Barack Obama smarting from West Ham's weekend loss against Spurs and a 75% failure rate in the Final Four, maybe a bit of a lightweight when it comes to picking sports teams that actually win but in throwing his weight behind the US bid for the 2018 World Cup, he knows a good thing, especially in capturing the hearts and minds of the world. The US under George W Bush was consistently amongst the most unpopular countries in the world even amongst allies.
“Soccer is truly the world’s sport, and the World Cup promotes camaraderie and friendly competition across the globe,” Obama added in the letter, a part of which was released to The New York Times by the United States Soccer Federation with permission from the White House.
“That is why this bid is about much more than a game,” he added. “It is about the United States of America inviting the world to gather all across our great country in celebration of our common hopes and dreams.”
Which makes Henry Kissinger's selection to the US World Cup bid committee even more baffling. If you want the world to celebrate the US and share in its common hopes and dreams, why would you want someone, as declassified material increasingly reveal, happens to be a central figure in the 1970s subversion of democracy in South America by supporting some of its most repressive regimes. He has also been held responsible for expanding the Vietnam War to Cambodia and Laos that cost millions their lives.
Kissinger may have been instrumental in bringing the 1994 World Cup to the US and endeared himself to Sepp Blatter but this was well before a spate of investigations sought to examine his culpability in these crimes. One of them was launched by Baltazar Garzon from Spain, famously known for issuing a 1998 arrest warrant for Auguste Pinochet, the Chilean dictator. Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six Bush administration officials over the advocacy and use of enhanced interrogation tactics aka torture. Needless to say the Spanish are serious about these crimes against humanity.
Mixed in with the practical considerations of making a successful bid is the idea that the World Cup however imperfectly, brings together people from different countries with varied political systems, which the US seriously undermined under Kissinger's tenure as Secretary of State under Nixon. Having Kissinger on the committee undercuts both Obama's message of hope and the essence of the World Cup.