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November 3, 2008

The Candidate of Hope

Tomorrow, the American people go to the polls and we all hope they will make the right choice, finally putting the last eight years behind us. If you look back over the presidency of George W Bush, it has been a tragic case of missed opportunities, and some would say terrible disasters.

The catalogue of missed opportunities and disasters is a dismal and shocking one:–

– Iraq, the biggest disaster of them all; the US believed Iraq had WMD when they had none. Their invasion of Iraq, with their “Shock and Awe” campaign unleased death and destruction on a weak country — the country fell in 2-3 weeks, overwhelmed by the mighty US military. Since then it is estimated that around 100,000 Iraqis have died, many more bereaved and injured, with terrible inter-ethnic fighting, excerbated by Al-Quaeda and Iran. Everybody’s lives there turned upside down, a country wrecked. There’s nothing about it to be proud of.

– ‘War on Terror’, the most ludicrous statement, lacking even the merest insight into the problem of jihadist fundamentalism. Tactically the so-called ‘War on Terror’ is probably unwinnable. From 911 onwards the US has lashed out, killed many thousands of innocent people, wreaked havoc across the middle-east, and all for nothing. They failed to tackle the root of the problem; disaffected and angry young men, with misguided views of islam, who have been manipulated by their masters. The jihadists have a politcal and religious agenda which has only been strengthened by the ‘War on Terror’.

– Afghanistan, a lot of people have said this is the real battle to be fought, although others say it’s a battle that cannot be won. The Taleban should not be allowed to regain power, but it seems that the only long-term solution for this country, which has been at war for over 30 years (Russia invaded in the 1970s), is a political one. And bordering Afghanistan is Pakistan, now unstable and greatly weakened, and the training ground for jihadist fighters — and it does have nuclear weapons. The middle east is as unstable as ever, Eastern Europe is more tense, with a resurgent Russia, and Africa is a terrible failure (Congo, Sudan, Zimbabwe) – the world is in greater danger now and will see continuing conflict in these areas.

– Guantanamo, how can this be at all justified, to anyone with any sense of justice or what is right. How could the US lock people up without trial, for many years in some cases, without proper legal process. GW Bush has also admitted the existence of secret CIA interrogation camps where they have used ‘water-boarding’, humiliation and other punishments — this is torture and totally unacceptable. Guantanamo should never have been allowed to happen, and should now be closed. If people have commited crimes they should be dealt with in the proper way.

– Palestine, this problem has been allowed to fester. Eight years without any real progress at all. Meanwhile the tit-for-tat violence goes on, with Israel the dominant, brutal force killing thousands of Palestinians and illegally occupying territory, and the terrifying use of suicide bombers from the Palestinians side. And during this time, Hamas have taken over throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

– Financial crisis and meltdown, and now an almost certain lengthy recession. The markets were not regulated enough, people borrowed too much, spent too much, consumed too much, and now the whole system is busted. The US Trade deficit, plus the cost of bank rescues and final cost of Iraq war leaves the US over $10 trillion in debt. A bankrupt state propped up by foreign money. The consumerist society also needs a major rethink, if we are to avert environmental and social collapse.

– Climate change, very little has been done to decrease CO2 emissions and halt climate change, despite the mounting evidence. Energy and resource use has carried on, and now the earth may be faced with catastrophic, environmental collapse, unless we take dramatic steps to stop the destruction. The US could and should be leading the effort.

It’s too easy to hate America, or what it does, but as a concept or idea, their multi-ethnic, liberal democracy is probably the best model we have. America is very good at some things: science, technology, medicine, and could be a major force for good on the foreign and diplomatic stage. It often appears to have the best of intentions, but their tactics or the actions they take are often counter-productive and alienate the rest of the world.

America needs to re-assert its founding principles, and given the right leadership, can look forward to a more sustainable future, and may even be liked again… In this election year, Barack Obama has emerged as the only candidate capable of remaking the American dream; he seems to connect with people and offers a believable message of hope.

There are so many urgent problems in the world that need America’s help to fix. Let’s hope the American people make the right choice! Having made the right choice, the real work will begin: it remains to be seen how successful Obama can be. This theme is summed up nicely by BOB HERBERT in the NY Times: Beyond Election Day.

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