Friday, July 21, 2006

"I can connect/Nothing with nothing"

Everything I've ever had to say about power is summed up in this analysis:

"The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. "He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived."
In other words, you must meet violence with violence. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, because I know I'm the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the valley!" if we just kill enough of them, the killing will stop. It's the same chop-logic that continues to promote the death penalty in Texas, with few or no chances for pardons: if we just kill enough murderers, the rest of them will get the idea, and stop murdering. When we do it, it's an execution. When they do it, it's murder.

Israel has killed almost 1o times as many Lebanese civilians as Hezbollah has killed Israelis, per the latest reports. There is no question this is precisely what Bush wants.

I just wish that were unusual for an American president. But it isn't. And, perversely, the more the world complains, the more certain Bush is of his position:

One former senior administration official said Bush is only emboldened by the pressure from U.N. officials and European leaders to lead a call for a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan demanded yesterday that the fighting in Lebanon stop.

"He thinks he is playing in a longer-term game than the tacticians," said the former official, who spoke anonymously so he could discuss his views candidly. "The tacticians would say: 'Get an immediate cease-fire. Deal first with the humanitarian factors.' The president would say: 'You have an opportunity to really grind down Hezbollah. Let's take it, even if there are other serious consequences that will have to be managed.' "
Don't you love the idea that making half a million refugees is just a consequence that has to be "managed." Does no one in the Administration remember that Hezbollah came into existence as one of the "serious consequences" of Israel's first invasion of Lebanon? Where does this idea of "management through violence" find its foothold in reality?

And now we see the situation on the American Gulf Coast is no accident, no failure of imagination, not a sign of incompetence; it's intentional. A President who thinks "serious consequences" like 500,000 refugees can just be managed, is a President who is unimpressed by the destruction of an entire American city. Clearly, what is most important is that private enterprise be vindicated and political enemies, like the largely Democratic blacks in New Orleans, be punished. Serious consequences will be managed later.

"There needs to be a signal that the Bush administration is prepared to do something," said Larry Garber, the executive director the New Israel Fund, which pushes for civil rights and justice in Israel. "Taking a complete hands-off, casual-observer position undermines our credibility. . . . There is a danger that we will be seen as simply doing Israel's bidding."
I think we've already passed that point of no-return:*

Asked on NBC's "Today" show whether Washington was trying to discourage Israel from notions about a ground invasion, Snow replied: "We have not been doing military collaboration or planning with the Israelis. But what we have been doing instead is urging the Israelis to use restraint."

He urged patience with the administration's methodical approach, saying "the people who are talking about too little, too late, they may not be keeping the diplomatic scorecard."

"Everybody who wants this kind of egg-timer diplomacy, who thinks, OK these things ought to happen quickly, you don't understand human nature," Snow said.
When the Bush Administration is lecturing the world on "human nature," it is a matter of the gravest concern. If I may steal a line from DAS:

Bush's claims to moral authority would be laughable if so many deaths were not resulting -- because he has no moral claim to any kind of authority.

*As I was saying update (link courtesy of Holden):

Q Mr. President, what do you hope Secretary Rice accomplishes on her trip to the Middle East, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to talk to her tomorrow when I -- Sunday, when I get back to the White House. We're going to have a good visit.

Q What do you hope she accomplishes, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I said I would talk to her tomorrow.

END 11:38 A.M. MDT
And if there is any doubt remaining, no, there won't be a ceasefire coming from Condi's trip:

The United States — which has resisted calls to press its ally to halt the fighting — was sending Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice to the Mideast on Sunday. She ruled out a quick cease-fire as a "false promise" and said "Hezbollah is the source of the problem."
"Leave the dead to bury the dead" springs to mind, but only sarcastically. But then I consider that Bush may well imagine he is proclaiming the kingdom of God; and even sarcasm pales in that light.

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