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Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Credit" for Colin Powell? No way

Since my colleague on the West Bronx News Network, Jordan Moss, posted his opinion on Colin Powell's "Meet the Press" interview and invited comment, I feel entitled to post my own thoughts.

First, I am in absolute, 100 percent agreement with Jordan that the consistent hateful rhetoric against Muslims and Arabs during this presidential campaign has been both reprehensible and terrifying. And, indeed, one form that this rhetoric has taken over and over again is for the McCain camp and its supporters to suggest that Barack Obama is a Muslim as if being Muslim were "dangerous" . And, again and again, the response of the Obama camp and its supporters has been to deny that he is a Muslim, rather than to say: "How dare you suggest there is something dangerous about being a Muslim?"

All this, of course, has gone hand in hand with the vicious anti-Muslim hysteria that has been whipped up more generally in the past several years. I am in full agreeement that this hysteria absolutely must be taken on .

Secondly, I just want to add quickly on a personal note that I consider Jordan a friend and a mentor and have a lot of respect for him both personally and as a journalist.

That said, I could not disagree more vehemently with giving Colin Powell "tremendous credit."

Let's take a look back at Colin Powell's career:

In the late 1960s, as an Army Major, Powell covered up the My Lai Massacre -- the infamous slaughter of hundreds of Vietnamese men, women, and children in March 1968. "Relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent," Powell wrote during his "investigation" of the massacre.

In the early 1990s, Powell was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War, in which at least thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and the infrastructure of Iraq was shattered.

And, of course, most recently and infamously - -and as Jordan notes -- Powell gave the February 2003 speech at the United Nations that laid the groundwork for a war that has since killed more than 1 million Iraqis and more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers. Powell did not merely assert that there were connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda; or that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Rather, Powell stated that there was absolutely no doubt these things were true:

"There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction," Powell told the U.N.

Later, he added, "Ladies and gentlemen, these are not assertions. These are facts, corroborated by many sources, some of them sources of the intelligence services of other countries."

How many millions of Muslims have lost their lives, their loved ones, and their homes because of the actions and policies of Colin Powell? Are we supposed to forget this simply because Powell gives one interview in which he says there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim?

Again, those who resist and denounce the demonization of Muslims should absolutely be commended. So, in that light, we should give a nod to the comments of CNN anchor Campbell Brown on October 14. Brown stated:

"So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter? When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim being dirty words, the equivalent of dishonorable or radical?

Whenever this gets raised, the implication is that there's something wrong with being an Arab-American or a Muslim. And the media is complicit here, too. We have been all way too quick to accept the idea that calling someone Muslim is a slur."

She went on to say: "We can't tolerate this ignorance, not in the media, not on the campaign trail."

Credit for Campbell Brown or others who have spoken out against the demonization of Muslims? Yes.

Credit for Colin Powell? Please.

1 comment:

  1. Good points, Tony. I agree with most of what you write here. I didn't, or didn't mean to, exonerate Powell for past transgressions.
    The only thing I would add is that, regardless of what you and I think, people care what Colin Powell thinks. What he says matters. Millions of people who respect him heard him preaching tolerance on Sunday. That has to count for something.


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