If everything Midas touched turned to gold, then surely everything George W. Bush touches turns to blood. He now has accomplished something that no other U.S. president can claim: starting a Palestinian civil war. The others were hoping for a unified Palestinian state.
In fact, civil war is one of the president’s most successful exports. In Iraq, under the murderous Saddam Hussein, Sunni and Shia got along reasonably well. Not any more. During last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, the United States stood down, assuming that all that American-made firepower would teach the terrorists a lesson. The outcome was frightening. A bloody draw, as Arab extremists are now more united (and well-supplied) against the their version of the “axis of evil” (the United States, Israel, Great Britain) than ever before.
Fearing a clash of civilizations, we seem hell-bent on creating exactly that. In the bipolar brain of Bush, where everyone is either for us or against us, it is impossible to support democracy when people don’t vote the way we want them to. If they vote the right way, we’ll weep over images of their purple thumbs. But if they elect governments we don’t like, we’ll cut them off, starve their people and wait until the “big stick” trumps the ballot box. Then we shower the nonelected, but preferred, government with money and arms. That’s democracy, isn’t it?
Eighteen months ago, the Hamas party won the Palestinian parliamentary elections that were judged by international monitors to be free and fair. Fatah, the losing party we preferred, refused to turn over power. Our own shah of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, with his blindly apocalyptic support for Israel, again energized the most radical elements in the region.
Since the elections, the U.S. propaganda machine that gave us Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman swung into action, portraying Hamas as pure evil from top to bottom. We were told that it did not recognize Israel’s right to exist and would not renounce violence, and there are elements of Hamas that do fit that description.
But then, since we hardly have renounced violence ourselves, and do not recognize the right of Hamas to exist, we hardly can give lectures on plurality. We never were told, for example, that Hamas tried to form a unity government with Fatah, and offered a 10-year cease-fire with Israel as a way to begin resolving the endless cycle of violence. The American press did not tell us that Hamas adhered to an 18-month cease-fire, or that we have been arming elements of Fatah to attack Hamas and force it from office. When the violence erupted in Gaza, the Fatah returned itself to power without an election.
The West conducts its counter-insurgency in more sophisticated ways ” arming its friends and starving its enemies. When the situation becomes desperate enough, and rival groups turn on each other, we are quick to point out how naturally depraved they are, preferring virgins in heaven to fake democracy. Then to contain their “murderous ways,” we ship more weapons to our friends, and slap an economic embargo on our enemies. That’s democracy, isn’t it?
It is if you are Bush. His notions about how to reshape the world to make it safe for conspicuous consumption have unleashed enormous suffering and are pushing us to the brink of chaos.
Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, professor of rhetoric at Oklahoma City University and author of “Why the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future.”