What Are the Root Causes, Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice?

Palestinian security officers scuffle with Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank city of Ramallah during a protest against the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 25 July 2006. (MaanImages/Fadi Arouri)


For months and years, independent media commentators have been using the term ‘root causes’ to highlight the role of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as one of the primary contributing factors to a destabilized Middle East.

At the G-8 Summit, US President Bush said, “One of the interesting things about this recent flare-up is that it helps clarify a ‘root cause’ of instability in the Middle East - and that’s Hezbollah and Hezbollah’s relationship with Syria, and Hezbollah’s relationship to Iran, and Syria’s relationship to Iran. Therefore, in order to solve this problem it’s really important for the world to address the ‘root cause.’”

Prior to giving the green light to Israel to continue its bombing campaign for another week, US Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice said, “We do seek an end to the current violence, we seek it urgently. We also seek to address the ‘root causes’ of that violence. A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo.”

As Ms. Rice shuttled to Lebanon, Israel and Rome talking about peace, the Bush administration approved rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel after receiving a request last week.

At virtually every home demolition in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the tear gas canisters say, “Made in the United States.”

How is it that a Republican-led administration that has virtually no credibility in the entire Middle East expect to be seen as a balanced arbiter of interests when Israel is dropping American-made bombs and directly funding the Israeli military? Russia and the US are arming the region and using it as their proxy battlefield. Is the right-wing Republican Administration the root cause behind the serious missteps in American foreign policy since 2001?

Why is it that a country smaller than the state of New Jersey with a population barely over seven million can dictate world affairs and hold off calls for a ceasefire by the most powerful nations on earth? Were it not that these nations had other interests in Iran and Syria, Israel could not come across as a kind of neo-superpower on the world stage that can make war at will. Justifying the destruction of an entire country and displacing close to 750,000 people on the premise that captured soldiers and the threat of rocket attacks is proportional leads to a deeply problematic supposition. On that basis alone, by the extension of that faulty argument, Iran should be bombed in to oblivion next week due to its direct links to Hezbollah.

While Tony Blair continues to play the role of George Bush’s pet poodle in international affairs, BBC television is also starting to be instrumentalized as a propaganda tool due to its uncritical reporting and clear bias towards Israel. The daily humiliation of Palestinians is off the radar for most mainstream news as BBC presenters throw soft lob questions at Israeli emissaries.

Is holding back a call for a ceasefire while civilians die by the dozens every day a sign of moral leadership that we should all look up to?

Is Hezbollah’s use of Syrian and Iranian missiles any less morally obtuse than the US role in arming Israel?

The US and Israel are widely and correctly viewed as the regional bullies. That is not to say that those on the other side of the debate who use violence in the region have any credible leadership to offer or in any way respect human rights.

On the contrary, placing these two dogmatic and ideological forces against one another produces rather predictable outcomes virtually every time. There are structural problems associated with this conflict that are directly reinforced by American foreign policy in the region. Once again, it is innocent Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese civilians who pay the price of these power games.

Why is that the narrative is defined by the combatants rather than by the civilians who are bearing the brunt of all this bullshit? Who left the idiots in Hezbollah and the IDF leadership in charge of international affairs? Why do the rest of us have to put up with this authoritarian nightmare driven by the lies and distortions of power? How could this escalation possibly have come as a surprise to those closest to the information?

By superimposing the ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric, the US is continuing its bull-headed approach to foreign policy. Until Americans realize that their country is vehemently hated in this part of the world, and that only a fundamental shift in approach to the Middle East can alter this perception, its tainted role can only do more damage than good. Forget about imposing an outsider’s view of democracy - order, economic development and human rights would be sufficient in this region. The other changes must happen internally by the funding and development of civil society.

Letting Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld loose in this part of the world to set American foreign policy is not only dangerous, but alss terrible for American interests. That the Republicans have so successfully and pervasively taken over so many aspects of American political life says something about American culture that is not particularly flattering. Perhaps what is worse, is that most Americans still have not realized the extent to which their view of how the world works has been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the rest of the world - even amongst its allies. Those who still cling to a world shaped by “American values” are either deeply deluded, certifiably insane or a messianic force to be ignored. Even in the European Union, they have developed an internal gospel that they represent the highest order of ‘civilization’ which is still a rather post-colonial view that reeks of profound arrogance.

The Middle East is a mess entirely created by US and European foreign policy negligence and weak leadership in the region itself. Without these factors, there would be no Hassan Nusrallah or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The West, by not confronting Israeli policy in an authentic or balanced manner, or by helping to impose a negotiated peace agreement, inadvertently set in motion a very predictable outcome which is manifested in the conflict that has transpired during the last two weeks.

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Am Johal is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada who worked during 2004 in international advocacy with the Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel