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That Deaf, Dumb and Blind Kid
April 23, 2002
By W. David Jenkins III

"It is not leadership to inflame the passions of your people and to stoke their grievances" - Condi Rice to Tim Russert "Meet the Press" 4/14/02

One of the surest ways to get flamed in the writing biz or even at the water cooler at work is to take sides or even sound like you're taking sides on a hot topic. Gore vs. Nader is one. Attacking the Religious Right is another. However, lately I've noticed that anybody who dares throw themselves into the Israeli/Palestinian crisis and even appears to take sides is in for a butt whooping.

Well, I'm not taking sides, theirs or ours, because I haven't heard a civil or intelligent word come out of any of them. We have a mess in the Middle East. We helped along a mess in Venezuela last week and our coward of a leader is getting beat up here at home. It only takes a little crack in the dam and soon enough the whole thing blows. Here's to hoping the Bushies forgot their swim trunks.

Before I get ahead of myself, the above quote from good Doctor Rice was in reference to Arafat. I was reading the editorial pages when she said it and almost sprayed a mouthful of coffee all over the newspaper. I have never witnessed members of an administration so adept at talking through both sides of their mouth! Do they really listen to some of the things they say? Doesn't the American populace even notice the hypocrisy?

Bush seems to have given Sharon permission to use the U.S.'s "war on terrorism" slogan to justify Israeli tanks and bulldozers flattening what were once Palestinian neighborhoods. Well, at least it seemed that way a few months ago. With all the flip flops coming from the White House lately, who knows what Bush wants?

I'm sure he'd love it if it would all just go away. After all, he's got his hands full looking out for the wealthy, drilling for oil anywhere he can, silencing dissention, wrecking the economy and trying to get folks to forget about what he said about bin Laden seven months ago. But because he willfully chose to be deaf, dumb and blind towards the Middle East since he stole office, we are all confronted with a crisis with apocalyptic potential.

Bush dropped the ball that Clinton had picked up to get the two sides to at least talk to each other. But because this administration has all but blatantly admitted to Clinton-phobia, there would be no diplomatic engagement in the Middle East under Bush II. He turned a deaf ear to the cries thousands of miles away. Of course, for a guy who's turned a deaf ear to the cries right here at home, this was no big deal to him. Not a problem.

And now things have escalated to a hateful and bloody Catch-22 and the world's only super-power, the only country perceived by the global community that can help, is bereft of anything resembling leadership. While the public is being pummeled by both Israeli and Arab representatives trying to claim exclusive rights to the "moral high ground," America's official input comes from the snit fits of an un-elected leader.

"Cut it out! I mean what I say! I'm popular! I mean what I say!"

And the unrepresented majority in America hangs its collective head in shame and embarrassment. Meanwhile, the bloodshed continues. Another suicide bomber takes seven Israeli lives at a bus stop and Sharon responds with American tanks and jets. The violent cycle just keeps on going and America's potential to influence any solution continues to wane thanks to the petulant rantings emanating from the White House.

How can we claim any moral high ground in these conflicts when we are led by an administration which quietly supports the overthrow of democratically elected leaders in other countries? We have White House officials making remarks like, "just because a person receives more votes it doesn't necessarily give any legitimacy to their leadership," in reference to Venezuelan president Chavez. These people are kidding, right?

In my humble and struggling opinion, I've decided that it is possible to take sides without "taking sides." In other words, I support the hopes and wishes of the Palestinian and Israeli people. Most of the American people are able to feel compassion for the Afghan people without feeling like they support the Taliban or other such creatures. Much like we support the true foundations of the American Constitution without supporting George W. In that particular case, you do have to choose between the two. You can't choose both. In the same vein that I feel Saddam Hussein does not reflect the hearts of all Iraqis; I don't feel that Sharon nor Arafat truly represent the wishes of their people.

The innocent people of these and other turbulent countries are living lives dictated by the hardened, fundamentalist ways of their leaders, both elected and self (or court) appointed. The Israelis, like ourselves, desire a sense of peace and security as much as the Palestinians desire an end to the occupation and their own state. Wouldn't we as Americans react as the Palestinians if it were us in the same situation? Picture Mexico or Canada taking Texas or Montana because they felt "entitled." Picture the reaction of the people of those occupied states if their right to exist or prosper was taken away.

And how do we as Americans feel about our leaders arbitrarily "invading" places like the Philippines or Georgia to insure our safety? How do we feel when we hear of innocent Afghans being eliminated because they were "mis-targeted" or simply "collateral damage?" I sincerely believe that if we put American, Palestinian and Israeli citizens alone in a room, there might be a chance for a solution towards peace. However, we're stuck with trying to put Bush, Sharon and Arafat in the same room which is a hopeless situation, simply because I really don't see that happening. These three leaders have done far too much damage by their actions or, in Bush's case, their inaction.

But the thing that truly sets me off is the apparent lack of understanding and the inability of Bush Inc. to see the obvious when dealing with this and other conflicts. How can the administration say things like "Sharon's actions are not helpful" when Bush is doing the same thing in his war? How can Condoleezza Rice make that remark concerning Arafat's leadership and not see that George W. is guilty of the same thing? The administration desperately needs to take a long hard look at the outcome of their non-effort in the Middle East and how it applies to Bush's "Crusade" against terrorism.

Sharon can continue to bomb and bulldoze all he wants, but there is no way he's going to rid his people of the threat of every potential "terrorist" out there. And every time Bush or Sharon lash out in "defense", another angry young man or woman is motivated to strike back. Whether it is out of hatred or misinformation or revenge or other forms of "patriotism," the violent cycle will continue. I've said it before; you cannot defeat terrorism until you defeat that which causes terrorism.

Bush's lack of leadership skills has never been more apparent than in his stance with the Middle East. The situation is confusing enough for those of us with reasoning skills. It's got to be hell for George W. But he has nobody to blame but himself. He has squandered the opportunity to pick up where Clinton left off since he got the job and when it was too late, he sent Colin Powell over there to basically hear the warring factions say "screw you" in person. And we continue to split farther apart as a nation as we try to figure out who's right and who's wrong. Problem is, more innocent people whose greatest desire is for peace will die tomorrow.

Maybe George W. "sure plays a mean pinball" but the last thing the world needed was a deaf, dumb and blind kid in the White House. The events of the last few months are living and dying proof.

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