Category Archives: Egypt

Back to the Future: Hillary and the Prospects for Middle East Negotiations

As Hillary Clinton arrives in the Middle East, there are hopes of a truce between Gaza and Israel.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Burma

Whether or not a ceasefire holds, it may be a case of Back to the Future. The Middle East could be arriving at one of those crossroads in which real negotiations, international pressure and the legacy of leaders offer tantalizing hope.

Hamas has been hurling rockets at Israel for months – a brutal form of 52-card pickup: throw hundreds of cards in the air and see where they land.

Israel lashed out in frustration and began retaliating with a Biblical variant: not eye for an eye, but an eye for many more in return.

It makes no difference when outsiders draw up sides. If the goal is peace, neither side can sustain a policy of attacks and counterattacks. Negotiations require outside pressure and mediation led by the United States.

Hillary Clinton returns to the Middle East as part of an administration that has four more years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his neo-con friends in Washington tried and failed to wait out the Obama presidency.

If they try again, they must also consider the possibility of 2016: they could face Hillary Clinton once more with former President Bill Clinton always in the wings.

Back to the future:
–President Obama is looking to make a mark in history—the Middle East is ripe territory.
–The Clintons, having failed at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency to strike a Palestinian-Israeli deal—have every reason to try again. Hillary’s uncertain future exerts tacit pressure even after she leaves the State Department in January.
–Hamas and the Palestinians need to be pushed to moderation in the person of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, both eager to make a mark.
–Finally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 63-years-old and facing January elections, also should be thinking legacy. One never knows. The founder of his extreme right-wing party, Menachem Begin, was 65 years old when he began negotiating with Egypt and finally signed the Camp David Accords.

Generations of violence, misery and death must end. The future could break with the past.

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Krauthammer: The Shrink of Romney-land

A friend of mine asked after the attacks in Libya and Egypt – and Mitt Romney’s mindless and mistimed and lying reaction – “is there any decorum left?”
In this strange divided land, there certainly isn’t.

The dividing lines among Democrats and Republicans are stark – have a look at the closed loop of talking heads. Consider Doctor Charles Krauthammer, the Fox television analyst and pundit and columnist (who happens to be a physician and psychiatrist), and witness the depths of self-delusion.

Rallying troops more ignorant than he himself, the doctor tells us today – predictably – that the attack on the U.S. embassy this week was the result of Obama policies. Doctor Krauthammer parrots Romney’s nonsense about “apologizing for America.”

“The substance of what Romney said at the time was absolutely right…The problem is he needs to make a larger argument. There is a collapse of Obama’s policy. It began with the Cairo speech, it began with the apologies to Iran. It began with regret for the Iraq war, it began with the so-called outreach and it completely collapsed. It has gotten nowhere on Iran. These are the fruits of appeasement and apology.”

The good doctor is not alone – the Romney spin masters have sent out Senator Rob Portman of Ohio; the former senator of Minnesota, Norm Coleman, Laura Ingraham and their ilk to spit bile, to lie and confuse.

Romney lied about events in the Middle East this week – by creating talking points untethered to reality. Is there decorum? Is there shame? No.
How can such bull permeate the airwaves?

American journalism bears some of the blame for the state of affairs. The rules of the game say that we must be balanced; newspapers and magazines report that “both sides” are exploiting events for their own political advantage. All would be well, but journalism doesn’t know how to place a flashing light under the visage of a liar. Newspapers publish lies and then place the fact-checking elsewhere in separate columns, even separate pages. There must be a better way.

The Republicans have been lying and deceiving and blocking legislation – hell-bent on taking power, waging war based on fraud and then taking power again — for at least a decade. With a more reliable front-man than Romney, some day too soon, a Reaganesque know-nothing smooth talker one day will win. Probably not this time, unless the Supreme Court-authorized multibillion dollar campaign spending spree works.

One always had the idea that a doctor, a psychiatrist, would be a healing force. That is why Doctor Krauthammer comes across as such strange apparition. The obvious thing to say is “doctor, heal thyself.” And then heal thy brethren.

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A Graceful Star is Lost, Anthony Shadid, 1968-2012

By Rick Gladstone
Anthony Shadid, a gifted foreign correspondent whose graceful dispatches for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Associated Press covered nearly two decades of Middle East conflict and turmoil, died, apparently of an asthma attack, on Thursday while on a reporting assignment in Syria. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was with Mr. Shadid, carried his body across the border to Turkey.

Some impressions from the Washington Post days.
I was sometimes at the other end of the phone when he was filing from
Baghdad. The first thing you can say is that he had a mission and was
consumed by what he could do, and his work was larger than his place
of employment. He had incrementally created himself to become the
foreign correspondent he was. At AP in Egypt, he learned Arabic, which
his family did not much speak, second or third generation, back in
Oklahoma City. He saw his job as interpreting purely without a filter
the arcane world for an audience of Americans who needed to know and
were ignorant at their peril. He gave himself the tools to do his work
and few of his generation approached his level after that.

He looked to interpret a story by boring into the essential humanity,
listening to the barbers on the main drag talking about the war, or
sitting with a mother who had watched her son board a bus and go north
to war and death, or overhearing the booksellers who at all cost
needed to affirm and preserve their culture as it crumbled around
them. He gave his stories a universality — what country was this?—in
a sense it was the human story.

He lived close to death and that was implicit in his work. His family might not have
been able to stand it, weeks apart with the daily weight of his
possible death for having gone many steps too far. He was compelled to
work, nevertheless, family or not, and he returned to the field.

His writing was inspired, didn’t need much editing, was too long and
he got away with it. He was proud, smiled gently back in the office
and was diffident listening to praise. He was forgiving of editors who
weren’t with the program, top to bottom, argued for good sense and to
my view, only was happy when he was out the door and back in the
field.

In short, he was a a classic case of the stereotype of the foreign
correspondent, who then shot through that stereotype and created
a new standard, better than most.

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Condoleezza Rice–The Egypt Story Writ Wrong

The Washington Post Opinion page, in its latest attempt to rehabilitate and give ink to the Bush 43 presidency, gave empty space to Condoleezza Rice to opine on Egypt. Rice goes so far as to suggest that in 2005, she presaged democratic rule in Egypt in a Cairo speech.

She writes: “Following in the vein of President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address, I said that the United States would stand with people who seek freedom. This was an admission that the United States had, in the Middle East more than any other region, sought stability at the expense of democracy, and had achieved neither. It was an affirmation of our belief that the desire for liberty is universal – not Western, but human – and that only fulfillment of that desire leads to true stability.”

She is wrong, of course, about the United States–it sought neither stability nor democracy in Iraq, rather a chimeric vision of imposed American order, and failed.

Rice’s opinion piece comes several weeks after a similar foray by Elliott Abrams, a former Middle East point man at the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. These are part of an effort to recast the Bush administration and its disastrous Middle East policy as a prescient system that only now is bearing fruit.

In fact, Rice and Abrams and their team perverted U.S. values in the Middle East when they invaded Iraq– creating the concept of and precedent for preemptive war–war that can be waged whenever the United States so pleases. My colleague Knut Royce and I wrote a book, The Italian Letter, which debunks a central claim of the former members of the Bush administration on the U.S. invasion of Iraq — that they were acting “on the best intelligence available at the time.” The book shows that statement to be a lie, even though a majority of Americans probably think the statement is right. Propaganda, in the hands of skilled apparatchiks, such as Karl Rove and Michael Gerson — the latter another denizen of the Wash Post opinion pages — is hard to beat back.

Empty words are empty however they are coated; Rice’s article is a poorly threaded garment draped over the truth.

Rice, under orders from the White House PR squad in 2002 that created the image of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, warned the world with tremulous voice that we should fear mushroom clouds on the horizon. So doing, along with Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and the rest, she helped wreck the image of the United States in the world. Not to mention the war itself, which cost countless lives and billions upon billions of dollars.

At least, in the present Washington Post article, Rice comes close to reality in one disjointed phrasing–“The fall of communism unleashed patriots who had long regarded the United States as a “beacon of freedom.” Our history with the peoples of the Middle East is very different.”

Other than that, Rice’s splattering of words on the page adds up to a tone-deaf rendering of Chopsticks, a two-fingered song on the piano, little better than empty space and silence.

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