What do Paul Wolfowitz, Dan Kurtzer, Aaron Miller, and Prince Andrew have in common?
These four privileged older white guys have all sought (and been granted) exposure in the corporate media recently. Paul Wolfowitz, one of the prime architects and advocates of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was given this fine platform on the NYT’s opinion page in order to criticize Pres. Trump’s recent decision to withdraw (or later, reduce/redeploy) the U.S. troop presence in Syria. Dan Kurtzer and Aaron Miller, two of the leading “peace processors” guiding U.S. policy on Palestine and other Middle Eastern issues for 24 years, 1992-2016, were given this platform on the Washington Post, to comment on Trump’s policy on Israel’s illegal settlement. As for Prince Andrew, you may have heard he gave this disastrous interview to the BBC, discussing his ties to the late Jeffrey Epstein.
What struck me, however, was not that these four guys got the media coverage they sought (though more of that, in re Wolfowitz, below.) Rather, it was what they all failed to say in these media appearances. That is, not one of them said a single word about the great suffering their past actions had inflicted on vulnerable subaltern groups, or expressed sympathy with those who experienced that suffering, or took any responsibility for having inflicted it in the first place.
No, for all four of these guys, what they wanted to express in their media appearances was all about themselves. A scintilla of human sympathy for the victims of their own past acts? No, no, no.
I truly have nothing I want to say about Prince Andrew except to point out that his behavior is yet another fine argument for the ending of the very anachronistic institution known as a monarchy. The others deserve a bit more attention.
My first and biggest question is how he can dare to write about anything about the Mashreq– and even, as he does here, about the eruption and fight against ISIS within it– without saying a single word about the roots of ISIS in the destruction that his favored policy of invading Iraq had wrought throughout the whole of that country. This guy should be on trial for major war crimes, not featured on the pages of the New York Times. Indeed, in a dizzying feat of historiographical legerdemain, his article skips right over the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq almost completely, jumping from the events of 1991 to “President Obama’s failure 20 years later to support the Syrian opposition.”
2003? Nah, nothing to see there…
Of course, if he had thought to mention the invasion of 2003 and the sequence of catastrophes that that act brought to the people of Iraq, including hundreds of thousands of deaths, the splitting up of the country, and the eruption of ISIS, then the argument he makes in the article that Syria’s president should also have been overthrown (and maybe, still should be?) would have been shown for what it is: a recipe for yet further disasters.
My bigger question about the Wolfowitz piece is why on earth the people at the NYT feel they need to raise even one finger to help rehabilitate this war criminal by opening their pages to him?
They took one earlier step in this direction back in January 2017, with this fairly anodyne op-ed piece. But the latest piece is much more substantive. I guess it fits right in with their own strongly anti-Asad agenda?
Which brings us to the slightly strange article published by Kurtzer and Miller last week (available at Carnegie website). At first glance, it seems like standard US MSM fare: a piece criticizing Trump for breaking with several decades of previous US policy on the legality of Israel’s settlements. But then, it seems to divulge a “startling” truth. The statement that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had recently made on the settlements, they write [emphasis mine]:
confirms, through legal acrobatics, the de facto approach of U.S. administrations over the course of four decades to acquiesce to, even enable, the Israeli settlement enterprise; to be silent on the issue of legality; and to fail to impose a penalty that could limit or discourage Israel’s settlement policies. We watched this happen, up close, during our more than 50 combined years of service in U.S. diplomacy under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Well, none of this is news to all those of us who have followed U.S. policymaking on Palestine throughout these past decades. It could be seen as mildly interesting that these two guys– who between them constitute 50% of the “Gang of Four”, very dedicated Zionists who dominated U.S. policymaking on matters Palestinian for so long– are now prepared to ‘fess up to the fact that this was what all the presidents they had worked for, for all those years, had done.
Although, you could also see it as a bit of swaggering/bragging – that “This is what we got away with, for all those years, 1992-2016, he-he-heh!” And that impression is strengthened by the fact that not once in their whole article do they ever mention the plight of the Palestinians whose lives have been very seriously blighted for many decades now (or even, in too many cases, actually ended) because of the policies they advocated for and implemented, which were endlessly forgiving of Israel, which did nothing to rein in Israel’s continuing colonial taking of Palestinian land and resources, and which have brought Palestinians and Israelis not one millimeter closer to the “peace” these two guys claim to have working for, for all those years.
Their lack of thoughtfulness and remorse is made even clearer by what they write here:
Perhaps the major reason the United States failed to impose costs on Israel for its settlement activity — at least once serious Arab-Israeli negotiations began in the 1990s — was the compelling view that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay at the bargaining table.
Note that word, “compelling,” presented there without any qualifications or caveats. So it seems they still consider “the view that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay at the bargaining table” to be compelling?
Well guess what, guys: It didn’t work, did it? This endless peace-process-y thing you and your colleagues in the gang of Four devoted so many years to working on did not bring any success “at the bargaining table.” It did not bring peace. It failed, it failed, it failed… But these two guys living their comfortable, privileged lives do nothing to acknowledge that.
They could have written something like,
Perhaps the major reason the United States failed to impose costs on Israel for its settlement activity… was the view –which we considered compelling at the time but have since come to reconsider— that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay at the bargaining table.
Because of course it is not the case that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay during those earlier decades, lies today, or has ever lain at a solely US-designed “bargaining table.” More appropriately, it would lie in Americans returning the lead role on the Question of Palestine to the United Nations, where it rightly belongs, and pressing for it be treated there in full compliance with the requirements of international law (including on the illegality of Israel’s settlements and many other Israeli acts, and on the need for full respect of Palestinian rights including their UN-affirmed Right of Return).
That would be a way to bring a real, sustainable, and rights-based peace to the area of Israel/Palestine.
But Kurtzer and Miller do not even entertain this thought. Indeed, they provide no prescription at all for a path forward. All they are able to do is hint at the superiority of the path they themselves followed 1992-2016, which was one essentially of allowing Israel to continue abusing Palestinian rights as much as it wants but covering those abuses with a chimera known as a “peace process.”
Which, as noted above, did not work. But they continue to occupy nicely-funded positions and to get called on regularly to opine on matters Palestinian and Israel… as if they had something of some value to say?
This post first appeared on Just World News site on Nov. 26.