe: Gadhafi and fuel prices


This is what the Japanese dared to start a war over, back when they created the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in the 1930s.

Since the island nation lacked raw materials of its own, it determined that it was of vital national interest never to let its economy be held hostage to a shortage of natural resources and commodities.

Japan’s methodology in subjugating and brutalizing the peoples of a vast region was contemptible, but at times like these we can certainly appreciate her motives.

We like to think of ourselves as the most powerful nation on earth, yet our fragile economic recovery risks being strangled by, of all things, the reluctance of a semi-obscure North African madman to vacate his seat of power. Every day that he counterattacks and digs in is an extra day of turbulence and uncertainly in the world’s oil futures markets, with direct consequences to the prices of everything we consume here at home.

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Chan Lowe: Arab revolt


Back in the glory days of the British Empire, the mother country was frequently accused of playing fast and loose with troops from the dominions. In WWI, for example, there was a perception Down Under that the cream of Aussie youth had been thrown into the meat grinder against the Turks at Gallipoli while tea-sipping British officers and regulars remained in the rear, thus avoiding the carnage. In the British mind, a British soldier’s life was somehow worth more, and should be conserved at the expense of others. At least, that was the perception.

It’s like that with the U. S. and the regimes we have historically propped up in the Middle East. Democracy is a beautiful thing. It begets prosperity and the freedom to pursue life’s enriching pleasures. But what’s good enough for our exceptional Shining City On The Hill isn’t good enough for the inhabitants of the oil-rich states of the Middle East.

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Chan Lowe: Mubarak steps down


I was just doing the ink on this cartoon when the news broke that Mubarak was stepping down. Fortunately I had chosen an angle that would be relevant no matter what happened over there.

It’s a problem we in the old-fashioned news biz have had ever since this cascade of events began. The narrative was moving so quickly that anything we drew or wrote might be hopelessly out of date by the time it reached readers’ driveways.

Ironically, this very morning my editorial page editor finally decided that he could no longer put off writing something about the Egyptian developments; our silence was doing our readers a disservice. Within five minutes of his finishing, the Mubarak government fell, necessitating a rewrite.

Say what you will about the crowds, the army, Obama, and everyone else in this narrative…the Egyptian people owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Sun Sentinel’s editorial page for plunging in and producing an editorial that was ready for the trash before the keyboard was cool.

On a final note, we ought to congratulate the Egyptians, who have forever changed our attitudes about the humanity, the generosity, and the courage of their nation. They have shown the American people, in their unquenchable yearning for freedom, that we have much in common with them.

Now we enter into a period of uncertainty and flux, maybe even (God forbid) chaos. Now, the nail biting begins.

Post script: Fans of the Second Amendment, a well-armed citizenry, etc., might want to take note that the Egyptians managed to overturn their repressive government without using a single firearm.

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Chan Lowe: Egypt and the Tea Party


To me, insistence on a punctilious, “authentic” interpretation of any document from another era is the safe haven of the small and fearful thinker.

We rightly esteem the legacy of enlightened reasoning and principles embodied by the U.S. Constitution, and the thinking that led to its writing ought to be revered and heeded as the philosophical bedrock upon which our way of life is built, but the act of divining the “original intent” of the authors from a 21st Century perspective is a form of freewheeling interpretation in itself.

Ought we modern readers to attempt to climb inside the heads of a group of men who never heard the sound of an internal combustion engine, who never conceived of machinery that could keep people artificially alive for months or even years, or who could translate “web” and “site” into Latin and Greek, but would be clueless as to the meaning of the two English words when combined?

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Chan Lowe: The Twitter Revolution


What’s going on in Egypt could never have happened ten years ago, or even five. Suddenly, with worldwide access to the Internet, people have a tool at their disposal that is so unlike any we have ever known, so “game-changing,” to use a tired but apt cliché, that the political history of mankind from now on now may well be upended.

I’m not ready to give Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or Jack Dorsey of Twitter the Nobel Peace Prize just yet, but those are some potent weapons they inadvertently created. For thirty years, Hosni Mubarak has been able to rule Egypt, as strong men and caudillos have ruled other countries before him (and still do), by sheer force of arms.

He, and others, have accrued wealth, comforts and power for themselves, their families and cronies, by creating a corrupt system that robs the wealth of their own people. Anyone who complains or foments discord is taught a quick lesson, or worse, disappears.

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Chan Lowe: The Wikileaks debacle


I used to think that Hillary Clinton was too strident, too self-centered, too opinionated and too vindictive to be President. Since then, another personage of the female persuasion has grabbed the center stage of politics, and by comparison Hillary seems like an exemplar of cool-headedness under fire.

Considering the plateful the incoming President was handed back in January of 2009, it has become more apparent than ever that simple, cold competency was and is the foremost quality needed in our leader in these tough times. The jury’s still out on Barack Obama in that regard, but Hillary has left no doubt that she possesses it in abundance.

I make light of her in this cartoon, but right now I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have in the hot seat when there’s so much ’splainin’ to do, as Ricky Ricardo might say. Not only is she handling a touchy situation with the same grace she displayed during the Monica Lewinsky circus, she might yet make a silk purse out of this mess.

Take, for example, the Gulf States’ constant behind-the-scenes badgering that we waste Iran and President I’m-A-Dinnerjacket for them. Now⎯thanks to the Wikileaks cables⎯ it’s out in the open that they, we, and Israel are all on the same side. You know that Arabic cliché, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?” Peace agreements have been forged on shakier grounds than this, and Hillary definitely has the resourcefulness to uncover opportunities in our newly revealed camaraderie.

May the Force be with you, Madame Secretary.

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Chan Lowe: Muslims, Gays and ignorance


If you subscribe to the notion--as I do--that people fear what is alien to them and demonize that which they fear, then it would follow that education and exposure are the best antidotes for this poisonous formula.

There is a theory (not original with me) that the reason the coastal states, such as California, Oregon, Washington and those in New England tend to be the most progressive politically is that their port cities were exposed from their inception to commerce from around the world. With commerce came broader intellectual horizons and familiarity with foreign cultures. With familiarity came appreciation and respect.

The interior states, conversely, did not benefit from direct contact with the outside world. They were by nature more insular, grew to maturity in a cultural echo chamber, and as a result are less tolerant today of thoughts and influences unlike their own.

Maybe this is an overly general assessment, but I could not help but think of the above when I heard that Pastor Jones (as of this writing, still a “standby” Quran-burner…evidently there’s a continuing problem with static in the lines between God and His humble servant) bragged that he had not read the very book he intended to destroy. Nor, he claimed, had he ever met a Muslim until yesterday.

When I lived in Oklahoma decades ago, there was a minister very high up in the hierarchy of the Southern Baptist Convention who allowed as how God Almighty did not hear the prayers of a Jew, because those prayers were not routed through Jesus Christ.

Rather than condemn him, some Jewish groups got together and sent him on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel for a couple of weeks. He came back a changed man, and publicly repented his earlier statements.

When we do not feel threatened, we Americans are, at heart, an inclusive people. Maybe that kind of exposure is all we really need to regain familiarity with our true nature.

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Chan Lowe: Burning the Quran


When the Founding Fathers bequeathed upon future generations the perpetual gift of the First Amendment, they probably gave some thought to the downside.

Unlimited free expression, while clearly the cornerstone of a strong democracy when made use of by responsible citizens, also cleared the soapboxes for all manner of speech: seditious, hateful, ugly and divisive.

Evidently, they decided that the positives outweighed the negatives, that a society rendered strong by the exercise of individual freedoms would be better able to withstand recklessness within its ranks without having to resort to dreaded (and self-destructive) censorship.

The fact that the nation has been having a lively debate about the intention by a small church in Gainesville to stage a mass burning of Islam’s most holy scripture is testimony to the Founding Fathers’ wisdom. While the behavior of these people repels us and makes us wince, it is behavior we must endure for the sake of our collective welfare.

Muslims around the world who do not appreciate niceties like our guarantees under the Bill of Rights assume that by allowing the burning to occur, the United States is tacitly condoning the act. All Americans will be tarred by it.

If you have any doubts about that, just think for a moment how many Americans believe that all Muslims are terrorists, based on the acts of a handful of madmen back in 2001, and how many of us have been mailing copies of the Quran to Gainesville to help fuel the flames.

All that “hearts and minds” stuff we’re trying to do in Afghanistan? It’s back to Square One for us. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200.

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Chan Lowe: Obama's Middle East peace initiative


We have a wry saying on the Editorial Board that there is only one editorial about the Middle East peace process. We just pull it out of the files, dust it off, change the name of the president in question, and run it again and again.

You have to give Obama credit for even trying, particularly since he has so much on his plate already. Failure, once again, is a distinct possibility. Nevertheless, the payoff is enormous for all parties involved if, somehow, this time, there is a real breakthrough.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu likes to say, it takes a hawk⎯a la Nixon in China⎯to forge a meaningful peace. In Mahmoud Abbas, he has a Palestinian partner to work with who certainly has his own problems, but who is not seeking to serve cynical ends, and who understands that Israel has certain requirements which need to be met before she can feel truly safe.

No president can call himself worthy of the office unless he makes at least a stab at resolving this intractable issue. So much follows from it; the end of killing would be enough in itself, but other benefits would include comity among our allies and a united front against the threat from Iran⎯the real enemy we all face.

What Obama is doing (in tandem with the extremely able Secretary of State Clinton) is much more than a stab. He’s putting a lot of political capital on the line. It’s a shame that the only people dumb enough to buy that garbage about his being a Muslim are Americans. If the Palestinians believed it too, it might help establish him as an honest broker (Don’t write in…I’m being facetious).

Our thoughts and prayers ought to accompany all the negotiators involved as they engage in their mission. There can never be too many attempts.

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Chan Lowe: The end of combat operations in Iraq


Tuesday night, President Obama gave just about the only speech that could have been given to properly mark the transition of America’s role in Iraq.

He sounded like the maid stuck with cleaning up a hotel room the morning after it has been rented by a rock band. There really wasn’t much to say about the whole endeavor that was positive, except that our troops did their jobs superlatively. The whole subject is uncomfortable for us, because while our service members did their duty and in many cases made the supreme sacrifice, we’re at a loss to know what they did it for.

We’re at a loss because our leaders violated the sacred pact the civilian leadership has always had with the military: We will ask you to go into harm’s way on behalf of your country, and in return you can have faith that we will only ask you to do so if the cause is worthy, if the mission is clear-cut, and if it has a reasonable chance of success.

We went in because they said there were WMD. Well, there weren’t any. Then it was about democracy, and we “surged” to give the Iraqis time to form a government. They still haven’t formed one. The place is a hair’s-breadth away from anarchy.

We had intentions of building a Western-oriented Arab bulwark in the Middle East. The only thing the Iranians will lack after the last Americans leave is an engraved invitation to invade.

Americans like to win wars, particularly after they’ve spent a trillion borrowed dollars when there are pressing needs at home. With Iraq, there is no surrender at Yorktown, no signing ceremony on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri, just a fizzling-out.

Years from now, after the accursed place recedes into painful memory, it will probably revert to what it was before: a dusty crossroads ruled by whichever warlord among its contentious populace happens to be the most ruthless.

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Chan Lowe: Leaving Iraq


So much for Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Principle about Iraq: “If you break it, you own it.”

Just because Powell got snookered by the Cheney-Rummy tag team into being a shill for the bankrupt WMD argument doesn’t mean that everything he ever said ought to be disbelieved.

Sadly, even though he’s right on the Pottery Barn thing, it looks like we are leaving the place broken and only partially pasted back together with bubble gum and masking tape, ready to fall apart again at the slightest jarring.

What’s even sadder is that we don’t care anymore. We don’t care after spending a trillion dollars, sacrificing thousands of our best young people, maiming thousands more, and leaving even more thousands with psychological damage. And we can’t even begin to fathom what our altruistic act of political liberation has done to the Iraqi people.

Geopolitically speaking, we’ve removed the only counterbalance the West and the Arab world had to keep Iran in check. Saddam may have been a bad man, but he was doing some pretty effective work in that department. We’re enjoying the fruits of removing him from power now.

Knowing what we know now, was it all worth it? As a nation, we shy away from that question, because the answer might be too painful, and could throw doubt on our core belief in the myth of American exceptionalism; that we are a force for good in the world.

At this point, we just want to wash our hands of the whole mess. The Iraqis can keep the pottery shards, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

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Chan Lowe: U.S. combat troops leave Iraq


It’s a nightmare: a nation divided; a populace unable to move past its ethnic and sectarian differences; a central government paralyzed and powerless to lead a country; demagogues stirring up unrest…at least we Americans have a tradition of respect for the rule of law to fall back on when we find ourselves on the ropes like this.

Imagine what it’s like for the Iraqis…it has been said that they are such a fractious people that only a strong man along the lines of a Saddam Hussein could rule them, using fear as his enforcer.

Since Iraqi culture and thought have not been steeped in the nurturing humanistic broth of the European Enlightenment, any attempt to superimpose a framework of democratic government upon that country is like casting seeds on barren ground, so they say.

Moreover, their sense of tribal and sectarian identity is more deeply rooted than their concept of being a citizen of an Iraqi nation; consequently a central constitutional government will never gain legitimacy in the public mind.

Maybe what they’ll finally come up with is a uniquely Mesopotamian amalgam of government by the people and government by dictator, benevolent or otherwise.

Whatever. We’re outta there. What a tragedy that we had to go in at all.

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Chan Lowe: America's anti-Muslim bias


For a nation made up of immigrants and their descendents, America has a shameful record of scapegoating whole groups of its citizens and residents when the going gets tough and fear reigns throughout the land.

American Muslims ought to be saddened, but not surprised, that they are the latest group to be singled out and tarred with a broad brush. Thanks to a handful of extremist nut jobs who happened to call themselves Muslims, the majority of the nation (according to the latest polls) takes umbrage at law-abiding Muslims building a house of worship where they have every constitutional right to do so.

Mosques around the country have been firebombed and defaced with Nazi graffiti in the years since 9/11. A church here in Florida is hosting a "Quran burning" on the anniversary of the tragedy. Even the Anti-Defamation League, in an uncharacteristic move, has ignored its own “slippery slope” philosophy and weighed in against the near-Ground-Zero mosque, so intense are the emotions.

Proof that we reserve special treatment for those “not like us” exists within the span of many Americans’ lifetimes. Japanese-Americans, whether foreign- or American-born, were herded into internment camps during World War II for fear that they might act as a fifth-column if left to roam free.

Also in World War II, the conspicuous valor of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, composed of Japanese-Americans who swore a loyalty oath to the United States, made them the most decorated unit in American history. Even so, they fought in Europe—not being trusted to pull the trigger against their “own kind” in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, a German-American named Eisenhower (an Anglicized spelling of a word meaning, “iron mine worker”), was promoted to Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe.

No loyalty worries there. Wonder why?

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Chan Lowe: Helen Thomas steps in it

helen.gifHelen Thomas has had a long and distinguished career as a journalist, but there’s no condoning what she said on video yesterday, which is that the Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine.”

It was coarse, insensitive, and stupid. As one of my colleagues put it during an editorial board meeting, “It’s like telling American blacks they should all go back to Africa.”

Any reasonable person would agree that her comments were outside the pale. If one wishes to be charitable, one might ascribe the faux pas to Ms. Thompson’s advanced age (eighty-nine), and leave it at that. She was pushed out of her job for her transgression, and it was probably time.

All that having been said, it might be instructive for us to look at the above cartoon as a thought experiment. Had Ms. Thomas uttered the words depicted, rather than her actual ones, would she have been treated as harshly? Would she have lost her job? Would commentators have been lining up, as they are today, to pile on?

After all, the words in the cartoon are just as offensive, unfair, and reflective of a total ignorance of the facts on the ground, which is that the area in question is a patch of earth that both Israelis and Palestinians belong to. It would be a lovely thing if the two peoples could live in harmony, but since they appear unable to, the conflict arises over how to divide it.

Anyone who doesn’t agree that she ought to be treated the same in both circumstances might want to look to his own bias.

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Chan Lowe: Middle East Rorschach test

rorschach.gifIt tells you something about the power that the Internet and social media have accrued in our lives that both sides amply documented the Israeli raid on the would-be blockade-runners for Facebook and YouTube.

It was a contrived event conceived as a salvo in the all-important public relations war, and the battlefield is the world’s computer and television screens.

Since we now have video evidence of what transpired from every possible angle, all that’s left is for the world to interpret what it sees.

That interpretation, naturally, gets filtered through the prism of each observer’s background and prejudices. What we “see” is what suits our own personal narrative and belief system. Anything that doesn’t fit into the matrix is discarded.

In the end, nothing will be resolved, because the “rightness” or “wrongness” of people’s actions are judged within a historical context, and that depends on whose history you’re buying, and how far back you want to go.

In any case, the sooner we get past who’s right or wrong and simply accept that everyone has a right to exist with dignity, the sooner we’ll end the tragedy.

So simple, yet so unattainable.

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Chan Lowe: Joe Biden's humiliation

biden.gifNobody knows how to play the rough-and-tumble game of parliamentary politics better than the Israelis, and it looks like Prime Minister Netanyahu, in a rare slip, found himself outmaneuvered.

I think we should believe Bibi when he says he was blindsided by the announcement of a new settlement, which just happened to fall during Vice President Biden’s trip.

Maybe the conservatives wanted to let everyone know they weren’t going to let their big brother ally push them around when it came to when and where they performed their urban renewal.

They certainly proved their point. Now, in an area of the world where antennae are ultra-sensitive to who’s got the power, America looks like a big, sloppy dog being wagged by his tail. Bibi has to choose between angering us further and assuaging a demanding faction upon which the survival of his government depends.

Nobody, of course, imagines that our long-term alliance will ever suffer for it. In the meantime, we can sit back and watch the Kabuki theater as Hillary and Bibi act oh, so shocked about the awkward turn of events.

You can bet your blintzes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be watching, too.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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