Saturday, July 28, 2012

Facing off against El Supremo

The U.S. President has taken some flak from opponents and concerned citizens alike for his willingness to dialog with Iran. And for good reason. America is at a significant disadvantage here. Let's face it, all we have is a prez while Iran boasts a "Supreme Leader." How you gonna convince a Supreme Leader of anything? You might as well argue with the Pope in Latin, or in this case Bavarian.

And if facing off against the Supreme Leader were not daunting enough, consider this: Washington relies on Congress to get things done, but Tehran's parliament is christened — if the ayatollahs will pardon that term — none other than the "Assembly of Experts." You must admit, whatever your opinion of Congress, no one has ever accused it of being an assembly of experts. That kind of lineup, Supreme Leader and Assembly of Experts, is the political equivalent of having an amp that goes all the way up to 11.

Nor is the problem peculiar to Persia. There are still quite a number of El Supremo types in various corners of the world running their horror shows to the detriment of humankind.

Look at North Korea. It is ruled by Kim Jong-un, the grandson of that nation's first and only president, the so-called Eternal President. Basically, Kim's claim to fame is that like his own father before him, he is his father's son. In North Korea, running the country into the ground apparently is a family business. So while the citizens starve and long to be free, their rulers fire missiles into the sea.

Or take Zimbabwe (please). You may argue that nation is ruled only by a president. But Robert Mugabe is no lowly, openly-elected, term-limited head of state. Hundreds of people die when Mugabe campaigns for office. Even though he has been forced into a power-sharing situation, Mugabe is not a proponent of democratic rule or preoccupied in the least with the legitimate concerns of his constituents. As a matter of fact, Mugabe, 88, has already lived twice as long as the average Zimbabwean, whose life expectancy is only 44 years. Nice job, Bobbo.

The head of state in Sudan is also called president, but this guy, Omar al-Bashir, seems pretty darn ruthless. He and some members of his administration have been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
However, no arrests have been made. And it's unlikely a genocidal strongman is going to turn himself in.

Some of these tin-pot tyrants even exhibit a creative flair, while they're destroying their own nations. Saparmurat Niyazov, the former president of Turkmenistan, renamed the months of the calendar after his mother. He called himself Father of the Turkmen and was made president for life in 1999 by his own hand-picked assembly of experts. Sadly for him, that arrangement was abrogated in 2006 by the Grim Reaper. Niyazov was succeeded by his dentist.

Despite the risks, it is necessary to talk to those power-wielding nutjobs, if only to expose their crackpot lunacy, their crimes against humankind and their personal shortcomings. Remember, we are powerful, too, and we care. Besides, our presidents are cooler than any El Supremo can ever hope to be.

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