Reactions to McCain speech to RNC from Phyllis Bennis, Paul Heinbecker and Jonathan Schell Pt3
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Thank you for joining us again for our discussion about the speech of John McCain at the Republican National Convention. And we’re also going to talk now about what might be the future in the next two months. How’s the real world and the theater of the elections going to interact with each other? Joined now by Phyllis Bennis, senior analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC; Jonathan Schell, a senior fellow at the Nation Institute and a professor at Yale, also a board member of The Real News Network; and Paul Heinbecker, former Canadian ambassador to the UN and now a distinguished fellow at the Center for International Governance—and Innovation, I guess it is, Governance and Innovation. Paul, so over the next two months, whatever is going on in the propaganda wars in the theater of the American elections, there’s a real world out there with a great number of competing forces contending with each other, the fight for what will take place in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Georgia, Russia. We’re in a very-much-in-flux and, it seems, a very dangerous moment in history. How do you see this next two months happening geopolitically? And, also, how does it affect the election and vice versa?
PAUL HEINBECKER, CENTER FOR INTL. GOVERNANCE INNIOVATION: Well, I think the biggest issue to worry about is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We had an assassination attempt today on the Pakistani prime minister. There had been an American attack inside Pakistan, as people have discussed. We Canadians lost three soldiers in an attack on Canadians today in Afghanistan. That, to my mind, is the issue that is really completely out of control. That’s something that the campaign staffs can’t control; that’s something that the foreign policy wizards can’t control either. And if that situation spills out of control, that will be the dominant issue, and everyone will have to react to it. I still have the view that people are too rational to attack Iran in the dying days of the Bush administration, but I do note that Cheney is off in Georgia, and I’m not quite sure what he’s doing on this trip. But I think the thing to keep your eye on very much is Afghanistan and Pakistan. The other thing that I think I would say which is perhaps being missed is the extent to which the world is looking for a change in American foreign policy, and they didn’t hear anything from McCain tonight that suggests change, except it’s sort of, as I said before, a back-to-the-future kind of proposition. They want a break with the Bush policies; they want a break with the eight years. And if the United States electorate doesn’t deliver that break, I think we’re in for a very, very difficult time in the years ahead, in the United States in particular with an enormous wealth. Nothing McCain said tonight gave any indication that he understood how far behind the eight ball the United States is after eight years of the Bush administration.
JAY: Jonathan, how do you see this next two months and the election?
JONATHAN SCHELL, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: [If] history teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t what’s right around the corner. Think how quickly this whole gale in Georgia blew up in everybody’s faces, at least if we weren’t specialists on that subject. Just to generalize a little bit on what Paul was saying, I think what you’ve got in American policy is it’s a supposedly tough policy, but you don’t even get the benefits of toughness. It’s a kind of toothless toughness. I mean, take the example of Georgia. Cheney goes there and talks big about helping Georgia and defending it, and then more talk about sending them a billion dollars, or maybe seven billion dollars, to build up their military and so forth. But does anyone actually think that any number of billions poured into Georgia without American troops there is going to be sufficient to actually defeat the Russians or drive them out of Ossetia and Abkhazia and so on? So what you have is, you know—. Or, on the other hand, if the United States would put in the kind of military forces that would be needed to perform that roll? No one does. So it’s all talk; it’s all tough talk. And you have that same thing in North Korea, where there was a report yesterday that they may be getting back in the plutonium business—although that was rebutted by the United States—and also with Iran. Where the policy found stuff, they backed off that a little bit and got a little more diplomatic. But the fact is that they really have no strong cards to play. So you have these situations—and in Pakistan, as Paul [Heinbecker] mentioned—that are running out of control, and the United States is wedded to a policy that seems to be entirely rhetorical. And it makes you wonder, once again to say it—maybe I’m boring everybody—but whether this isn’t more for domestic and political consumption at conventions than for actually dealing with the world at large.
PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: I see it somewhat differently, I think. We’re looking at a situation in which we have four months left of the Bush administration. There are two months until the election, but there’s four months that the Bush administration still remains in office. And what we’re seeing right now, I think, is a rather dramatic rise in militarism in a number of places around the world, going on with essentially a bipartisan consensus, including by the two leading candidates—McCain, but Barack Obama as well—with the exception of Iraq, where there is a significant difference, although we should be clear again that Barack Obama does not call for ending the occupation of Iraq; he calls for pulling out about half the troops, but leaving something close to 80,000 troops in Iraq for an indefinite period. But there’s also a move where the US has offered to provide Israel, for the first time, with a new defensive radar shield similar to the one that they’re building in Poland, which will be put for the first time in an American base on Israeli territory, staffed by mercenaries that work for the company that builds the radar system, along with two US soldiers—only two, but it allows them to put a US flag there, making clear to Iran, among other things, that any attack on Israel would constitute a direct attack on the United States. Now, whether Israel will ultimately agree to this is very questionable. I think they probably will not. But it’s significant that the only coverage of this has been in Haaretz, in the Israeli press—nothing in the US press. The events that are going on, as we’ve heard, in both Afghanistan, where the civilian casualties are now almost three times what they were two years ago and are going up dramatically. The invasion, the ground invasion, for the first time acknowledged in Pakistan; the possibility of massive military aid to Georgia, which, as Paul [Heinbecker] said, certainly no one believes that even a billion or seven billion dollars could allow Georgia to repel the Russian army. But a Georgian army, rebuilt with a billion dollars from the United States, trained by the Pentagon, and with this president tied to so many neoconservative forces in the United States, would be potentially a very provocative and destabilizing influence in a very dicey region. So we’re looking at an enormous escalation in overall militarism, and I think the threats of further attacks are very real. I don’t think that there’s a US attack on Iran that’s imminent, but I certainly don’t think that it’s solely a question of “they’re too rational to do it.” They are still driven by ideology. They are driven by the effort to recreate their legacies in these waning months of their administration. The fact that Cheney is now in Azerbaijan and in Georgia offering a billion dollars, I think this is a very dangerous moment when the eyes of the world are on Denver and Minneapolis, and they’re not on Kabul and Tbilisi. And that makes things very, very dangerous.
JAY: And perhaps even more in terms of the election campaign, because as the campaign unfolds, they’re probably going to turn more and more to domestic/economic issues. And the real geopolitical world, which is at such a dangerous moment, is probably going to disappear into abstraction in all the campaign rhetoric. Thank you, all of you, for joining us, and I hope we can do this again soon as the campaign and the world unfolds. And thank you all for joining us tonight on coverage from The Real News Network.
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