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
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
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
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
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.