by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
April 5, 2002
An American Reporter Special Report
A.R. Editorial: AN OPPORTUNITY 'OUTLAYED' AND WAYLAID
LOS ANGELES, April 5, 2002 -- President Bush's decision to send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East to implement the agenda he "outlayed" yesterday follows an insistent drumbeat of criticism of a do-nothing policy that has hampered the U.S. war on terrorism, called into question the essential fairness of our nation, and angered friends and foes of the United States.
While welcomed here as an important shift away from do-nothingism, the president's speech was grreeted by Israel only with a new invasion, of Hebron. Today, Israel also opened a new front: It fired bullets, tear gas grenades and rubber bullets at journalists, including some from CNN, who tried to approach President Arafat's compound during the visit by U.S. envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni.
The army may be angry about a front-page photo in the New York Timeson Thursday that showed an Israeli thug beating an Israeli peace activist. Orit may not have welcomed publicity on a day when it killed 35 Palestinians, including two men who allegedly had roles in the Passover bombing. While Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat accepted the president's statement "without conditions," the war against Palestine has continued at such a reckless and terrifying pace that reactions from anywhere in the Middle East could have more relevance -- for instance, if Syria, Egypt or Iran declares war against Israel, as Israel has done against Palestine. Two important articles in today's American Reporter point out the powerful dissonance between American standards and American practice. Norman Solomon writes that major American newspapers, presumably among the very best in the world, continue to downplay Palestinian deaths as they sensationalize Israeli deaths in the conflict. In particular, Solomon pointsd out, Israeli forces have killed "hundreds of children" in range of its exploding rockets and full-auto gunfire, but those deaths have gotten little coverage in The Washington Post and the New York Times.
Meanwhile, as the Palestinian suicide bombers take the lives of innocent non-combatants, so do Israeli tank, rocket, mortar and rifle rounds. We cannot recall more than one occasion in the space of 32 years of the Northern Ireland conflict when Britain acted so irresponsibly even once, despite equal provocation; in Israel, IDF mayhem, deliberate or reckless, shames the entire nation and also the Bushadministration, which by blurring the issues has been seen as beingin support of the Israeli strategy.
Is it too late? That's the question columnist Randall Holhut asks today, and we won't know the answer at least until next week, when Israel has had time to clean up its act and let the respected Secretary of State enter perhaps a less dangerous fray.
We find that a cynical approach to diplomacy, too; there wasno reason Powell should not have been dispatched to Israel last night, when he would be seen as "making progress" as the scope of Israeli operations in Palestinian territory is reduced ober the next week. Now he will be seen as someone who watched from a safe distance while Israel went about concluding a nasty and brutal invasion, and who then showed up to take credit at the opportune moment.
Frankly, even though President Arafat has accepted the visit, we don't think it's going to have the salutary effect President Bush expects. Had the president decided to visit the region himself next week, his trip would have been seen as a brave master stroke of diplomacy, and would have given urgency to an Israeli withdrawal(although we think it will happen anyway). Mr. Powell arrives a week after the urgency is likely to have diminished.
We don't know who called the shots on this one, but it doesn't appear to be the President. We think he would have preferred not to act and let the combat continue until the death toll exacted its own reduction in force. It was not the Arab lobby, because they would have sent Powell now. The Israeli lobby, though, would appreciate the timing and the fact that it is not the President himself who is coming, which would demand far greater concessions and a far better timetable to justify what would have been a historic and bold strategic move that presented a genuine risk -- and required a genuine commitment.
Although we differ on the details, we have to agree with Mr. Holhut's demurrer, then, and conclude that Powell's chance of success is dim at best. The "opportunity" the president spoke so much of in the Rose Garden yesterday morningwas not really seized. The demands on both sides that he "outlayed" yesterday were intelligent ones, but as with his grammar -- "outlayed" is not a word -- something critical was lacking. We believe it is his own independent judgment, waylaid somewhere between Washington and Tel Aviv.