Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Wisdom from Norm

In an interview with the Star Tribune editorial board before his most recent trip to Iraq, Norm Coleman was asked this question, to which he provided the following answer:

Q What's your sense of how the Iraqi government is performing?

A [During a previous trip to Baghdad, Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki] started lecturing to me about Sunni oppression, and that they [Shiites] are in the majority now, and that's democracy. I told him that in the U.S. Senate, we protect against one of the great enemies of democracy, the tyranny of the majority.

I see Maliki as a weak reed who does not have the fundamental capacity to get beyond the terrible history of that country. He's no Mandela. In Iraq, you need a de Klerk and a Mandela [South African's white and black leaders, respectively, of the 1980s and 1990s, who ended apartheid.]

Norm is apparently talking about the filibuster, which the Republicans are using quite a lot now. But here's what Norm said about the use of the filibuster in some circumstances, the nomination of judges, not all that long ago:

April 21st, 2005 - Washington, DC - “The history and the rules of the Senate never anticipated that a minority of the Senate would abuse the privilege of the filibuster to prevent an up or down vote on judicial nominees. I support the filibuster. I believe it is a necessary and vital tool in the Senate – and will resist any effort to undermine that tool for use in the legislative process. However, until last year, there has never before in the history of the Senate, been a filibuster of a judicial nominee who could have been confirmed – nor a precedent in which nominees were routinely filibustered in order to leverage the nomination process and prevent the Senate from voting. The President has a right to nominate judges. The Senate has the right to advise and consent. However, those who continue to obstruct both of those rights abuse the power of the filibuster to deprive Senators of their right to vote “yes” or “no” on judges. And that has to end. It must either end with compromise, or it must end with a constitutionally permissible change in Senate rules to prohibit the flagrant abuse of the filibuster.”

Norm's view of the filibuster varies quite a bit depending on whether he is in the majority or the minority!

But never mind that. What really matters in Norm's remarks is that the Bush administration is fixing to get rid of the current premier, Nouri al-Maliki. From CNN:

In Iraq, too, the U.S. has abandoned a democratically elected leader when it withdrew its support for Ibrahim al-Jafari, Iraq's former prime minister who also failed to bring reconciliation among Shiia, Sunni and Kurd factions in his government. The U.S. was involved in engineering al-Jafari's ouster in favor of al-Maliki.

Now, despite being democratically elected, al-Maliki risks being cast aside with the same kind of disregard for the democratic selection process the U.S. has criticized around the world.

Publicly no Bush administration official will call for his removal, but the messages emanating from Washington are being seen as signals to al-Maliki's critics that his days are numbered. Well, it wouldn't be the first time:

On orders from U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Henry Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to South Vietnam, refused to meet with Diệm. Upon hearing that a coup d'etat was being designed by ARVN generals led by General Dương Văn Minh, the United States gave secret assurances to the generals that the U.S. would not interfere. Dương Văn Minh and his co-conspirators overthrew the government on November 1, 1963.

The coup was very swift. On November 1, 1963, with only the palace guard remaining to defend President Diệm and his younger brother, Ngô Đình Nhu, the generals called the palace offering Diệm safe exile out of the country if they surrendered. However, that evening, Diệm and his entourage escaped via an underground passage to Cholon, where they were captured the following morning, November 2. The brothers were executed in the back of an armored personnel carrier by Captain Nguyen Van Nhung while en route to the Vietnamese Joint General Staff headquarters. Diệm was buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery next to the house of the US ambassador, Lodge.

One wonders who we are giving secret assurances to now.

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