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Lebanon: Bush's Scatological Blindspot PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Friday, 21 July 2006 08:11

Lebanon: Bush's Scatological Blindspot

AG
- Rami G. Khouri - Bush's comment is worth analyzing because it is very telling of many things, all of them problematic for the United States and the Middle East region. In that single phrase of his, the American president compressed into two dozen words the cumulative negative consequences of Washington's unusual capacity to forge a self-defeating and counter-productive Middle East policy on the basis of a faulty analysis, in turn built on misreading local realities and not speaking to the main actors.

www.agenceglobal.com

Worse than the crudeness of Bush's statement at G-8 is that it is tragic evidence of ignorance and callousness and shows that Bush's America lacks the capacity to mediate the complexities of the Middle East. Indeed, Bush has made matters disastrous even for U.S. interests.


George Bush's Foul Smelling Irony Machine

Rami G. Khouri

Agence Global
July 21, 2006

Copyright ?2006 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global
[Republished at PEJ News with AG permission]


AMMAN, Jordan -- I have carefully read and considered George W. Bush's words to British Prime Minister Tony Blair that were inadvertently caught on an open microphone during the G-8 Summit in Russia last week: "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

And I respectfully conclude that George Bush doesn't know shit about shit.

Bush's comment is worth analyzing because it is very telling of many things, all of them problematic for the United States and the Middle East region. In that single phrase of his, the American president compressed into two dozen words the cumulative negative consequences of Washington's unusual capacity to forge a self-defeating and counter-productive Middle East policy on the basis of a faulty analysis, in turn built on misreading local realities and not speaking to the main actors.

Almost every part of Bush's statement is either wrong or a consequence of bad foreign policy decisions by the United States and Israel, who operate as a single entity for all practical purposes in this respect. The first and most important problem with Bush's thoughts is to characterize Hizbullah's actions as "this shit." Many people, myself included, criticize Hizbullah for certain aspects of its policies. But history will no doubt record that its actions before this month to liberate south Lebanon from Israeli occupation have largely been supported by most Lebanese and Arabs, and have been seen as legitimate by most of the world.

The consensus in Israel, the United States and parts of Lebanon and the Arab world is that Hizbullah recklessly triggered the Israeli rampage in Lebanon this month by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers, causing all the Lebanese to pay a very heavy price. This will be debated for a long time, and supporters of a more truthful picture of reality would argue that the kidnapping of the soldiers is only the latest move in a long-running war between Israel and Lebanon, not a sudden unilateral action.

However, a more compelling question is being asked now: Why do the United States, Europe and most of the Arab world allow Lebanon to be pulverized by Israeli bombs when most of those same people in the West last year held up Lebanon as a beacon of democratic change that was a model for other Arabs?

We now have two Arab countries that George W. Bush has trumpeted as models and vanguards of America's policy of promoting freedom and democratic change in the Arab world -- Iraq and Lebanon. Neither is a very comforting sight today. Not many Arabs will sign up for Bush's democracy and freedom plan if this is what they will expect to happen to their countries.

The real irony in the global political defecation business that Bush should ponder is that American planes, bombs and tanks were directly (Iraq) or indirectly (Lebanon via Israel) responsible for bringing Iraq and Lebanon to their current state of turmoil, destruction and pain.

Hizbullah is a complex organization whose many activities respond to the needs of its core Shiite Lebanese constituency, including security, social services, economic support, local governance, and national political representation. Its leading role in resisting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon since 1982, and ultimately driving the Israelis out in 2000, enhanced its standing among all Lebanese. It has since been criticized by many Lebanese, though, for defying the authority of the central government, and for being an arm of Iranian and Syrian foreign policy.

Some of these accusations surely are correct to some extent, and Hizbullah has grappled only meekly in the past two years with internal Lebanese and Western diplomatic pressures to integrate its resistance assets into the national armed forces. Hizbullah sees itself as a deterrent to Israeli threats against Lebanon, and the main means of maintaining the integrity of Lebanon. Many will now question this self-image after its kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers triggered the destruction of much of Lebanon.

The real irony in Bush's statement is that he wants others to pressure Syria to pressure Hizbullah to change its policies -- at a moment when the central pillar of Washington's Middle East policies appears to be a refusal to speak to some of the most important political groups in the region. The United States has no relations or known contacts with Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, and is not on speaking terms with Syria, which it has mildly sanctioned.

Bush ignores at his own peril the fact that Islamist political sentiments and resistance movements are the fastest growing sector of national life in the Middle East. For the United States to be squarely opposed to and unable to speak with this large part of the public spectrum is foolish enough; it is even more reflective of amateur American foreign policy-making that Washington's policies in the region are an important contributor to the expansion of such Islamist sentiments and organizations.

Another irony is that Bush fails to grasp that Hizbullah's rise to prominence in the past quarter century in many ways represents a reaction to the three principal causes of mass dissatisfaction, anger, fear and humiliation among Arab populations: ineffective and autocratic Arab governments, aggressive and predatory Israel, and a United States that supports both of these tormentors of ordinary Arabs. If these underlying problems are not addressed and resolved, groups like Hizbullah will continue to emerge organically from the Middle Eastern soil, regardless of what happens to Hizbullah in the coming weeks.


Rami G. Khouri is editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star, published throughout the Middle East with the International Herald Tribune.

Copyright ?2006 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global
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Released: 22 July 2006
Word Count: 913
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Advisory Release: 22 July 2006
Rights & Permissions Contact: Agence Global, 1.336.686.9002, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation and The American Prospect, as well as expert commentary by William Beeman, Richard Bulliet, Juan Cole, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 July 2006 08:11
 

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