What the hell is wrong with these people?


Let us pause for a moment to consider … well, what should we consider? Indeed, amid the high-volume histrionics of Republicans lamenting the end of the world now that Senator Barack Obama has been elected president, complaining such as they do about things Obama has not even had an opportunity to do—pre-emptively defending themselves against any further loss of credibility, or something like that—one could easily forget that there is, in fact, another man currently serving as President of the United States. For his part, though, it is enough to say that even he seems, at times, to have forgotten that he is still president.

Nonetheless, some, including McClatchy’s Warren Strobel seem surprised at attempts by the Bush administration to revise history in order that the outgoing president will be treated more kindly in our memories. Wait a minute, that can’t be it. Who the hell is surprised at that? After all, the administration has been trying to revise history for most of its tenure.

Perhaps, then, it is the shameless severity of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s remarks in an interview with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully on Monday that caught Strobel and his colleagues’ attention:

QUESTION: But as you know, even overseas, some of that sharpness, some of that derision has been aimed at George W. Bush. So despite all of the accomplishments that you just outlined, why is he, in some parts of the world, detested?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President had to do some very difficult things. Look, we came out of September 11th having to make a choice about how we were going to defend this country. Were we going to stay with a strategy that essentially considered terrorism a law enforcement problem, or were we going to go to war against them? And in some quarters, it wasn’t popular to talk in the terms and act in the manner in which we – at recognizing that we were at war with these people. And yes, we had to do some very tough things.

But you know, I think I’ve found over the years, particularly in these most recent years, that much of that rancor is gone. We have outstanding relations with our European allies now. When I go to a NATO meeting, it is about the incredible fact that NATO is fighting together in Afghanistan. Yes, we’d like to see more contribution here. Yes, there are national caveats there that are constraining. But imagine NATO fighting in Afghanistan as its core mission.

When I go to Europe, I no longer see any difference in the view that a stable and secure Iraq is in everybody’s interest, and that an Iraq that is democratic and in which Saddam Hussein, that brutal monster that caused three wars in the region, including dragging us in twice, that used – who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, that an Iraq that is democratic and friendly to the West is better for the Middle East. I don’t see much disagreement about that.

I see no disagreement that Iran has to be prevented from getting a nuclear weapon. And on the Middle East, I’ve never seen greater harmony behind the Annapolis process as the basis on which a two-state solution will eventually come into being.

And so whatever we went through in the difficult days of 2003, 2004 it would be a mistake to think that we have problematic relations with our allies. We simply don’t. We may not agree on everything, but the transatlantic relationship is in very, very good shape. And you can even say that more so for our core relations in places like Japan and South Korea and India and, indeed, China.

Tell me, please: Do these people ever stop lying?
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Bombshell? Not really


And while we’re on the subject of Vanity Fair, what of David Rose’s “The Gaza Bombshell“, which details allegations of the Bush administration’s role in bringing about last summer’s escalated violence in Gaza?

In recent months, President Bush has repeatedly stated that the last great ambition of his presidency is to broker a deal that would create a viable Palestinian state and bring peace to the Holy Land. “People say, ‘Do you think it’s possible, during your presidency?’ ” he told an audience in Jerusalem on January 9. “And the answer is: I’m very hopeful.”

The next day, in the West Bank capital of Ramallah, Bush acknowledged that there was a rather large obstacle standing in the way of this goal: Hamas’s complete control of Gaza, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, where it seized power in a bloody coup d’état in June 2007. Almost every day, militants fire rockets from Gaza into neighboring Israeli towns, and President Abbas is powerless to stop them. His authority is limited to the West Bank.

It’s “a tough situation,” Bush admitted. “I don’t know whether you can solve it in a year or not.” What Bush neglected to mention was his own role in creating this mess.

According to Dahlan, it was Bush who had pushed legislative elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, despite warnings that Fatah was not ready. After Hamas—whose 1988 charter committed it to the goal of driving Israel into the sea—won control of the parliament, Bush made another, deadlier miscalculation.

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.

Atrocity, egocentrism, ineptitude: So many people have flung so many bitter words at President Bush over the years that it seems at best an exercise in futility. Indeed, what supporters he has left still pretend the criticism is politics as usual or, worse yet, some sort of vapid pop-culture fad. Yet, as Bush has become the public face of the New American Century, we are left to wonder at the pax Americana that seems to demand wars and rumors of wars. The point is not lost even on embittered Fatah extremists such as Khalid Jaberi, who told Rose that “since the takeover, we’ve been trying to enter the brains of Bush and Rice, to figure out their mentality. We can only conclude that having Hamas in control serves their overall strategy, because their policy was so crazy otherwise.

In the end, it’s not really that much of a bombshell. Call it reckless, even stupid. Call it libel and blast the media if it feels better that way. But the one thing we should not call this sordid tale is surprising. This is, after all, the Bush administration.