Podhoretz, writing in the Jerusalem
Post the day before Bush's statement, prefaced
his condemnation of a
President gone "wobbly" – as the War Party is
now glumly putting it with paragraph upon paragraph of
unctuous praise. Yet he got out the knives before getting
halfway through his screed by noting unhappily that Bush had
once or twice used that suspect phrase "the cycle of
violence" – and that this rhetorical gaffe was really
the necessary prelude to his sending Vice President Dick Cheney
on "a quixotic, unnecessary, and humiliating quest"
seeking support for an effort to topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
George W. had been "incandescent" in the days and
weeks following 9/11, and Poddy was particularly thrilled
by the "axis of evil" speech; but, lately there
have been worrying signs that the President has "suddenly
lost his ability to see the obvious" – obvious to Norman
Podhoretz, and his fellow neoconservatives,
war that the Stormin' Norman of the literary world wants America
to fight is not, it turns out, the war Bush thinks he is fighting.
Why is he listening to Crown Prince Abdullah, Egypt, and even
strategic partner, Turkey – whose government the other
Israel of committing "genocide" against the
Palestinians? Bush has been "blinded," avers Norman,
"by the Saudi mirage," and therefore:
could not see that the goal of the Arab world has always been,
and still is, to destroy the state of Israel.
could not see that Crown Prince Abdullah's 'peace initiative'
did not represent a renunciation of that goal, but was only
a cynical public-relations ploy to counter the bad press the
Saudis had been getting in the United States since September
KNIVES COME OUT
says Podhoretz, is having the "wool pulled over his eyes
by his Secretary of State, Colin Powell" – why, the President even called Sharon's brutal offensive, in which untold numbers
of civilians have been killed and wounded, "unhelpful."
So, after that long, ingratiating build-up – all about how
the President had never fallen for all the arguments of "moral
– Podhoretz commences the insults, implying that Bush is a
dunce easily deceived by his advisors. Oh, how quickly they
knives are out in the open, now, for a simple and easily foreseeable
reason. The argument that Podhoretz and his cohorts are making
and have always made is that Israel's fight is our fight.
In a statement published the day before the President's announcement,
Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and a group of
prominent neoconservatives issued an "Open
Letter to the President" that stated their view of
the war plainly:
have declared war on international terrorism, Mr. President.
Israel is fighting the same war."
that now the President is clearly saying, no it isn't:
with the Mitchell plan, Israeli settlement activity in occupied
territories must stop. And the occupation must end through
withdrawal to secure and recognize boundaries consistent with
United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. Ultimately, this approach
should be the basis of agreements between Israel and Syria
and Israel and Lebanon."
President, in short, is endorsing the Saudi
peace plan, co-authored, it seems, by Crown Prince Abdullah
and Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who
as a conduit for what may yet prove to be a breakthrough
in the Middle East peace process. As the President stated:
recent Arab League support of Crown Prince Abdullah's initiative
for peace is promising, is hopeful, because it acknowledges
Israel's right to exist. And it raises the hope of sustained,
constructive Arab involvement in the search for peace. This
builds on a tradition of visionary leadership, begun by President
Sadat and King Hussein, and carried forward by President Mubarak
and King Abdullah."
Saudi peace proposal, which recognizes Israel's legitimacy
and promises "normal" relations in return for Israeli
withdrawal from the occupied territories and Palestinian statehood,
has delivered the War Party a stunning blow, and sent them
reeling, muttering and cursing their erstwhile allies for
faintness of heart. It's that old "Saudi mirage"
again. Poor Podhoretz must've gone through the roof! Say what,
is peace breaking out all over? Can nothing be done
SINS OF ISRAEL
there was worse – much worse – to follow, a riff on Israel's
responsibility for the crisis that no doubt had poor old Poddy
apoplectic with rage:
should also show a respect, a respect for and concern about
the dignity of the Palestinian people who are and will be
their neighbors. It is crucial to distinguish between the
terrorists and ordinary Palestinians seeking to provide for
their own families.
Israeli government should be compassionate at checkpoints
and border crossings, sparing innocent Palestinians daily
humiliation. Israel should take immediate action to ease
closures and allow peaceful people to go back to work."
word "humiliation" is very important here, as it
echoes the stern
condemnation by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, "of
the conditions of injustice and humiliation imposed on the
Palestinian people." Also noteworthy is the Bushian emphasis
on distinguishing between "ordinary Palestinians"
and terrorists: this, too, is reminiscent of the Pope's restatement
of the Catholic "just war" thesis, reminding the
Israelis in particular of "proportionality in the use
of legitimate means of defense."
"c"-word also bears watching: George W. Bush, the
"compassionate conservative," isn't going to stand
idly by while Sharon shoots up Christian churches, blocks
ambulances, and assassinates Arafat accidentally-on-purpose
in full view of the television cameras. Also significant is
the mention of Palestinian families, and the characterization
of them as peaceful people who want only to work: all this
humanizes the Palestinians far too much for the tastes of
the neocons, who equate Arafat with Osama bin Laden.
if all that were not enough, the neocons had an even more
bitter pill left to swallow. Yes, to be sure, "America
recognizes Israel's right to defend itself from terror,"
but still, you guys gotta get out:
lay the foundations of future peace, I ask Israel to halt
incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and begin the
withdrawal from those cities it has recently occupied."
Ariel, you're either with us, or you're against us: which
is it going to be?
perceptive Los Angeles Times piece on the history of the
neoconservative influence in the GOP and the foreign, policy
councils of state, and their growing disaffection with George
W. Bush, Ronald Brownstein avers that the issue is the measure
of the difference between Bush I and Bush II:
the evolution of Republican thinking is encapsulated in the
space between George W. Bush and his father.
41 just had a different view on this one,' said the White
House official sympathetic to the conservative critique. 'I
just think President Bush is closer to Reagan than his father
in his instincts on many things, and Israel is one of them.
When you listen to him, his instincts are more to be critical
of Arafat than his father's were.'"
not so fast. Never mind what George W. Bush says: look
at what he does, and is doing. He's sending the man
who "pulled the wool over his eyes," as Podhoretz
would have it, perhaps to meet with Arafat: that is, if the
Israelis will let Powell through and if Arafat is still
in any condition to receive him. Remember, they
tried to keep US envoy Anthony Zinni from the Arafat compound,
on the grounds that they couldn't guarantee his safety: although,
as Bob Novak noted the other day on the new, and truly horrible
Crossfire, Zinni, a Marine General, was certainly willing
to risk it. I can hardly wait for the showdown that is coming,
and, again, I have to raise the question:
Ariel, you're either with us, or you're against us: which
is it going to be?
is true that, in his public statements – and quite unlike
the Pope – the President has indeed leaned toward putting
the onus on Arafat and the Palestinians. But, in the end,
the neocons run up against a simple fact of reality, one which
they have never been able to accept or get around: Israel
and the US are not the same country. They are, instead,
two distinct national entities separated by geography, history,
culture, and disparate geopolitical interests and those
interests have now diverged.
was Tim Russert, of NBC's Meet the Press, who put
the issue in focus, in an interview on MSNBC. Asked if
it was possible to separate the outbreak of war in Palestine
from the President's own "war on terrorism," Russert
very, very difficult to separate one from the other. Remember,
prior to about a week or 10 days ago, Osama bin Laden was
Public Enemy No. 1 — the world was focused on him and al-Qaida,
focused on Afghanistan, focused on the war on terrorism and
routing out the cells in the Philippines, Indonesia, Yemen,
wherever. Suddenly the world's attention has moved to the
Middle East, that battle, that conflict is center stage along
with a debate about 'is it the Palestinians, is it the Israelis?
Who's at fault?' A sense of moral equivalency is beginning
to resurface. The president wants to readdress that debate
and say, 'Wait a minute.
There is no moral equivalency between the United States of
America and its allies and the terrorist. So let's try to
bring some resolve, at least a cease-fire to the Middle East
so we can once again refocus the world's attention on this
war against terrorism.'"
Russert might have added: it's very, very difficult to separate Israel's
war from the war on terrorism because of neocon influence
in the GOP and the kneejerk Israel First lobby in the US.
But certainly now, with this new presidential initiative,
these are the precisely the forces he will come up against
on the home front.
the very same people who demanded that we cease all criticism
of the President and his policies in the aftermath of 9/11
– and were even keeping
lists of anyone who dissented in any way – are now screeching
their condemnation. National Review was first up to
bat, with an
article by Mark L. Levin accusing Bush of "Vietnamizing"
the war on terrorism and averring:
President Bush has asked the civilized world to stand with
the US. against terrorism, Israel, which is besieged by terrorists
and their sponsors, is not receiving the administration's
unqualified support. By his own words, the president has effectively
rescinded the Bush Doctrine. In its stead, the White House
is imposing a policy on Israel akin to America's approach
to the Vietnam War."
Vietnamizing, Levin means holding back and forbidding an outright
victory by militarily superior forces – but what he fails
to acknowledge is that we are talking about Israeli
forces here, not Americans, and a military action ordered
by Sharon, and not the President of the United States. The
neocons prefer to leave such distinctions as blurred as possible.
neocons, who put unqualified support for Israel at the top
of their agenda, and yet pose as the most consistent and militant
fighters in the President's "war on terrorism,"
now find themselves in a quandary. For the reality is that
no war to root out Al Qaeda – remember them? – can
be waged without the active cooperation of the Arab states,
some of whom are Israel's sworn enemies. So the neocons must
choose: will they shut up and salute the President for his
efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, or will they succumb
to their worst – dare I say it? – anti-American instincts,
and denounce our alleged "sell-out" of Israel? I
would advise the former, but I doubt they'll take my advice.
ME IN BEIRUT
now, it seems, even the
long-awaited assault on Iraq seems to be up in the air.
What vexed Podhoretz about the Cheney trip was the idea that
the Americans felt they had to ask permission of Iraq's neighbors
before launching a campaign to topple Saddam: that the Vice President didn't get a green light seems more than obvious, and a good part
of the reason has to do with Sharon's antics on the West Bank.
Furthermore, the President's tilt toward the Saudi peace plan
bodes ill for Gulf War II, especially since Prince Abdullah
and the Iraqi representative to the recent Arab summit in
Beirut not only embraced but sealed their newfound friendship
with a kiss! That's one very public same-sex smooch that isn't
going to be hailed by Andrew Sullivan.
THE FIREWORKS BEGIN
Andy Sullivan, the gay Catholic and Republican sympathizer
who will now have to take on not only President Bush but also
the Pope! It must be hard. However, the rest of the neocons,
all ex-Democrats (or
ex-Trotskyists, depending on how far back you want to go)
will have no trouble changing horses in midstream. As
I have pointed out on many
occasions, their own loyalties have always been clear:
in any conflict between the US and Israel, they have always
defended the latter no
matter what. So, stand back, and let the fireworks begin.
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