By YOUSEF DRUMMOND
SOON after George W. Bush relinquishes the presidency and retreats to his Texas ranch to organize potential speaking engagements, in approximately eight months from now, a bevy of U.S. presidential historians will assess his legacy. My guess is that he will actively seek audiences that adhere to his and others’ neo-conservative viewpoints: that his vision of a “new” Middle-East will advance the cause of democracy world-wide; that his ouster of Saddam Hussein was a necessary rationale for advancing democracy in the region. By doing so Bush hopes to convince professional historians that his Middle- East foreign policy initiatives will bear fruit: his ouster of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein will usher in the establishment of a stable and prosperous democracy in Iraq that will in turn serve as a model for the rest of the Middle-East; that his decision (or lack of it) to oust Saddam Hussein is in response to factual claims that the former Iraqi president possessed weapons of mass destruction, a claim now discounted by a Senate Phase II intelligence report released recently; and that this push for democracy in the Middle-East serves to counteract anti-American sentiment harbored by ardent “Islamo-fascists” bent on destroying Western values. Another reality of 9/11 will not occur on his watch.
As a Muslim I’ve learned that the Western view of history cleaves itself into two compartments: there is an enlightened view, one that seeks to project an abstract view of history, one that accord accolades to former and future Western leaders by citing their accomplishments objectively, while another view chronicles the wave of human destruction as a result of the policies themselves. The abstract view will certainly neglect to mention the unbelievable carnage, the tremendous loss of human lives endangered by the Iraq war, along with the tremendous rise of anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle-East. Yvonne Ridley has already encapsulated her views of Bush’s legacy in an earlier column. My guess is that he won’t publicly say that he’s sorry, but his policy decisions as president will gnaw at his soul for years to come.
Here is what Bush wants us to know about his legacy: he advanced an ambitious campaign to transform the Middle-East and to make it safe for U.S. interests and values. Not only did his policies nullify these objectives; it reversed them. Leon Hader, research fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle-East, asserted that his policies created a gap between his grand designs for the Middle-East and the depressing reality on the ground. Not only is there continuing violence, along with political and economic disintegration, in Iraq, but he has failed to bring about an end to the Arab-Jewish dispute concerning the two-state solution and the Holy Land, and has even managed to consolidate stronger ties between the Shia communities of Iraq and Iran.
In fact, George W. Bush’s claim that the purpose of the Iraq war, that of spreading democracy throughout the Middle-East, is a hoax.
About a month ago Bush travelled to the Middle-East to cement his legacy because it is in this region of the world that he wants his policies to reverberate and to bear fruit. Later on he travelled to Europe to meet with allies for the last time.
First, he addressed the Israeli Knesset to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary of its founding and recognition by the U.S. He then visits Saudi Arabia to recognize the 75th anniversary of U.S. recognition. His objective was to further an enduring characteristic of U.S. foreign policy in this region of the world: to control the oil resources there, and to support regimes that maintain that support. In Saudi Arabia, his ardent hope was to engage the House of Saud into an anti-Iranian alliance. This strategy enables Israel to maintain its security against “hostile” organizations such as Hisb’Allah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Bush hopes to strengthen factions in Lebanon and Gaza that oppose these groups. Bush’s real objective is to strengthen ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Besides, it has incomparable resources of energy. Israel is a rich country armed to the teeth (with U.S. help, of course).
While Bush commemorated Israel’s “founding” 60 years ago, he did not recognize another paired event: the destruction of Palestine. Bush was an enthusiastic participant in Jewish events, but he did not visit Ramallah, or Gaza City. He did not visit Hamas leaders and parliamentarians, who, I must add in passing, had been democratically elected.
While visiting European leaders on his farewell tour before leaving office they wished he’d already left. Europe’s leaders are already looking forward to his successor. They are tired of his “cowboy diplomacy” and are mindful of his unpopularity on their soil, one that is even more devastating that his unpopularity here in the U.S. – here his approval rating is 24 percent!
San Francisco is now set to hold a vote on whether to rename one its largest sewage treatment plants after President Bush. One group, the Presidential Memorial Commission, has already collected 8,500 signatures in support of the plan – 1,300 more than the minimum needed to put the question to city voters in November.
You decide on what side of the “historical fence” to choose from when assessing Bush’s legacy.
The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org