Thursday, November 30, 2006



President Bush will be long remembered as the American president who managed to make the Middle East into even more of a chaotic hellhole than it already was.

Bush is certainly not to blame for everything that has gone wrong in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Palestine - plenty of that blame can be sheeted home to the demented pre-emptive war policies of the NeoCons, but to the casual observer, Bush is the main man, he made promises to transform the Middle East into something close to a paradise of democracy and so most will see the disintegration of the Middle East as a direct result of his 'War On Iraq' and ceaseless backing of the Israelis as they continued to hammer the Palestinians and then the Lebanese, while making grand claims that the US would never tolerate a "nuclear Iran."

The catalogue of screw-ups, misjudgements and failures is long and complicated, but Time magazine has pulled together a short list of the Five Most Fatal Errors :
President Bush travels to Jordan this week amid a consensus among U.S. allies in the Middle East that the region is monumentally worse off now than it was when he took office six years ago.

In Iraq, there seems little prospect of achieving anything that could be construed as a U.S. victory — and as a result, it is unlikely to send the promised tidal wave of freedom crashing across the Arab world. Instead, Iraq has effectively disintegrated into a Sunni-Shi'ite civil war that threatens to spread instability throughout the region.

Elsewhere, Israelis and Palestinians have descended into one of the most intractable cycles of conflict in their long struggle.

In Lebanon, the national unity agreement that ended almost two decades of civil war in 1990 appears to be unraveling, as sectarian factions are again edging toward another bloodbath.

Meanwhile, Arab autocrats remain entrenched, Arab democrats are feeling abandoned, and Iran's Islamic revolution is enjoying a second wind.

The fact that Bush is holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not in Baghdad, but in the comparatively tranquil Jordanian capital of Amman, has not gone unnoticed.

"One hundred and fifty thousand U.S. soldiers cannot secure protection for their president," mocked a Jordanian columnist, who called the choice of venue "an open admission of gross failure for Washington and its allies' project in Iraq."

1) Bush ignored the Palestinians

When Bush became president, he ended crucial American mediation, repudiated Arafat and backed Sharon, who proceeded to expand Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. With the conflict becoming bloodier than ever, Arafat died, and Hamas, the fundamentalist party that adamantly refuses to even recognize Israel, much less negotiate with it, ousted the late Palestinian leader's party from power.

2) Bush invaded Iraq.

Iraq turned out to be more prone to civil war than democracy. It runs the risk of becoming a failed state from which terrorists run global operations, and/or breaking into ethnic mini states that inspire secessionist trouble throughout the region.

3. Bush misjudged Iran.

Just after Bush became president, Iranians re-elected moderate President Mohammed Khatami, who had reached out to the U.S. and called for a "dialogue of civilizations." Bush not only refused to extend the olive branch cautiously offered by the Clinton Administration, he declared Iran part of an "axis of evil."

Despite Bush's tough talk against Iran, the Iraq war has dramatically expanded Iran's influence in the country.

4) Bush hurt Israel.

If protecting Israel had been a key goal of the administration's policies, it is hard to see how they have helped make the Jewish State better off today. Having gotten rid of Arafat, they have instead to face Hamas.

5) Bush alienated Muslims.

It was an honest misstep, but the problem began when Bush promised to wage a "crusade" against al-Qaeda after September 11, effectively equating his war on terrorism with an earlier Christian invasion of the Middle East that remains etched in the collective memory of Muslims.

Since then, the Bush administration's involvement in or perceived support of military campaigns against Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese heightened Muslim anger at the U.S. and undermined the political position of moderate, pro-American Arabs, including old U.S. allies like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia — and, of course, King Abdullah II of Jordan....

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