Bush vs. Carter: Let History Judge
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week admonished former president Jimmy Carter for meeting with representatives of Hamas, the Palestinian organization that currently maintains a strong presence in the Gaza Strip. Regarding advancing the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Ms. Rice said: “We had certainly told President Carter that we did not think meeting with Hamas was going to help.” She further stated that “the United States is not going to deal with Hamas.”
The irony of all this is almost more than one can bear. Mr. Rice serves President George Bush, the self-proclaimed ‘war president,’ the man who has started two wars under false pretenses, and now awaits forced retirement in nine months so that his successor can deal with the double quagmires he has created. She is criticizing a man who, in 2002, won the Nobel Peace Prize. One wonders why she feels that Mr. Carter’s meeting with Hamas will not be helpful, but that refusing to talk to a principle player in ongoing tensions will be. Better to invade Afghanistan, whose government was alleged to be harboring Osama bin Laden (unconfirmed), the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2002 attacks on the U.S. (unconfirmed), and then invade Iraq, alleged to be hiding weapons of mass destruction (false), and alleged to have some tie to the September 11 attacks (false). This would be too many ‘allegeds’ for most people, but not for Mr. Bush.
However, in giving this some thought, one cannot be surprised that Ms. Rice sees merit in Mr. Bush’s methods over Mr. Carter’s. It should be noted that Union Oil sought to lay a pipeline through Afghanistan, but the Taliban would not allow it. Union Oil was purchased in 2005 by Chevron, the company on whose public policy board Ms. Rice served. Her contribution was so significant that the company named an oil tanker the Condoleezza Rice (it was later renamed). With the Taliban out of the way, there was no longer any official impediment to the pipeline.
And while the Bush Administration is busy disdaining Mr. Carter’s peaceful overtures, it might as well continue to make menacing sounds about Iran. In March Mr. Bush made the bizarre statement that Iran “declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” suggesting at the same time that Iran could be involved secretly in a program to develop nuclear weapons.
How Mr. Bush arrived at this conclusion remains a mystery; certainly Iran has never stated it wants to obtain nuclear weapons. Leaders of that nation have consistently stated that its nuclear program is for power plants, not weapons. It is Mr. Bush, of course, who has access to the largest nuclear weapons stockpile on the planet: one can think of few more frightening thoughts.
While Iran more or less minds its own business, perhaps assisting its neighbor Iraq in attempting to repel foreign occupiers, Mr. Bush carries on his wars, bringing untold suffering to millions of people. Yet he can say with a straight face that Iran is “the world’s leading supporter of terrorism.” The man who ordered the bombing of population centers in Iraq; who is commander-in-chief of the military that has cruelly abused prisoners and that terrorizes Iraqi citizens; who denies prisoners in foreign-based, U.S. prisons basic dignity and rights, points his accusing finger at Iran as a terrorist state.
For Mr. Bush & Co., this is business as usual. The bi-partisan Iraq Study Group released its findings in December of 2006. Stating clearly that the president’s Iraq policy “is not working,” and that the situation is “grave and deteriorating,” they also made suggestions for improvement. One of them was to involve both Syria and Iran in negotiations regarding Iraq’s future. Yet Mr. Bush dismissed any such negotiations, stating through Ms. Rice that the ‘compensation’ required by either Syria or Iran might be too high. Notice that there was no thought of checking with those nations to determine if that ‘compensation’ (whatever that refers to) would in fact be too high. Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice made that assumption, so there is no need for any clarification. One could note here Mr. Bush’s total disregard for facts, but one hesitates to point out the obvious.
In further discussing the suggestion, absurd to Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice, of negotiations with Iraq’s nearest neighbors, she said the following: “If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway,” ‘it’ obviously referring to ignoring the blood-fueled inferno so close to them and allowing the U.S. free reign to continue terrorizing Iraqi citizens.
But one might ask: “Does not the U.S. have an interest in a stable Iraq?” In the war’s sixth year, mightn’t it appear that continued aggression simply isn’t working, and that an increasing death toll of both Iraqi and U.S. citizens is doing nothing to endear the U.S. to the hearts of anyone anywhere in the world? Might it not be reasonable to suggest that wars based on oil lust that decimate the U.S. economy while doing nothing to satisfy that lust require a close, second look? And shouldn’t wars be based on something loftier, perhaps national defense, than oil lust anyway? And if one answers affirmatively to those questions, might there then be some merit in conferring with Syria and Iran to seek a peaceful solution?
But wait! We have looked at facts, asked intelligent questions, logically pieced together a series of actions and arrived at a conclusion in a rational, thoughtful manner. How foolish of us! Let us go back and ask those same questions, but this time with different answers perhaps more typical of Mr. Bush:
Q. Does the U.S. have an interest in a stable Iraq?
A. It doesn’t matter as long as we can get the oil to flow to the U.S.
Q. Doesn’t continued aggression against Iraq damage the U.S.’s international reputation?
A. Who cares?
Q. As the war goes badly for everyone involved, and money needed within the U.S. is spent on the war, shouldn’t a new strategy be explored?
A. We have already initiated a ‘new way forward.’ We did more of the same, only more so.
Q. Is oil lust a valid reason to invade, overthrow and occupy a sovereign nation, and kill its citizens?
Q. Isn’t it long past time to negotiate with Syria and Iran?
A. Jimmy Carter is no longer president.
So there; the world according to Bush. And if Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has his way, such a philosophy will continue for at least another four years.
Mr. Carter said he tried his best in his meeting with Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal, but to no avail. Perhaps that justifies Ms. Rice’s statement that a meeting with Hamas wouldn’t help. However, by meeting with Mr. Mashaal, Mr. Carter increased his own stature as a man of peace, a man who will make any effort, and go to any length, to try to achieve a peaceful solution to some of the world’s most perplexing problems. Compare that image to the Crawford Cowboy, whose ‘shoot-em-up’ mentality has brought untold suffering to the world. Which image is more favorable? One need not ask Mr. Bush his opinion.
How much more of this mentality the world can tolerate remains to be seen. Should the U.S. voters (or possibly the Supreme Court justices) insist on another four years of it by installing Mr. McCain as president, this mentality will manifest itself in more neglect of the U.S. and widespread international war. With an election already bitterly contested before the key players are even determined, one cannot predict the outcome with any degree of confidence. That in itself is a sad commentary on the state of the U.S. voter.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.