Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Baying at the moon, Washington-style
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Some years ago, I owned a beagle named Leon. A handsome, lemon-colored
dog, Leon had a terrific nose. Turn him and his brother Otis loose in a
thicket, and if those boys didn’t chase a rabbit out, then no rabbits
lived there. Alas, Leon also did a lot of "coldtrailing," baying down
scent lines so old that the rabbits which left them probably existed
only in the form of coyote scat. Other dogs knew when Leon was
bluffing, but he could drive you nuts babbling about nothing. My hunting
buddies nicknamed him "The Journalist." I’ve started calling my current
pack "The Pundits." See, they’ve developed this habit of accompanying
distant police sirens with group howl-ins. Except when they get tuned
up around 5 a.m., it’s pretty funny to watch. Rather like the savants
on "Meet the Press" or "Reliable Sources," they stand in a circle
hooting and eyeballing each other with their noses pointed at the sky.
Even my wife’s basset hound joins the chorus. The only remedy is
spraying them with the garden hose.

I wish Washington hounds were so easily discouraged. Recently, the D.
C. pundits started baying about George W. Bush’s brilliant success
bringing "democracy" to the Middle East. "Lately even the harshest critics
of President Bush have been forced to admit: Maybe he’s right about
freedom’s march around the globe," anchorman Brian Williams announced
on NBC Nightly News. "What if we are watching an example of presidential
leadership that will be taught in America’s schools for generations to
come? It’s an idea gaining more currency."

Next came Andrea (Mrs. Alan Greenspan) Mitchell, who spoke of "a
historic turning point, like the fall of the Berlin Wall." The analogy
first appeared in David Ignatius’ Washington Post column. It was
attributed to Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese Druze leader who’d had his
U.S. visa revoked in 2003 after regretting that Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz, whom he called a "microbe," had survived a Baghdad
rocket attack. Vice President Dick Cheney echoed him on right-wing
radio. It’s an officially approved White House theme.

How sincere was Jumblatt? Let me put it this way: I have Lebanese-born
relatives by marriage. (Christians, if it matters, which in Lebanon it
sure does.) Their default mode for analyzing Middle Eastern politics is
to assume that nothing is what it seems and nobody’s motives are what
they say. What really matters is which tribes/clans/religious
sects/families are making alliances with which others for the purpose
of screwing mutual enemies. They view other ways of looking at the world
as childish.

Syria entered Lebanon in 1976 at U.S. invitation to quell a nasty civil
war among very roughly the same factions now demonstrating. It
nevertheless continued for another decade, all but destroying Beirut,
one of the world’s great cities. There was a subsequent Israeli
invasion and withdrawal due to punishing losses inflicted by Hezbollah,
the Shiite militia partly sponsored by Syria and Iran. With the Israelis
gone, many Lebanese, notably Christians, Sunni and Druze, want the
Syrians out, too. The Shia, about 40 percent of the population, want
them to stay.

But what set off the current wave of demonstration and
counter-demonstration wasn’t the U.S.-sponsored election in Iraq. (The
Lebanese have been having parliamentary elections since the 1940s.) It
was the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, blamed
without evidence on Syria (although some suspect Israel).

The idea of a U.S. president denouncing foreign invaders no doubt
strikes most Lebanese as faintly hilarious. Will Bush now leave Iraq?
Demand that Israel quit putting fences around Arab land in the West
Bank? Give the Golan Heights back to Syria? For now, though, praising
Bush might help drive the Syrians out. Period.

Then there’s Palestine. Let’s pray that Mahmoud Abbas, the recently
elected prime minister, can help moderates prevail. But let’s recall
that the election happened simply because Yasser Arafat died. Arafat
was elected, too. Should Israel use this historic opening to tighten its
grip on East Jerusalem and expand West Bank settlements, the current
mood cannot last.

Egypt? Please. Egyptian military dictator Hosni Mubarak says he’ll let
government-approved candidates run against him. That’s exactly how the
ayatollahs run Iran. Until joining the recent pro-Bush howl-in, pundits
like The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer justified supporting
Middle Eastern dictators because "[d] emocracy is not a suicide pact."
Unlike Washington pundits, few in Beirut or Cairo failed to notice that
the Iraqi elections were held under martial law enforced by a foreign
invader, with anonymous candidates and 42 percent of the electorate
boycotting. Nor that the winners were Shiite religious parties
answerable to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Iranian-born cleric who
basically forced Bush to hold the elections. So far, the anti-U.S.
insurrection shows no signs of abating. Iraqis have been unable to form
a government. Maybe after they do, pundits can quit baying at White
House sirens and begin to assess what the Bush doctrine actually means.

–—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
of the National Magazine Award.


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