However, this space -- at least how I've envisioned it since its inception in November, 2004 -- was to be a whiteboard of what's happening between my ears. And as exciting as that sounds, sometimes -- especially when something like a burgeoning, all-out war in the Middle East is raging, I can't in good faith make an attempt at levity without feeling as though I've compromised whatever principles I've used to govern the content herein in the first place. Luckily, there are and have been moments of levity since this conflict has begun; however, they have been few and far between, and though the following might or might not qualify, I have addressed it herein as an attempt so as not to inspire the readers of this space to be overtaken by spontaneous napping at their PC's with the requisite drool-release that would surely damage or render ineffective their keyboards.
It started out as something mildly amusing; however, by the end of the week, much like the daily health reports of the near-fatal Barbaro, it could very well wind up being an inspiration for mass suicide.
Yesterday, President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair were filmed at the G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg discussing the current state of affairs in the Middle East. The two of them and their wives met at a dinner which they knew would be attended by the press. In past years, for the most part, the event was an innocuous photo op and time for some basic chit-chat and getting-to-know-you bullshit that allowed the attendees some basic down-time. However, in this world of 24-7 news, it turns out there was a live microphone in the vicinity of the two men and their discussion; so in addition to the lovely pictures of, among other things, George Bush slathering butter and consuming a dinner roll, we -- the world -- were privy to Mr. Bush's discussion with his English counterpart.
Their discussion focused on Syria's role in the conflict; Mr. Blair suggested an international peacekeeping force -- sponsored by the UN -- be dispatched to the region to a) control Hezbollah attacks on Israel, and b) to hinder or outright stop Israel's air, ground and sea assault on Hezbollah positions inside Lebanon. His goal, apparently, was to stop the fighting and the bloodshed. More on this later.
Mr. Bush, in response, mentioned Condoleeza Rice's possible visit to the region -- once the violence calmed somewhat. Mr. Blair concurred her visiting the region would -- and need to -- be successful in order to get the entire situation defused.
Then came the eyebrow-raiser.
Below, find the verbatim interchange between Bush and Blair.
When I first read these comments and subsequently watched the video and heard the comments personally, it didn't bother me that Bush used the word "shit." Far from it -- it was nice, for a change, to hear him speak in his own language. Obviously, he and Tony Blair are as exasperated as the rest of us when it comes to this situation and how to defuse it.
Bush: See the irony is what [the UN] needs to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.
Blair: Cause I think this is all part of the same thing. What does [Kofi Annan] think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's done it. That's what this whole things about. It's the same with Iran.
Bush: I feel like telling Kofi to get on the phone with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel and we're not blaming the Lebanese government.
Oddly enough, what interested me more than Bush using the word "shit" was the fact that he, essentially, absolved both Israel and Lebanon and placed the blame squarely on Syria, and, to a lesser extent, Iran. I think that's accurate, incidentally; but it will be interesting when this matter is discussed further in front of podiums with prepared, rather than impromptu, speeches.
Normally I wouldn't bother mentioning it here; but I was curious what people felt about Bush's supposed gaffe. I wonder how many among us were disgusted or somewhat repulsed by this interchange due to Mr. Bush's "dumbing down" of the situation.
The other thing I found interesting was that Mr. Bush, upon seeing Mr. Blair, shouted "Yo, Blair!" within earshot, again, of the same microphone that caused this entire interchange to be public. The British press seized on this too.
The Sun observed that Bush sounded "more like a rapper than a statesman." But the remainder of the British press used the interchange to cast a negative light on Tony Blair, suggesting this interchange confirmed he was a lackey for Bush's and America's foreign policy interests. The Independent suggested the conversation revealed "a unique insight into the relationship between the two men." The Daily Mail opined it had "done little to rebuff suspicions that the prime minister is something of a Washington poodle." Finally, The Daily Mirror intimated the conversation cast Blair "as a diplomat in the service of the U.S. government, offering to go to the Middle East on behalf of the U.S. government."
Personally, I don't have much thought on what essentially was a three-minute conversation; I did find it interesting that the whole thing was publicized in the form of audio/video, especially because it doesn't favorably depict either leader. However, I think why I focused on it -- and why I think it's somewhat significant -- is that it shows us that no one really has any one answer for how to solve this crisis. As I've suggested in previous posts, no amount of rationale, sensible thought or debate will ever convince supporters of Lebanon, let alone Hezbollah, that Israel is not the "aggressor" in this situation. I have vacillated between believing Israel's response to the Hezbollah action was excessive and understanding its scope and its goal. What finally convinced me was the US response to Afghanistan and the Taliban post 9/11; the US confronted the Taliban knowing that government was hiding and providing safe passage to Osama bin Laden. The Taliban denied this, although it was a known fact. In response to repeated Taliban denials, the US then proceeded to carpet-bomb the entire country and eliminate, essentially, the Taliban from power. I think Israel's response to Hezbollah's actions have been remarkably, and not coincidentally, similar to ours was on 9/11. To Israel, having one soldier kidnapped is just as bad, if not worse, than a foreign entity -- government, group, what have you -- violating American soil and killing innocent civilians. And frankly, the entire thing was orchestrated by Syria and Iran.
The only question now is whether Iran, in a PR move, attempts to broker a peace to distract international focus on its nuclear program and to receive the respect from lesser nations (like Lebanon, et al) that will solidify its position in the newly-balanced power structure of the Middle East. Knowing that Israel will essentially not stop its assault until its two soldiers are returned and Hezbollah ceases to be a threat to Israeli civilians, Iran can then say either that they were able to save Lebanon from the Zionist aggressor; or if they are not successful in deterring Israel's offensive, they can subsequently present to the world their failure at the hands of the Israeli desire to destroy Islam in the Middle East. The wild card in all of this, of course, is Syria. If Israel attacks Syria (especially if the kidnapped soldiers are transferred there) then all hell will break loose.
As I've advised in previous posts, this will get worse before it gets better.