Bush Paints Allies and Enemies as Evil

The crucial question remains: is the Iraqi President mad as well as bad? Just as Americans are recovering from the harrowing television re-runs of the 11 September attacks, their President is going to launch the biggest reshaping of the Middle East since the British and French parcelled out the Arab lands after the 1914-18 war. When he addresses the United Nations on Thursday, George Bush will be threatening not only Iraq–which had absolutely nothing to do with the crimes against humanity in New York and Washington–but Syria, Iran and, by extension, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Syrian Accountability Act, which accuses Damascus of supporting “terrorism”, will come into force as President Bush is speaking and will follow only days after the State Department branded the Lebanese Hizbollah as the “A-team of terrorism”, more dangerous even than Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida. Like Iraq, the Hizbollah had nothing to do with the 11 September attacks–indeed, they were among the first to condemn them–but the White House now seems set on painting allies and enemies alike in the Middle East as a focus of evil.

Only The Nation among all of America’s newspapers and magazines has dared to point out that a large number of former Israeli lobbyists are now working within the American administration and the Bush plans for the Middle East–which could cause a massive political upheaval in the Arab world–fit perfectly into Israel’s own dreams for the region. The magazine listed Vice-President Dick Cheney–the arch-hawk in the US administration–and John Bolton, now under-secretary of state for Arms Control, with Douglas Feith, the third most senior executive at the Pentagon, as members of the advisory board of the pro-Israeli Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa) before joining the Bush government. Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board, is still an adviser on the institute, as is the former CIA director James Woolsey.

Michael Ledeen, described by The Nation as “one of the most influential ‘Jinsans’ in Washington” has been calling for “total war” against “terror”–with “regime change” for Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. Mr Perle advises the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld–who refers to the West Bank and Gaza as “the so-called occupied territories”–and arranged the anti-Saudi “kernel of evil” briefing by Laurent Murawiec that so outraged the Saudi royal family last month. The Saudi regime may itself be in great danger as the princes of the House of Saud attempt to seize more power for themselves in advance of the depart-ure of the dying King Fahd.

Jinsa’s website says it exists to “inform the American defence and foreign affairs community about the important role Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East”. Next month, Michael Rubin of the right-wing and pro-Israeli American Enterprise Institute–who referred to the outgoing UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson as an abettor of “terrorism”–joins the US Defence Department as an Iran-Iraq “expert”.

According to The Nation, Irving Moskovitz, the California bingo magnate who has funded settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories, is a donor as well as a director of Jinsa.

President Bush, of course, will not be talking about the influence of these pro-Israeli lobbyists when he presents his vision of the Middle East at the United Nations on Thursday.

Nor will he give the slightest indication that the region is, in the words of its own kings and dictators, a powder keg of resentment and anger. The tectonic plates of the Arab world are now grinding with increasing violence. Into this political earthquake zone, Mr Bush now seems intent on leading his country, with his loyal British ally.

Most of today’s Arab nations were fashioned out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire by Britain and France in the aftermath of the First World War–and Palestinians still blame Britain today for supporting the formation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Both European nations stationed tens of thousands of troops across the region, suppressing Arab revolts in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon–itself created by the French at the request of its Christian Maronite community. The whole colonial framework led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives before both the British and French retreated from the Middle East.

Now President Bush seems set on following the colonial powers into the region for another military and political adventure–ostensibly to spread “democracy” among those nations it most despises (Iraq, Palestine and Iran) but in fact more likely to increase American control of an increasingly anti-Western Arab world.

The Arabs themselves warn that this will lead to massive instability and widespread violence. The Israelis–and their allies in the US administration–are hell bent on the whole shebang.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.