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There is sometimes a black and ironic humor about the Bush administration’s approach to diplomacy, and two Reuters’ headlines on April 12 were enough to make a cat laugh. They were “Rumsfeld visits Iraq; warns against corruption” and “US audit probes $212 million in Halliburton Iraq work”. The ludicrous contrast is in the same league as Bush Washington’s outraged finger-wagging about human rights last month, which was met with barely concealed mirth by the many world leaders who consider that those living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Rumsfeld then lectured the Iraqis about governance. He must have forgotten that Iraq is supposed to be a sovereign country (we keep being told this by the Bush propaganda machine) and that it is therefore undiplomatic, to say the least, for him to blather on publicly in such a sententious fashion. But we shouldn’t be surprised. He is, after all, a pompous and incompetent ass, and it has been obvious for a long time that most of us have on occasion blown more appealing life into our handkerchiefs. For him to blithely assume that other nations are inferior and that Washington knows what is best for them is condescending and clownish to the point of imbecility, but is only too common a belief in those who present the Bush image overseas.
The foreign policy of Bush Washington is arrogantly inflexible. It is simply to lecture, hector, bribe and bully those countries which don’t do exactly what the Emperor says. If brazen malevolence doesn’t work, they can then be bombed and invaded, providing they have no means of retaliation. One Bible quotation you won’t ever hear from the Christian fundamentalists who are now in charge of America is from Matthew VII,3: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Their attitude rests on the classic dictatorial order of “Don’t do as I do : do as I say”, which sums up the bumptious and domineering approach of the new God-approved American Empire.
The Bush emissary to the world, Condoleezza Rice, condescended to visit India, Pakistan and Afghanistan for a day each last month. (Well, not quite a day in Afghanistan. She went for six hours, exactly the same time Laura Bush spent there last week on an equally futile and even more expensive photo-op.) As with most US diplomacy in the Bush era, the Rice performance was jarring.
First she scolded India for daring to propose building a gas pipeline from Iran, passing through Pakistan. The project is going to be of enormous economic advantage to every country in the region, which is exactly why Bush’s Christian Crusaders are trying to stop it – because anything that might benefit Iran cannot on any account be permitted.
It doesn’t matter to Bush that India is having to plan very carefully indeed for its rapidly increasing energy use, and that its prime minister and finance minister are brilliant economists, as is the PM of Pakistan (who is also finance minister). These wise leaders have got their long-term energy plans mapped out. But common-sense and sound economic planning cut no ice with Bush and Rice when placed against their visceral hatred of Iran. As the Times of India put it in a scathing editorial : “this [pipeline plan] is a win-win situation for all, except the party poopers [in Washington]”.
India’s foreign minister, Mr Natwar Singh, observed that “We have no problems of any kind with Iran. We need a lot of new additions to our sources of energy, so the pipeline is important.” In other words, Delhi politely told Washington to get stuffed, as anyone with the slightest knowledge of India could have predicted. Then Rice went to Pakistan and rebuked it, too. She announced in a media interview (how courteous; how diplomatic) that “any move to strengthen Iran, by trade or otherwise, would be frowned on by the United States.” According to Rice it is US policy that a country be condemned if it has trade or any other dealings with a neighbor whose economic cooperation is vital, simply because Washington disapproves of it.
This is insolent and arrogant imperialism.
The Bush doctrine is plainly that Pakistan and India and other sovereign countries will incur the emperor’s displeasure if they dare have perfectly legitimate national aspirations that conflict with the blinkered dogma of Bush Washington. And it is understandable that world leaders are somewhat concerned when lofty pronouncements of disapproval are delivered by the closest confidant of a bigoted and ignorant oaf whose profound belief, and that of many millions of his subjects, is that he was appointed president by the Christian God.
When Rice jetted round in imperial splendor to issue threats to all and sundry she made a fool of herself and her country. (The six hour visit to Afghanistan was pure comic opera.) And this was tellingly demonstrated in her ham-fisted handling of the ultra-sensitive matter of the F-16 aircraft.
Pakistan has long wanted more F-16s. India doesn’t want Pakistan to have them. Last year India’s foreign minister said in parliament that provision of combat planes to Pakistan “would have a negative impact on the goodwill the US enjoys in India”. There could not have been a more forthright indication of India’s stance. Rice was in India on March 16 and discussed the F-16 question. She went to Pakistan next day and discussed it there, too. After popping in to a few more countries she returned to Washington and it was announced on March 25 that Pakistan would be provided with F-16s. Of course the Bush decision had nothing to do with the fact that France was offering a deal to Pakistan for Mirage aircraft. It had nothing to do, either, with even pretending to attempt to treat India as an equal rather than an inferior state that wasn’t going to be consulted about a major US weapons’ transfer to its region. Nor was it concerned with dealing with Pakistan with any semblance of equality. The whole operation was not just clumsily handled but redolent of contempt for all involved – except the company that makes F-16s and gave a whole lot of cash to the Bush election campaign and will not now have to lay off three thousand workers.
It has not been forgotten in Delhi that after a visit to India by Rice’s predecessor, Colin Powell, exactly a year before, he announced next day in Islamabad that “we will be making a notification to our Congress that will designate Pakistan as a ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ for the purposes of our future military to military relations”, of which there had been no warning – not a word – to the Delhi government which was understandably a little upset. This was singularly moronic timing, but quite in line with the clumsiness of other comments by Bush representatives round the world who are doing their bit to make sure the US will continue to be regarded as insensitive, domineering and untrustworthy.
When John Bolton is made US representative to the United Nations, signaling the Bush coterie’s contempt for the UN and their intention to utterly destroy what remains of internationalism, we can expect an increase of malignant vulgarity and petulant churlishness. Describing Bolton’s visit to Italy in June 2003, when he was asked about the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, Richard Cohen wrote in the Washington Post on April 14 that “I have never seen such a performance by an American diplomat. He was dismissive. He was angry. He clearly thought the questioners had no right, no standing, no justification and no earthly reason to question the United States of America. The Bush administration had said that Iraq was lousy with WMD and Iraq therefore was lousy with WMD.” Little wonder Bush and Rice think he is just the man to represent them.
The New York Times recorded April 13 that “In caustic and unusually personal testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Carl W Ford Jr, who was assistant secretary [in the State Department] for intelligence and research, said Mr Bolton was a ‘kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy’ who ‘abuses his authority with little people’, and an ill-suited nominee to become ambassador to the United Nations.” No, Mr Ford : John Bolton is exactly suited to the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Nobody else in the world wants him to be the US ambassador to the UN, which is precisely why Bush has chosen him. By making this decision, Bush has quite deliberately shown his disdain for the family of nations that the UN seeks to represent as a whole.
The boorishness of Bolton; the careless arrogance of Rice; the dictatorial hectoring of Rumsfeld – these constitute the embodiment of America that Bush wishes to present to the world. He imagines himself as the latter-day Savior of our planet, and this dismal trio are his Chosen People. This is Diplomacy, Bush Style.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com