Apr 12th, 2004
Dr. Rice's Alienation from Reality
Well, I did it - I read the entire transcript. I sat down
with a cup of coffee and read through everything
that Dr. Rice said to the 9/11 commission in her extraordinary
And while my doctors assure me that I may yet recover, I find
that I'm more concerned about our foreign policy at the moment.
And that's because it's my opinion that Dr. Rice - the person
who our President often turns to for advice in running that policy
- is living in Moo Moo Land.
Now, a lot of people are making a big stink about the (un)amusingly
that apparently wasn't too important, even if it really was(n't).
But while we could go back and forth on that for a while - especially
now that it's been declassified - it was something else she said
that really set me off. And that's this:
"One of the most difficult problems in the Middle
East is that the United States has been associated for a long
time, decades, with a policy that looks the other way on the
freedom deficit in the Middle East, that looks the other way
at the absence of individual liberties in the Middle East. And
I think that that has tended to alienate us from the populations
of the Middle East." (emphasis added)
I suppose that if you live in a total vacuum, with only the
latest Bushisms going into your head and out of your mouth, this
might sound plausible. But speaking as an American who lives
in the Middle East, reads its newspapers and talks with its people,
I have to cry foul. This is so far off the mark it's not even
Why have we been alienated from the populations of the Middle
East? It has nothing to do with our lack of support for their
own, personal freedoms. This is about as far from their minds
as a lack of Islam in our own, daily affairs is for most Americans.
Everyone over here grumbles when the police get uppity, the government
changes its mind overnight and dissidents go to jail, but resolving
these matters is not at the forefront of their attention, right
What is? In a word, Israel. Every time you turn around you
hear something - often one-sided and almost-always blown out
of proportion - about what Israel's done, or is doing, or plans
to do. The vast mass of folks in the Middle East consider Israel
to be a regional threat and an occupying entity, if not the hand
of the Devil in action.
And our long-term support of Israel remains the chief, number-one
bugaboo in their eyes. So long as we are supplying that state
with weapons, money or support, the vast majority of folks in
the Middle East will not be kindly disposed towards us. That
is the base, bare reality, here.
Past that, our recent actions in Iraq have charmed and gladdened
no one - no one at all. We are not being seen as liberators or
saviors, but as another occupying army. I'm sure some of the
folks in Iraq are singing a different tune, but the sound isn't
carrying too far past the borders. Maybe we had to fight this
war, but we don't look so good for having done so, and that's
just the way it goes.
And, more recently, we've driven another wedge between ourselves
and the folks by doing exactly what Dr. Rice was going
on about. Our attempts to encourage democratic reform in the
Middle East is being seen as an attempt to create an American
Even if you discount that notion - as you should, since it's
nonsense - the question remains as to who we are to tell them
how to live their lives? It's not being greeted with encouragement,
hope or a newfound sense of purpose, but resentment, resignment
and the stoic fatalism this area's renowned for.
Basically, we're handing them fruitcake and wondering why
they're turning up their noses.
But this isn't just bad policy based on seriously-faulty perceptions,
it's bad strategy as well. I'm not so sure the Middle East would
be a better place if Democratic reform was introduced, and I've
spoken before of how they might actually vote in more hard-line
individuals if they had the choice.
You see, it isn't just good, happy and pro-Western dissidents
that the secret police are arresting and holding without trial
in their undemocratic dungeons. It's also the firebrands who
hate their governments for being much friendlier to the "west"
than the people would like them to be. These firebrands are willing
to kill and die to protest this state of affairs, and if they
aren't constantly skull-smacked they'll mob together, go on the
rampage and try to form a radical Islamic state.
(This is what's happening in Iraq right now, in case you wondered
why that sounds so eerily familiar.)
So why is it that Dr. Rice - who is by no means stupid or
foolish - is saying such stupid and foolish things? Has she been
forced to talk Bushit in order to keep her job, or has she bought
into the spectacle because, as in-denial of the facts as it is,
it at least offers some hope?
To be honest, I really don't know. But this scares me a hell
of a lot more than the notion that Bush might have had some inkling
of an Al-Qaeda attack on US Soil well in advance of 9/11. We
can condemn a lack of foresight in hindsight, but hindsight is
always 20/20; We need people with clear insight in the here and
now, and it doesn't look like Bush's #1 advisor has it.
"Nothing there / No information left of any kind /
Lifting my head / Looking for the danger signs"
Crosseyed and Painless - Talking Heads