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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Is Bill Kristol writing George Bush's Middle East speeches?

George Bush's radio address yesterday on the Israel-Lebanon war preaches pure neoconservative gospel. Every point the President made would fit very comfortably into a Bill Kristol Weekly Standard column or a Michael Ledeen Corner item. This speech leaves no doubt that, at least rhetorically, the President is still a full-fledged adherent to the tenets of neoconservatism, and thus considers the Israel-Lebanon war to be "our war" in every sense, merely another front in the Epic Global War of Civilizations (a/k/a The Long War, World War III/IV, etc.):

As we work to resolve this current crisis, we must recognize that Lebanon is the latest flashpoint in a broader struggle between freedom and terror that is unfolding across the region. For decades, American policy sought to achieve peace in the Middle East by promoting stability in the Middle East, yet these policies gave us neither. The lack of freedom in that region created conditions where anger and resentment grew, radicalism thrived, and terrorists found willing recruits. We saw the consequences on September the 11th, 2001, when terrorists brought death and destruction to our country, killing nearly 3,000 innocent Americans.

So, says the President, the Israel-Lebanon war is not about territorial conflicts or endless Israeli-Hezbollah disputes but, instead, is part of the glorious worldwide "struggle between freedom and terror." It is but the "latest flashpoint" in the "broader struggle," which includes the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, and America's hostilities with Iran and Syria. All of these problems are part of the same War, and are all caused by the one big neoconservative sin -- stability. Exactly as Mark Levin pointed out yesterday -- Mark Levin -- the President claims that the reason 9/11 happened is because the foreign policy of both political parties for the last several decades was devoted to preserving stability (i.e., a state of peace, avoidance of war), and stability in the Middle East is our greatest enemy.

That, according to neoconservatives (apparently including the President), is what needs to be changed. Stability is our enemy because it breeds hatred and war. Only instability and war will breed a "lasting peace." Thus, the more instability and war in the Middle East, the better. That is the central neconservative warmongering tenet and it is what is coming out of the President's mouth as he discusses his views of the new war in the Middle East. The President continues with his Weekly Standard essay:

The experience of September the 11th made it clear that we could no longer tolerate the status quo in the Middle East. We saw that when an entire region simmers in violence, that violence will eventually reach our shores and spread across the entire world. The only way to secure our Nation is to change the course of the Middle East -- by fighting the ideology of terror and spreading the hope of freedom.

Leave aside for the moment all of the strategic and moral objections to the neoconservative thirst for endless war. And leave aside the unfathomable hubris necessary to assert that we will "change the course of the Middle East" by "spreading the hope of freedom" through invasions and air attacks. This view is, in addition to everything else, unbelievably incoherent and internally inconsistent.

According to the President, the 9/11 attacks and other acts of terrorism occur when the "entire region simmers in violence" because that is when resentment arises. So that's the state we want to avoid -- the "entire region simmer(ing) in violence." And yet it's hard to remember a time when the Middle East has been simmering in more violence than it is today, much of it authored by us, and the President and his neoconservative allies seem most eager to find still more Middle Eastern countries on which to wage war.

More confounding still is the President's claim that we must re-make the Middle East in our image because terrorism has been fueled by "conditions where anger and resentment grew, radicalism thrived, and terrorists found willing recruits." Other than our ongoing occupation of Iraq, what could possibly breed more "anger and resentment" towards the U.S. among Middle Eastern Muslims than watching daily video of Lebanese civilians being blown to bits by U.S.-supplied bombs and fighter jets, while the U.S. eggs on the attacks and single-handedly blocks efforts to stop them?

That is the central incoherence which lays at the heart of the Bush administration's neoconservative mission -- one minute the objective is to win the "hearts and minds" of Muslims in the Middle East so that there will be less anti-American hatred for Al Qaeda to exploit when recruiting. The next minute the objective is to bomb as many of their countries as possible for their own good and hope that they are appreciative of all the carnage and destruction we are raining down on them in the name of warring against the evil of "stability." Peter Baker points out the obvious in The Washington Post this morning:

The Israeli bombs that slammed into the Lebanese village of Qana yesterday did more than kill three dozen children and a score of adults. They struck at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis.

With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials. . .

"The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," said Richard N. Haass, who was President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director. "The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."

We have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of human lives in Iraq with the claimed purpose of eliminating hatred and resentment towards the U.S. in that region, and yet we continuously signal to the world that our principal foreign policy instrument is to wage or encourage more and more war in the Middle East and kill more and more Muslims. Can any reasonable person deny that our actions are so plainly in conflict with our claimed objectives?

Simply juxtapose the President's explanation yesterday for why anti-U.S. terrorism occurs (because of "conditions where anger and resentment grew, radicalism thrived, and terrorists found willing recruits") to the effects which are being spawned by our ongoing disastrous occupation in Iraq and our blatant support for, and participation in, Israel's bombardment of Lebanon. It's hard to imagine how we could be more efficiently aiding terrorist recruitment efforts if we tried.

Fittingly, the President ended his address with the neoconservative prayer -- that what appears to sane and civilized people as tragic and brutal wars in Iraq and in Lebanon are really glorious "opportunities" which we should celebrate and for which we should be grateful -- beautiful "birth pangs" on the road to a majestic transformation:

This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic. Yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region. Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound -- for our country and the world. When the Middle East grows in liberty and democracy, it will also grow in peace, and that will make America and all free nations more secure.

Again, aside from the genuinely repugnant and casual celebration of carnage, none of this makes even basic sense. The two countries on which Israel is waging war, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, both have democratically elected governments, as does, at least to some degree, the country on which we most want to wage war, Iran. By contrast, the closest and most reliable allies we have in that region -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan -- are the least democratic. The notion that we can bomb the Middle East into peace-loving, pro-U.S. democracies is painfully, self-evidently absurd by now, but the President believes it.

The neoconservative extremists are ridiculed on an almost daily basis, because the extent of their ever-increasing lunacy is truly difficult to fathom. But that mindset is not merely some fringe radicalism but, instead, has been driving our foreign policy for the last five years. And it still is, because the individual who happens to be the President, along with the omnipotent Vice President, are full-fledged adherents to this approach, and while scores of people marvel at how increasingly deranged the Bill Kristols and Richard Perles of the world seem to be, those who occupy the White House believe they speak great wisdom and are listening intently to (and outright echoing) what they have to say.

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