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Extinguish The Torch!

Steve Clemons makes a convincing case that, contra calls from Hillary Clinton, President Bush should not boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. But is there any reason the U.S. shouldn't boycott this round-the-world relay of the Olympic torch, which is scheduled to make an appearance in San Francisco tomorrow? 

First, just consider the amount of government resources that will be put toward protecting this stupid torch. When the torch arrived in San Francisco early this morning, according to this AP account, it

was immediately put in a vehicle to be whisked away to a secret location, San Francisco Olympic Torch Relay Committee spokesman David Perry said.

San Francisco officials won't say how many police they plan to use tomorrow to keep the torch safe on its little jaunt around the city, but the AFP says it will be an "unprecedented security blanket . . . draped across San Francisco." When Paris got the honor of playing host to the torch yesterday, it deployed the 3,000 French police officers along the torch's route. 

Second, there's the issue of our having to host the Chinese "torch attendants" who accompany the torch and whose methods for protecting it aren't so nice.  As Reuters describes them:

The Chinese security guards -- who in Paris nervously turned the flame off several times on Monday and retreated with the torch to a bus when protesters advanced -- have drawn fire for their heavy-handed approach to managing the torch's progress.

In London, Sebastian Coe, chairman of the 2012 Olympics organising committee and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, called them "thugs", British media reported.
Torch bearer and former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq described them as aggressive. "They were very robotic, very full on, and actually I noticed them having skirmishes with our own police and the Olympic authorities before our leg of the relay, which was confusing," she was quoted as telling BBC Radio 4.
"They were barking orders at me, like 'Run! Stop!', and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, who are these people?'," the Daily Mail quoted her as saying. "They kept pushing my hand up higher when I was holding the torch, so they were...interesting."

Finally, there's the fact that, even if you buy into the whole Olympic ethos (I don't), the torch relay is completely tangential to the games themselves. Holding the games in Beijing gives the Chinese government an undeserved honor, but the games have to be held somewhere, so I can see the rationale for not boycotting them now that Beijing has been chosen as the site. But the torch relay is pure propoganda, both for the benighted International Olympic Committee and for the Chinese government. There's no reason that the U.S. has to be a party to it.

--Jason Zengerle