CNN town hall debate addresses Israel, Sudan crisis

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Zain Verjee hosted a telecast from the Jack Morton Auditorium on Tuesday to discuss foreign policy issues in Iraq, Israel and Sudan.

The event, titled “American Foreign Policy since 9/11” was conducted as a town hall debate and included prominent speakers such as Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Susan Rice, a senior foreign policy advisor and spokeswoman for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s campaign. The program, which also featured an audience question-and-answer session, aired from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday.

A new Gallup poll was also released at the event indicating that only 42 percent of Americans felt “satisfied” with the position of the United States in the world today; about 65 percent believed President Bush should pay more attention to the views of other countries.

“We don’t make foreign policy based on polls,” Coleman said. “An America that doesn’t wait for an attack is a safer America.”

Torie Clark, a former spokesperson for the Pentagon, agreed with Coleman, arguing that the world is safer with an American presence in Iraq.

“I absolutely think we are safer,” Clark said. “We removed a very destabilizing force from that part of the world.”

Panelists also discussed the differences between Bush’s and Kerry’s foreign policy goals. Democrats criticized what they called the Bush administration’s failure to respond to the crisis in Sudan, while Republicans argued that aid is being sent to several African countries for humanitarian purposes.

Both Democrats and Republicans agreed that the United States would show support for Israel. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, sparked a reaction from the audience when he said America’s support for Israel is too strong.

“America holds a double double standard for Israelis and Palestinians,” Zogby said. “We’ve had too much compassion for Israel, and too little for Palestinians. We’ve had too little pressure on Israel, and too much pressure on Palestinians.”

Blitzer said that in the past decade, America has mostly intervened in Muslim countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kuwait and Iraq. He questioned why some Muslims countries do not recognize the humanitarian contributions America has made in places such as Kosovo, where Serbians were slaughtering Albanian Muslims.

“Three things impressed me about this debate,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president of Student Academic Support Services, after the event. “First was that the only time the audience applauded was when (Zogby) commented about Israel. Second was what Wolf Blitzer said about the U.S. invading Muslim countries. Finally, the discussion on the genocide in Sudan was compelling.”

Henni Omar, a member of the audience, said he appreciated Zogby’s comments and agreed that the U.S. should show more understanding toward Palestinians.

“(The show) was very informative,” Omar said. “There were a lot of different views. I think what Dr. Zogby said was a homerun for me. That’s my number one issue. He actually summarized the whole thing.”

Mike Jackson, a GW alumnus, said the panel raised important issues that Americans will need to consider in the near future.

“It’s good to promote awareness, and right now, America needs a greater understanding of what’s going on in the world,” he said. “I think this show really helped to clear up some misperceptions.”

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