Sunday, 18 January 2009

Out with the old and in with the new

Today is the last day on the job. He will spend it packing his bags. Tomorrow he hopes he will be chopping firewood back home on the ranch in Crawford, Texas.
I speak of course of the man who lost his way, the crusading bankrupter of America and American values, the man who will be remembered for the War in Iraq and the pretence that there were WMD's to be found there.
I speak too of the man whose Middle East peace plan was the destabilization of the region, of the man who flew 'detainees' around the world in secret aeroplanes or incarcerated them without trial in Cuba, and of the bemused 9/11 man sitting in a junior school classroom in Florida.
George W Bush will also be remembered as the man who got into office through a dubious vote count in the state of Florida; the state where brother Jeb is Governor. And, in another state, as the man who failed the citizens of New Orleans.
He may well be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in American history. He knows this and so he says we must take the long view of his presidency. But he knows when he says this that it is his last attempt, in office, to pull the wool over the world's eyes.

In October 2001 George W Bush said publicly that he supported a Palestinian state. Before 9/11 his policy had been that America had nothing to say about Arab-Israeli relationships and conflicts, they were matters for the parties concerned. After 9/11, and it's worth repeating this, he supported the idea of a Palestinian state. And he did so publicly. He went further. He called on Iran and Syria to join a US-led coalition.
Israeli President Ariel Sharon was furious. Sharon accused George W Bush of "appeasement" and drew attention to Chamberlain's appeasement policy and Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia.
To demonstrate the power of the world's fourth largest army Sharon, almost instantly, ordered his troops into the Palestinian areas in Hebron. Later in the same month, following the assassination of the Israeli Minister of Tourism, he moved troops into the Palestinian controlled West Bank.
In mid-November, with a military victory in Afghanistan behind him, Bush told Arafat to stop the terrorist attacks on Israel; Sharon had advised Bush that Yasser Arafat was the problem. The Israeli capture of the Karine A, a ship loaded with weapons appeared to confirm this.
In late March 2002 a suicide bomber killed 30 Israelis. Sharon responded with Operation Defensive Shield in which Israel reasserted control of the West Bank. Bush was now floundering. His so-called policy was in tatters. His Secretary of State had spent the most miserable ten days of his life in the region to no purpose.
Bush changed tack. Sharon now became "a man of peace". In May, following a visit from Netanyahu, the American Congress and Senate passed resolutions supporting Israel. A new situation now existed. America now stood "in solidarity" with Israel. As if to demonstrate this "solidarity" Bush gave Israel an extra $200 million to fight terrorism.
One month later Bush delivered a speech in which he said that Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories should stop and that the Palestinians should have their own state. There was talk of a "Road Map to Peace". Much talk. But unfortunately no action. Bush had other things on his mind. The forthcoming Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq was one of them.
By May 2003 Bush was almost euphoric. Saddam had fled from his citadel. "Mission accomplished" was the slogan of the time. In the US Bush's popularity was sky-rocketing, which was wonderful news with the 2004 re-election campaign just over the horizon. Unfortunately the "Road Map to Peace" was fast becoming "The Road Map to Nowhere". Israel had no interest in road maps.
A month later, following a White House dinner attended by 100 Jewish leaders, press secretary Ari Fleischer announced that the issue was not Israel but was terrorism.
Another resolution was passed expressing "solidarity with the Israeli people".

And so it goes on. Went on. For now it is over, or almost.

Tomorrow there will be a new man in the White House. President Obama may not be so easy to manipulate. It may be that the current Israeli war is one last throw of the bones on the Middle East variant of the Monopoly board, one last deal of the marked cards, one last slaughter of the hundreds of innocent children. And it may be that is why we are being treated to this display of military prowess and brute force in this unholiest of Holy Lands.
A new day is dawning, a new sun is rising, the long shadows of the Bush-Arafat-Sharon era are dwindling away. A man is coming who will change the world and make it a place fit for human beings to live, communicate, discuss, mediate, meditate, and to think things through. We may all learn that with power there comes responsibility. Responsiblitiy to the values that make us humans and not some kind of insecure wild animals who feel the need to be armed to the teeth with dangerous weapons or the need to terrorise people of different faiths or even of no faith.
At the present time in history the key to the whole business is American Foreign Policy. When this becomes even handed and fair the world will be able to move forward. It will take the efforts of each and every one of us. We must not allow injustices to fester. When we find them we must expose them and deal with them. We must stamp out greed, corruption, and unacceptable behaviour towards our brothers, for that is what we are when all is said and done. And if we do, the dream of a better world for our children and grandchildren will become the new reality.

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