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Michael Winship: George Bush, At Sea in the Desert

Below is an article by JOURNAL writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

George Bush, At Sea in the Desert
by Michael Winship

President Bush’s recent speech before the Knesset, ostensibly to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday, was not only a display of political cynicism at its worst – using a diplomatic occasion to perpetrate an unseemly attack on Barack Obama – but a microcosm for the disregard with which the President holds the rest of the world. And vice versa.

Events in the Middle East over the last two weeks are all the proof you need. Here’s what the President said: "Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

“Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Although officially President Bush denied that he was talking about Obama – and the Democrat’s stated willingness to talk with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – John Yang at NBC News reported, “Privately, White House officials said the shoe fits the Democratic frontrunner.”

American historian Brian P. Murphy told the BOSTON GLOBE, “I can't imagine there's a precedent for a sitting president to go before the legislative body of a foreign government and launch a political attack on a major-party nominee running to succeed him.”

It was a shabby performance in an improper, overseas forum. He didn’t care. Of course the reference to appeasement was an attempt to smear by making a comparison between Senator Obama and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s capitulation to Hitler at Munich in 1938. Last summer Bush read the book Troublesome Young Men, an account of how Winston Churchill and fellow Conservatives fought back against Chamberlain’s submission to the Nazis.

But ironically, as the book’s author, Lynne Olson, pointed out in a WASHINGTON POST op-ed last summer, it’s the appeaser and Bush who have more in common than the president may care to know. “Chamberlain came to office with almost no understanding of foreign affairs or experience in dealing with international leaders,” she wrote. “… He surrounded himself with like-minded advisers and refused to heed anyone who told him otherwise.”

President Bush’s own continuing heedlessness was again highlighted just a couple of days after the Knesset speech when he delivered a chastising lecture on democracy to Arab nations at the World Economic Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. “Obtuse” is how a Boston Globe editorial described it. “Bush seemed oblivious to the loss of respect for the United States that his Mideast misadventures have caused in the region.”

NEWSWEEK’s Christopher Dickey echoed the GLOBE's dismay: "Looking at Iraq, the peace process, Lebanon, the growing strength of Iran, the continued deterioration of Somalia, the potential disintegration of Sudan, not to mention the vast decline in the value of the dollar and the faltering global economy, the participants at the forum knew only too well they were halfway to hell on roads paved with George W. Bush's good intentions."

So, as Bush thoughtlessly careens into the last months of his presidency, a good portion of the rest of the world has decided it can spin on quite well without him. Even Israel.

Almost as if everyone waited until President Bush had left the region and the coast was clear, there was immediately a surprise announcement of Turkey brokering indirect talks between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights. And now Qatar has brokered a political power-sharing deal between the Lebanese government and the Hezbollah Shiite militia that may keep the country from exploding in another war. The United States has opposed both efforts.

Such defiance isn’t just because George Bush is a lame duck. So bereft is his administration’s Middle East policy of initiative or consistent purpose that the United States has lost what little credibility it had left.

It’s becoming clearer as Egyptian newspaper editor and human rights activist Hisham Qassem says, “…America is neither loved nor feared.” Instead, we’re the lumbering, addled giant, aimlessly kicking desert sand, irritating the world instead of leading it.

Michael Winship is senior writer of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Comments

This could well be one of the most important documentaries of the century as it pertains to the direction of a new generation of Americans and how they plot their political course in a new and ever changing global landscape.
If this film could make it's way into every school in the USA and the rest of the world, a great and noble change befitting all humanity would be inevitable and irrevocable.

J. Regan
Williston, VT

We The People Congress

"When the people fear the government there is tyranny;
when the government fears the people there is liberty."

-Thomas Jefferson

Jack Martin is spot on. The US economy is hopelessly invested in its oil- and military- dependencies. The federal government wears the yoke of these interests and is wholly bound to their advocacy. This politico-economic system simply cannot change course without placing an insurmountable obstacle in its path. The only way we as citizens can accomplish meaningful change is to band together and cast our body-ballots as a solid bloc.

Talking isn't enough.

Praying isn't enough.

Sending emails isn't enough.

Writing letters isn't enough.

Voting isn't enough.

We must show up in the flesh and demand the return of what is our due: leadership that is accountable to We, the People.

I remember the plea hurled at Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons early in World War II: " Go. . .in the name of Gpd. go!"

That is the only fitting thing to say to George W. Bush. He has caused death and destruction in Iraq and neglected the needs of his own country and people.

Go, George Bush, in the name of God go.

(Thanks for your sane analysis Michael Winship.)Not only is the United States not a fair and honest broker of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but not a viable broker of peace anywhere in the world. This will not change even if Barack Obama is elected because the U.S. economy is not only addicted to oil, but also to perpetual war and the arms production and sales, making conflict profitable. War is the spearpoint of disaster capitalism (as well defined by Naomi Klein in "Shock Doctrine").
The contingent of American citizens who oppose empire and want more people power in our government had better be prepared to make a showing of 10 million concerned protesters in Washington, D.C. on inauguration day 2009. The new President will need our backing to impose the needed changes, against corporate interests, so that we can have viable economics and reasonably affordable security. And this time there had better not be any off-site cages or alternative venues for those redressing our grievances. We the people have the right to see their new executive sworn in and to vocalic and graphically demonstrate about what we expect. We'll be safe with all the brave war veterans among us.If this requirement can not be met, localities will then have good grounds for local disobedience and/or secession.
Let's at least try to achieve the level of credibility now being won by some of our South American neighbors.
I am ready to rent at least one bus for those unable to march and to walk the 500 miles with my companions from Dallas, N.C. What say ye Moyeristas?

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