Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bush Claims Progress on Lebanon, World Sees Regress

President Bush claimed progress on the political front regarding Lebanon. This is odd in light of the U.S. chief’s intransigence three weeks into the raging conflict. America alone tied the hands of the United Nations in responding to the invasion in an immediate and forceful way. The last time an independent country in the Middle East was overrun by its neighbor Bush Sr. drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait.

The “progress” has the future French peacekeepers arguing with Israel and the U.S. over the order of things. Will it be a cessation of violence, some political maneuvering, and then the stationing of peacekeepers? Or will the order be different?

As the parties argue, the only regress seen by the world is the destruction of Lebanon to disable 3,000 to 5,000 Hezbollah soldiers. A country of 4.4 million people has been attacked and invaded so Israel can wipe out 0.1% of its population.

Meanwhile the Bush team looks like anything but a team on this issue. While Bush, Rice and Bolton ignore worldwide demands for an immediate cease fire, they block movement in this direction at every turn.

Poor Karen Hughes has been given the impossible task of explaining the Bush record to Arab countries to improve relations. She flounders as Muslim countries are particularly outraged over the Israeli revenge inspired war machine’s pummeling of Lebanon. This is the sixth time in sixty years Israel has taken on a neighbor militarily.

Karen denied any coordination between the Bush and Olmert administrations on this action. However, it is hard to believe otherwise given Bush’s blocking and tackling for Israel on every play. The State Department website speaks to this close relationship:

Israel’s military spending in 2005 totaled $9.45 billion, which is equivalent to 7.7% of GDP, and represents 16.3% of government expenditures. The United States provides approximately $2.4 billion per year in security assistance.

In 1983, the United States and Israel established the Joint Political Military Group, which meets twice a year. Both the U.S. and Israel participate in joint military planning and combined exercises, and have collaborated on military research and weapons development.

The Israeli Prime Minister has called Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists groups. The United States also collaborates with Israel via “the Joint Counterterrorism Group, designed to enhance cooperation in fighting terrorism; and a high-level Strategic Dialogue that meets biannually.”

Karen Hughes expects the Muslim world to believe Israel never discussed its plans to invade Lebanon to route out terrorists in any one of these collaboratives? Israeli Prime Minister Olmert just visited the White House in late May, weeks before the incursion. President Bush clearly stated his support for Olmert’s heavy handed and one sided strategies to solve the Palestinian situation. He also said “We are determined that the Iranian regime must not gain nuclear weapons”.

Here is the oddest statement by Bush in regard to a country beset by lingering terrorist attacks. On May 23rd the President said:

“Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States, and in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel's aid. The United States is strongly committed, and I'm strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant, Jewish state.”

Why did the President need to reiterate this point? Did he know the invasion would be forthcoming and other Arab nations might feel the call to support the Lebanese people? Did Bush’s closing statement contradict his earlier opening salvo?

“We reaffirmed the deep and abiding ties between Israel and the United States. And those ties include our commitment to democracy and our strong belief that everybody has the right to worship freely.”

How are the U.S. and Israel committed to “democracy” when one invades the fledgling democracy to their north and the other blocks any international moves to condemn the aggression? How is their freedom of worship in a Jewish state, a state that gives full privileges only to Jewish members?

On July 12th President Bush weighed in on the Hezbollah kidnappings. That day Israel began its escalation of war with Lebanon. July 13th saw the bombing of the Beirut airport and Israel’s embargo of Lebanon.

My guess is the topic was discussed beforehand. The White House Press Office had this to say early into the conflict:

We have had a lot of conversations with the Israeli government. Secretary Rice has talked to Prime Minister Olmert, sometimes a couple of times a day. She's talked to her Foreign Minister counterpart. I have talked the to Prime Minister's Chief of Staff almost every day. So we have a lot of communication.

Secondly, I would say that the Israelis are not feeling neglected by us. They have, in a number of these conversations, expressed both appreciation for some of the things that we have said and done, including what happened at the Security Council yesterday. And they've also given us some of the assurances that we have sought with connection with their activities.

Bush just keeps some people in the dark so they can present his best face. Poor Karen did not need to know that vital information. Now which face is Bush trying to show the world at the moment? I don’t think it’s his face at all. You can pull your pants up now, Mr. President.

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