Thursday, January 29, 2009

Was Bush Late Getting Involved In The Middle East Peace Process? (Updated)

One more myth is in the process of being solidified by the media--this one being that President Bush delayed acting to bring peace to the Middle East. Best of the Web, quotes from AFP:
In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network on Monday, Obama sought to assure the Muslim world that "Americans are not your enemy" and urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Obama has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency rather than waiting for years like his predecessor George W. Bush, but said he did not want expectations raised too high for swift progress for peace, following the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza. [emphasis added]
To give some balance, Taranto quotes from a different article from October 2001--8 1/2 months after Bush took office:
In an apparent effort to cement Arab support for a US-led global war on terrorism, President George W. Bush said on Tuesday a Palestinian state had always been part of a US vision for Middle East peace. . . .

Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking later after a meeting with his Indian counterpart, echoed that statement. . . .

Since Sept. 11, the United States has waded into to the crisis, pressuring both sides into signing a ceasefire deal last week to allow it to enlist Arab and Muslim states in his world anti-terror coalition.

Bush said Washington was "working diligently" to end a year-long cycle of violence and reiterated his strong support for a roadmap to peace crafted by an international panel headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.
This second article, which contradicts the first, is also from AFP. Rick Richman gives more context, illustrating the innacuracy of the claim that Bush did nothing to further the peace process:
Far from ignoring the Arab-Israeli issue, Bush did the following: (1) became in 2002 the first U.S. president to endorse a Palestinian state as a matter of official policy; (2) translated the policy in 2003 into a Road Map approved by the UN, the EU, Russia, the Palestinian Authority and Israel; (3) negotiated with Israel in 2004 on the Gaza Disengagement Deal (and got West Bank settlements dismantled to demonstrate it would not stop with Gaza); (4) supported a Palestinian election in 2005 to endorse a new leader pledged to dismantling terrorist groups; (5) permitted all parties to participate in the 2006 elections to give Palestinians a choice between the “peace partner” party and the premier terrorist group; (6) scuttled the first two phases of the Road Map in 2007, in order to keep the process going, even after the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group; (7) convened a worldwide conference in Annapolis in 2007 to begin a year-long period of final status negotiations; and (8) had his Secretary of State make umpteen trips in 2006-2008 to push the negotiations.
The development of this myth, by sheer repetition, is reminiscent of another myth developed prior to the US invasion of Iraq, as offered by Senator Kennedy who declared in 2005:
There's no question this was the administration that rushed to war.
This was a claim that was made for continuously, starting in August 7, 2002 in an article in The Nation entitled: The Rush To War--it was written by Richard Falk, who is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967." There followed a continuous barage of the claim for months, as Taranto showed in January 2003:
  • "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell . . . and his advisers have decided that they should focus international discussion on how Iraq would be governed after Mr. Hussein--not only in an effort to assure a democracy but as a way to outflank administration hawks and slow the rush to war."--New York Times, Aug. 16, 2002

  • "Christian Leaders Urge U.S. to 'Stop Rush to War' With Iraq"--headline, United Methodist Church press release, Aug. 30, 2002

  • "A Reckless Rush to War"--headline, editorial, The American Prospect, Sept. 25, 2002

  • "We have not been told why . . . we must rush to war rather than pursuing other options."--Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Sept. 30, 2002 

  • "We are rushing into war without fully discussing why."--Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.), Oct. 3, 2002
Taranto noted at the time:
By the time the liberation of Iraq begins in earnest, perhaps a month from now, critics of the Bush administration will have spent at least six months complaining about the "rush to war." But half a year's preparation is no rush; it's more of a saunter. (In comparison, it was less than four weeks after Sept. 11 that the first bombs fell on Afghanistan.)
In the end, the war started on March 20, 2003 about 7 1/2 months after Falk's article.

Facts did not count for much then.
It appears they don't count for much now either.

That is something that Obama should keep in mind while writing his letter to Ahmadinejad.
He may also want to ask for Ahmdinejad to apologize for killing American troops in Iraq--such as reported here.

[Hat tip: Michael Ledeen]

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