2008 candidates lack promise
While there is an absence of complete bipartisan consensus on many issues, it is rare to hear a presidential candidate from either party to harshly criticize past foreign policy.
Though the lack of criticism should be expected from Republican John McCain, Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's reluctance to speak up on the negative aspects of twentieth-century American foreign policy should trigger disbelief.
Perhaps Clinton and Obama react with such reluctance because most Americans lack the desire to hear about American war crimes or terrorism. The 1953 coup in Iran has been largely forgotten, Vietnam remains controversial and civilian deaths in the First Gulf War are rarely mentioned.
If a politician even mentioned the phrase ?American war crimes", he or she would risk incurring the wrath of his or her voting base. Yet the subject of American war crimes must be openly discussed to have a friendlier relationship with neighbor nations.
One case would be the 1989 invasion of Panama. The historian Howard Zinn has noted that the number of civilians dead from the 1989 U.S. bombing of Panama could have exceeded the number of students killed during the Tiananmen Square protests that same year.
While that particular use of aggression against civilians in China garnered international condemnation and even sanctions, the American ousting of Manuel Noriega and bombing of Panamanians received no such punishment.
It is doubtful that McCain, who has sharply criticized nations in Latin America that stand up to American imperialism, will apologize for or recognize American crimes in this hemisphere.
Obama, who stated he has not ruled out military force as an option if Iran ?resists outside pressures,? apparently misunderstands the main reason for the hostility towards the United States.
The 1979 Iranian revolution occurred primarily because the revolutionaries felt the United States had wrongly interfered in their political system by aiding the coup of 1953. This hostility has continued with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?s presidency, with the leader regularly labeling the CIA as a ?terrorist organization.?
Of course, the ?Islamic Republic? is now a far cry from the socialism of the leader elected in 1953. However, some present the argument that that extreme religious conservatism arose in response to nearly forty years of living in a police state.
This is not to justify the theocratic leanings of modern Iran. Yet the 1953 coup should certainly not be ignored; exactly what Obama does in keeping military action as an option, possibly choosing it over apology and diplomacy if elected president.
Must the US continue to think it is any different from its enemies? War crimes are war crimes, regardless of whether they are committed by Pol Pot or the most powerful military in history.
It is time to come to terms with the past. It is time for a new American leader, one who will recognize the nation?s historical use of indefensible aggression and apologize to the victims.
I have been watching the presidential race. The odds do not look promising.