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Rick Warren is a Foreign Policy Blunder for Obama

New America Media, Commentary, Jalal Ghazi Posted: Dec 23, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- President-elect Barack Obama's selection of Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church to deliver the invocation at his inauguration ceremony sends a mixed message to the Muslim world.

During his election campaign, Obama expressed his readiness to enter into a dialogue with Iran a key piece of his foreign policy platform for which he was berated by Republicans, including John McCain. Warren seems to defy Obama's message of openness and reasonable mindedness toward Iran: During a recent appearance on FOX's "Hannity & Colmes," he sounded as if he wanted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be taken out.

HANNITY: Can you talk to rogue dictators? Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, wants to wipe Israel off the map, is seeking nuclear weapons.

WARREN: Yes.

HANNITY: I think we need to take him out.

WARREN: Yes.

HANNITY: Am I advocating something dark, evil or something righteous?

WARREN: Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped. And I believe...

HANNITY: By force?

WARREN: Well, if necessary. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers.

Warren's message alienates not only Iran, a pivotal player in the Middle East, but also shows a great deal of disrespect to the Muslim world. If Obama wants to enter into an effective dialogue with the Iranian government about its nuclear program and maintaining stability in Iraq so that U.S. troops can be withdrawn, the last thing he should do is give Warren this important symbolic role.

This is not the first time Rev. Warren described the Iranian government as evil. When Warren conducted separate one-hour interviews with Obama and McCain in August, he asked each candidate how he would deal with evil if he were elected president would he ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it, or defeat it?

At the time, these exchanges about evil went unchallenged by American news media that were "more than happy to report how the Democratic and Republican candidates were speaking of confronting and defeating evil," said Al Jazeera's Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara, in a television interview.

Bishara added, "If religious interviews were done with such fanfare and influence in a Muslim country, democratic or otherwise, western and especially U.S. media would have made a mockery of such an imposition of religious fundamentalism on political process."

If a Muslim imam with the same stature as Warren were to use the same words to describe President-elect Obama, he would have been labeled an extremist. And if Arab or Iranian news media were to give this imam a platform, it would be labeled anti-American. The question is: When will the American news media hold itself to the same standards expected of other countries' media?

Related Articles:

Ahmadinejad: Guns 'n' Roses

Ahmadinejad Calls Bush's Nuclear Bluff

Ahmadinejad in New York: Peace Lost in the Fog of Sex


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