In an excellent piece in Monday's New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert tells how the Bush administration has been trying to turn not just the Guantanamo detainee tribunals but the entire U.S. legal system into the kind of judicial environment more appropriately depicted in a Marx Bros. film.
At the same time, U.S. foreign policy is coming to resemble not Marx-ism, but a Laurel and Hardy script.
Indeed, as Israel, with Bush's blessing, expands its initial militaristic bullying of Gaza into a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, with daily escalation of the violence threatening to ignite the whole Middle East, a version of Oliver Hardy's famous line springs readily to mind: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten us into."
It is clear by the ease and speed with which Israel's military moved systematically into Gaza, destroying the basic infrastructure of that hemmed-in captive community of a million impoverished human beings, that this had nothing to do with "rescuing" a "kidnapped" soldier, and everything with attempting to destroy the elected government of the nascent Palestinian state. Israel initiated this act of aggression after weeks of rocket and shelling attacks against the territory--including one which killed eight members of a family on a beach outing--all of which provocation took place without any criticism from the U.S.
It doesn't take much of a foreign affairs background to predict that such an all-out assault on the Palestinian people would elicit a response from the Palestinian people's closest ally, the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, and respond Hezbollah did.
Now there may be those in Israel's right-wing government who wanted Hezbollah to attack, giving Israel a pretext to move back into Lebanon and to unleash its American-provided and American taxpayer-financed weaponry against the Palestinian and Lebanese backers of a Palestinian state residing in Lebanon. There may even be those in Israel who for their own insane reasons want an excuse to expand the current bloody war further into Syria, which is a backer of Hezbollah. But where are America's interests here?
Apparently the Stan Laurel impersonator in the White House, with his biblical megalomania and his self-delusional neo-con advisors seems to think all this is a good thing. The president has had not a word of criticism to offer for Israel's blitzkrieg, and is content to take a historic conflict of national, ethnic and tribal dimensions and cram it into his simplistic "us-against-the-terrorists" dogma.
In the Bush worldview, bombing crowded urban areas by air and howitzer is "legitimate national defense," while capturing Israeli soldiers and firing small, unguided rockets back at Israeli territory is "terrorism."
Of course, we can trace this ignorant and simplistic thinking (if it can be called that) back to the invasion of Iraq, where President Laurel/Bush and his gang imagined first of all that invading that country would a) be a piece of cake and b) set off a wave of democratic reform across the Middle East.
A fine mess that has proven to be!
Iraq is now, by almost any measure, a worse place to live than it ever was under Saddam Hussein, and appears headed for at best a religious theocracy, and at worst an interminable period as a failed state of warring tribes and religious sects slaughtering for supremacy. As for spreading democracy, the only place where democracy seems to have really been attempted was Palestine, where the people, using the ballot, threw out the corrupt and ineffective PLO, and replaced it with a government led by Hamas. And what did President Laurel/Bush do in response for this dramatic and honest expression of the people's will? He joined Israel in condemning their decision, and set about, with Israel, in attempting to undermine and overturn that elected government.
We are reaping the result of this unprincipled idiocy today. Just watch the news (after filtering out the pro-Israeli slant on the coverage, if you can).
There are many people on the left and the far right who see all this as part of some master conspiracy of the zionists and neocons, claiming that the idea is to bolster Israel as a military master of the Middle East, while weakening the Arab regimes so that the U.S. can ultimately step in and control them and their oil. I have a couple of problems with this theory. First of all, the U.S. does control Iraq, and it can't even get cheap oil out of that country the way it was able to do while Hussein was in power. Meanwhile, the U.S. has effectively controlled Saudi Arabia for years, and gets full access to that country's oil--and to neighboring Kuwait's oil--without firing a shot. Why spent $1 trillion and create unpredictable chaos abroad and at home to accomplish something that we already have? The truth, anyway, is that while the U.S. is being bankrupted by war this without end, the Chinese are signing long-term oil-supply deals with Iran and other producing countries at favorable forward prices.
These are not smart people running American foreign policy. They're the same kinds of bumbling idiots who brought us the War in Indochina.
A nice mess they're getting us into.