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Bush?s Commitment Problem

Posted on May 20, 2008
Bush poster
AP photo / Kevin Frayer

Two women ride a Jerusalem bus featuring a poster of President Bush that was sponsored by a right-wing Israeli group.

By Allen McDuffee

(Page 2)

“Contrary to what many are saying—that Bush hasn’t accomplished much in his trips to the Mideast—he has accomplished a great deal of harm,” says Francis Boyle, University of Illinois law professor and author of “Palestine, Palestinians and International Law.” For Boyle, Bush has only exacerbated the problems that have plagued the Palestinians for decades—the growth of Israeli settlements, the difficult living conditions of Palestinian refugees, and the further annexation of East Jerusalem into Israeli territory—by allowing these problems to flourish while trying to placate Palestinians with the lure of peace talks and the promise of a Palestinian state.

Boyle, a former legal adviser to the Palestinians, says that despite no agreement at the Annapolis conference, the gathering provided at least one reason to be hopeful. For the first time, he says, “tens of thousands of Palestinians of various political commitment—not just Hamas—protested the proposed Bantustan plan, and forced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reject the proposal,” referring to the condition of Palestinians as being similar to that of blacks in apartheid South Africa. The protest and outcome showed Palestinian democracy at work, but, Boyle says, the mainstream U.S. media ignored the story.

In his final State of the Union address, Bush reasserted a commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace. “This month in Ramallah and Jerusalem, I assured leaders from both sides that America will do, and I will do, everything we can to help them achieve a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of this year. The time has come for a Holy Land where a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine live side-by-side in peace.”

As soon as the applause died down, Bush merged the Israeli-Palestinian issue with his bellicose stance against Iran, saying, “[W]herever freedom advances in the Middle East, it seems the Iranian regime is there to oppose it.” After again alleging that Iran has nuclear capabilities, Bush said, “Iran is funding and training militia groups in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and backing Hamas’ efforts to undermine peace in the Holy Land.”


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The administration decided to pursue Iran even after the Dec. 3, 2007, release of the National Intelligence Estimate stating the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran did not have a nuclear weapon, did not have a program to build a nuclear weapon, and was less inclined to produce nuclear weapons than the U.S. had earlier claimed.

As Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies points out: “How could anyone now claim there was any legal or moral pretext for threatening Iran? But somehow the release of the NIE did not stop Washington’s talk of war. ... The White House, the President, and especially the Vice-President, all continued ratcheting up the rhetoric. In fact, the president had been told of the NIE’s overall conclusions months earlier, back in the summer of 2007.”

And when Bush arrived in the Middle East this past January for his first trip to the region as president, Iran remained atop the agenda. According to Bennis, “One of his primary goals was to reassure Israel that the NIE had changed nothing in U.S. policy trajectories towards Iran and that despite the intelligence agencies’ consensus that Iran was not building a nuclear weapon, ‘all options’ remained on the table.”

To gain the level of regional complicity among Arab states to pursue Iran required some semblance of pursuing a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians that Bush had long ago abandoned when the 2002 “road map” for peace failed.

Israel was opportunistic in taking advantage of Bush’s rhetoric linking the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Iran and Hamas. On Feb. 10, Israel’s Interior Minister Shimon Sheetrit said Ismail Haniyeh, the democratically elected Hamas prime minister, is a “legitimate target” for assassination, and added, “We must take a neighborhood in Gaza and wipe it off the map.”

“Aside from the United States, Israel is the only country where the murder of foreign leaders is openly debated as a policy option,” says Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.”

For Israel, the potential that Hamas could turn to politics presents a threat, not an opportunity, according to Abunimah. He says that Israel is more comfortable with rocket fire “than it would be with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians marching on the checkpoints in Gaza or the West Bank” because “Israel has no interest in facing Palestinian leaders who are at once committed to basic Palestinian rights, capable of delivering, and enjoy popular legitimacy and support.”

“Israel may be trying to provoke more rocket attacks,” Abunimah says, “and force Hamas into abandoning its political strategy altogether to provide the needed pretext to ‘decapitate’ the organization.”

If this sounds unlikely, consider the remarks of Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, who, according to a Feb. 5 Reuters report, declared on Israel Radio that “there’s no difference between those who wear a suicide suit and a diplomat’s suit.”

In this environment, Bush’s “new cause for hope” is difficult to imagine.

Allen McDuffee writes on politics and Middle East affairs and is currently at work on a book, “No Child Left Unrecruited.” He lives in Brooklyn.

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By mrmb, May 23, 2008 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Thanks for the recommendation. I certainly agree with the premise of your discussion.

However I do have to say that informed citizens are the most important first step. Thats where all change starts and trust me the zionists know and understand that very well.
Thats why they control the media and the flow of information and shape the debate. They are scared when the truth comes out from any corner thats why the rush and try to crush that voice. What they dont understand is that time is against them and they will be totally exposed.

The fact that we are dicussing the zionists corrupting hold on our institutions and their suffocating and criminal conduct is a major achievement in due part as an unintended consequence of this criminal war of aggression that was initiated by the zionists hiding in the shadows and having fools like george bush, hillary clinton and mccain as their mouth pieces trying to prove who is a better zionist slave.

I strongly advocate that as citizens we have to shed light on these criminals and the tools of their trade and the consequences of their policies and inform our fellow citizens even more. Once we hold the flash light onto their dungeons where they like to hide and expose them then nature will take its course.

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By cyrena, May 23, 2008 at 12:47 am Link to this comment


What to do with them…

There is a book that gives us some solutions to consider here, on what to do with these people who remain in our midst, as we try to regain our democracy, and recover from what has become a complete hijacking of our political process.

I agree with you that many of us among all of these groups of US, (the pundits, the professors, the politicians, academia, etc) have been co-opted by the highjacking process. BUT, there are a few who have not, and so they continue to look for answers and solutions. Sometimes, it helps to look to other nations and locations that have undergone the same or similar miseries, to see how they may have handled it, and how successful they may have been (or not).

That’s why I would reccommend at least one book that I found easy to read, and very informative, and yes..even hopeful, in dealing with those who have brought about this destruction, because they will of course, NOT go away willingly.

So, I recommend (as one of many) “A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers” by Lawrence Weschler.

Many will of course take offense to my comparison of what has happened to us at the hands of the Zionists in our midst, or the corporatists, or the Administration.. to the military torture regimes of other dictatorships. Quite frankly, I find no ideological differences. The techniques may be slightly different, since we’ve not come quite to the point of disappearing and/or torturing millions of our OWN citizens. (though obviously, we have done so with some). But my point is that the apparatus is in place, and it’s deeply entrenched in many organizations, INCLUDING the Zionists and AIPAC. And, these have only grown in the past 8 years.

That said, if one can expand the imagination just a bit, the book is easily put to the challenges that we face now, in dealing with this apparatus that has so thoroughly infected out own process.

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By madamlazonga, May 22, 2008 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

AIPAC, contrary to their well-worn line that they are a friend to the US, has been leading Congress people, and presidential administrations, astray for years.  They are the hardline extremist voice for Israel, and unfortunately have been the loudest, or the only voice for too long.  I read recently in The Nation (May 5 issue) that a new more balanced lobby organization is being established called “J Street”.  They actually are proposing to support Congressional candidates who believe in a negotiated resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.  It’s a start toward more rational and fair approaches, yes?

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By hippy pam, May 22, 2008 at 5:45 am Link to this comment

Chi Megwech[thank you] NOW THERE ARE TWO OF US…

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By mrmb, May 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Our leaders (more of a joke) at all levels (national, state, local) have no problem committing or more properly phrased, sell themselves and the rest of us to AIPAC and Zionists.

Thats what it takes to be an office holder in the US. And I dont buy into the notion that AIPAC is only representative of right wing likud war criminals.

AIPAC and other zionist organizations dictate our foreign policy in the middle east. They control our media. They shape the debate in our country. They blackmail our politicians, reporters, pundits, academia, journalists, anchors, editors, professors, military officers, and ......

This war of aggression has been an eye opener to the general public and has done a lot to expose the zionists and their immoral / illegal / illegitimate hold on our elite. This may have been the only positive outcome of this human disaster.

The question is what are we going to do with these people and how we are going to rid ourselves of this cancer thats destroying our country, getting us involved in immoral and illegal wars on behalf of a foreign power?

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By cyrena, May 21, 2008 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment

I’m holding out for that possible change in this dynamic, and I have a sense of it already. (have for a while). And, for all of the reasons you’ve stated, I don’t see it being more obvious until after the Democrat take back our government in the fall.

So, thanks for the encouragment. At least I know there are others who might be noticing a ground swell even if they can’t hear the sound of the stampede just yet.

I keep reminding folks, (or trying to at least) that times are CHANGING, even if they don’t see the most obvious signs of it. BECAUSE…that’s just the way it is. CHANGE HAPPENS, whether we want it to or not.

Sometimes, it actually CAN be positive and progressive change. In fact, that is far more the NORM. The fascism is actually NOT the norm, but if we weren’t paying close enough attention to prevent it from happening, we sure are now.

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By JOHNDICKERSON, May 21, 2008 at 7:08 pm Link to this comment

FROM AN EARLIER POST- “I keep hearing that Israeli and American Jews don’t really support the right-wing agenda of the Israel lobby, including organizations such as AIPAC…..
But tell me, if the Israel lobby really doesn’t represent Jews, and it doesn’t represent Israel, why are politicians so afraid of it?”


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By madamlazonga, May 21, 2008 at 5:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

They get their way because they can organize their minions to write letters accusing politicians of being antisemitic.  Politicians are afraid of being labeled.  AIPAC, as I said, is much stronger than their numbers would assume.  It’s fear, not unlike the McCarthy era.  In order not to be labeled and black-balled, in order to get elected, politicians swear loyalty to AIPAC and Israel.  Google info about the last AIPAC convention.  The majority of our congress showed up like zombies (as they do every year) to make speeches vowing never to vote against any financial or military support for Israel.  Obama had to go before something akin to an inquisition and convince them six different ways that he was a complete Israel fan.  What other foreign country could get away with this?  It is said repeatedly that we have a “special relationship” with Israel.  It’s special all right.  It borders on insanity.

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By desertdude, May 21, 2008 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment

I will second that motion, now if only the Congress would listen to the people.

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By troublesum, May 21, 2008 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Even though he has a problem with it, most people would agree that he should be committed.

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By madamlazonga, May 21, 2008 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

AIPAC is the strongest lobbying group in the US, second only to AARP.  They do not represent all Jews.  They do represent the Zionist position.  Even some Israelis do not think that Israel should be a Zionist nation.  It is a right-wing position there just as fundamentalist Christian values are here.  AIPAC is powerful beyond all reasonable measures, i.e. size, policies, Jewish representation.  But they are organized like crazy.  They can whip up an anti-semitism charge against any politician or academic as soon as any of them even questions our ridiculous bias toward Israel.  This scares the bejesus out of any politician.  So they kowtow.  I am an Obama supporter.  But I see in him a strong reluctance to go up against the AIPAC lobby.  Any hint of softness toward the plight and unfairness of the Palestinians’ situation and you’re toast.  I do see a possible change in this dynamic.  AIPAC actually represents the old guard, and with younger people and broader minds emerging, AIPAC might lose its hold on American foreign policy.

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By purplewolf, May 21, 2008 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

Louise, it’s not missing, it was never there to begin with.

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By hippy pam, May 21, 2008 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

I do not know about his commitment but he SURE NEEDS TO BE INCARCERATED FOR THE CRIMES HE HAS COMMITTED…

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By cyrena, May 21, 2008 at 7:35 am Link to this comment

Yes evilive,

Since you got to me before all of the others, I WILL marry you!!

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By cyrena, May 21, 2008 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

I get your confusion, and I don’t understand either.

I mean, the Jewish people that I know, (most of them at least) do NOT support any beligerency toward Arab and Muslim countries, including Iran.

But, they’re academics, so I guess that’s what makes the difference. Then again, there are other academics, (Dershowitz comes to mind) who DO.

I don’t know.

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By Magginkat, May 21, 2008 at 5:16 am Link to this comment

Perhaps “Commitment” is the answer to the Bush/Cheney regime.  Committed to prison for the rest of their corrupt lives that is.

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By Albert J. Van Thournout, May 21, 2008 at 5:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you very much, Allen, for a discerning review of recent developments in the Middle East. The dearth of information reflecting even the most modest at effort at balance in this country in reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is appalling. The standard media are totally complicit in the death and destruction wreaked on Palestinians daily. I see the only hope for forcing the United States into a true broker of peace in this conflict is a change in public opinion, and that cannot come forth without the media assuming its moral responsibility. For myself, I agree with you completely in your conclusion that Isreel does not want an end to violence. I have observed this for years and pointing it out has been a major aspect of my presentation to my students in History of the Twentieth Century course. This goes back a long way.
Good Luck to you and keep up the hard and good work you are doing.

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By cyrena, May 20, 2008 at 11:11 pm Link to this comment

Yep..the whole damn bunch of ‘em.

•  “He went on to say, “And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.”

Speak for yourself bozo bush…not for America.

This (cheney talking now) made me vomit…

•  “….when he told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at their March 22 meeting that “our two countries have been more than just strong allies. We’ve been friends—special friends—and our peoples bound together by unique ties of history, culture, religion, and memory. Today, both our nations share the ideals of liberty, equality, human dignity, and representative government.”

Where’s the justice? Why doesn’t HE have a malignant brain tumor, instead of Ted Kennedy? Liberty, equality, human dignity, and representative government my ass. Israel has NEVER had it, and since the Cheney reign, we don’t come anywhere close.

“…The most encouraging words Cheney could offer Palestinian President Abbas was that “[t]he United States will commit resources to help the Palestinians build the infrastructure necessary for a stable, secure and prosperous democracy, and a society led by a government that joins in the fight against terror and honors the aspirations of all its people.”

Resources to build an infrastructure WHERE you asshole? WHERE exactly, are the Palestinians supposed to build an infrastructure that Israel won’t either demolish (before it can even be built) or simply TAKE OVER as they have the entire West Bank as they rule over Gaza like a prison?

And then there’s THIS heifer:

•  ““This barbarous act has no place among civilized peoples and shocks the conscience of all peace-loving nations,” Rice said. “There is no cause that could ever justify this action.”

Well gee Condi, No cause to justify THIS action? How about the ‘cause’ to ‘justify’ YOUR actions in pushing for the destruction of an entire section of the world? What CAUSE justifies the destruction of Iraq and the misery of her people? What ‘cause’ justifies the imprisonment and collective punishment of the people of Gaza, and Israel’s decades old attempts to kill them all. What ‘cause’ justifies GENOCIDE Condi? Matter of fact Condi, What CAUSE even justifies YOUR existence, or that of your boss?

We’ll see you ALL at the Hague Condi, Cheney, and your loved ones of Israel, because it is YOU who ‘shock the consciences’ of civilized peoples everywhere on the globe.

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By Ivan Hentschel, May 20, 2008 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you, Louise. I wondered the same thing. That explains alot.

Bush and Co. have made no progress in the mid-east in eight years. The rhetoric is hollow, the claims without basis and the resultant mess is much as it has been for decades, only with more pyrotechnics and more sophisticated political meanderings.

We pay this man and his minions too much heed. This is a fine article but tells us nothing we don’t already know. The policies and gestures put forth by this administration have been completely without merit.

We simply need to take a deep breath, face the fact that nearly a decade has been lost in any efforts to find any sort of lasting peace in this complicated, centuries old dispute, and move on.

My only hope is that this administration will not do anything else monumentally stupid (i.e., bomb Iran) in the ensuing months before they leave office. I wish for them all just to GO AWAY and never come back.

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By Louise, May 20, 2008 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

I find it interesting [and telling] that the TOP of his head is missing! wink

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