The presidential campaign coverage has reached a new low with television outlets morphing into YouTube echo-chambers and offering wall to wall coverage of Rev. Wright’s skills doing accents and impressions, Senator Clinton’s skills with convenience store coffee machines, and Senator Obama’s skills on the basketball court. Meanwhile, Senator Clinton’s not-so-veiled threat to use nuclear weapons against Iran if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons (the obvious implication of saying the U.S. could “obliterate” Iran) hasn’t captured much attention in the U.S.
Not so in the rest of the world. The British foreign minister, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown said:
“While it is reasonable to warn Iran of the consequence of it continuing to develop nuclear weapons and what those real consequences bring to its security, it is not probably prudent… in today’s world to threaten to obliterate any other country and in many cases civilians resident in such a country.”
Coming from the top foreign affairs official of the nation’s closest ally the translation of the diplo-speak is: “What the bollocks is wrong with you Americans! Have you lost your minds?”
Newspapers across the globe also covered Clinton’s statement. The Saudi Arab News wrote:
"This is the foreign politics of the madhouse. It demonstrates the same doltish ignorance that has distinguished Bush’s foreign relations. It offers only violence where there should be negotiations and war where there could be peace. At a stroke, Clinton demonstrated to everyone in this region that if she were the next occupant of the White House, Iraq-like death and destruction would be the order of the day."
Closer to home one paper saw the importance of the issue and highlighted it in a hard-hitting editorial Boston Globe titled “Hillary Strangelove”:
“While Clinton has hammered Obama for supporting military strikes in Pakistan, her comments on Iran are much more far-reaching. She seems not to realize that she undermined Iranian reformists and pragmatists. The Iranian people have been more favorable to America than any other in the Gulf region or the Middle East.
A presidential candidate who lightly commits to obliterating Iran – and, presumably, all the children, parents, and grandparents in Iran – should not be answering the White House phone at any time of day or night.”
The latest news is that Iran has lodged a formal protest of the remark at the UN. I guess that makes it official that Clinton’s remark has caused an international incident. Iran’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi wrote in a letter to the UN Secretary General:
"Iran is a leading nation in rejecting and opposing all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons [and Iran has repeatedly declared] that nuclear weapons as the most lethal and inhumane weapons have no place in the defense doctrine of the country… Moreover, I wish to reiterate my government’s position that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention to attack any other nations."
It’s a shame that presidential race sideshows have drowned out any serious discussion of Clinton’s remarks and the issues it raises. Lest readers think this post indicates support for other candidates, one has to ask why those candidates have not tried harder to make this an issue. (Senator Obama did briefly respond to what he called Clinton’s “saber-rattling.”) Perhaps the conventional wisdom is that this kind of remark plays well in positioning a candidate as tough on defense. Haven’t the last seven years discredited this brand of “toughness”?