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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Evil Politics Plague World Affairs

    The devil is our President, according to President Chavez of Venezuela. He said this to an audience of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. The United Nations is a diplomatic forum representing 192 of the world’s countries. The fact that diplomats and leaders uproariously applauded and laughed after he joked that our President is the devil, is astonishing but noteworthy. It was in the opinion of not only Condoleeza Rice but other world leaders who were asked for their feedback about Chavez’s verbal dagger, inappropriate language for someone in a position of leadership, conversing in an international diplomatic forum.

    Indeed, it was wrong, impolite and undignified for Chavez to call another leader, Bush, the devil. Yet, as Chile‘s President Michelle Bachelet said in a recent conversation with journalist Charlie Rose, while those words were slanderous and undignified, the reason behind those words of Chavez’s message, seem to have been disregarded. The Latin American region, filled with developing nations with worse poverty than the United States, is but one of the areas in the world that has an ambivalent situation with America.

    Latin American leaders, such as Bachelet, appreciate the trade that their countries have with the United States that helps their economies. They also are united against terrorism, according to President Bachelet. Yet, as she pointed out, when terror is fought through unsavory ‘illegal’ means (i.e. torture of terror suspects, which violates international law), this can exacerbate terrorism and reduce the credibility of the nations (i.e. the U.S.) that act in such ways.

    America, the world’s remaining superpower, is a great democracy, but the holes in its integrity undermine America‘s image in the views of less powerful and still developing countries. Thus why so many applauded the vitriolic joke of Chavez-he was reflecting, in the viewpoint of Bachelet and other international leaders, the opinion that American foreign policy within the past six years has been dominated by selfish hegemony. America the beautiful is getting ugly; thankfully, checks and balances are returning after a near-requiem triggered by a rubber stamp Congress. So perhaps in a year, should Chavez or someone similar to him make a similar remark, they will not receive standing ovations.

    Bush isn’t evil incarnate; he just does not think much of the time about how his rhetoric and actions will be viewed by the rest of the world. Ignorance is arguably to blame for the leader of the free world’s foibles.

    So too with Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the international Catholic Church, as well as the Vatican, which is a landmark city that represents Christians as a whole to many in the world. In a scholarly speech last Saturday (the Pope formerly was a theology professor), he quoted from a Byzantinian fourteenth century text that calls the religion of Islam ‘evil and inhuman’ at Germany‘s Regensburg University. He assumed that, like his days working in the academia, only a healthy dialogue would be triggered among people of differing viewpoints.

    What resulted instead was an enormous outrage on the part of Muslims, who viewed his citing of an archaic text to be an indictment of Islam by a major leader representing one of the sects of Christianity. His effigy was burned by angry Muslims in the Middle East, and churches were fire bombed. He should have stated in his speech whether he agreed with the Byzantinian emperor’s remark which he cited; he only was smart enough to say that he was quoting. Otherwise, the Pope just ignited more flames of hatred and misunderstanding towards Christians.

    When he went on to say that the Islamic concept of jihad, which he defined as holy war, was ‘violence in the name of religion that is contrary to God’s nature and reason’, those were his words. Such lamentations with no mention of the Crusades, a time when both Christians and Muslims killed each other in the name of God, and a source of disturbance still between the two faiths though it was centuries ago, was not too smart.

    The Pope later apologized for offending Muslims, and many Muslim leaders, accepting his apology, have condemned acts of violence towards Christians in response to his words. The Vatican‘s diplomatic relations with the Muslim countries of Yemen, Somalia, and Morocco were hurt after his speech; his repeated apologies may engender hope for diplomatic mending, but now his life may be in continuous danger from radicals.

    The Pope has to realize that these are tumultuous times; radicals of both Christianity and Islam want to have a second Crusades, jihads of their own. He needs to really keep this in mind-ignorance is never bliss if you’re an international leader.

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