In yet another act of groveling to the Jewish Lobby, the Bush Administration cast its first veto against a United Nations Security Council resolution that would protect the Palestinians from Sharon's thugs. This arrogant display of disdain for Palestinian suffering was timed to deliberately snub the Arab 'leaders' meeting in Amman. George wants to remind them that they are on his payroll, under his protection and not to forget their place, under his thumb.
Expect more of the same from Bush. He has his reasons. If the Arabs living on the oil plantations of the Middle East don't like his policies, let them eat their oil. It is quite possible that he might be spoiling for an Arab oil embargo as a nice little gift for his wild cat buddies down in Texas. This President wants drilling rights in Alaska, in Texas and in Cape Cod. Nothing would bring him more joy than an excuse to rally the nation around 'energy independence'. There is a six-month supply of oil up in the pristine wilderness of Alaska and George wants every last drop of it.
In vetoing the United Nations resolution, Bush has basically awarded Sharon a carte blanche to pulverize the Palestinians.
In vetoing the United Nations resolution, Bush has basically awarded Sharon a carte blanche to pulverize the Palestinians. Not one to waste an opportunity to shed Arab blood, Sharon took immediate advantage of his new privileges with a full-scale tank assault against Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Gaza. In a coordinated move, the State Department, ignoring the hundreds of Palestinians murdered by Israeli snipers, demanded that the uprising be put down.
"We have no apology for our relationship with Israel", State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "What we stood up for in the United Nations was what we think are necessary and effective steps to support the peace process". No doubt Boucher will be reprimanded for using the faux pas "peace process" terminology. A cultivated inclination to talk trash is an indispensable requirement for this career enhancing position. I imagine Colin Powell will insist that Boucher make amends in future statements to the press.
Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, was more guarded in his use of words. "The United States strongly condemns the violence. There is no excuse and no justification for the bombings that recently took place in Israel." Bush's spokesman added that "the president again reiterates his call for the violence to end, and that way we can move forward to secure direct conversation between the parties in the Middle East so that they reach an agreement that the parties support." Ari Fleisher knows better than to upset Sharon with a "peace process". "The violence" he was condemning was the suicidal act of a lone Palestinian, not the random Israeli shelling of densely populated towns in Gaza and the West Bank. That kind of violence does not bother anyone at the White House. In fact, the whole point of the American veto was to prevent the international community from monitoring the vicious Israeli assaults in the occupied territories. Violence and collective punishment administered by a foreign occupation army is, by some perverse White House logic, justifiable.
In response to the Israeli shelling of the besieged towns, Boucher noted that "We recognize Israel's need to provide for its security." If he had a grain of intellectual honesty, he would have added that the need for Palestinian security is something the United States adamantly opposes. If Israel needs to torment the Palestinians without the world looking over its brawny shoulders, than America will make certain that Israel retains the right to conduct its brutish occupation in the dark. What Israel wants, Israel gets. For this president, this veto is an act of swearing allegiance to Israel. It is simply the price of doing business in Washington.
There is a prevailing tendency, especially among those unacquainted with how precisely such policies are calibrated, to conclude that the Bush administration is just making mistakes while learning the ropes. Perhaps, by these calculations, Bush is a replica of the idiot caricature that has become a basic staple of late night entertainment. This line of reasoning assumes that Jay Leno has George figured out. Don't bet on it. More likely, it is about the media lords trimming Bush to size. George Bush is as crafty as they make them in Texas. It is wise to watch your words in Austin, where anyone in the room might be packing a concealed weapon.
This president understands that to keep the press on his good side, he needs to make some deals with Rupert Murdoch, Graham, Sulzberger and Ted Turner. These four media thugs, along with a handful of other media tycoons, come to the bargaining table with an arsenal that compels even George to mind his words. While it is more than likely that he shares their lack of compassion for the mounting toll of Palestinian casualties, adding to the body count is not what motivates Bush. It hardly makes a difference to this administration or the one that preceded it. If a well-documented war criminal like Sharon intensifies the killing spree of Palestinians, Bush and Powell will not object.
In America's political mine fields, you need to tip toe around anything that might irk the Israeli lobby. If the media titans say Ariel Sharon is a swan, an American president takes precautions not to ruffle Arik's feathers. The stakes are too high. Bush is fully aware that the media, dominated by Israel Firsters, can work up a mean adversarial appetite. Most recently, these self-appointed power brokers have demonstrated their ability to sanitize Sharon and bury the Rich/Clinton/Riady/Hillary/Hassidic scandals. They also have a track record of tar and feathering politicians who get in their way. In the balance hangs the Tax cuts, the approval polls, campaign finance reforms, the fight against the pesky environmentalists and the God-given right of every Texas oil man to drill in Alaska. Why court political disaster over the destiny of a few million Palestinians? If the price of a long honeymoon is a renewal of the Israeli Lobby's lease on the State Department, that can be arranged. George Bush will give the Israelis all the rope they need to hang Palestinians and silently pray there will be enough left over to hang Sharon.
At first glance, the Bush policy towards the Israeli/Palestinian conflict appears to be the work of moral morons. Not a chance. This is a careful balancing act by a President who likes to go to bed early without worrying about any 'media' scandals. After the contentious election, he must be elated at his poll numbers, and he knows who to thank. Besides, why go drilling for trouble at the State Department, which is officially designated Israeli turf, when you have full mineral rights in Alaska? This "Israel good, Palestinians bad" policy is an inviting buffet to rally the Israeli Lobby,, especially those entrenched in the media, behind Bush's domest,ic agenda. T,he only downside of this policy is the unlikely prospect that the feeble Arab leaders might resort to an oil embargo. Well, George Bush doesn't see the downside of such an outcome. His Texas oil buddies relish the prospects of another Arab oil embargo. Bring it on and Bush will smile all the way to Alaska.
Ahmed Amr is editor of nileMedia.com, a cyber magazine covering Middle East issues. He lives in Seattle, Washington and his columns appear regularly at iviews.com.