Sunday, September 28, 2008
As a fierce critic of apathy, I was quite impressed by the 100+ passionately attentive students I counted at the University of San Diego's public viewing of the first presidential debate. It was an evening of political thrill supplemented with pizza and intellectual discourse about the many issues we face. The problem was, during the debate, a friend and I caught a factual error from both Sen. Obama and McCain that neither candidate corrected. I normally wouldn’t bring up such a technicality, but when both presidential hopefuls misspeak and it is college students who catch them, then we, my friends, have a problem.
It all started when Sen. McCain referred to the paramilitary group inside Iran as the Republican Guard, instead of the Revolutionary Guard. Then, when Sen. Obama was given an opportunity to reply, he not only failed to blast McCain for misspeaking, but also followed his colleague down the path of American factual botchery regarding the Middle East.
I get it—we all misspeak. But what is disturbing is that no attention was given to the factual gaffe made during or after the debate. In the nationalist years of the late secularist Saddam Hussein, Iraqis were often in trauma when there was word that his Republican Guard was on the move. This elite force was perhaps best remembered after the Second Gulf War when it brutally suppressed Shia uprising in the south and Kurdish resistance in the north. Saddam’s dreaded Republican Guard was packed with his Sunni Arab kinsmen who were famous for evoking a Machiavellian vision for the Iraqi state.
But not to be outdone, the Revolutionary Guard of Iran’s Islamic Republic has proven to be just as brutal. During the Iran-Iraq War, it was the Revolutionary Guard that gave keys to Iranians either too young or too old to fight Saddam’s Iraqi army. These keys were meant to symbolize their entrance into heaven as they walked across minefields to clear the way for Iranian tanks. The Revolutionary Guard today maintains ties across the Shia Middle East and has been instrumental in training and arming militias who continue to fight our troops in Iraq.
I find it horrifying that the two men contending for the U.S presidency not only made this mistake but also failed to correct it. There was no press recognition of this, nor could I find any reaction outside of our University's pizza hall. I can’t help but wonder if this seemingly simple mistake is indicative of a continuing ignorance in the American understanding of the Middle East. Though I’m not sure how many other people noticed this mistake, I’m more interested in who else cares.
Note: This piece has not been published yet.
Scribed By Jesse Aizenstat at 6:06 PM