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Vail Daily column: Who’s on first?

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

“Who’s on First?” is a comedy routine made famous by former vaudeville comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The premise of the sketch finds Abbott identifying the players on a fictitious baseball team for his partner Lou Costello.

The basis of the skit lies in the fact that the names and nicknames of the players can be interpreted as either non-responsive answers to Costello’s questions or as acknowledgments to Abbott’s statements.

For example, Abbott tells Costello the first baseman’s name is “Who”; thus, when Costello says, “Who’s on first” his words could be interpreted as a question about the name of the player playing first base, or as a statement confirming that the actual name of the first baseman is “Who.” (If you’re too young to have seen the routine, then Google it. It is hilarious theater and timeless humor.)

Fast forward to the presidential debates in Boca Raton, Florida, on Oct. 12, 2012, when the president established a pretty firm red line when he responded to a question about Iran’s nuclear ambitions when he said, “The deal we will accept is that Iran ends their nuclear program.”

Then on April 2, 2015, during a news conference about the framework of a nuclear deal with Iran, the president said, “Iran will no longer enrich uranium at its Fordo facility. Iran will not enrich uranium with its advanced centrifuges for at least 10 years. The vast majority of Iran’s enriched uranium will be neutralized … ”

But an hour and a half later, Javad Zarif, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, said this about the newly agreed-upon framework: “Our facilities will continue, we will continue enriching, we will continue research and development, our heavy water reactor will be modernized, and we will continue the Fordo facility.” Zarif went even further and said, “None of these measures include closing any of our facilities; the proud people of Iran would never accept that.”

The next day, April 3, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, said, “We absolutely made no concessions on our bottom line, and that’s what’s important here.”

Does anyone else wonder who’s on first?

Should we believe, Javad Zarif, the negotiator for the Iranians, who have a perfect record of deception regarding their nuclear program, or should we believe our State Department, the department that told us Benghazi was the result of a video and Private Bowe Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction”?

Perhaps a quick glance at the results of five separate U.S. foreign policy undertakings that have occurred during the last six years will give us some insight.

• The United States failed to leave a stable Iraq (Iraq was stable after the Surge, but the failure to put into place a Status of Forces Agreement opened the door the ISIS).

• The failure of our “reset” with Russia (four years ago, Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said “reset” in English and “peregruzka” in Russian. The problem was “peregruzka” doesn’t mean reset. It means overcharged.) We see the results of this reset in Crimea, Ukraine and the Baltics.

• The failure of the Western-backed assassination of Gadhafi in Libya. To wit: Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Fewer people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands. After NATO’s intervention in 2011, Libya is now a failed state and its economy is in shambles. As the government’s control slips through their fingers and into the militia fighters’ hands, oil production has all but stopped.

• The failure of the U.S. State Department to move the Israeli/Palestinian peace process forward.

• The failure of the United States to suppress the rise of Islamic extremism (see ISIS, Yemen, Kenya, etc.).

Everything written above this line is verifiable fact; what follows, however, is conjecture.

Iran says it wants sanctions lifted, but some believe what it really wants is a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, President Obama says he wants to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but many believe what Obama really wants is a revolutionary deal that he can present to the world.

To paraphrase former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the problem is there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly Iran can acquire a nuclear weapon. But we can’t take the chance that the smoking gun will be a mushroom cloud.

Quote of the day: “Although Sept. 11 was horrible, it didn’t threaten the survival of the human race, like nuclear weapons do.” — Stephen Hawking

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@comcast.net.


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