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As I See It

When we compare the present situation in the Middle East with the conditions before the Bush Administration’s ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, it is becoming increasingly clear that that venture was a catastrophic mistake.Iraq was dominated by a brutal tyrant, Saddam Hussein, but after his invasion of Kuwait, he had been cowed by his defeat in the 1991 100-hour Persian Gulf War, and presented no significant threat to the United States, despite the repeated false claims by Vice President Cheney of large stores of weapons of mass destruction and cooperation with al Qaida in the attacks on the World Trade Center. A month after that event, we launched an attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan, who had provided a base for al Qaida, and they and Osama bin Laden were holed up in mountain caves along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And in Israel the 50-year conflict between Palestinians and Israelis continued.Today, Iraq is rapidly slipping into a totally predictable civil war between Shiite and Sunni factions aided and abetted by Iran, which is developing nuclear capabilities; in Afghanistan we are facing a Taliban resurgence; and Israel is now in a major war with an organized Hamas in the south and a powerful Hezbollah to the north. In March 2003, the Bush Administration, in its simplistic naïveté, launched its attack on Iraq. Either it had a total lack of understanding of the cultural issues or chose to ignore them, and planned only for the outcome it desired, with a complete lack of planning for any other eventuality.The Bush Administration’s simplistic outlook continues to this day. They lump all of these organizations – al Qaida, Hezbollah, and Hamas – together under the heading “Terrorists” without recognizing the significant differences among them. Only al Qaida is a terrorist organization with world-wide destruction as its objective, with the U.S. as its primary target. Hezbollah and Hamas at this point have no aspirations to attack us: Their entire purpose is to destroy Israel. But Hezbollah is a Shiite organization and Hamas is Sunni, and in Iraq these two groups are at each other’s throats. So where is the Bush-claimed unity of purpose?By putting them all together and declaring them a common enemy and refusing to meet with any of them, we are driving them together in what may become a unified force against us – the old adage, an enemy of my enemy is my friend. This approach, coupled with our attack on Iraq, our uncompromising attitude toward Iran, and our historic bias in favor of Israel, all serve to confirm the Muslim paranoia that the U.S. is waging a war on Islam. Making religion an issue creates a highly inflammatory confrontation, one in which there is no compromise and no end. We are fanning the flames of an increasing number of Middle East brush fires into a major conflagration which easily could get out-of-hand – an unintended, perhaps, but totally predictable consequence of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq and lack of diplomatic acumen in the Middle East. Without a willingness to discuss issues with those with whom you have disagreements, there is no possibility of arriving at a peaceful resolution of those disagreements. With conditions continuing to deteriorate, there is no time to be lost in creating a forum of the world’s major powers to listen to the grievances of all of the Middle East countries, and to make an honest effort toward an even-handed outcome that will allow the people of the area to live in peace. Otherwise, we may be witnessing the beginning of World War III, which it has been predicted will start in the Middle East.


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