Friday, April 16, 2004

Bush Engaged in Self-Sabotage

U.S.-Israeli link outrages Arabs

Bush's announced his support for Sharon's "peace" plan to swap withdrawl from the Gaza Strip of a few hundred settlers, "in exchange" for keeping the great majority of settlements in the West Bank and incorporating them into Israel. The huge military barriers being erected throughout Palestinian territory will be allowed to remain as "security measures," not "political barriers."

The result is a vast, illicit land grab that violates interational law, and leaves Palestine a dependent, fractured, non-viable state without water or resources or control of its own territory. Of course, the Palestinians roudly reject Sharon's plan for them. But they were not consulted, were not part of any negotiation on the plan, and will not be asked for their approval for its implementation. This plan is intended to be shoved down Palestinian throats; that's why it is so unpallatable.

Bush himself said that the U.S. should not act outside of negotiations between the parties earlier in his Residency. Perhaps the worst part of Bush's hypocrisy in pandering to Sharon on this issue, is the potential damage it does to what American prestige and credibility remains, regarding the occupation of Iraq and Bush's claim that he wishes to reshape the politics of the Middle East in a more democratic direction.

Already the Iraqis are calling us "occupiers," a term once reserved easpecially for Israel. If we cannot be trusted to deal as an honest broker between Israel and Palestine, how can Iraqis be expected to percieve us as fair or just in our dealings with them? By backing a clearly exploitive plan to purloin Palestinian land, we lose any benefit of the doubt about our intentions in Iraq. We desperately need that benefit to prevent needless deaths of our troops and of Iraqi people. If the many moderate and undecided people in Iraq see us backing and promoting a plan which nakedly exploits their neighbors, violence becomes much more likely and common.

Bush's decision to back Sharon is so ill-considered, that one has to assume that it is a deliberate provocation of the Iraqi people. To what possible end, except for extending and deeping resistance in Iraq, I can't imagine. It is as if Bush were trying to make our the exit of our troops from Iraq impossible. The only reason for that I can think of is that it gives us a fine justification for maintaining our basis there long term.

The brutality of our assault on Fallujah is widely noted, well-documented, and roundly condemned in the Arab world. Even moderates like Jordan and Egypt have felt compelled to condemn our actions in Fallujah and send humanitarian relief. The eyes of Iraq are upon the Coalition, and by now, they will only judge us by our actions, not by Bush's empty rhetoric. We may have murdered as many as 700 Iraqi civilians in this heavy week of fighting. Compare that to the 2,200 Palestinians killed in the last 2 1/2 years of struggle in Palestine. The shocking scale of the violence apparent in the comparison is too compelling for Iraqis and the Arab world to ignore. If we galvanize Iraqi resistance, or wide-spread support for the cause of the Iraqi resistance, we will lose far more than we stand to gain by forcing Sadr to back down.

None of this bodes well for a political settlement in Iraq. If this Administration cannot even follow the long tradition of trying to remain somewhat of an even-handed broker, but instead puts our imprimitur on a blatantly explotive unilateral solution, then peace becomes ever more difficult short of capitulation by one side. Peace will never come from perfidity, only more violence. Every people has spirit and pride that will prevent them from accepting injustice quietly. If we really want a protracted Intifada in Iraq, we should endorse everything Bush is doing. His policies seem aimed not as American success and peaceful transistion to a democratic Iraqi government, but at fracturing Iraqi, plunging it into unrest, and ensuring that America is mired in the violence.

I find it remarkable that John Kerry would say that the Sharon plan has merit. The plan has no merit at all; it is not acceptable to the Middle East, Arabs, or Muslims in general. It does not promise peace in the region. Kerry is forgetting his role as opposition leader, and as the principled and honest candidate who must counter Bush's lies and pandering. By triangulating this issue, Kerry may appease hard-line Israeli supporters in the U.S., but he will lose the respect and good-will of the Palestinians and others in the Middle East whose help he will need to end our occupation of Iraq successfully when he's President. Kerry must stand up and speak out against the Sharon Plan and educate people as to why it is a blind alley, not a path to peace.

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