The U.S. gazes into the Islamophobic abyss

By Christian Christensen

“When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race — out of every race. America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect.”

These are eloquent words. Words of justice and understanding. Words of reconciliation. They are the words of President George W. Bush – spoken at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. on September 17, 2001 – a mere 6 days after the Al Qaeda attacks that killed almost 3,000 in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. They are also the words of a President who said that Jesus Christ was the political philosopher who had influenced him the most. And, they are the words of a President who, using falsehoods on Iraqi WMD and links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda as moral and legal justifications, would green light a military invasion and occupation of Iraq that would leave hundreds of thousands of civilians dead and an entire region destabilized.

Fast-forward 14 years to the candidacies of Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Would either man utter the words uttered by Bush, let alone only days after the 9/11 attacks?

[Read more…]


Nomi Prins: Jeb! The money! Dynasty!

Money, they say, makes the world go round. So how’s $10 billion for you? That’s a top-end estimate for the record-breaking spending in this 1% presidential election campaign season. But is “season” even the right word, now that such campaigns are essentially four-year events that seem always to be underway? In a political world stuffed with money, it’s little wonder that the campaign season floats on a sea of donations. In the case of Jeb Bush, he and his advisers have so far had a laser-focus on the electorate they felt mattered most: big donors. They held off the announcement of his candidacy until last week (though he clearly long knew he was running) so that they could blast out of the gates, dollars-wise, leaving the competition in their financial dust, before the exceedingly modest limits to non-super PAC campaign fundraising kicked in.

And give Jeb credit — or rather consider him a credit to his father (the 41st president) and his brother (the 43rd), who had Iraq eternally on their minds. It wasn’t just that Jeb flubbed the Iraq Question when a reporter asked him recently (yes, he would do it all over again; no, he wouldn’t… well, hmmm…), but that Iraq is deeply embedded in the minds of his campaign team, too. His advisers dubbed the pre-announcement campaign they were going to launch to pull in the dollars a “shock-and-awe” operation in the spirit of the invasion of Iraq. Now, having sent in the ground troops, they clearly consider themselves at war. As the New York Times reported recently, the group’s top strategist told donors that his super PAC “hopes to ‘weaponize’ its fund-raising total for the first six months of the year.”

The money being talked about$80-$100 million raised in the first quarter of 2015 and $500 million by June. If reached, these figures would indeed represent shock-and-awe fundraising in the Republican presidential race. As of now, there’s no way of knowing whether they’re fantasy figures or not, but here’s a clue to Jeb’s money-raising powers: according to the Washington Post, his advisers have been asking donors not to give more than a million dollars now; they are, that is, trying to cap donations for the moment. (As the Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote,“The move reflects concerns among Bush advisers that accepting massive sums from a handful of uber-rich supporters could fuel a perception that the former governor is in their debt.”) And having spent just about every pre-announcement day for months doing fundraisers and scouring the country for money, while preserving the fiction that he might not be interested in the presidency, Jeb, according to the New York Times, bragged to a group of donors that “he believed his political action committee had raised more money in 100 days than any other modern Republican political operation.”

Let’s not forget, of course, that we’re not talking about anyone; we’re talking about a Bush. We’re talking about the possibility of becoming number three (or rather Bush 45) in the Oval Office. We’re talking about what is, by now, a fabled money-shaking, money-making, money-raising machine of a family. We’re talking dynasty and when it comes to money and the Bushes (as with money and that other potential dynasty of our moment), no one knows more on the subject than Nomi Prins, former Wall Street exec and author of All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. In her now ongoing TomDispatch series on the political dynasties of our moment, fundraising, and the Big Banks, think of her latest post as an essential backgrounder on the election you have less and less to do with, in which Wall Street, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and the rest of the crew do most of the essential voting with their wallets. Tom Engelhardt

All in
The Bush family goes for number three (with the help of its bankers)
By Nomi Prins

[This piece has been adapted and updated by Nomi Prins from her book All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Powerrecently out in paperback (Nation Books).] 

It’s happening. As expected, dynastic politics is prevailing in campaign 2016. After a tease about as long as Hillary’s, Jeb Bush (aka Jeb!) officially announced his presidential bid last week. Ultimately, the two of them will fight it out for the White House, while the nation’s wealthiest influencers will back their ludicrously expensive gambit.

And here’s a hint: don’t bet on Jeb not to make it through the Republican gauntlet of 12 candidates (so far). After all, the really big money’s behind him. Last December, even though out of public office since 2007, he had captured the support of 73% of the Wall Street Journal’s “richest CEOs.” Though some have as yet sidestepped declarations of fealty, count on one thing: the big guns will fall into line. They know that, given his family connections, Jeb is their best path to the White House and they’re not going to blow that by propping up some Republican lightweight whose father and brother weren’t president, not when Hillary, with all her connections and dynastic power, will be the opponent. That said, in the Bush-Clinton battle to come, no matter who wins, the bankers and billionaires will emerge victorious.

[Read more…]


Bush and Cheney must have known about the CIA’s use of torture

Fred Kaplan writes: Of all the shocks and revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, one seems very strange and unlikely: that the agency misinformed the White House and didn’t even brief President George W. Bush about its controversial program until April 2006.

The question of the claim’s truth or implausibility is not trivial or academic; it goes well beyond score-settling, Bush-bashing, or scapegoating. Rather, it speaks to an issue that’s central in the report in the long history of CIA scandals, and in debates over whether and how policy should be changed: Did the torture begin, and did it get out of hand, because the CIA’s detention and interrogation program devolved into a rogue operation? Or were the program’s managers actually doing the president’s dirty business?

If the former was the case, then heads should roll, grand juries should be assembled, organizational charts should be reshuffled, and mechanisms of oversight should be tightened. If the latter was the case, well, that’s what elections are for. “Enhanced-interrogation techniques” were formally ended by President Obama after the 2008 election, and perhaps future presidents will read the report with an eye toward avoiding the mistakes of the past.

But which was it? Were the CIA’s directorate of operations and its counterterrorism center freelancing after the Sept. 11 attacks, or were they exchanging winks and nods with the commander-in-chief?

The annals of history suggest the latter, and in a few passages, so does the report. [Continue reading…]


Bush-Obama continuity and the interests of the national security establishment

Glenn Greenwald writes: The just-retired long-time NSA chief, Gen. Keith Alexander, recently traveled to Australia to give a remarkably long and wide-ranging interview with an extremely sycophantic “interviewer” with The Australian Financial Review. The resulting 17,000-word transcript and accompanying article form a model of uncritical stenography journalism, but Alexander clearly chose to do this because he is angry, resentful, and feeling unfairly treated, and the result is a pile of quotes that are worth examining, only a few of which are noted below:

AFR: What were the key differences for you as director of NSA serving under presidents Bush and Obama? Did you have a preferred commander in chief?

Gen. Alexander: Obviously they come from different parties, they view things differently, but when it comes to the security of the nation and making those decisions about how to protect our nation, what we need to do to defend it, they are, ironically, very close to the same point. You would get almost the same decision from both of them on key questions about how to defend our nation from terrorists and other threats.

The almost-complete continuity between George W. Bush and Barack Obama on such matters has been explained by far too many senior officials in both parties, and has been amply documented in far too many venues, to make it newsworthy when it happens again. Still, the fact that one of the nation’s most powerful generals in history, who has no incentive to say it unless it were true, just comes right out and states that Bush and The Candidate of Change are “very close to the same point” and “you would get almost the same decision from both of them on key questions” is a fine commentary on a number of things, including how adept the 2008 Obama team was at the art of branding. [Continue reading…]

Greenwald says Alexander “has no incentive to say it unless it were true” — but actually he does have an incentive as does every other former and current member of the national security establishment.

Whenever intelligence agencies are accused of lack of accountability, evading Congressional oversight, or any other abuse of power, their comeback is always the same: we are the humble and loyal servants of the president doing exactly what we are asked to do.

So, they very much do have an interest in portraying the continuity of their own operations as perfectly mirroring the continuity in the approaches of their commander in chief.

The irony in the continuity between Bush and Obama has been frequently noted. What seems more worthy of being underlined is the way in which Obama has turned out to be worse than Bush.

The excesses of the last administration have come to be portrayed as a product of 9/11, but the ways in which Obama has institutionalized pervasive secrecy are much more insidious and much less likely to be undone by future presidents.

And if anyone thought that the legacy of the Snowden/Greenwald revelations might be a move towards more open government, the opposite is turning out to look more likely.


The American Surveillance State

Glenn Greenwald writes:

One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian government is its fixation on hiding everything it does behind a wall of secrecy while simultaneously monitoring, invading and collecting files on everything its citizenry does. Based on the Francis Bacon aphorism that “knowledge is power,” this is the extreme imbalance that renders the ruling class omnipotent and citizens powerless.

In the Washington Post today, Dana Priest and William Arkin continue their “Top Secret America” series by describing how America’s vast and growing Surveillance State now encompasses state and local law enforcement agencies, collecting and storing always-growing amounts of information about even the most innocuous activities undertaken by citizens suspected of no wrongdoing. As was true of the first several installments of their “Top Secret America,” there aren’t any particularly new revelations for those paying attention to such matters, but the picture it paints — and the fact that it is presented in an establishment organ such as the Washington Post — is nonetheless valuable.

Today, the Post reporters document how surveillance and enforcement methods pioneered in America’s foreign wars and occupations are being rapidly imported into domestic surveillance (wireless fingerprint scanners, military-grade infrared cameras, biometric face scanners, drones on the border).

In this respect — whose significance can hardly be overstated — Barack Obama is worse than George Bush: Bush’s excesses and the ideology he represented could be circumscribed by his administration and in theory America could purge itself of the effects through the ritual purification of an election. What Obama is doing is normalizing those excesses so that the Bush era can be perpetuated without being tainted by the names Bush and Cheney.


George Bush gets some advice from the Conservative Mayor of London

Borris Johnson writes:

It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.

One moment he might be holding forth to a great perspiring tent at Hay-on-Wye. The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the Free World, and take him away to be charged. Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. Dubya is the former leader of a friendly power, with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorising Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr Bush is making no bones about what he has done.

Unless the 43rd president of the United States has been grievously misrepresented, he has admitted to authorising and sponsoring the use of torture. Asked whether he approved of “waterboarding” in three specific cases, he told his interviewer that “damn right” he did, and that this practice had saved lives in America and Britain. It is hard to overstate the enormity of this admission.


Bush’s Decision Points is a terrifying journey into the authoritarian mind

Anis Shivani writes:

This would be less grim to talk about if Bush weren’t still with us. But he is, in every way that matters. The Bush Doctrine lives. No leading American politician can disavow the two key aspects of the Bush Doctrine: that we cannot distinguish terrorists from the countries where they live, and that we must act preemptively against gathering threats before they materialize (propositions contradicting international law). Bush’s memoir is arguably the most important book of the year because it reveals — far better than do books by Charlie Savage, Isikoff and Corn, or Bob Woodward — how he fundamentally reconceptualized the functions of the presidency, the balance of power among the branches of government, and the expectations and obligations of citizens, with lasting effects.

Reviews in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times treat Bush respectfully — much as a Machiavellian prince would desire to be treated after going into retirement; too often reviewers play Bush’s game by humanizing him, or treating him with humor, or safely relegating him to history. But Bush truly was a transformative president, among the rare few, and we deceive ourselves — as many in the commentariat continue to do, as with Maureen Dowd’s light-hearted mockery of him — if we consider him an anomaly, a rare eruption of a virus that won’t repeat itself. This book’s ideas will have resonance with a large segment of the population, and a notable number among the elites; we need to study Decision Points (Crown, Nov. 9) seriously, as onerous a task as it may be, if we are to make sense of the perpetual aura of crisis that has enveloped America, and why we seem to be stuck on a self-destructive path.

Decision Points is a classic recipe for a benign dictatorship, a uniquely American form of dictatorship, to be sure — from its rigid understanding of morality (good versus evil) to its distorted valuation of life (only American lives matter; Bush is not concerned about the loss of civilian life in the countries he attacked) — that gives comfort to many in a time of economic and cultural stress.


British deny George Bush’s claims that torture helped foil terror plots

The Guardian reports:

British officials said today there was no evidence to support claims by George Bush, the former US president, that information extracted by “waterboarding” saved British lives by foiling attacks on Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf. In his memoirs, Bush said the practice – condemned by Downing Street as torture – was used in CIA interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the US.

He said Mohammed, below, was one of three al-Qaida suspects subjected to waterboarding. “Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport, and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States,” he wrote.

It is not the first time information extracted from Mohammed has been claimed as helping to prevent al-Qaida attacks on British targets. Mohammed cited attacks on Heathrow, Big Ben and Canary Wharf in a list of 31 plots he described at Guantánamo Bay after he was subjected to waterboarding 183 times following his capture in Pakistan in March 2003. The Heathrow alert in fact happened a month before his arrest, with army tanks parked around the airport, in what was widely regarded as an overreaction.

British counter-terrorism officials distanced themselves from Bush’s claims. They said Mohammed provided “extremely valuable” information which was passed on to security and intelligence agencies, but that it mainly related to al-Qaida’s structure and was not known to have been extracted through torture. Eliza Manningham-Buller,head of MI5 at the time, said earlier this year that the government protested to the US over the torture of terror suspects, but that the Americans concealed Mohammed’s waterboarding from Britain. Officials said today the US still had not officially told the British government about the conditions in which Mohammed was held.


America and Iran: strikes, sanctions and scapegoats

Gary Sick writes:

For the pundits, there are only two questions about U.S.-Iran relations that are of any importance: (1) Will Israel and/or the United States attack Iran? and (2) will the new sanctions have enough bite to persuade Iran to change its nuclear policy? Despite all the printers ink spilled on these two issues, the answers are an easy no and no.

Neither the United States nor Israel will take the military option off the table, thereby giving the pundits (and the crowd that is dying to repeat Iraq) latitude to keep the distant prospect of military action on the front pages, where it has been for years. As a lede, it sells columns and newspapers, so it will not go away. But as analysis it is either blinded by the momentary hype or else is simple wish fulfillment.

Uber-neocon John Bolton had it right. If any such attack were to occur, it would have been at the end of the Bush administration when there was nothing left to lose. Bolton thought it was so inevitable that he predicted it unequivocally in a Wall Street Journal column in 2008. Dick Cheney apparently agreed, judging from his subsequent statements of regret. So it is fair to say that George W. Bush, after looking the potential consequences, resisted the advice of his neocon advisers, his previously dominant vice president, and the reported direct request from the government of Israel — and rejected a strike. What is the likelihood that Barack Obama, with the same catastrophic scenario before him, will approve? Forget it.

One of the more enlightening parts of Jeffrey Goldberg’s “The Point of No Return,” conveyed the same point:

“We all watched his speech in Cairo,” a senior Israeli official told me, referring to the June 2009 speech in which Obama attempted to reset relations with Muslims by stressing American cooperativeness and respect for Islam. “We don’t believe that he is the sort of person who would launch a daring strike on Iran. We are afraid he would see a policy of containing a nuclear Iran rather than attacking it.”

This official noted that even Bush balked at attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, and discouraged the Israelis from carrying out the attack on their own. (Bush would sometimes mock those aides and commentators who advocated an attack on Iran, even referring to the conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol as “the bomber boys,” according to two people I spoke with who overheard this.)

“Bush was two years ago, but the Iranian program was the same and the intent was the same,” the Israeli official told me. “So I don’t personally expect Obama to be more Bush than Bush.”


Me talk presidential one day

Me talk presidential one day

If my colleagues at the White House were even momentarily scared straight about McCain over the convention fracas, the clarity wore off just as quickly as it came when the very conservative governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, was picked as McCain’s running mate. I didn’t have anything against Governor Palin from what I knew about her, which was next to nothing. The instantaneous reaction to Palin at the White House, however, was almost frenzied. I think what was really going on was that everyone secretly hated themselves for supporting McCain, so they latched onto Palin with over-the-top enthusiasm. Even the normally levelheaded Raul Yanes, the president’s staff secretary, was overtaken by Palin mania. He’d been slightly annoyed with me for not jumping on the McCain bandwagon and for saying aloud that I thought McCain would lose. Now, of course, I had to be enthusiastic about the ticket. “You still think we’re going to lose?” he asked me laughingly.

“Yep,” I replied.

Raul looked incredulous. “Well, you obviously don’t believe in facts!”

I was about to be engulfed by a tidal wave of Palin euphoria when someone—someone I didn’t expect—planted my feet back on the ground. After Palin’s selection was announced, the same people who demanded I acknowledge the brilliance of McCain’s choice expected the president to join them in their high-fiving tizzy. It was clear, though, that the president, ever the skilled politician, had concerns about the choice of Palin, which he called “interesting.” That was the equivalent of calling a fireworks display “satisfactory.”

“I’m trying to remember if I’ve met her before. I’m sure I must have.” His eyes twinkled, then he asked, “What is she, the governor of Guam?”

Everyone in the room seemed to look at him in horror, their mouths agape. When Ed told him that conservatives were greeting the choice enthusiastically, he replied, “Look, I’m a team player, I’m on board.” He thought about it for a minute. “She’s interesting,” he said again. “You know, just wait a few days until the bloom is off the rose.” Then he made a very smart assessment.

“This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for,” he said. “She hasn’t spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family. Let’s wait and see how she looks five days out.” It was a rare dose of reality in a White House that liked to believe every decision was great, every Republican was a genius, and McCain was the hope of the world because, well, because he chose to be a member of our party. [continued…]


Cheney uncloaks his frustration with Bush

Cheney uncloaks his frustration with Bush

In his first few months after leaving office, former vice president Richard B. Cheney threw himself into public combat against the “far left” agenda of the new commander in chief. More private reflections, as his memoir takes shape in slashing longhand on legal pads, have opened a second front against Cheney’s White House partner of eight years, George W. Bush.

Cheney’s disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues. By habit, he listens more than he talks, but Cheney broke form when asked about his regrets.

“In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him,” said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney’s reply. “He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney’s advice. He’d showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming. It was clear that Cheney’s doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times — never apologize, never explain — and Bush moved toward the conciliatory.”

The two men maintain respectful ties, speaking on the telephone now and then, though aides to both said they were never quite friends. But there is a sting in Cheney’s critique, because he views concessions to public sentiment as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end. [continued…]


NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Muntader al-Zaidi

When the shoe fits

In a war that has been punctuated by iconic moments, the shoe will be the symbol that most likely endures longest in connecting George Bush to Iraq. In 2003, the sight of a statue of Saddam Hussein being assaulted with footwear highlighted the moment in which, at Mr Bush’s instigation Saddam’s regime had visibly lost power. In 2008, the sight of the US president ducking to avoid flying shoes conveyed the eagerness among many Iraqis to witness Mr Bush’s exit from power.

While Muntader al-Zaidi may have been simply been venting a spontaneous outburst of anger as he hurled both his shoes at the president of the United States of America, his act of defiance struck a chord with many Iraqis along with fellow Arabs across the region.

As Hazim Edress, a resident of Mosul, told The New York Times: “He has done what the whole world could not.” [continued…]

(via Firedoglake)

Editor’s CommentMarc Lynch is concerned that the Muntader al-Zaidi story might distract attention from Human Rights Watch’s new report, The Quality of Justice: Failings of Iraq’s Central Criminal Court. But reports, however worthy of attention, rarely garner much public interest. Indeed, if reports and rumors about Zaidi’s mistreatment in detention turn out to be true, his case may well serve to draw attention towards Iraq’s failed justice system.

This is a case where one would have thought that out of pure self-interest and political expediency, the White House would be pushing for Zaidi’s prompt release simply to serve its own public relations interests. The longer that takes to happen, the more potent a symbol Zaidi will become.


NEWS, ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: A structure for dealing with Iran

Why John Bolton is right on Iran

As usual, John Bolton is absolutely right. His policy prescriptions may be reckless to the point of foolishness (”When in doubt, bomb!”), but his understanding of what is happening in Washington policy (as outlined in his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday) is unerringly accurate.

While much of the world was hyper-ventilating over the possibility that the United States (and maybe Israel) were getting ready to launch a new war against Iran, Bolton was looking at the realities and concluding that far from bombing the US was preparing to do a deal with Iran. He had noticed that over the past two years the US had completely reversed its position that originally opposed European talks with Iran. [complete article]

A test of US flexibility toward Iran

Last week, when a member of the Senate foreign relations committee repeatedly asked US undersecretary of state for political affairs William Burns if Washington was considering sending a representative to international negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme this month, the veteran diplomat and newly anointed number-three US state department official took pains to equivocate in his response and not say anything beyond what his cabinet-level superiors had previously stated publicly.

“My question is, has there been any discussion within the administration about having an American representative at the next meeting?” Senator Chuck Hagel, a moderate Republican, asked Burns at the July 9 hearing.

“Senator, as I said, our position remains that secretary [of state Condoleezza] Rice herself is prepared to sit down in negotiations along with the [permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany] along the basis of the ‘suspension for suspension’ proposal,” Burns responded, referring to an international proposal under which if Iran would agree to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, the international community would agree to suspend international sanctions against it. [complete article]

US plans to station diplomats in Iran for first time since 1979

The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section – a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country. [complete article]

See also, US will talk to Iran (Paul Woodward, The National).

Editor’s Comment — Back in early May, during his visit to Israel, Bush told the Jerusalem Post that “before leaving office he wants a structure in place for dealing with Iran.” It was one of the clearest indications he had given that in spite of all the pro forma declarations that military action was still on the table, it was not only an option that was firmly bolted down, but Bush had a tangible alternative in mind.

Expressions of his “commitment to a diplomatic solution” have always sounded a bit flimsy — especially coming out of the mouth of a president who seems to find the diplomatic process threatening. But let’s suppose that back in May, Bush had already started toying with an idea that would be as shocking to his critics as it would be to his supporters: that the structure he had in mind to put in place for dealing with Iran was a foundation stone for diplomatic relations.

As Bush contemplated his hopes to salvage some sort of legacy, maybe he took a lesson from Nixon and concluded that his predecessor’s mistake was that he didn’t save his trip to China until close to the end of his presidency. It’s not that I anticipate seeing George Bush shaking Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s hand some time in the next few months, but I do think it’s possible that Bush is angling to pull a non-explosive surprise out of his sleeve before he leaves office.


EDITORIAL: Talking to Hamas

Talking to Hamas

Exchange from a Sky News interview, Davos, Switzerland, January 2006, soon after Hamas had won free and fair democratic elections in the West Bank and Gaza:

James Rubin: Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?

Sen. John McCain: They’re the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it’s a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.

As Winston Churchill famously said, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

Churchill, unlike George Bush, was eminently well equipped to employ the power of language. Churchill understood that negotiation is not the same as appeasement.

If we were able to drill down into the psychological roots of the pathology of the Bush presidency, is it possible that the core fear embedded in so many of Bush’s postures is his awareness that whenever he opens his mouth he risks looking like a fool?

It would hardly be surprising that a president who is so intimidated by words would have a strong preference for violence.

But that’s his failing – it doesn’t have to be everyone else’s.

In 2006 John McCain — perhaps slightly intoxicated by the rarefied atmosphere of Davos — uttered a heretical yet utterly common sense view. In free and fair elections, the Palestinian people had expressed their democratic will. They had chosen Hamas. “Sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them,” McCain said.

The proponents of democracy – and this of course included the Bush administration which in the face of Fatah’s objections had called for Hamas’ inclusion in the election – faced a challenge: they could honor the democratic process and find out whether Hamas was ready to live up to the challenge of governing, or, they could perpetuate a political narrative that precluded the very possibility of a Hamas government.

By choosing to do the latter, Bush sent a clear message across the Middle East: In the eyes of America, terrorism matters more than democracy.

Naturally, under George Bush’s watch, terrorism has flourished much more than democracy.

If an American president isn’t willing and capable of negotiating with adversaries, he or she isn’t fit for office. Bush would have us believe that he has taken a bold stand on principle. In truth he has merely tried to conceal his incompetence.


EDITORIAL: Bush’s bullshit

Bush’s bullshit

In his eighth year as president, George Bush still lacks the courage to address anyone but an overly sympathetic audience. Indicative of his plummeting approval rating, he now has to travel six thousand miles to find such company. Should we be surprised that in front of the Knesset he would come out with a crowd pleaser like this?

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

That so many would be now be trotting out a prissy line like, “…beneath the dignity of the office of the president…,” is probably comforting to both Bush and McCain. It shows the GOP how easily Democrats will rise to the bait. That said, at least Joe Biden gave a straight response: “This is bullshit.”

Meanwhile, Bush said something else that is sure to be ignored: his prediction about when a Palestinian state will come into existence.

In 2002, Bush supposedly boldly crossed a political frontier by becoming the first president to express his commitment to seeing the creation of a Palestinian state. Bush was so full of it at that time that he suggested it could come into being by 2005.

By 2004 he started hedging, saying 2005 was unlikely. He pushed back, but still said, “I’d like to see it done in four years. I think it’s possible.”

So now it’s 2008 and what does Bush see in his crystal ball? A Palestinian state some time in the next sixty years! This is Bush’s bold vision: By the time Israel celebrates it 120th anniversary there will be a Palestinian state.

Were it not for global warming, I’d say that the pace Bush has set for advancing the peace process is glacial in its speed. Unfortunately in this era, glaciers actually move faster – but like the peace process, they move in the wrong direction.


Going back to Bush’s appeasement line, it does articulate something worth noting. That is, the Bush communications model.

Here’s how Bush defines “negotiate”:
1. Use words to force the other party to think the way you do, or if that doesn’t work,
2. Use the threat of violence to bend your opponent’s will, or if that doesn’t work,
3. Use violence to force your opponent into submission, or if that doesn’t work,
4. Use violence to annihilate your opponent.

What the Bush communications model precludes is the possibility that Bush can or ever will change the way he thinks. What this suggests is that the Bush brain is impervious to any influence whatsoever from experience. In other words, the Bush brain is a closed circuit that can neither process nor be modified by new information.

Essentially, the president is brain dead.

Let’s not get too agitated about what comes out of his mouth.