Mr. Bush's Albatross

by Charley Reese

May 6, 2002

President George Bush has made another bad deal with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In exchange for lifting the restrictions on Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, Mr. Bush has agreed to back Israel in blocking a United Nations investigation of the Jenin refugee camp killings.

Way to go, Mr. Prez. In exchange for Israel doing what it should have done anyway, you agreed to block an investigation of a possible war crime. That makes you look real good in the eyes of the world. In case you haven't noticed, your pal Sharon has become a fat albatross around your neck.

I suppose I should be pleased since, for humanitarian reasons, I'm opposed to Mr. Bush's plan to attack Iraq. As long as he lugs around Sharon and continues his outrageously unfair policy toward the Palestinians, he will get zip cooperation from Arab countries for his little imperial war against Baghdad.

Mr. Bush's first mistake was allowing Sharon to humiliate him in front of the world. It was Mr. Bush's choice to use the imperative when he ordered the Israelis to cease their invasion of the West Bank. Well, when the president of the United States issues an order on global television, he'd darn well better make sure it is obeyed. For two days, Sharon didn't even acknowledge Bush's existence, much less do what he was told.

A stronger president, say a Harry Truman or a Dwight Eisenhower, would have gotten Sharon on the telephone and said: "Listen, if there is any doubt in your mind as to which of us is the big kahuna, it's me. Get those troops out of the West Bank now or see how you like living without $3 billion in American aid. If necessary, I'll freeze every asset the Israeli government has in the United States and suggest a U.N.-sponsored economic embargo.

"And, Mr. Sharon, if you think your Israeli lobby can protect you, you'd better check with them and ask them how they'd like it if the president of the United States goes on national television and says it is time for the American people to decide which country is owed their loyalty - the United States or Israel."

Alas, Mr. Bush is only a batboy in the Truman-Eisenhower League.

Of course, Mr. Bush shouldn't have issued an order to Sharon in the first place. He has no right to tell the head of any sovereign state what to do, including Yasser Arafat. But he's gotten into the habit of doing just that, as if he were emperor of the world. Well, if you talk the talk, you'd better strut the strut, or you'll end up an object of contempt.

He has allowed a prime minister from a small country to "dis" him. That isn't even close to cool. Now he's made himself an accessory to covering up what might well be a massacre of innocent civilians. The Israeli refusal to allow an inquiry is a strong indication of guilt. It is shameful that the United States is not demanding an investigation.

Mr. Bush apparently does not understand that being president is more than reading speeches somebody else wrote. It's more than photo opportunities. It's been our post-1960 curse to elect men who do not know the difference between campaigning and governing. I wish he had read more. Teddy Roosevelt said walk softly but carry a big stick - not be a loudmouth with a toothpick.

Extracted 09/17/02 from Charley Reese


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