Jewish World Review April 10, 2002/ 29 Nisan 5762


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Consumer Reports

Bush's hour of peril | My initial shock at President Bush's contradiction of his heretofore inviolate policy on terrorism-the announcement last Thursday that Colin Powell, the administration's internationally popular Empty Suit, would attempt to sort out the impossible Middle East war-passed over the weekend and subsided into weary resignation. Put in the worst possible light, Bush acquiesced to the criticism of the U.S. opinion mafia and timid, often anti-Semitic European heads of state, and temporarily abandoned his stalwart support of Ariel Sharon.

George W. Bush is the most pro-Israel president America's ever had, far more willing to publicly declare right from wrong than his own father and Bill Clinton (who hosted Yasir Arafat at the White House more than any other foreign leader), and I'm hopeful that once Powell has returned from his useless mission, he'll get back on track. Bush was roundly whipped for his unscripted remarks in Crawford on March 30, strongly asserting Israel's right to defend itself (despite the U.S.'s participation that morning in a toothless UN resolution condemning Sharon's entry into West Bank cities), but that was the real Bush speaking. His polished speech last Thursday was more eloquent-thanks to the gifted Michael Gerson-but it was the mush of appeasement.

And what's this nonsense about Arafat not being a terrorist? Just because he's participated in "peace" charades in the past doesn't mean that he's not the same sort of butcher-dedicated to destroying Israel's very existence-that Bush has refused to negotiate with. Can you spell Oslo? Arafat's a pro in duping the press, which was illustrated by an April 1 Reuters report on the mass-murderer in which he expressed "deep sadness" at the passing of England's Queen Mother. He cabled this message of condolence to Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair: "We offer you, your government and your friendly people our sincere sympathies in the name of the Palestinian people, its leadership and in my name personally."

That rank hypocrisy alone calls for an immediate bullet to the head.


As others have pointed out, when The New York Times and Washington Post endorse a Bush proposal, it's 90 percent certain that something's gone awry. An April 7 Times editorial began: "Amid the daily scenes of horror and hatred in the Middle East, people may be tempted to dismiss Secretary of State Colin Powell's new peacemaking mission as hopelessly unrealistic. They shouldn't. In recent months, a broad new consensus has begun to gel, in Washington and Arab capitals and across much of the Israeli political spectrum, about the steps needed to move the region from war to peace. If Mr. Powell can build on these shared ideas and bring them to bear on recalcitrant Palestinian and Israeli leaders, he can transform a deadly crisis into an opening for lasting peace."

What a detachment from reality. Since Sharon began the current military operation, his popularity has skyrocketed in Israel; in addition, there's absolutely no "consensus" among the involved countries in the conflagration.

As for Powell's possibility of forging a "lasting peace" in the region, one can only recommend that Times editorialists audit a few world history courses.

The coddling of Arafat in the liberal media is astonishing. Any day, I expect a Times editorial to suggest that a delegation of Jimmy Carter, Janet Reno, both Clintons, Jesse Jackson, Jerry Ford, Madeleine Albright and Katie Couric be dispatched to wherever Osama bin Laden's hiding out, and through dialogue and process and soul-searching, attempt to find common ground with this resilient warrior. This isn't completely facetious: there's no moral difference between OBL and Arafat, or, for that matter, our back-stabbing "allies" in Saudi Arabia. Yet Arafat, who's proved 100 times he can't be trusted, is given the unspoken status of most-favored-dictator.

A more cogent view was published in Monday's Wall Street Journal. Reuel Marc Gerecht, in an essay headlined "They Live to Die: Only War Can Stop the Suicide Bombers," concluded: "Secretary of State Colin Powell's upcoming trip to the Middle East is bound to fail embarrassingly, as did his first sojourn into the peace process in 2001, because the mission makes no sense. His 'engagement' is premised on a political culture among the Palestinians which simply does not exist.

"So what will work? [A]n Iranian parallel is illuminating. By late 1987, the carnage of the Iran-Iraq war had burned out the martyrdom syndrome among young Iranian men. Boys who'd once believed with seemingly invincible conviction jang jang ta piruzi ('War! War until Victory!') were left lost and shell-shocked. Within a short time, they loathed the leaders who'd once so inspired them.


"Unfortunately, it is only war-not the well-intended but meaningless Tenet and Mitchell plans-that can now burn out istishhad among the Palestinians. The sooner the Bush administration realizes this, the sooner the suicide bombers will cease. If the administration tries to 'negotiate' with this syndrome, it will only fuel the fire and make America, not just Israel, look weak. As Osama bin Laden should have taught us, weakness in the Middle East never goes unpunished."

More optimistically, one assumes that Bush, who's in the midst of the worst international turmoil since the Cuban Missile Crisis, is trying to buy time for the inevitable invasion of Baghdad, which unfortunately must be delayed until late summer or fall after the U.S. military's arsenal is replenished.

Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, in an April 15 Weekly Standard editorial, were remarkably restrained in their disappointment about the Powell trip. Their most important point was about Saddam Hussein, writing: "President Bush needs to stay focused on Iraq. Many of those who want him to become deeply and personally involved in the Middle East peace process also want him to do nothing about Saddam Hussein. In the Arab world, in Europe, in Washington and New York, and in some corners of the administration itself, there is the hope that Bush will become so immersed in peace-processing that he'll have neither the time, the energy, nor the inclination to tackle the more fundamental problem in the Middle East. By turning Bush into a Middle East mediator, they think they can shunt him off the road that leads to real security and peace-the road that runs through Baghdad. We trust the president will see and avoid this trap."

One of the most asinine articles I've run across in The New York Times Magazine-at least in the past month-was an endorsement of random pat-downs at airports since Sept. 11. Last Sunday, Michael Berube, "an indistinct 40-year-old white guy" who's a professor at Pennsylvania State University, reveled in the "civics lesson" that's rendered when clueless security officials waste valuable time by interrogating passengers who pose no safety threat.

He writes: "What precisely is all the fuss about? The new security standards are good for you, and they (finally!) treat air travel with the high seriousness it always deserved. But more than this, they're actually interesting. They create new social relationships and new forms of human commonality as the guys who've just breezed through the first-class check-in to take their places alongside the first-time travelers, and the Daughters of the American Revolution wait their turns behind the Arab-Americans of Dearborn."

How jolly for Berube that he's making new friends, but maybe he'll think differently when a suicide-bent fanatic scoots onto the aircraft while he's chatting up those chipper employees who are directed, in the interest of an insane policy of political correctness, to search 80-year-old nuns and little kids. Just last week, for example, 14-year-old Elliot Gosko, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to drink at Aspen Airport some water he'd collected from a creek for a school biology experiment. According to a New York Times News Service short in the April 5 Arizona Republic, "[Gosko] said the water made him nauseated and might have contained giardia, parasites that can cause life-threatening intestinal illness."

After my nine-year-old son, whose complexion is so fair he suffers sunburn from just five minutes of exposure, was singled out at Newark Intl. for a near strip-search, the utter failure of the government's security crackdown was frustratingly apparent. Had the Irish Republican Army attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Center last fall, I'd fully endorse thorough scrutiny of Irish citizens and Irish-Americans (like my family) at the country's airports.

But that wasn't the case, and until Tom Ridge enforces strict profiling of people from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, etc., there's no reason to feel comfortable aboard an airplane, no matter how pleasant Berube's weird celebration of human interaction is for him.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith