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White House sees no difference (unless there's something in it for them)


By Lee Russ, Section OpEd
Posted on Sun Nov 19, 2006 at 03:13:01 PM EST

Here's what Tony Blair said in a speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet:

However, most crucial is this. Just as it is, in significant part, forces outside Iraq that are trying to create mayhem inside Iraq, so we have to have a strategy that pins them back, not only in Iraq but outside it too.

In other words, a major part of the answer to Iraq lies not in Iraq itself but outside it, in the whole of the region where the same forces are at work, where the roots of this global terrorism are to be found, where the extremism flourishes, with a propaganda that may be, indeed is, totally false; but is, nonetheless, attractive to much of the Arab street.

That is what I call a "whole Middle East" strategy.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding that this is about changing policy on Syria and Iran. First, those two countries do not at all share identical interests. But in any event that is not where we start.

On the contrary, we should start with Israel/Palestine. That is the core. We should then make progress on Lebanon. We should unite all moderate Arab and Moslem voices behind a push for peace in those countries but also in Iraq. We should be standing up for, empowering, respecting those with a moderate and modern view of the faith of Islam everywhere.

Now you might consider the idea that we need to engage the entire region to be calling for a change in policy, strategy, something, given that the U.S. policy/strategy/something to date has been to focus solely on Iraq, while insulting most of the surrounding countries and refusing to speak to them on the grounds that they are supporting terrorists.

Similarly, you might consider Blair's idea that the repair work in Iraq really requires that there be some resolution of the Israel-Palestine gridlock to be different in some qualitative way from the Bush White House policy of ignoring that gridlock to the extent possible while pouring men, munitions, money, and hyperbolic propaganda directly into the pit of Iraq.

If you thought either of those two things, the White House says you would be wrong. In a posting titled "Comparing the Coverage: London Vs. Washington Reporting on Prime Minister Blair's Remarks," which appeared on the White House web site the next day, the White House claimed "Prime Minister Blair's Policy Is Not New And Is Similar To President Bush's Policy." The basis for this claim? The site offers these two headlines (with minimal accompanying text to support them) to show the similarity of the Blair and Bush positions:

  1. Yesterday, Prime Minister Blair Repeated His Previous Call For Talks With Iran If The Iranians "Abide By, Not Flout, Their International Obligations."

  2. Yesterday, President Bush Also Repeated His Previous Call For Dialogue With Iran If The Iranians "Verifiably Suspend Their Enrichment Activities."

Logic, Bush White House style. No where does the White House posting even bother to deal with the idea that the Palestinian "question" needs to be addressed first. But trust me, you have not heard Bush say anything like that.

No where does the White House posting even bother to deal with the idea that Blair is talking about getting "the whole of the region" involved, not just Iran. Maybe the White House doesn't know that, in addition to Iran and Syria, the "whole region" includes, at a minimum: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territory, and Turkey.

Any odds on whether the White House would have seen any difference in the thoughts of Blair and Bush if Blair had said something causing a major stink?

And yet, I now have so poor an opinion of this White House that I'm not even certain that their denial of Blair having said anything new or different than Bush is the PR it appears to be. I now at least consider the possibility that no one in this White House is sufficiently capable of logic and reason to be able to adequately analyze Blair's comments and compare them to their own comments and policies.

Now that's optimism: maybe they're too incompetent to be the hype & sleaze merchants they appear to be.


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