"Bush's Foreign Policy Catastrophe"

by Gary Kamiya

By Salon Staff
April 4, 2002 1:00AM (UTC)
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Read the story "Bush's foreign policy catastrophe."

As a grad student in San Francisco State University, I have seen a number of vicious anti-Israel rallies run by Palestinians and their sympathizers on my campus. Recently they began a rally where they staged the Israel Defense Force arresting innocent Palestinians doing a traditional dance. They condemned Israel for not allowing Palestinians to pursue their native culture.


A couple of weeks later, a suicide bomber murdered 20 and wounded 100 Jews who were having a Passover Seder, observing their own culture. I don't expect to hear a peep about this. But I do expect (as I have heard before) to hear the justifications that the suicide bombers are the Palestinians' only chance for an independent state, and are merely the responses of a desperate and dispossessed people.

Rubbish! Mahatma Ghandi liberated India from Britain, and he never resorted to suicide bombing innocent people. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the entire American philosophy on race, and he never resorted to violence. Violence may be useful for those who want to destroy Israel, but it is counterproductive to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

I'll tell you how the Palestinians can have their own state. If they threw down their weapons and went on a peace march from Ramallah to Jerusalem without hurting anyone, there'd be an independent Palestine within a month. Even Sharon would not be able to prevent this. I suppose I'll hear the anti-Israel leftists claim that this would never work against the brutal "Nazi-like" Israeli army. But I ask of them: How would you know? When did the Palestinians ever try nonviolent resistance? There are certainly enough leftist Israelis who would be sympathetic to a Palestine that can live peacefully side by side with Israel, without harming the other.


But every suicide bomber damages this vision and forces Israel to defend herself. Every suicide bomber demonstrates that Palestine does not want to live peacefully next to Israel. Every suicide bomber feeds the fear that a Palestinian state would merely be the launching point for another Arab-Israeli war. The difference of arms does not matter; suicide bombers do not help the cause of an independent Palestine, and neither do those who condone such tactics. Perhaps they believe Israel should not retaliate on the terror attacks. Or perhaps Israel should capitulate to all demands, or perhaps Israel should commit national suicide and stop being Israel. It is not realistic to believe any nation in history would behave this way. Nonviolent resistance has worked in the past. But it cannot work when it is not tried, and has yet to be attempted.

-- Benjamin Epstein

My pet theory is that the American people have been in extreme denial since Sept. 11. They don't want to admit to themselves that in this moment of crisis we have one of the most unqualified men ever as our president, surrounded by corporate cronies who are systematically destroying our plans for addressing the major problems facing our future in retirement savings, global warming, fiscal planning, tax evasion, and of course peace initiatives in Korea, the Middle East, etc.


I also have a major problem with his analysis of the Arab -- Israeli conflict. Sharon might be a blunderer, but the double standards in favor of the Arab positions is what is really causing this latest explosion.

1) It is still an Arab-Israeli conflict, not an Israeli-Palestinian one. All the Arab regimes continue to funnel money and support to the PLO, foment incredibly anti-Jewish propaganda, and have vilified and killed anyone advocating peace. In addition, Arab countries have continued to act as active bases for attacks on Israel. For example, both Edward Said and Yasser Arafat were both raised in Cairo, not Palestine.


2) Where are the Arab peace counteroffers? Where are the serious proposals from the other side? And when there is a peace treaty signed, as with Egypt, why is there no trade allowed and continued propaganda?

3) Aren't there free elections on one side -- and not on the other?

4) Does anyone seriously suggest that Yasser Arafat (a man with a long record of corruption and administrative incompetence) has any prospect of being a successful nation-builder?


And that point to me is the most crucial: How can a rational diplomat possibly hinge his or her bets on Yasser Arafat managing a real country? That seems to me the obvious answer to why there was no peace proposal. If there were peace there would be no role for the group of incompetent leaders in the Middle East.

-- Samuel Knight

An important question not asked, and one that the foreign policy experts you interviewed most likely do not even want to entertain, is this: How do Bush's evangelical religious views (his belief often mentioned in laudatory press accounts and the belief of many of his Christian conservative followers that he has been selected by God to lead at this time) affect his decision making in the Mideast?


We often hear that what Bush lacks in knowledge and experience is more than made up for by his "instincts." But are these "instincts" based in an active engagement with, and experience of, the world -- or, rather, in a passive faith in himself as God's instrument?

In determining policy in the Mideast, are his inconsistencies explained solely by fast-changing developments and the conflicting advice of his advisors -- or, at least in part, by a tendency to see the issues through the prism of his personal faith? As well as by an attempt to follow what may be an inconsistent inner voice, and sincere, yet poorly informed, personal "instincts?"

In a culture in which questioning another's religious experience is perhaps the ultimate taboo, this question probably never will be asked. And yet (and I say this as a practicing Catholic), I can't help wondering how much of President Bush's decision making, and the "simple" certainty for which he is often extolled, is based in a philosophy which counts faith as more important than knowledge -- and subjective feeling as more valuable and "sincere" than experienced reason.

-- Mary Schumacher


Gary Kamiya, while hinting at the edges of Bush's foreign policy, does not go far enough in explaining why this fundamentalist president fiddles while the Middle East burns. More than just waiting for the rapture, Bush and his Christian cohorts are hoping for Armageddon, the final war that will herald the return of their savior, Jesus Christ. What will follow is a thousand years of peace and light ruled by this Christian warrior of peace. As a lapsed Catholic, that thousand years sounds much too familiar to my anti-fascist ears.

During his presidency, Ronald Reagan once quipped he felt we were living in the "end times" as he battled the evil empire, Gog and Magog of the Book of Revelations. If Bush is trying to recreate the Reagan years, then surely he and his fellow Christians can taste apocalypse in the air. But instead of dreading the arrival of the Four Horsemen, they are waiting for them, hoping they will come soon.

Their inaction regarding Israel is a cynical attempt to force what the Bible prophesies. No reading of the situation can dismiss the administration's fundamentalist beliefs, realpolitik diplomacy notwithstanding.

-- Michael McInnis


Mr. Kamiya's analysis is right on. It is indeed ironic that an inherently anti-Semitic movement (the right-wing born-agains) are the biggest supporters of Israeli intransigence in finding a way to peace. Of course the current conflict conforms to their wacky worldview of religious revelation and the return of Jesus. When he returns, so goes the theory, the hated Jews will be taken care of then (burning in hell of course,) but in the meantime they are a convenient tool to further the defeat of the Muslims in Palestine. That the administration is full of these crazies (from Bush to Ashcroft to the generals in the Pentagon) is a terrifying proposition. We now have a confluence of Christian, Jewish and Muslim fanatics, each with God on their side, each determined to see their own biblical prophecy fulfilled. Probably as good a time as any to bend over and kiss your butt goodbye.

-- Rex Meade

Toward the end of an extraordinarily precise and concise critique of "W's" foreign policies Gary Kamiya lapses into the kind of hack blather that seems to have possessed nearly all American journalists for the past several years. He declares: "So Bush, being a man of principle if nothing else, has chosen what he believes to be right." This utterly mystifies me. What "principle" does W live by?

All his life W has eagerly accepted place and privilege which he did nothing to deserve, without the slightest sense of obligation thereby incurred. His connections admitted him unqualified to the finest schools, where he loafed. His connections got him an exemption from Vietnam service, in a coveted spot in the Air National Guard with costly pilot training, after which he served his country by being consistently AWOL from his post. Like many of his generation he used drugs and alcohol extensively and with impunity, yet his drug policies and handpicked drug enforcers embrace draconian prison sentences for citizens who behave as W did.


He bilked his fellow stockholders at Harken Energy, using insider information to cash in, Enron-style, before the stock became worthless. He denied clemency, executing an admitted murderer who asked to live out her life-without-parole in Christian contrition, mocking her in the process like a schoolyard bully. He ran for president as a conciliator, then created the most reactionary administration of the century. He has no apparent qualms about having gained his office through a criminal disenfranchisement of black Floridians, Enron-funded strong-arming of recount officials, and various other subversions of free and fair election.

He curries favor and buys votes by pandering to the short-term greed of the citizenry, scattering gratuitous tax cuts like Nero throwing coins to the plebes. His first reflex is to cover his ass with a lie; his flunkies follow up with a threat to anyone who calls him on it. And, as Kamiya himself points out, he has blithely washed his hands of the atrocities perpetrated by our Israeli proxies, chalking them up to the "war on terrorism." In short, W's vaunted "Christianity" is compatible with just about any form of avarice, dishonesty, hypocrisy and intolerance -- so again, what is this principle George W. Bush is man of?

If our journalists and politicians do not stop mealy-mouthing and start speaking the plain truth about our scurrilous president, his pernicious policies and the plain fact that he is an uneducated, unprincipled dimwit, there is no hope for American democracy whatsoever.

-- David Essex

I think Gary Kamiya is ignorant of the Israeli-Palestinian past and current situation. At Camp David the Palestinians were offered everything they've ever asked for (except the complete demise of the Jewish people) and they immediately declared war. The Palestinians (let me take this moment to point out that Palestine was a JEWISH community, and that no more than zero Arab groups called themselves Palestinians until the formation of the Jewish state that nearly was called Palestine) are not interested in peace. They really want the same thing Hitler wanted.

The "Palestinians" are trying to commit ethnic cleansing, only they happen to be the minority group. Do we have to side with the minority, even if they would eliminate a whole race of people? I think not. Sometimes we just have to say the mass slaying of civilians of a distinct ethnicity, for no reason other than ethnic hatred, is wrong. If the "Palestinians" wanted their own state they would have taken it. If the "Palestinians" were staging a military action they would not have specifically targeted elementary schools at the beginning of this school year. You only wipe out an ethnicity's toddlers if you want to wipe out an ethnicity.

-- Katie Duke

Thank you (I think) for so cogently putting my fears into words. As a secular American Jew I have watched with concern while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has waxed and waned over the years. I was alarmed over the election of Ariel Sharon and worried at the news of the most recent intifada, but never have I felt such hopelessness over the situation now that Israeli tanks have invaded Ramallah. That the U.S. is standing idly by, or even encouraging it, is outrageous. The arrogance and bumbling of the Bush administration and its selfish failure to consider anything but guns and bombs in the world arena infuriates me.

However, I don't agree that the Saudi plan offers any chance for peace. Why should the Israelis give up all that territory with no assurance that the bombings won't continue? If Arafat and the PLO cannot bring Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militants to heel now, what makes us think they'll be able to do so in the future? From every interview with Arabs that I've ever heard (Barbara Walters' visit to Saudi Arabia that was televised this past weekend, in particular), it seems clear to me that a majority of them simply want to wipe every Jew from the face of the earth. No compromise would be acceptable.

So what is the solution to the conflict in Israel? I do not know. If anyone out there does know, I hope they tell us soon.

-- Karen Kasper

Salon Staff

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