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Time for some context on the current turmoil in and around Israel. This passage from Ron Suskind’s The Price of Loyalty has special resonance given current events. The scene is the White House Situation Room in January 2001, where Bush is meeting for the first time with his National Security Council, 10 days after taking the oath of office. Bush has just asked who in the room has met Ariel Sharon:
He’d met Sharon briefly, Bush said, when they had flown over Israel in a helicopter on a visit in December 1998. “Just saw him that one time. We flew over the Palestinian camps,” Bush said sourly. “Looked real bad down there. I don’t see much we can do over there at this point. I think it’s time to pull out of that situation.”And that was it, according to [Paul] O’Neill and several other people in the room. The Arab-Israeli conflict was a mess, and the United States would disengage. The combatants would have to work it out on their own.
[Colin] Powell said such a move might be hasty. He remarked on the violence on the West Bank and Gaza and on its roots. He stressed that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and Israeli army. “The consequences of that could be dire,” he said, “especially for the Palestinians.”
Bush shrugged. “Maybe that’s the best way to get some things back in balance.”
Powell seemed startled.
“Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things,” Bush said.
With that, the rest of the meeting was devoted to Iraq.
I watched the joint press conference of English PM Tony Blair and our President George Bush and was completely struck by one thing over all others. While both Bush and Blair touted the same losing strategy in the Middle East I felt, for the first time, that I understood where these crazies are coming from. Why? Because Blair was there to articulate sentences that communicated thoughts. Oh how I miss such qualities in our leader. I still think the strategy of blindly staying the course is poorly conceived but at least I came away from the conference with an understanding of their “plan” (if you can call it that).
On more than one occasion, Blair answered on behalf of Bush who couldn’t form a sentence without three or more grammatical errors. Not only is he completely dumb but it took him standing next to a Brit for me to realize just how rude he is. We can’t forget, of course, how he talked to Blair at the G8, chewing with his mouth open, not looking him in the eye, using expletives. And I will never forget the back-rub he bestowed on the German Chancellor. But whenever Blair referred to Bush he said something like “The President and I agree” or “President Bush and I had a long conversation about” but with Bush its more like “Tony and I had a long chat” and “that’s why Tony and I think Condi Rice should stay up there”.
Its all so embarrassing.
Nebraska High Court Approves Electric Chair
“Nebraska … now is alone in the United States, actually in the whole world, in still requiring electrocution,” Carey Dean Moore’s lawyer, Alan Peterson, argued to the court. “Nebraska is the last holdout for this universally rejected and condemned sole means of capital punishment.”
Arab Opinion Shifts in Favor of Hezbollah
Israel’s campaign against Hezbollah—which has featured prolonged and deadly strikes against civilian targets in Lebanon—has boosted the militant group’s popularity among governments and groups that earlier opposed it, according to Middle East analysts, with Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt now taking pains to distance themselves from American policy. Meanwhile, there is no timetable for Condoleezza Rice to return to the region for further peace talks.
White House Times Bolton Fight to Mobilize Conservatives
As the partisan battle resumes over U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton—who currently owes his job to a presidential appointment, rather than congressional approval—some observers think the White House has timed his re-submission to mobilize conservatives who share Bolton’s contempt for the UN and multilateral diplomacy as a whole. Democrats say they oppose Bolton as much for his incompetence as for his boorishness; as Sen. Christopher Dodd said, “My objection is not that he is a bully, but that he is an ineffective bully.”
White House Seeks Protection from War Crimes Act
The Bush administration, through Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, is pushing GOP lawmakers to draft specific “protections” to shield American soldiers from prosecution under the 1996 War Crimes Act. The Act, which was pushed through at the time by the Republican-controlled Congress, criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions, and holds out the possibility of the death penalty for any soldier who causes the death of a detainee in U.S. custody.
Ambassador to the United Nation, John Bolton appeared before the senate foreign relations committee for his nominating hearing yesterday and, as only he can, showed complete and udder disregard for the process. He was despicably rude and short with the Democrats who tried desperately to maintain that “My concerns continue to relate to substance and not style, Mr. Ambassador.” by claiming “My objection is not that he is a bully, but that he is an ineffective bully,”. All the while Mr. Bolton could be seen doodling, fiddling with his pencil, leaning back in his chair, raping his fingers on the desk, rifling through papers, groaning, rolling his eyes or shaking his head. The contempt he held for the Democrats in positions of respect and power was the likes of which I have never seen before on the public stage. And this is the man we are sending to represent us to a world already unhappy with the rude and ambivalent nature of US foreign policy?
He was chosen by the Bush administration to offend the mores and upset the structure of the institution he once described as a rightful lapdog of the United States — “The United States makes the U.N. work when it wants to work.” He once famously said the U.N.’s New York headquarters could lose 10 floors without disruption. More than 30 of Bolton’s fellow ambassadors recently complained to the New York Times about his confrontational tactics and his flouting of diplomatic conventions. They did not criticize his policies as much as the arrogance of his ways. “He’s lost me as an ally now,” confided one ambassador, who was identified as having close ties to the Bush administration.
Bolton The Sweedish Chef from The Muppets
Abbas El-Zein writes a bias but nonetheless tragic Opinion on the current situation in Lebanon. The passage below struck a particular cord with me but the entire piece is worth a read.
More is at stake now than the fate of Lebanon. If the West does not persuade Israel to stop its attacks, that failure will add to a creeping sense that, in its fight with Islamic fundamentalism, the West has abandoned its claim to moral superiority based on respect for human rights and international law, and is pursuing instead a war based increasingly on tribal solidarity. What a tragedy this would be, especially for those of us who crave a modern, peaceful Middle East. And what a triumph for the varied strains of bin Ladenism — Muslim, Christian and Jewish alike.
In an Op-Ed in today’s Times, Scientist Peter Doran vented his dismay at conservative commentators who took his January 2002 study of the Antarctic temperature out of context and used to to concluded that global warming was a fictitious theory. He sets the record straight…
Newspaper and television reports focused on this part of the paper. And many news and opinion writers linked our study with another bit of polar research published that month, in Science, showing that part of Antarctica’s ice sheet had been thickening — and erroneously concluded that the earth was not warming at all. “Scientific findings run counter to theory of global warming,” said a headline on an editorial in The San Diego Union-Tribune. One conservative commentator wrote, “It’s ironic that two studies suggesting that a new Ice Age may be under way may end the global warming debate.”