Former Secretary of State James Baker, co-chairing a bipartisan commission on Iraq, offered Bush a prudent version of imperialism. He didn’t quite call for immediate U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, but he questioned Bush’s refusal to talk with Iran and Syria, noting, "It’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies." (AP, October 9, 2006)
Baker should not feel hurt because Bush rejected his alternative. The President also refused to consider our thoughtful option. Indeed, the White House sent back our envelope unopened. Well, since major media reported the contents of Baker’s policy option, we decided to air ours as well. So, here’s our draft for Bush’s next foreign policy address.
"Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan," President John F. Kennedy said as he accepted blame for the Bay of Pigs fiasco. I, too, accept blame, for invading Iraq and compounding that error by not formulating a coherent Middle East policy aimed at stabilizing the region. I selected advisers I felt comfortable with, but not those who gave me sound counsel.
They told me to say in my 2002 State of the Union Address that Iraq, Iran and North Korea were an "axis of evil." This phrase now haunts me. My policies have not defeated evil. I could say ‘give ’em time.’ But I understand that I have built a dangerous "axis of uncertainty." North Korea has probably tested a nuclear weapon. I must ask myself: did my hard line policy lead to that dreaded event?
I didn’t engage with Syria. Instead, my administration tried to weaken and isolate President Bashar al-Assad’s regime — even after he had wisely cooperated with us in fighting terrorism after 9/11. The Syrians provided vital intelligence that helped thwart an attack on a U.S. fleet in Bahrain. This past September, they even prevented an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. Instead of rewarding President Assad, I punished him and with a grin on my face signed the Syria Accountability Act into law.
In May 2004, I enacted sanctions against Syrian exports, severed banking relations and banned Syrian flights to and from the U.S. Why didn’t any of my advisers inform me that Syrian planes didn’t fly to the U.S. in the first place? (wait for chuckles) Heck, I wanted to teach Bashar a lesson for allowing insurgents from Syria to wreak havoc in Iraq.
Two years later, and after the 33-day war in Lebanon and continued violence in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, some former members of my administration questioned my approach to Syria and Lebanon. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said a solution "needs to include Iran and Syria." National Security Council member Flynt Leverett said talking with Syria would enhance long-term U.S. interests.
In my arrogant mode, I would have dismissed those good for nothing Ba’athist stooges! (giggles) But upon reflection and a series of consultations with the Lord, I see it did not make sense to threaten Syria with more sanctions, order it like a naughty child to stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. Darn, we even sent that Canadian-Syrian fella, Maher Arrar, to get tortured there in Damascus just as I was criticizing Syria for violating human rights. I offer my apologies to Mr. Arrar.
I want to say I’m sorry for what Condi said when she referred to the war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah as part of the ‘birth pangs of a new Middle East.’ Even some of my old drinking buddies got uncomfortable with that one.
Admitting mistakes is one thing; making peace is another. After we withdraw our forces and bases from Iraq, which we must do before more American blood gets spilled, I will face the Syria-Israel, Israel-Palestine issue. American and Iraqi epidemiologists reported on October 11 that 655,000 Iraqis have died since March 2003. Add to that almost 3,000 Americans and maybe 20,000 wounded and some walking wounded. I made a terrible mistake. May God forgive me.
I know I said repeatedly we won’t cut and run. But you men out there understand that kind of macho talk. The facts are clear. Iraq is a dead end for us. I only hope Iraqis can put Humpty Dumpty together again after I pushed him off the wall. I ask for their forgiveness as well.
By now, I figure I have shocked America. You’re not listening to the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart." This is George W. Bush talking about how he’s going to support a peace treaty between Israel and Syria before he leaves office. My friend, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Israel will never return the Golan Heights back to Syria. President Bashar al-Assad, on the other hand, has not ruled out force as a last resort to regain the Golan.
In an October BBC interview, Assad called again for peace with Israel. I will not ignore that. I hope Olmert doesn’t ignore it either. Contrary to what the press says, that I’ve been preventing Israel from accepting Syria’s overtures, let me clarify. Peace between these countries must center on Israel returning the Golan Heights to Syria. In return, Damascus must recognize Israel and ensure her security. Incursions alongside Israel’s Lebanese border will become a thing of the past, as Syria makes sure that Hezbollah behaves. As the Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said in his September 23 radio address, "It is absolutely clear that Syria is the key to stability in the region."
I am well aware of the 20,000 settlers currently living in the Golan Heights. They will get a payoff for cooperating, taken from the reduced sale of U.S. arms to Israel and Egypt. This will set the stage, one day, for an entire Middle East free of nuclear weapons. But in both the short and long-term, the bigger payoff or ‘peace dividend’ as those fancy scholars call it, will come when both Israel and her 22 Arab neighbors live alongside one other without fearing the destabilizing, ugly shadow of war. Imagine increased travel and regional trade, Arab and Israeli children no longer growing up to hate one other, but rather, recognizing each other as young partners for regional peace and stability.
I have not forgotten the plight of the Palestinians. I admit Iraq has distracted me from focusing on my promise of U.S. support for a viable, contiguous, independent Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 war borders. Palestinians and Israelis living side by side with Israel! Hey, that sounds good. Jerusalem’s status, the return of Palestinian refugees, who gets how much water heck, these big problems will get negotiated as well, not swept under the table like the 1993 Oslo Accords did.
In fact, I’m sending Condi back to the Middle East next week to talk to all the affected parties — not just our reliable guys in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia like the last time (what good that did!), but to the leader of Hamas and the Syrians. Hamas must recognize Israel, as I’ve said all along. But the U.S. must also recognize Hamas, since those guys did win a free and fair election — exactly what I’ve been calling for in the Middle East. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, though.
My Administration still has an uncharted path in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. But I don’t any longer pretend that talking tough and saying I’m staying a course in the Middle East benefits U.S. interests and keeps the American people secure. I failed and I accept that. Time to change course! Today, I’ve articulated a call for peace that will require major concessions by both Israel and the Arab states and unwavering U.S. leadership along the way. On behalf of the war-weary American public, I accept this challenge." (applause, oohs and ahs, boos, sounds of people falling off chairs).
The White House doctor loosened Karl Rove’s necktie and took his pulse. The Secret Service went on high alert for suspected Jewish Defense League assassins. After the speech, Dick Cheney invited Bush to go duck hunting with him.
If the president takes redemption seriously, he will accept the fact that he is responsible for appalling messes at home and abroad. He has two years left to seek deliverance. Does anyone think he really has inside him the courage to admit mistakes and face consequences in public? Indeed, few politicians anywhere have shown such grit.
Try to picture Bush admitting failure? It’s more likely that grass will grow on our palm!
Saul Landau and Farrah Hassen are students of Jonathan Swift. Landau’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, will be published by Counterpunch Press.