Thursday, October 12, 2006
By Ramzy Baroud
"Rice, the most faithful foreign policy ambassador of the Bush administration, even before her taking over the State Department, seems hell-bent on reining in Iran, ensuring the failure of the Hamas government, and restructuring the political landscape of Lebanon in a way that would deny Hizbullah the opportunity to capitalise on its astounding military achievements.
One can easily dismiss Rice's attempts as futile, indeed self-defeating. The logic is simple: Rice represents all that is insidious about the Bush regime, one of the most loathed US administrations in the modern history of the Middle East, if not the world. Her visits to the region, despite the official fanfare that often awaits her at Arab capitals, coupled with her disagreeable and untimely grins, are often associated with her government's disastrous foreign policy, political plots and anti-democratic efforts.
The fact is, Rice couldn't care less about Arab public opinion, nor any other public opinion for that matter. Her definition of democratic transformation hardly resembles the people's collective desire. She simply stands at odds with the people's aspirations for greater freedom and change, and undoubtedly she knows it.
Even her promise, made during her 4 October joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that the US will "redouble" its efforts to help starving Palestinians, was quickly snubbed by Palestinian media and by a mass rally held in Gaza two days after her visit to the West Bank. Palestinians understand well that the purpose of her visit was to support President Abbas's disgruntled faction, Fatah, against Hamas, now the ruling party. In the span of three days prior to her visit, 10 Palestinians were killed in clashes between the two groups. Fatah continues to infuse chaos, rendering the government inoperative and paving the way for a presidential decree to abolish it, while Hamas is fighting to retain control of what it perceives rightfully as its political achievement resulting from the democratic choice of the Palestinian people during the January elections.
Now Rice is back, pushing to abort the same democratic process that her boss alleged to champion. Recall that in his Middle East "vision" speech of 24 June 2002, President Bush considered free and fair elections in the Palestinian territories as key to the success of what was later termed the roadmap peace initiative.
For now, the core of the American Middle East battle is focussed on Palestine. If Palestinian democracy prevails, withstanding intense Israel-American-Palestinian pressure, then US foreign policy will suffer its greatest loss yet, whose outcome will reverberate across the region. The Palestinian democratic experience thus must fail, even if the price is politically backing embattled President Abbas and his fractious followers, equally desperate not to lose this decisive battle against Hamas.
Rice's visit to the region was neither intended to "reinvigorate" the peace process nor to support the voice of "moderation" in the region. It was meant to ensure the fortitude of her allies and secure and extend the collective punishment of the Palestinian people until they repent and throw out their democratically elected government, a scenario that was tried with success in Nicaragua in the 1970s, though at a very high price.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian president and his henchmen, joined by various Arab governments and European states, are in unison with Rice's iniquitous objectives, thus giving her good reason to mendaciously grin."