Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"This madness must stop"

If I didn't know better, I'd swear the man was an Hegelian:

“The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said in a speech at the Coast Guard command center in Miami.
Forces are in play in his imagined Middle East; not people, not men and women with histories and cultures and governments, people with families and desires and appetites and needs. Simply "forces." The world is much easier to understand when you reduce it to simple, empty concepts which can mean whatever you want them to mean.

“For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive,” the president said. “And as we saw on Sept. 11, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States, and it had to change.”
I can only presume he's not talking about the House of Saud; or Egypt; or Pakistan. But exactly what "status quo" does he imagine existed in the Middle East before he became the world's sheriff?

Mr. Bush, in linking the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, sounded the same theme he has often embraced to describe the American-led campaign in Iraq: part of a struggle to root out hatred and tyranny and replace them with peace and democracy.
But peace comes only after justice; and democracy depends on the balance of competing powers, with no faction or force able do dominate the other interests of a society. Democracy must be a choice, not an imposition. War and violence only undo any balance and replaces the civic playing field of politics with the battlefield where only the powerful are heard. And more and more we are learning that military power is only one kind of power, that there are equally available other kinds of power, just as destructive, and just as destabilizing. Democracy cannot exist without social stability. Violently changing the "status quo" does not produce democracy as the alternative; it only unleashed anarchy, and death. The deaths of children. The deaths of the old.

Tyranny may be morally indefensible, but violence against tyranny is not automatically moral, either. As Robert Fisk points out, Israel has decreed a death sentence on anyone unfortunate enough to be within 300 feet of a Hezbollah missile launcher. Children and the infirm and the just damned unfortunate are all alike judged guilty and executed, all in the name of Israel's "right" to defend itself. The language of rights is a slippery one. It sounds like an absolute, something that must get acknowledged and can never be removed or taken away. Yet even the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" can be taken from you by the State of Texas; Governor Bush sometimes made quite sure of that. Israel's "right" to defend itself is no more absolute than it's "right" to exist: both are predicated on how that grant of power is exercised.

As is Mr. Bush's "right" to pursue democracy at all costs. As Sen. Chuck Hagel says: “The sickening slaughter on both sides must end now...President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop.” However, it seems we have become quite useless in that effort:

IT ALL looked so promising in Jerusalem late on Sunday night. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, met Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister. Then, around midnight, her press secretary issued a statement announcing that Israel had agreed to halt its airstrikes for 48 hours while it investigated the bombing earlier in the day of the Lebanese village of Qana, in which 37 children were killed.
After three weeks of relentless Israeli attacks, the announcement appeared to be the first sign of Israel’s readiness to bow to the international clamour for an end to the bloodshed. It made headlines around the world yesterday morning.

What nobody paid much attention to was the rare silence on Sunday night from Israel’s normally loquacious spokesmen. They went to ground. They turned off their phones. There was not a word from either Mr Olmert’s office or the Foreign Ministry.

At 10.30am yesterday, Dr Rice flew back to Washington talking optimistically of an “emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent ceasefire and a lasting settlement”. She continued: “I am convinced we can achieve both this week.”

Dr Rice had evidently misread — or not read at all — the hostile reaction in the Israeli media to the Government’s concession the previous night.

“Olmert folded” proclaimed the headline in the mass- circulation newspaper Yediot Ahronoth. Alex Fishman, a military analyst, wrote: “Hezbollah continues to fire, stands on its feet, and Israel is alarmed and folds in the face of pressure.”

The Government was attacked from left and right. Yuval Steinitz, a Likud MP, said that the concession would make Israel look weak and be perceived internationally as an admission of Israeli guilt for the civilian deaths.

Dr Rice’s optimism proved short-lived. Within an hour of her departure, Amir Peretz, the Defence Minister, went before the Israeli parliament. Far from talking peace, he vowed to intensify the war.
Jesus, significantly, never spoke of forces, of history and armies and national affairs. He spoke of people, individuals, and of what God meant to them, and what they meant to God. Mr. Bush famously said that Jesus was his favorite philosopher. A pity he pays no more attention to his favorite, than he does to reality. A pity, too, that he has reduced the American presidency to a point that even Jimmy Carter's honest reasoning is virtually ineffective.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy and the international "road map" for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Except for mutually agreeable negotiated modifications, Israel's official pre-1967 borders must be honored. As were all previous administrations since the founding of Israel, U.S. government leaders must be in the forefront of achieving this long-delayed goal.
Even if Bush had a dramatic change of heart and were to agree with Carter, who would listen to Condoleeza Rice now? The madness is going to go on for quite a while.

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