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The B/C administration still hopes that this thing will blow over, and they can get back to their real business...

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U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on 'Meet the Press,' May 20, 2001. Alex Wong

Will Bush Unstick Head
from Middle East Sand?

by Chuck 45

MAY 23, 2001. As violence between Palestinians and Israelis continued to spiral out of control, U. S. VP extraordinaire Dick Cheney stepped up to the plate at this Sunday's Meet the Press and whined, "they should stop, both sides should stop and think about where they are headed here."

Monday, after weeks of excruciating international pressure from both European and Arab nations, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the administration's un-Cheney, stuck his head out to endorse the just released Mitchell Report, which purports to offer a way out of the current murderous morass.

Powell even named William Burns, the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, as his special envoy to deal with the crisis, called for an immediate ceasefire and asked Israel, in no uncertain terms, to stop expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (something the Israeli government will predictably resist).

But when a reporter asked what exactly he and the Bush/Cheney administration would do besides speak sternly, Powell hemmed and hawed. "You can't force a deal," he said.

Perhaps it was caution on Powell's part: he's had to eat his words with an alarming regularity since that early snafu over negotiating with North Korea back in March. But I suspect Powell's reticence was a sign that the B/C administration still hopes that this thing will blow over, and they can get back to their real business of hounding Saddam Hussein, and building a missile shield.

That's the never-never land of Middle Eastern non-policy they've dabbled in for five months, while turning a blind eye on the very real Palestinian-Israeli butchery. Two weeks ago, when Israel's defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, announced that he had pretty much given field commanders blanket approval to enter Palestinian territory and attack at will, there was nary a peep from Powell, the only one in the administration who seems to know, or care, there's a big world out there beyond Mexico.

In the last few days alone, Israel has used U.S.-built F-16 warplanes for the first time to target Palestinian security compounds in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, killing at least 12 Palestinian policemen. The fish in a barrel bombing was in retaliation for deaths at an Israeli shopping mall, Friday, when a suicide bomber killed six people, including himself.

Whether it's true or not, as the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo claimed, that the U.S. actually approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to drop 1,100-pound bombs on Palestinian targets, the B/C administration's disengaged silence has certainly amounted to tacit approval of Sharon's escalating, non-proportional tactics. The fact that American weapons provided by Washington to Israel for defense purposes are being used to do it, involves the United States directly in the bloodshed.

On Saturday, Arab League's spokesman Amr Moussa called on the U.S. "to work on protecting the peace process and stop any country that would use American weapons against civilians." To make sure Washington was listening, Moussa announced that the League was severing all political contacts with Israel until the violence stopped. For the past few weeks, Egypt and Jordan have been threatening to break diplomatic relations with Israel, something that even B/C, in its blissful Berkeleyan negation of the world, realizes could be a big bust.

While it's easy to see cowboy Bush and gloomy, ruthless Dick privately admiring Sharon's use of the same strong-armed, devil-may-care tactics that they themselves have used politically, it's puzzling that they can't see how much they and their oil cronies stand to lose if the Middle East goes up in flames, not to mention the loss of what little moral currency the United States has left in the region.

It's also confounding that Bush doesn't see this as a perfect opportunity to showcase his chief claim to fame: his magically good-natured, gee whiz bonhomie, perfectly suited for diplomacy.

The only solution to this double puzzle lies in Jeanne Kirkpatrick's quip after the U.S. lost its seat at the United Nations Human Rights Commission: "Somebody wasn't watching the store." To which the administration, channeling the mulish Bishop Berkeley (who was also named George), keeps answering, "What store?"

The problem with Bush/Cheney's nouveau Berkeleyanism is that, if the world does not exist politically, then the only conceivable contingency plans must be military, and every problem will get either a Band-Aid solution or a bomb (but not until Ducky Rumsfeld, and his successors in this Republican millennium, finish tinkering with the military and building a missile shield that works).

Pundits are already crowing that reality, of the harsh Middle East variety, has finally made B/C bow their willful heads on at least one issue. True. Assuming Powell's not once more made to eat crow, the administration's about-face is a humiliating political and ideological defeat, the first in the increasingly bitter, melancholy match pitting U.S. vs. The World.

But a single defeat, which the B/C propaganda machine and a domesticated U.S. media are already busy covering up, doesn't mean B/C's about to renounce Bishop Berkeley's willful subjectivism, which in their revisionist translation is entitled Triumph of the Will. It's served them well.

They willed themselves President with a big mandate, they willed an energy crisis and a mammoth tax cut, they willed Americans to hear, but not listen to them (hear their sweet sounds, not listen to their ugly meaning). And what they've willed, so far, is not just what they've gotten, but what mesmerized Americans steeped in reality shows think there actually is.

Take that, Descartes.

Related links:

For bio and scores of George Berkeley (1685-1753), Irish bishop and philosopher, see Cosmic Baseball Association.

For the main points of the Mitchell Report, a plan for Mideast peace.

For Complete Coverage of U.S. politics

For Complete Coverage Americas

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