Bush U.N. nominee likely a Muslim--Pass the Popcorn
Zalmay Khalilzad, who was announced this week as leaving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is the leading prospect to replace John Bolton as envoy to the United Nations.
President Bush was reported by aides as looking for someone who approximates Bolton's combination of toughness and diplomatic skill and has tentatively decided on Khalilzad. A native of Afghanistan, he has served in government posts dating back to 1985 and is the highest-ranking Muslim in the Bush administration.
There are two interesting things about this pick, if the rumors are true.
1) It will drive the right-wing base absolutely insane. If Glenn Beck literally had to ask our first Muslim congressman Keith Ellison to "prove to [him] that you're not working with our enemies" because "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way," I can only imagine what Beck and all those Americans he thinks he speaks for will say about this nomination. If the insanely popular-with-the-nutball-right Left Behind series of novels believes that the U.N. is really the source of all evil in the world and the likely origin of the next Anti-Christ, one can only imagine the uproar they'll have at the selection of a freaking Muslim to the U.N.
Now, Zalmay Khalilzad is well liked by many who pay close attention on the right. He is a strong backer of the oil exploitation of the Middle East, having worked for Unocal and having supported the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 when we thought they would provide stability and give us friendly oil and natural gas deals in Afghanistan. As Wikipedia says:
Khalilzad served under former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as special assistant to the president for Southwest Asia, the Near East and North Africa. From 1991 to 1992, he was a senior Defense Department official for policy planning. Khalilzad initially viewed the Taliban as a potential force for stability and as counter balance to Iran, but his views changed over time, especially after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Khalilzad was an advisor for the Unocal Corporation. In the mid-1990s, while working for the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Khalilzad conducted risk analyses for Unocal for a proposed 1,400 km (890 mile), $2-billion, 622 m³/s (22,000 ft³/s) Trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project which would have extended from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. For this project, he met a delegation of Taliban in the United States.
So he, like Hamid Karzai, is a beloved puppet of the corporatist establishment.
Unfortunately for him and for Bush, however, the only thing his base will concentrate on is the fact that he's a Muslim--which should be hellaciously amusing. It's yet another example of the ongoing conflict between the Corporatist Right and the Religious Right.
2) The selection of the muslim Ambassador to Iraq as the new U.N. envoy would appear to signal that Bush is going to get serious about asking other Middle Eastern nations to help pick up the pieces of Iraq to do something about it. That, in and of itself, is an excellent sign in my opinion. Anything that signals a change of course of any kind by Bush is a good thing.
The problem is that it is difficult to see how much impact Khalilzad will have at the U.N. if he is seen solely as the stooge of Unocal and of Bush. Of course, it's a heck of a lot better than von Moustache. And if he performs well at the nomination hearing, I think Dems should probably confirm him--because I seriously doubt we could do much better with any other Bush nominee, and it might do some good for Iraq.
In any case, pass the popcorn. It should be fun to watch.