As a nation, we seem collectively to be trying to forget that George W. Bush is still POTUS. We’re spending all our time at dealerships looking at new models and ignoring the old, sputtering, oil-leaking junker that’s taking up space in our garage.

Except right now the junker is in the Middle East pretending to be a statesman. This is the sort of trip that would have been covered exhaustively in any other administration. Big headlines, and all that. Now, even news media are nearly ignoring it. Nobody, here or there, expects anything to come of it. Well, except Bush. Michael Abramowitz and Howard Schneider write for the Washington Post:

President Bush, having rumbled by car past Israeli checkpoints to this Palestinian city, said he thought a Palestinian-Israeli peace treaty could be signed within the year, setting the stage for a “two-state solution” to decades of conflict.

“I am confident that with proper help, the state of Palestine will emerge. And I’m confident when it emerges, it will be a major step toward peace,” Bush said in a joint news conference Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “I am confident that the status quo is unacceptable, Mr. President, and we want to help you.”

The fact is, Bush’s genius for bringing people together has already had an impact on the Middle East. Apparently he is soundly hated by both pro- and anti-Hamas forces alike. Abramowitz and Schneider continue,

The current state of internal Palestinian affairs only complicates the matter, with governance divided between groups with disparate visions. While Abbas greeted Bush with a traditional embrace and kiss, Hamas-led protesters in Gaza on Wednesday burned the American flag and portrayed Bush as a vampire, and militants fired rockets into Israel. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

And Seth Freedman writes at The Guardian that anti-Hamas Israelis protested Bush also.

I wandered up the hill to see how the rightwing crowd were getting on.

Their dressmakers had really gone to town, kitting dozens of them out in stylish terrorist outfits – namely keffiyehs, toy machine guns and Palestinian flags on sticks. Posing behind a huge poster mocking Bush as the “Founding father of Hamastine” their modus operandi was “to thank Bush and Olmert for releasing us and for backing a terror state next to Israel.”

I fell into conversation with their leader, Meir Indor, who insisted on speaking to me via a microphone, despite me standing face to face with him. “I want everyone in the street to hear our conversation,” he told me, before launching into a well-rehearsed speech about why Palestinians “don’t deserve” their own state until they promise to behave themselves. …

… Our conversation took a bizarre twist when he threatened to sue me for libel on behalf of Baruch Marzel, after I inferred that he was an Israeli version of the very militants Indor was castigating for their crimes. I was more than happy to stand my ground. At least, until one of Indor’s human puppets – dressed in an large American flag and Hamas headscarf – lumbered over and thrust his toy M16 into my chest, cueing my departure for the safer climes of the bar over the road.

Maybe Hamas and anti-Hamas militants should put aside their differences and have an anti-Bush poster contest.

The Middle East is coming together in disgust. Ian Black writes for The Guardian:

Beyond his uncritical support for Israel – still his worst crime for most Arabs – Bush will forever be associated with the invasion of Iraq and its repercussions.

The kings, emirs and the one president hosting him may be rolling out the red carpets, but both the Arab “street” and the “chattering classes” remember him more for the abuses of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and the errors and excesses of the “global war on terror” than for overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

“Al Qaida threatened to receive him with bombs … but we believe he should be received as a war criminal by hitting him with rotten eggs and tomatoes and staging demonstrations to show the real Arab and Islamic feelings towards him,” commented Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Palestinian-owned newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi.

“The red carpets on which he will step during this visit are … made of the blood of his victims!” thundered Lebanon’s As-Safir.

Jihad al-Khazen in the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat called for Bush to be tried in the International Criminal Court. “Rambo,” sneered the state-run Syrian newspaper Tishrin.

Awesome. Since when has there been that much unanimity of opinion in the Middle East?

No wonder then, that so many Arabs look on this presidential progress with hostility or indifference, even though, in the Middle East, like everywhere else on the planet, attention is already focused on the next occupant of the White House.

“With all due respect, Bush might do the region and the entire world a favour by staying home,” suggested the respected Beirut Daily Star commentator Rami Khouri, “if he plans to visit the Middle East only to speed up the same American policy of blindly supporting Israel, sending arms and money to Arab authoritarian regimes, opposing mainstream Islamist groups that enjoy widespread popular legitimacy, ignoring realistic democratic transitions, and actively pressuring governments and movements that defy the US.”

See also Dan Froomkin.

18 thoughts on “Repression

  1. I had to laugh when I heard the Narcissist-in-Chief announce that (now that he’s paying attention to it) he believes there will be a peace treaty by the end of the year. He should be so lucky.

    It reminds me of his catalog of Iraqi benchmarks from the surge speech a year ago. Remember those?

    He’s very good at optimistically believing that other people will put aside their differences (which he neither really understands nor cares about) and make progress in spite of all historical evidence to the contrary.

    Someone might want to explain to him that it takes more than his believing it will happen to actually make it so. At this point, his track record on things he’s been resolutely confident about is so poor, it’s embarrassing.

  2. No doubt he is as insulated from opinion about his policies overseas as he is at home. In other words, Bush is still securely stuck in his bubble.

  3. From the Froomkin column:
    “‘Things haven’t moved very much, and the question is why anyone expected that they would,’ said Mark Heller, director of research at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. ‘Expectations were artificially inflated by the hype surrounding Annapolis, which was made to look like something more significant than it really was.'”

    “which was made to look like something more significant than it really was.” The Perfect description of this whole last 8 years and the complete and total failure of the Bush administration.

  4. Interesting – the delusional Bush magical thinking on display; he merely “thinks” it and makes it so. The result of the Republicans’ isolation of their president — his increasing departure into delusional magical thinking because no one tells him otherwise. I wonder what his life will look like when he leaves the WH? I suppose he has the finances to continue his bubbled existence. Too bad that his fantasy life has cost the country so dearly. Has cost many, their very lives.

  5. Ooh, ooh, can we all have an anti-Bush poster contest? I’ll go get the paints and glitter. Extra points for creative use of uncooked pasta.

    Jack K., the best I can come up with is “The Great Dyslexic Untier.”

    Yeah, I know. Sorry.

  6. Ooh, ooh, can we all have an anti-Bush poster contest? I’ll go get the paints and glitter. Extra points for creative use of uncooked pasta.

    The way to world peace, one macaroni at a time.

  7. This latest attempt at foreign policy is a half step much like everything else this admin. does. Bush himself doesn’t really think it will work, if he thought he could make a difference he would have tried 7 years ago. Though I’m sure he was advised that such an early policy failure would “tarnish” the rest of his term. (If they only knew) It’s too bad maybe if he had tried 7 years ago things would be different today.

  8. I just remember how Bush sat back and let Sharon rip up the very streets of the West Bank and destroy Jenin and that is when the PA lost what little authority it had left.
    Arafat just sat there surrounded in Ramallah until he died. Bush sat back and let it all happen. Then after Iraq, Sharon gone and Olmert in place he sat back again while Israel pounded the infrastructure and people of Lebanon in 2006 and Condi clucked that it was all “very helpful”. Then “very helpfull” turned in to a real defeat for Israel and Hamas and Hizballah were the ones who gained standing . Now we sit 7 years later and not one bit of real progress made . No wonder the media is ignoring it, it is too shameful to attempt to cover as a serious news story. No one can keep a straight face long enough to do report.

  9. What is the greatest disappointment about this trip is the stench of insincerity. For 7 years he has been the un-diplomat. Never use diplomacy when a war can do the job. With setbacks in 2 unpopular wars, and no domestic agenda, he throws a Hail Mary with the caveat that he thinks the principle players are ready to make the nescessary sacrifices. Which translates into – if they sign anything I will take credit for having singlehandedly brought peace to the middle east; if they refuse to sign something, I will say it was THEIR fault, because they would not make the nescessary sacrifices.

    Contrast that with Carter who put HIS reputation on the line in an all-out extended effort to bring the parties together. I would guess that the parties to this charade who reside in the region are going through the motions and marking time until a real president is elected.

  10. “Contrast that with Carter”

    I agree that it seems Carter put way more effort into the process. But in the end he (Carter) failed, (Reagan) failed, (Bush-41) failed, (Clinton) failed, ask yourself who has gained from all this failure? What if peace actually broke out in palastine, who would win who would lose? And be honest with yourself.

  11. “ignoring the old, spuddering, oil leaking junker”

    Maha: I thought maybe you would take away my old ’66’. But your comparison fits perfectly, GW is like your (mine) grandmothers old car, left to rot and neglegted, it aint worth a second look, but beware of the new model. If left out in the rain, with the same old tired design, it won’t last much longer.

    What does POTUS mean? I missed something.

  12. January 18, 2009

    (list cribbed from

    Failed to win the 2000 election.
    Failed to “unite”.
    Failed to capitalize on the strong economy left by the previous administration.
    Failed to build on the ground breaking work in improving relations with N. Korea.
    Failed to listen to pre 9/11 terror warnings.
    Failed to find OBL, the person behind the outrage that was 9/11.
    Failed to listen to all those who told him that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.
    Failed to listen to all those who told him that Saddam didn’t have WMD.
    Failed to understand the use and power of diplomacy to achieve anything!
    Failed the US army by lack of planning for “what happens later ….”
    Failed the people of New Orleans.
    Failed to protect the constitution (his sworn duty!)
    Failed to recognize climate change and the need to address it.
    Failed the Office of the President.
    Failed the American people.

  13. “POTUS” means “President Of The United States”. And that’s exactly what Junior is doing on this trip– trying to drum up (1) domestic political support for something, and (2) a “legacy”… i.e., that elusive “lasting Middle East peace” that seems to have evaded Carter, Reagan, Poppy, Clinton, and thus far… him (not to mention Truman, and Eisenhower, and Kennedy, and Johnson, and Nixon, and Ford…)

    Well, he certainly is a “uniter”… if he means universal derision of himself and American policy.

    Still, the Achilles heal of the whole thing is that it was none other than George W. Bush who harped on endlessly about needing to bring “democracy to the Middle East” as an ex post facto justification for invading Iraq after that WMD thing didn’t pan out. Naturally, once such “democracy” actually took place in Palestine, and the locals elected Hamas, we immediately refused to recognize the results of that election! So much for “democracy”! (Kind of reminds one of our own 2000 election, no?)

  14. looks like he’s going for his “nixon in china” moment.

    yeeaaahhh. good luck with that buddy. it’s like .5 seconds to game over trying to make an overhand shot at the basket from the other end of the court.

    while wearing golf shoes.


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