Congressman Steven King of Iowa, who has decided to further disgrace Congress by seeking a fifth term there, delivered himself of the sort of bigotted and ignorant comments about Barack Obama that we have come to expect from the rightwing Republicans who have made such a mess of our economy and of the world.
King is the man who dismissed torture at Abu Ghraib as mere “hazing,” and maintained that his wife was in more danger in Washington, D.C. (with all those black people, he apparently meant) than civilians were in Iraq. He also said that the 72 virgins in paradise promised to Muslim martyrs probably all looked like Helen Thomas (the distinguished octogenarian Arab-American White House reporter).
In short, King is not just a garden variety conservative. He is something close to being a white supremacist.
So King begins by saying the opposite of what he means:
‘ “I don’t want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name – whatever their religion their father might have been,” he said. ‘
But of course, he does want to disparage Barack Obama on racist grounds. And he goes on to do so.
“I’ll just say this: When you think about the option of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States — I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam?” ‘
I presume it would look like America is less racist than the Muslim world had thought, and therefore much less like the bigot Steve King. The left-leaning Beiruti newspaper al-Safir predicted recently that Obama will never be president, because he is being effectively smeared as “a Muslim,” and soft on terrorism and insufficiently supportive of the Israeli far right.
Back to Peasant, I mean, King:
‘ He continued: “I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror.” ‘
I see. And why would al-Qaeda dance in the streets that a Christian of white Kansas and Kenyan heritage, who promised to bomb them in Pakistan, had become president?
How was Bush’s reelection in 2004 viewed by “the world of Islam?” Well, of course, there were mixed feelings. But consider this reaction from Islamabad, Pakistan:
Article: Pakistan ‘Naturally Feels Satisfied and Elated’ With Bush’s Reelection
Islamabad The News (Internet Version-WWW) in English 06 Nov 04
Saturday, November 6, 2004
“Pakistan naturally feels satisfied and elated with the re-election of President Bush. President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have both congratulated President Bush warmly. President Musharraf has expressed the hope that friendly relations between Pakistan and the United States would rapidly strengthen and consolidate. President Musharraf and President Bush since nine-eleven have evolved a personal rapport, which is quite useful for both Pakistan and the US.”
So if the US public isn’t supposed to vote for a US politician whose reelection would please “the world of Islam,” then apparently it should not have voted for Bush.
As for al-Qaeda, it actively supported Bush’s reelection, because it knew that the Iraq War is all that now keeps it from just disappearing.
And, Obama is not necessarily being endorsed by newspapers in the Muslim world. The Jedda Arab News in Saudi Arabia wrote an editorial just a few days ago saying, “There is a sense in which Obama is coming to resemble former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, all spin and little substance and Democrat voters are becoming uneasy.”
‘ King thinks radical Islamists will say the United States has capitulated because the Obama administration would be pulling troops out of any conflict associated with al-Qaida. ‘
But Obama has not offered to pull out of conflict with al-Qaeda:
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said on Wednesday the United States must be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan. . .”
That would make al-Qaeda happy . . . why?
As for the “world of Islam,” here is what a leading Pakistani newspaper said about Obama in late February:
‘ “Both US Democratic Party presidential hopefuls, Ms Hilary Clinton and Mr Barack Obama, have indicated they believe a stronger approach to the problem of terrorism based in Pakistan is necessary. Locked in a critical one-to-one debate ahead of crucial primaries, Mr Obama spoke once more of “hunting down terror outfits” in places like Pakistan. Hilary Clinton, Senator from New York, who has considerably greater political experience than Mr Obama elected for his first term to the Senate from Illinois, stressed that she advocated a “much tougher approach” to Musharraf and to Pakistan.
The words by the two frontrunners for Democratic Party candidature, give an indication of the way Pakistan is looked at in the United States. For people in Pakistan, however, the words are ominous. For one, they suggest that the Democratic Party too sees a strong US role as essential in Pakistan. Neither of the candidates appears to realize that it is these perceptions regarding US intervention in Pakistan that is contributing to the extremist problem within it, and indeed to the rise in terrorism.” ‘
So this Muslim voice is critical of Obama, and afraid that he or Clinton would continue hard line policies in Pakistan that actually exacerbate Muslim extremism. I don’t think Mr. King has ever read a newspaper published in “the world of Islam,” so he has no idea what he is talking about. He is just mouthing off a lot of ignorant prejudice and hatred.
‘ “Additionally, his middle name (Hussein) does matter,” King said. “It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world. That has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says: Pull out of the Middle East and pull out of this conflict.” ‘
Actually, I can’t find any evidence whatsoever of anyone in the Muslim world noticing what Barack Obama’s middle name is. Hussein in that part of the world is like “Steve” over here. Just as I don’t get happy that King’s name is “Steve,” they don’t care what Obama’s name is. And, I presume that King, a chickenhawk, also has a problem with American war hero Omar Bradley being named “Omar.”
Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, from whom his middle name comes, served in the British army during World War I and for some time was a Christian who served missionaries. He ultimately converted to Islam in Zanzibar. Al-Qaeda would get happy about a Kenyan who served missionaries and was a soldier in the British army?
I did find one op-ed of the sort King seems to anticipate. Judge for yourself on what grounds Vural Cengiz, head of the Turkish-American Businessmen’s Union thinks Obama would be “good for Turkey” (a NATO ally of the United States and part of King’s ‘world of Islam.’):
“Barack Obama can be the leader that the world is looking for. He can put a new list of criteria to judge what is good and bad for American people. He can stop the hate wars between Muslims and Christians by promoting peace and helping the communities in need. He can be the one to stop dropping the bombs and start sending the doctors, food and clothing as well as capital to create more jobs, to build more hospitals and schools all over the world. . .
Turks do not have high hopes about the future as long as American politics in Iraq continue as usual. Help in the war against the terrorist PKK (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from United States in the last two months gave some hope to many Turks about the United States. However, Turks will not feel friendly to the US as long as they don’t feel that America’s Iraq politics is completely changed. And it looks like only Obama can change it. . .
Barack Obama is an African-American. He knows suffering, hunger and danger much better than Senator Clinton. He is not a rich man. He understands the issues of poor and middle-class families. He also understands poor and middle-class nations. Turkey stands right there. He is good for Turks, as well as the rest of the world…”
So from Cengiz’s point of view, it is Bush who is promoting terrorism (because his Iraqi-Kurdish allies coddle the Kurdish Workers Party terrorist group, which has been sneaking over to Turkey from Iraq and killing Turks), and it is Obama who might stop the bombings.
‘ He continued: “There are implications that have to do with who he is and the position that he’s taken. If he were strong on national defense and said ‘I’m going to go over there and we’re going to fight and we’re going to win, we’ll come home with a victory,’ that’s different. But that’s not what he said. They will be dancing in the streets if he’s elected president. That has a chilling aspect on how difficult it will be to ever win this Global War on Terror.” ‘
Oh, it seems pretty obvious that the “global war on terror” could be much more easily won if we stop being mired in a quagmire in Iraq, stop operating a machine for producing terrorists, stop spending trillions on Bush’s buddies in the military-industrial complex, and instead do some good police work in finishing off al-Qaeda.
You see, when King gets away from name-calling, racism, and guilt by association and actually tries to make a substantive point, the bankruptcy of his arguments becomes amply apparent.
People like King have run this country since 1994. I say they are dinosaurs. I say that November 2008 will be to them as the Chicxulub meteor was to the original dinosaurs. I say that the dark age of bigotry and fear-mongering and tyranny will pass.