The conclusion is inescapable: the position of the United States in the Middle East is far worse today than it was even two or three weeks ago. And that fractious part of the world, from which flows the oil that fuels the prosperity of industrialized and developing nations, is less stable and more dangerous. That is bad news, for the world and for us. There is no denying it. But in his State of the Union address, President Bush chose — once again — to ignore reality.
It is not, of course, our fault that the terrorist group Hamas won overwhelmingly over the corrupt and impotent Fatah organization in the recent Palestinian elections — although US support for former PLO leader Yassir Arafat helped lay the groundwork for his party’s defeat. But what is the nation to make of the admission by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the outcome took the US by surprise? It seems, once again, that our intelligence was inadequate. We were wrong about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction. We were wrong about the number of troops it would take to subdue Iraq. And now it turns out that we didn’t have a clue that a bloodthirsty faction would emerge victorious in free-and-fair Palestinian elections. It makes you wonder if the Bush White House knows what it’s doing. The Bushies may talk tough. They may act self-assured. But at their core, they are hollow: false prophets of a dangerous political fantasy.
Central to their fantasy is the claim that we, together with our allies, are running the show in Iraq. The sight of Saddam Hussein grandstanding day after day at his trial gives them no pause. It may prompt the rest of the world to wonder who is really in charge in Iraq. But the Bushies have no qualms. Saddam may be a prisoner, but that doesn’t seem to deter the militants who do battle in the streets; indeed, it might inspire them. Despite the impressive number of Al Qaeda leaders who have been hoovered up by the American dragnet, bin Laden apparently lives. And the deputy we were supposed to have killed in Pakistan soldiers on to taunt our efforts via recorded messages that broadcast throughout the Arab world.
Meanwhile, American correspondents live like comfortable hostages in secure enclaves unable to report firsthand on the country the US has supposedly conquered. If they do venture out, they risk possible death, like ABC anchorman Bob Woodruff and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, who are recovering from serious wounds sustained by a roadside bomb, or Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor, who is held captive and cruelly paraded on international television. So much for Vice-President Dick Cheney’s advice to reporters to get out into Iraq and report on the fruits of our victory.
: The Editorial Page
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