October 2, 2001
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A front-page news article in today's New York Times runs under the headline, "Before Attacks, U.S. Was Ready To Say It Backed Palestinian State."
The story has all the markings of wishful thinking by the Times's State Department sources. But if the news is indeed true, then the Times soft-pedals the significance of it. The third paragraph of the Times article reports, "Senior members of the Bush administration had been critical of former President Clinton's aggressive efforts to broker a Middle East settlement, saying the United States could not impose a peace that the parties did not want. But the plan Secretary Powell was preparing to present included proposals for a comprehensive settlement and an American role in carrying it out."
The phrase "senior members of the Bush administration" is laughable. It wasn't just "senior members" of the Bush administration that had been critical of that approach; it was the senior member, George W. Bush himself.
Here's what candidate George W. Bush said on May 22, 2000, to a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: "In recent times, Washington has tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables; but this is not the path to peace."
Here's what candidate George W. Bush said in the third 2000 Gore-Bush Presidential Debate, on October 17, 2000: "The next leader needs to be patient. We can't put the Middle East peace process on our timetable. It's got to be on the timetable of the people that we're trying to bring to the peace table. We can't dictate the terms of peace."
Mr. Bush was so clear about this during the campaign, in fact, that the headline on the story could be "Powell Prepares to Undermine Bush" or "Powell Prepares to Break Bush Campaign Position." Instead of this kind of clarity, however, the Times serves up the vague language about "senior members of the Bush administration."
To get a sense of where the Times is coming from on this story, look at whose comments the newspaper includes. The article ends with remarks from Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross, two mainstays of the Oslo process. As Norman Podhoretz notes in this month's Commentary cover story, "Oslo: The Peacemongers Return," Mr. Indyk has maintained -- in Mr. Indyk's own words -- that "Just because the Middle East peace process failed doesn't mean it should be abandoned." The Times dutifully turns to Mr. Indyk and Mr. Ross for comments on Mr. Powell's plans, but it hardly ever turns to Mr. Podhoretz or other critics of negotiating with terrorists. If the newspaper had asked, maybe one of the Oslo critics would have said something like, "Why stop at carving from Israel and its capital a state for the Palestinian Arabs? Why not also reward the other terrorists, too, and give Osama Bin Laden a country carved from American territory with a capital in Washington?"
Iran: A dispatch in the international section of today's New York Times reports, "Iran has shown signs of softening its virulently anti-American stance in recent years." This "softening" no doubt includes the scene after Friday prayers in Teheran last week, when, as reported in the Telegraph, members of the congregation "marched to the Palestinian embassy, chanting 'Death to Israel, America and Britain,'" while squads of the Revolutionary Guard handed out toffees.
The New York Times article goes on to report, "American aides officially regard Iran, which has long backed anti-Israeli militant groups like Hezbollah, as one of the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism." What's with the "officially"? Is the Times trying to suggest that unofficially American aides regard Iran as something other than that? And what's with the stunningly euphemistic description of Hezbollah as an "anti-Israeli militant group." That it is, but, more relevantly, it is an anti-American terrorist group. According the U.S. State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism report issued in April, 2001, Hezbollah is "known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-US terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombing of the US Embassy and US Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the US Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of US and other Western hostages in Lebanon."
Thankful: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman today writes, "How thankful we are today that we have a Washington, D.C., with its strong institutions -- FEMA, the F.A.A., the F.B.I. and armed forces." Well, unalloyed thankfulness isn't exactly the emotion that many Americans are feeling these days toward the FAA, which is supposed to make sure that airplanes and airports are secure, nor toward the FBI, which is a key aspect of the domestic terrorism prevention effort. After the terrorist attacks, there are a lot of people wondering whether those institutions were as "strong" as Mr. Friedman claims. This is not to doubt the strength of America as a nation nor to criticize the many dedicated public servants that staff its institutions.
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