Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bush meets Maliki: This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all


Mikhail Gorbachev is in hospital with a blocked artery in his neck. He was crushed to learn that he was no longer important enough for Putin to have assassinated.

By the way, just how much of London did Putin have irradiated to kill one guy?

Read Andrew Cohen’s op-ed piece in the WaPo on the Guantanamo kangaroo courts.

Bush and Maliki finally met in Amman. Stephen Hadley was also present. That must have been awkward. But none of that awkwardness was displayed in Maliki’s expression or body language.

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Bush and Maliki had a press conference.

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After the mysterious leaking of the Hadley memo, Bush went out of his way to praise Maliki as “the right guy for Iraq” and “a strong leader.” Really? In what way is he strong? Or a leader?

Actually, a reporter asked him that (and with Maliki standing right there): “what gives you such confidence today to think that he can achieve what he hasn’t done over the last six months?” Bush said, “The first thing that gives me confidence is that he wants responsibility. A sign of leadership is for somebody to say, I want to be able to have the tools necessary to protect my people. One of his frustrations with me is that he believes we’ve been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people.” In other words, he’s actually a weak leader, who needs to be “given” tools. Or, in the word de jour, “accelerating” his capacity. Indeed, “As opposed to saying, America, you go solve the problem, we have a Prime Minister who’s saying, stop holding me back, I want to solve the problem.”

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I won’t have much to say about Maliki’s remarks, which appear in the transcript as badly-translated bluster: “So everybody who is trying to make Iraq their own influences appear on the account of the Iraqi people needs to recalculate for it will not happen.” One can only hope Bush and Maliki’s translators did a better job. On the other hand, badly-translated bluster may be the only language Bush speaks fluently.

Bush: “I know there’s a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there’s going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq... this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all.” Is there anyone who actually expects a graceful exit from Iraq? Marines performing grandes pliĆ©s while holding on to the runners of helicopters taking off from the embassy roof, perhaps?

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Asked about a time limit on meeting his goals, Bush helpfully said, “As soon as possible. But I’m realistic, because I understand how tough it is inside of Iraq.” Which is why 500 miles away in Jordan is as close as he’s gonna get. “No question it’s a violent society right now. He knows that better than anybody. He was explaining to me that occasionally the house in which he lives gets shelled by terrorists who are trying to frighten him.”

All time tables do, he said, “is set people up for unrealistic expectations.” And if there’s one thing Bush never sets people up for, it’s unrealistic expectations.

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Finally, Bush demonstrated his sophisticated understanding of the Middle East: “Well, first of all, there’s no question that if we were able to settle the Palestinian-Israeli issue, it would help bring more peace to the Middle East.” “I believe it’s in the Palestinian people’s interest that they have their own state.” He even has advice for Condi to bring to Olmert and Abbas: “My advice is, support reasonable people and reject extremists.”

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