Syria’s Place at the Table


President G W Bush with Imad Mustafa.jpg
(Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha and President George W. Bush)
New York University professor Alon Ben-Meir has written an eloquent and compelling essay on why Syria’s role in any Israel-Palestine negotiation is central, not peripheral, to a serious Middle East peace negotiation.
He writes:

Regardless of the reality or the merits of American grievances against Syria, none can be settled by public recriminations and accusations. The agreement with North Korea regarding its nuclear weapons program should be a telling lesson to the administration. Only when it conceded to the North Korean demand for face-to-face negotiations was an agreement finally hammered out with Pyongyang, an agreement which could have been achieved five years ago and certainly before North Korea got to the point of conducting an actual nuclear test.
Inviting Syria to the peace conference is not a reward to Damascus for its alleged mischievous behavior; it is a matter of real necessity dictated by the prevailing turmoil in the Middle East to which the Bush administration has contributed so largely. The Middle- East conference offers the Bush administration an opportunity to change course toward Syria without loosing face not to speak of preventing a colossal failure.

Today, a group of bipartisan foreign policy heavyweights — Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Theodore Sorensen, Paul Volcker, Thomas Pickering and Carla Hills — sent President Bush a letter calling for serious engagement with Syria in the Israel-Palestine peace process and an end to the isolation of Hamas.
In the letter sent to Bush today by this roster of luminaries, however, they “welcome” the administration’s overtures toward Syria.
But these overtures, as far as Syria is concerned are insubstantial and largely fake.
Syria has NOT been formally invited to the Annapolis meetings in a direct sense. Syria has been invited as a member of the Arab League. And this sleight-of-hand, sloppy manner of inviting Syria to the table is not inspiring serious consideration.
Neither is the absence of coordination between the US government and other stakeholder governments — like the Russian Federation.
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “Syria’s Place at the Table

  1. Steve Clemons says:

    Ric — I don’t think I ever said the administration would listen to the bipartisan heavyweights…I outlined what the bipartisan heavyweights were saying should be done. This is benchmarking a rational course.
    You may not think that such benchmarks and outside counsel matter — but they do in terms of the future.
    Your posts and comments matter too — which is why you write them. You are putting a marker out there — and that is what Scowcroft, Brzeziski, Hills, Pickering, Kassebaum Baker and others did with their letter.
    All the best,
    Steve Clemons


  2. Kathleen says:

    I’m adding Cindy Sheehan to my contribution list.


  3. Carroll says:

    As the Worm turns…continued
    St Thomas has announced it will reverse it’s decision to call Tutu an anti-semite and reinvite him to speak.
    The letter from the Dean of St. Thomas is here:
    I sent a letter in protest and I imagine a lot of people did, it’s evident the public outcry on St Thomas was responsible for them changing their little minds. Probably the fact that some well knows clx’ed their own appearence at St Thomas in protest was a major factor…”poet Lucille Clifton, who on hearing of the Tutu blacklisting, nixed her own appearance at the school:
    “It is with deep regret that I must cancel my visit. … I have spent my life trying to be a human of integrity and hope and peace; and I find it difficult to speak and model these things in light of the situation concerning Bishop Tutu.”
    Meanwhile a gaggle of intellectuals, from Noam Chomsky to Tony Judt to Neve Gordon to Akeel Bilgrami and John Mearsheimer will be speaking at a forum on academic freedom in a church at the University of Chicago. The discussion stems from the blacklisting of Norman G. Finkelstein at DePaul.
    Keep up the pressure on academic censorship.
    Shout the thugs down.
    Get loud.


  4. Carroll says:

    As Nader said…Not a Dimes Worth of Difference. New Boss same as old Boss.
    October 11, 2007
    Congressional Quarterly’s Tim Starks:
    The public was kept out of a House Intelligence Committee markup Wednesday despite the fact that a portion of the meeting was officially “open.”
    Which is interesting because last fall — when Republicans still controlled the House — Democrats complained mightily when a committee markup of surveillance legislation that was supposed to be open was closed and conducted under a “cloak of secrecy,” as they charged at the time.
    Fast-forward to Wednesday. Democrats held a closed committee markup at which, coincidentally, another bill addressing surveillance law (HR 3773) was approved.
    Both last year’s and Thursday’s markups were held in the Intelligence panel’s special, secure meeting room on the top floor of the Capitol, where all meetings are closed to the public regardless of content.
    Kira Maas, a spokeswoman for Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said the meeting was held in the secure room because “there was a strong likelihood that there would be classified discussion.” But she said the committee would soon provide a transcript of the 20 minutes of “open” meeting the public wasn’t allowed to attend.
    The panel, however, has yet to provide a transcript of portions of a May markup of the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization bill (HR 2082) that were also supposed to be “open” but were actually closed because they were held in the panel’s secure room.”


  5. Carroll says:

    Posted by easy e at October 11, 2007 12:49 AM
    Stay in your place you uppity little boy…they are “The Leaders”
    Washington Post
    By Dana Milbank
    Wednesday, October 10, 2007; Page A02
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in a determinedly good mood when she sat down to lunch with reporters yesterday. She entered the room beaming and, over the course of an hour, smiled no fewer than 31 times and got off at least 23 laughs.
    But her spirits soured instantly when somebody asked about the anger of the Democratic “base” over her failure to end the war in Iraq.
    “Look,” she said, the chicken breast on her plate untouched. “I had, for five months, people sitting outside my home, going into my garden in San Francisco, angering neighbors, hanging their clothes from trees, building all kinds of things — Buddhas? I don’t know what they were — couches, sofas, chairs, permanent living facilities on my front sidewalk.”
    Unsmilingly, she continued: “If they were poor and they were sleeping on my sidewalk, they would be arrested for loitering, but because they have ‘Impeach Bush’ across their chest, it’s the First Amendment.”
    “We have to make responsible decisions in the Congress that are not driven by the dissatisfaction of anybody who wants the war to end tomorrow,” Pelosi told the gathering at the Sofitel, arranged by the Christian Science Monitor. Though crediting activists for their “passion,” Pelosi called it “a waste of time” for them to target Democrats. “They are advocates,” she said. “We are leaders.”
    That sidewalk isn’t the taxpayers sidewalk, it’s “her’s”. Poor homeless people “loiter”, so off to jail with them.
    They are “leaders”. We are the whinning, unserious, irresponsible sheep not capable of grasping the many complications…”and are wasting our time”


  6. Ric says:

    What? Bush didn’t listen to the foreign policy heavyweights???? But, but, but…Steve….you said that THIS time would be Different! What could have gone wrong????


  7. Kathloeen says:

    easy e.. Thanxx for that. I’m sending checks to Gravel and Kucinich TODAY.


  8. decembre says:

    …According to polls, Americans are very dissatisfied with both major political parties because of their inability or their unwillingness to reflect the wishes of the people and to stop the immoral and illegal occupation of Iraq….Tremblay’s
    Yeah yeah….but they will vote for them just the same. The US has lost it’s marbles, completly.
    Americans seems to think they live in a democratic republic but they live in a dictatorship terror state.
    Like the gods they pray, americans love blood and steeling from others.
    Americans have stolen the biggest oil reserve on earth, Irak’s. And they will protect it as long as its there.
    Thieves and blood suckers, the american way !!!


  9. rollingmyeyes says:

    I spent a year on the DMZ in the late 50’s. I knew Korea, and Iraq is no Korea! We didn’t have to decide whether a person was killed by an insurgent or a robber by whether he had been shot in the front of his head or in the his back of his head.


  10. easy e says:

    “How do you get out of a hole?
    First of all, you stop digging. —This is the simple lesson that the Bush-Cheney White House has so much trouble understanding. For Bush and his neocon crowd, they are militarily occupying Iraq and they intend to remain there, no matter what. It doesn’t matter that this immoral and illegal occupation has caused the death of more than one million Iraqis and killed more than 3000 American soldiers. And now, they want to escalate the Iraq war into a wider Middle East conflict involving Iran, thus making sure the United States will be involved militarily in that region of the globe for the next twenty years.
    In 2002, immoral neocon officials in the Defense Department considered Iraq to be a “low-hanging fruit”, ripe for picking for its huge oil reserves, for the opportunity to displace French and Chinese oil companies, for increasing Israel’s security, for moving American military bases from Saudi Arabia to Iraq and for pleasing politically the end-times religious right in the U.S.—thus killing five birds with one stone. According to former CIA Director George Tenet—and this has been confirmed by former Secretary Paul O’Neill and many other insiders—the very idea of taking control militarily of Iraq was improvised and was unjustified because “There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat.”
    Nevertheless, the Bush-Cheney-Libby-Wolfowitz-Feith-Perle team, and their allies at the American Enterprise Institute and at the neocon Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), thought it was a win-win situation. They had decided they wanted a war under the clouds of 9/11, and nothing—truth, morality, reason or facts—could deter them from it. They were ready to lie a thousand times to achieve their goal. And they got it. But now the apprentice sorcerers do not know how to stop the infernal machine of destruction they have set in motion. They only know how to push forward and make a larger mess of it.
    That type of improvisation and political wickedness is all too well confirmed by newly released transcripts of talks George W. Bush had with then-Spanish Prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, in February 22, 2003, a few weeks before the onset of the March 20, 2003 Iraq war. In these transcripts, it is shown that Bush had a criminal intent to launch a war of aggression against Iraq, no matter what, and that he turned down every Iraqi offer that would have avoided a murderous war that has killed more than one million people so far. This includes Saddam Hussein’s offer to go into exile, and for Iraq to hold free and internationally-supervised elections as well as allowing armed foreign troops to conduct unfettered inspections for weapons of mass destruction. —But the Bush-Cheney regime of Neocons wanted war, and nothing could stop them. They wanted, above all, to put their hands on Iraq’s oil wealth. This is a prime example of historical grand theft, political wickedness and moral bankruptcy. Thus, this war has nothing to do with the morality of the “Just War” theory. In fact, it violates all the canons of a just and unavoidable war.
    Confronted with the abysmal cowardliness, moral corruption and incompetence of the Bush-Cheney administration, Americans, on the whole, are more intelligent and more moral than their current leaders, and a large majority of them (63%) think it’s time for the United States to stop occupying illegally the country of Iraq and to stop murdering its citizens. Moreover, a good majority of them (54%) reject the blanket Bush-Cheney policy of aggression abroad, under the pretext of “preventive war”.
    Similarly, the U.S. Congress, the only government branch empowered by the U.S. Constitution to declare war, is officially on record as being against maintaining American troops in Iraq. First, the House of Representatives, on July 12, passed a bill, by a vote of 223 to 201, to withdraw American combat troops from Iraq by next April 1st. Second, in a July 18 vote, a majority of U.S. Senators voted 52 to 47 to bring home most American combat troupes from Iraq by May 1, 2008. —So, both the American people and the American Congress want this war to end, and soon.
    But the truth is that Bush II does not give a hoot about American democratic opinion, as he openly demonstrated recently. And, he does not much care for the U.S. Congress either, or the courts for that matter. In fact, Bush has a deeply ingrained tendency to disregard the truth, the law and the U.S. Constitution.
    In Iraq, the Bush-Cheney regime is still building “enduring” military bases in order to occupy Iraq militarily for decades to come. They even talk openly about the half-century American military presence in South Korea, as if this were a useful analogy.
    At the end of the day, as Bush has said: “I do not need to explain”. As the British magazine The Economist has warned, the world should beware of a President “who has little left to lose,” the more so if he has hardly any moral principle and is indifferent to the opinions of the majority of Americans.
    It is doubtful that a George W. Bush in denial and his delusional neocon advisors for permanent war will ever listen to reason and morality. To the contrary, the lame-duck president is still firing anybody who does not agree with him, while listening to chief Neocon Dick Cheney. The American people see that, and that is why nearly half of them want President George W. Bush to face impeachment, while about 54 percent of American adults now want the US House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney, because he is seen as the chief spreader of lies to launch the illegal Iraq War. As of now, there are twenty-one Congressmen who support the articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney contained in bill H Res 333 —If and when American troops leave Iraq, there will be fewer deaths because there will be fewer killers, both official soldiers and mercenaries.
    The latest victim of Bush’s pigheaded approach to foreign policy is General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Having started a war of aggression on his own, against the advice of most thinking people within the military, political, legal and intelligence communities, and having placed himself squarely against international law, George W. Bush is reduced to shifting the blame for his failures to others. Bush is afraid of having honest people around him, especially a man of the caliber of General Pace, who is a moral man. General Pace, in the spirit of the Nuremberg Charter, has publicly said, “It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral” (Feb. 17, 2006). And since General Pace thinks it is immoral to be the first to use nuclear weapons, one wonders if Bush has fired General Pace because he intends to use nuclear weapons in the coming months.
    The U.S. Congress should wake up before it is too late. When armaments are in the hands of immoral people, the danger is high that a nuclear war could be launched. Indeed, people in power who have no morality and no judgment can be expected to do anything, including killing millions of people, to save face.
    In the book “The New American Empire”, I asked this fundamental question: Why is the Bush-Cheney administration so bent on using lies and distortions in order to justify a war whose end result would be predictably to eliminate from power the Iraqi Sunnis in favor of Shi’ites allied with Shi’ite Iran, thus automatically making Iran the dominant power in that unstable region? One has to remember that Sunnis make up 85 percent of all Muslims around the world and are dominant in the Arab world. —Now that they have realized their error in creating a Shia-dominated Iraq, the Neocons behind the Bush-Cheney team want them to up the ante and to attack Iran, thus turning the Middle East into an even larger murder scene than it is now.
    The American people have never received an answer to that simple question. That is why they are so dissatisfied with George W. Bush, but also with the Republicans and the pro-war neocon Democrats in Congress. This indicates that there is a huge void of leadership in the United States today. On this score, the most moral Democratic 2008 candidate for president is, by far, former senator Mike Gravel from Alaska. The very fact that the mainstream media boycott him should be a good indication that this man stands on the side of the people.
    According to polls, Americans are very dissatisfied with both major political parties because of their inability or their unwillingness to reflect the wishes of the people and to stop the immoral and illegal occupation of Iraq. In fact, more than two-thirds of Americans believe their country is on the wrong track, but nothing is being done about it. In fact, average Americans are losing hope that they will ever be heard by the Washington D.C. political nomenklatura that runs the government while paying scant attention to the people.”
    by Rodrigue Tremblay, Ph.D.
    * * *


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