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The Fool on the Hill 

Nader's reckless move

Ralph Nader is a dangerous loony. Or maybe a wise fool. He's certainly someone who is absolutely right and irretrievably wrong in the same breath. He's right that American democracy has been dangerously corrupted by corporate payoffs and political kickbacks. But he's terribly wrong in thinking that this is the time to engage in the Herculean task of cleansing the Augean stables. Nothing is more important in this election year than getting rid of George W. Bush, for the good of America and the health of the planet.

Nader's decision to enter the presidential race again is drawing plenty of criticism, mainly from those who see it as a repeat of his disastrous interference in 2000, an intervention that handed the White House to one of the worst presidents in America's history. The infamous travesty of democracy that elevated George W. Bush to dominance has firmly lodged corporate greed and nepotism in the corridors of power. Nader hates this, and the ensuing environmental rape and pillage that grows out of it, with an articulate passion -- so why would he launch a campaign that could siphon off liberal votes and increase the chance of this rogue administration strengthening its hold on American politics?

Only Nader knows for sure, and speculation is now beside the point. We must hope that he reveals himself for what he is -- a crank whose time has passed -- so that only nutcases and lemmings will vote for him.

Why do I care? After all, I don't vote in this country. And if America were a little tin-pot country in the middle of nowhere, I wouldn't give a damn. But you're not. What your leaders do affects the whole world, for good or evil.

Progressive democracies around the world are anxious to see the back of Bush, because his policies have made the world a more dangerous place. When I was growing up in England, America seemed like a magical place from whence all good things emanated. It was a land of generous heroes, who helped rebuild a shattered Europe with vision, skill, courage and political dexterity. I wept with you when John Kennedy was assassinated. There was no doubt Americans were the good guys. These decades of goodwill even survived Vietnam, and were bolstered by the fall of communism, but have been quickly squandered by George W. Bush. His callow smirk has become the symbol of American smugness and greed the world over.

Bush's achievement has been to transform America in a few years from a nation that was loved and admired, into one that is hated and feared by large sections of the world. America's friends in the world are few, and many of those nations that do rally to the Stars and Stripes -- like the emerging states of eastern Europe -- do so for the same reason hangers-on tag along in the wake of the playground bully, a combination of envy, self-protection and a cynical eye on future pickings.

This nadir of diplomacy involves more than the bungled war in Iraq. The world's disdain is fuelled in part by clumsy or non-existent diplomacy in the Middle East, leaving Israel and the Palestinians at each other's throats and the Arab world just a hair trigger away from explosion. The world beyond Jerusalem and Washington sees American bias toward Israel, so blatant that it fuels the hatred of Muslim madmen (and women) who seek a sick salvation by murdering innocent Jews at bus stops and cafes. Rather than hating America because "we love freedom," as Bush pathetically parrots ad nauseam, Islamic terrorists want to kill Americans because Washington supports the nation that they, and many observers across the globe, see as oppressing Arab peoples.

Beyond the Middle East's cauldron of conflict, many Europeans have grown to despise Uncle Sam because they see him as a global glutton who gobbles up far more than his fair share of the world's resources, and excretes plumes of pollution that threaten the environments of other nations.

Gloomier scenarios of global warming predict a new Ice Age for Europe, as the melting polar icecap dumps freezing water into the Atlantic Ocean and pushes the warming Gulf Stream further south. This would deprive Europe of the climatic phenomenon that allows English gardeners to grow palmettos at the same latitude as Nova Scotia. But much more importantly, this kind of ecological transformation would jeopardize the financial structure of Europe, with potentially catastrophic results for the global economy. Bush's response? To set up a task force in the Pentagon charged with planning Fortress America, keeping a cold and hungry world at bay. Not a word about reducing America's perilous pollution that's the culprit-in-chief.

And now Ralph Nader thinks it appropriate to grab another 15 minutes of fame. In the process, he could be the man who plunges America back into the dark ages by helping Bush win a second term. You can't stop him running, but for the world's sake, please don't vote for him.

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