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April 01, 2002
A confused Bush is confusing everybody

By Ahmed Amr.


The Washington Post is asking questions, as if it was a 'national' newspaper. It wants to know why George Bush 43 and George Bush 41 are so different in their approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So Jackson Diehl in an article titled "The Catastrophe of US Inaction' , asks a straight forward question and gives a close enough answer. "Why has the younger Bush rejected his father's policy? Some in and outside the administration cite an overreaction to the Clinton administration, which escalated U.S. involvement in the Middle East still further but failed to produce a settlement. Others suspect that Bush sees his father's heavy pressure on Israel as a mistake that helped cost him reelection, and consequently is resolved never to be caught leaning on Sharon."

And moving on to Powell, Jackson Diehl uncovers the real Colin who as a "catalyst of U.S. failure in Yugoslavia, has once again cut a figure of timidity and impotence in the face of a critical challenge. Incredibly, the U.S. secretary of state has returned to Israel only once in the past year, even as the death toll has mounted from the hundreds into the thousands. And in retrospect, that visit last June emerges as a key turning point on the way to the current disaster. Pressure for U.S. intervention reached a high point early in June after a particularly horrific -- for then -- Palestinian suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv discotheque. At the end of the month, Powell finally scheduled a quick trip, while making it clear to the reporters on his plane that he had done so only to quiet the complaints from Arab and European governments." Ever the self-serving civil servant, Powell is portrayed by Diehl as having "caved as soon as he met resistance from Ariel Sharon. By the time he left, Powell had abandoned the plan for monitors and signed on to the prime minister's maximalist demand that there be seven weeks of absolute calm -- not counting Israeli assassinations of Palestinian militants -- before the most basic of confidence-building measures could be implemented."

Diehl writes that "Sharon proceeded to make a mockery of the pressure-Arafat plan. Each period of Palestinian restraint was greeted with Israeli assassinations, home demolitions or incursions into Palestinian territory; each terrorist attack launched by Arafat's extremist rivals was answered by devastating Israeli assaults on Arafat's own security forces. State Department spokesmen sometimes protested, but the White House did and said nothing."

So to understand Bush's latest assault on Palestinian dignity, you have to realize that he functions on the strength of his MBA degree, using his calculator to tabulate the costs and benefits for George Bush. Cheney makes his own calculations, for Cheney. And Powell only looks at the bottom line for Powell. To these men in lofty places, innocent lives, freedom and liberty are just political currency. If the currency happens to be Palestinian, it is not considered hard currency.

George Bush and Richard 'Dick' Cheney might also be motivated by deeply rooted personal bigotry and a complete lack of comprehension of the very basics of Palestinian history. They have reduced the Palestinians to suicide bombers hell bent on assaulting Sharon's 'innocent' Israel, for no good reason. The brutality of the occupation is not considered provocative. After a year of Apartheid repression, the American government has not once pressured Sharon to stop his daily assaults against the Palestinians. Small cells of Palestinian desperados attacking Israeli civilians have been deemed justification for massive and brutal collective punishment against the Palestinians. Eighteen months of living under siege conditions means nothing to Bush. But he expresses understanding when Sharon, a war criminal under the laws of the United States, sets IDF goons against a whole town. For six months, Sharon rationalized every act of terror against the Palestinians as essential to find those responsible for killing one of his extremist cabinet members, a minister of tourism who openly called for the expulsion of the Palestinians. Now the IDF attacks the Palestinian authority, conduct mass arrests, attack refugee camps with American tanks, executes Palestinians at point blank range, murders and assaults journalists, threatens to murder Arafat. What does Bush do? He coddles Sharon and expresses understanding. Sharon demolishes every instrument of state power available to the Palestinian authorities and Bush asks why Arafat can't do more to rein in the extremist elements.

Bush asks Sharon to allow Arafat to attend the Beirut peace conference where the Saudis make a bold initiative. What does Bush do when Sharon snubs him? He turns on Arafat, even as Sharon is assaulting his compound in Ramallah. If Bush knew that Ramallah was a Christian Palestinian town, maybe he would act differently. But he knows very little and he can't sort out the little he knows.

George Bush is confusing because he is confused. He mugs for the camera for personal political advantage. He embraces an Israeli war criminal hell bent on creating mayhem. He sends Cheney to the Middle East with one agenda, changes it while Cheney is in mid-tour, disparages the Saudi initiative, then encourages it, gets crossed by Sharon and won't dare respond.

America no longer even makes a pretense of being an honest broker in the Middle East. Even after the atrocities of 911, American policy is framed in terms of "is it good for Israel?". Bush takes a slap in the face from Sharon and turns around and humiliates the Palestinians and Arabs. This president is willing to be publicly disgraced by an Israeli thug just to make nice with the Sharon's people at CNN and the New York Times.

Maybe Zinni should go back to shopping for wet noodles. He is, after all, just a temp making a few dollars for his retirement. He just recently took a tour of the settlements and has yet to visit a refugee camp or a Palestinian hospital. He is there for Bush to do public relations with domestic constituencies essential for the mid-term elections. Bush will act when he has new numbers to enter into his calculations. Sharon could kill Arafat. Sharon could drop dead. Sharon could lighten up and show Bush a little mercy before the next public trashing. Sharon might even give Bush a little room to come up with a public relations initiative to 'handle the Arabs'.

Beyond that, Bush appears to be very paranoid about what Sharon's senators can do to his domestic agenda or how Sulzberger and Levine would punish him if dares to stop Sharon's grand design, whatever it turns out to be. Tomorrow is Monday and I am certain Bush will figure some kind of policy appropriate for a CNN sound bite to demonstrate that he 'is resolved never to be caught leaning on Sharon'. Bush usually starts out talking fairly reasonably on most Mondays. It is Tuesday's Foreign policy I worry about. And If it lasts till Wednesday, the changes on Thursday can be quite radical and vastly modified by the wit and wisdom of Friday. When he works weekends, is when I really worry. I just wish the President would cut back to a three day week, because I don't think the world can handle a whole week of Bushfusion

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