March 4, 2008
The new Vanity Fair has a must-read article on how King George furthered the cause of democracy in the Middle East by trying to cook up a coup in Gaza:
After failing to anticipate Hamas’ victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-Contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Advisor Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.
Here’s a slightly bigger helping:
[Palestinian national-security adviser Muhammad] Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn’t ready for elections in January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and inefficiency—a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit. Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several from Fatah.
“Everyone was against the elections,” Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush. “Bush decided, ‘I need an election. I want elections in the Palestinian Authority.’ Everyone is following him in the American administration, and everyone is nagging Abbas, telling him, ‘The president wants elections.’ Fine. For what purpose?”
The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council.
Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t caught off guard by Hamas’s strong showing.”
“Everyone blamed everyone else,” says an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’”
Washington reacted with dismay when Abbas began holding talks with Hamas in the hope of establishing a “unity government.”
“Nobody saw it coming.” Funny how often that phrase turns up with Condi Rice. Maybe that should be the title of Bush’s presidential memoir.
At their joint press conference, Rice smiled as she expressed her nation’s “great admiration” for Abbas’s leadership. Behind closed doors, however, Rice’s tone was sharper, say officials who witnessed their meeting. Isolating Hamas just wasn’t working, she reportedly told Abbas, and America expected him to dissolve the Haniyeh government as soon as possible and hold fresh elections.
What other parts of the world can King George screw up before the end of his term? Venezuela and Colombia? The mind reels.
I’ve never wished for another January so fervently.