The Arab Thought Forum (ATF) is committed to the belief that state structures must be developed to serve and be responsive to an active and critical public, which is conscious of its obligations and duties, as well as its rights and entitlements

[            Home           ]



Calender of Events



 About Us   Programs   Forums   Publications   Articles   Analysis Papers   Contact Us 

Home > Access >

Another 'Mission Accomplished' Moment?

2006-08-15

By Dan Froomkin

President Bush's startling assertion yesterday that at the end of 33 days of warfare between Israel and the Hezbollah militia, Hezbollah had been defeated, once again raises questions about his ability to acknowledge reality when things don't turn out the way he intended.
Here, from the transcript of his appearance at the State Department, are his exact words: "Hezbollah started the crisis, and Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis. And the reason why is, is that first, there is a new -- there's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon, and that's going to be a Lebanese force with a robust international force to help them seize control of the country, that part of the country." My first question: Did he really mean to say that?
Bush clearly intended to blame every bit of the terrible carnage on Hezbollah, even though most of it was inflicted by Israel. That point, he made over and over again. And his central point -- also controversial, but not new -- was this: "The conflict in Lebanon is part of a broader struggle between freedom and terror that is unfolding across the region."
But the conclusion that Hezbollah had been defeated was a rare, possibly unscripted moment of news-making amid a public appearance heavy on timeworn talking points about the march to freedom.
Furthermore, the White House position on winners and losers as expressed by spokesman Tony Snow just hours earlier was noncommittal.
"Q As you look at this, the month-long war in the Mideast, who won?
"MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- right now what's won is diplomacy has won."
My second question: If Bush did mean to say it, how will he and his aides defend it?
The defeat of Hezbollah was clearly Bush's goal in stalling the international drive for a humanitarian cease-fire for a month. White House hawks, led by Vice President Cheney, argued that Israel should be given time to score a major military victory in a proxy war against Iran.
But Bush's insistence that Hezbollah lost appears to be wishful thinking.
Hezbollah, by most accounts, suffered some military setbacks but has emerged in a stronger political position than ever before. Israel, by contrast, is generally considered to have lost its aura of military invincibility. American clout in the region has taken a big hit. Lebanon's fragile democracy has suffered a terrible blow. And the biggest losers, of course, were the people of Lebanon.
My first question: Did he really mean to say that? Bush clearly intended to blame every bit of the terrible carnage on Hezbollah, even though most of it was inflicted by Israel. That point, he made over and over again. And his central point -- also controversial, but not new -- was this: "The conflict in Lebanon is part of a broader struggle between freedom and terror that is unfolding across the region."
But the conclusion that Hezbollah had been defeated was a rare, possibly unscripted moment of news-making amid a public appearance heavy on timeworn talking points about the march to freedom.
Furthermore, the White House position on winners and losers as expressed by spokesman Tony Snow just hours earlier was noncommittal. "Q As you look at this, the month-long war in the Mideast, who won? "MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- right now what's won is diplomacy has won."
My second question: If Bush did mean to say it, how will he and his aides defend it? The defeat of Hezbollah was clearly Bush's goal in stalling the international drive for a humanitarian cease-fire for a month. White House hawks, led by Vice President Cheney, argued that Israel should be given time to score a major military victory in a proxy war against Iran. But Bush's insistence that Hezbollah lost appears to be wishful thinking.
Hezbollah, by most accounts, suffered some military setbacks but has emerged in a stronger political position than ever before. Israel, by contrast, is generally considered to have lost its aura of military invincibility. American clout in the region has taken a big hit. Lebanon's fragile democracy has suffered a terrible blow. And the biggest losers, of course, were the people of Lebanon.
Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush asserted yesterday that Hezbollah was defeated in its month-long conflict with Israel, casting the fighting that killed hundreds of Lebanese and Israeli civilians as part of a wider struggle 'between freedom and terrorism.' "
But as Fletcher notes: "The campaign did not go as well as the United States and Israel had expected. Despite a devastating air assault and an intense ground campaign, Israel's military was unable to gain full control of the border area in southern Lebanon against elusive and well-fortified Hezbollah fighters. Also, some observers believe the conflict burnished the popularity of Hezbollah in Lebanon, even as it resulted in hundreds of civilian causalities and massive destruction of infrastructure across Lebanon."
Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: "President Bush on Monday defended his handling of the war between Israel and Hezbollah, declaring that Hezbollah had been the loser in the monthlong fight and warning Syria and Iran against resupplying the Lebanese militia."Mr. Bush spoke as he and his advisers sought to portray the cease-fire deal that was established under a United Nations Security Council resolution as an affirmation of American foreign policy. "'It took a while to get the resolution done,' Mr. Bush said at the State Department. 'But most objective observers would give the United States credit for helping to lead the effort to get a resolution that addressed the root cause of the problem.' "
But, Rutenberg writes: "Even as they expressed optimism, White House officials said nonetheless that only time would tell whether the cease-fire would hold and whether Hezbollah would ultimately be disarmed. And a senior official, who agreed to speak candidly in return for anonymity, acknowledged the possibility that Hezbollah would build public support in southern Lebanon by flooding the area with rebuilding money, as it has vowed to do." Peter Wallsten writes in the Los Angeles Times: "For weeks, the Bush administration resisted international pressure for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, insisting that only disarming the militant group would cure a 'root cause' of hostility. "But the truce that took effect Monday left Hezbollah largely intact and outlines no clear path to its disarmament a far less dramatic conclusion than many in the administration had hoped for when the fighting began last month. "That contrast was evident Monday, as President Bush sought to portray the United Nations deal as a success, calling his administration's efforts with Israel and Lebanon part of a 'forward strategy of freedom in the broader Middle East.' "But when asked how the resolution would weaken Hezbollah and cut it off from its sponsors in Iran and Syria, the president could make no assurances beyond a sense of optimism."

Source: Washington Post


Main Page

Send to Friend

Print
 Site Map       Copyright       Feedback