Iraq War and Bush still popular in some foreign venues

The Israeli President praises Bush for his invasion of Iraq, while Bill Kristol hails Bush's political courage in supporting Israel.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published January 20, 2009 11:37AM (EST)

As George Bush leave offices, there is a perception that both Bush and the Iraq War remain deeply unpopular throughout most of the world.  That may be true, but fairness compels one to note that there are foreign countries which continue to appreciate and admire both:

Peres to Bush: If only what you did to Saddam was done to Hitler

Outgoing US President George Bush telephoned [Israeli] President Shimon Peres bidding him farewell on the occasion of the end of Bush's term as president Tuesday.

Peres said to Bush, "If the world had acted against Hitler the way you acted against Saddam Hussein, the lives of millions would have been saved." The Israeli] president added, "You made a historic contribution to the entire world and to the Jewish people in particular. We will treasure this forever and will never forget it."

The New York Times' Bill Kristol echoed those sentiments earlier this week.  In his column exploring all of the various successes and glories of the Bush years -- Kristol struggled to choose, among all the numerous possibilities, which "has been Bush’s most impressive achievement" -- Kristol recounted that at his synagogue service last weekend, his rabbi led "a prayer for the state of Israel," which caused Kristol to turn inwards and solemnly contemplate:

As we recited this on Saturday, I couldn’t help but reflect that a distressingly small number of my fellow Jews seem to have given much thought at all to the fact that President Bush is one of the greatest friends the state of Israel — and, yes, the Jewish people — have had in quite a while. Bush stood with Israel when he had no political incentive to do so and received no political benefit from doing so.

Here we have, yet again, the claim that American Jews should and do base their political assessments on what is best for Israel:   a claim that is allowed to be made when it comes from those (and there are many of them) who make this blatantly tribalistic appeal in order to manipulate support for their right-wing agenda, but is deemed offensive and even anti-semitic when the very same claim is advanced by those wishing to explain why U.S. policy is so one-sided in its blind support for Israeli actions.

Beyond that, as Daniel Larison points out, Kristol's claim that an American political leader is doing something politically courageous or costly by supporting the Israeli government may be one of the most laughably false assertions ever to make it into a major media venue, even if one includes Bill Kristol's entire oeuvre.  If Kristol's claim is true, then every American President for the last several decades, not to mention virtually every current member of the U.S. Congress, are stalwart, courageous, fearless, self-sacrificing leaders who lend full and blind support to the Israeli Government despite the grave risks to their political careers, because -- as Kristol put it with regard to Bush's politically courageous support for Israel -- "he thought it the right thing to do."  

Other than Bill Kristol, is there anyone who actually believes -- or is even willing to say in public -- that the politically difficult posture for an American politician to take is to support whatever the Israeli government does, that that takes political courage (of all things) to do, and that, conversely, the safe and easy thing for a politician to do is to criticize or oppose Israeli actions? I genuinely wonder if there is anyone who actually believes that.

Glenn Greenwald

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