The Emperor's Clothes — Bush speak!
by Uri Avnery As it so happened, I heard President Bush's (June 24) speech while in Copenhagen. It reminded me immediately of the most famous story created in that town: "The Emperor's Clothes". Everybody praised this fine speech. Prime Minister A. lauded the style, President B. commended the fabric, Sheik C. admired the collar. And I saw only a naked emperor. Everybody knew, of course, that it was a stupid speech, perhaps the most silly ever uttered by an American president. But who will confront the leader of the world's sole superpower? Who will bring upon himself the wrath of a man that possesses such frightening power, while voicing such inanities? A 12-year-old would have been ashamed of presenting such a composition to his teacher. The assumptions are baseless, the general picture resembles a caricature, the conclusions are ridiculous and the parts contradict each other. It says that the Palestinians must choose their leader in a free, democratic election, but that they are forbidden to elect a leader not approved by Sharon and Bush. They must establish a democratic, liberal, pluralistic and multi-party system, including separation of powers, independent courts and transparent finances. For that purpose they are commanded to accept the assistance of America's allies in the Middle East: democratic Saudi Arabia, pluralistic Egypt and liberal Jordan. Financial transparency like in Riyadh, separation of powers like in Cairo, independent courts like in Amman. The establishment of this ideal system is a precondition to any peace negotiations. In Europe, such a system was achieved after a struggle of hundreds of years. In the Arab world, it does not exist anywhere. Arafat is the only Arab chief of state who was chosen in free elections, under close international supervision, personally overseen by ex-President Jimmy Carter. In Bush's crooked mirror, terrorism antedates the occupation. Indeed, he did not mention the occupation at all in this context. There is nothing but terrorism. In his limited world-view, terrorism is the sum of everything: In the beginning God created the War on Terrorism, and the whole world revolves around it. Terrorism, like Satan, exists since the creation, it is not the result of anything, it has its own independent existence. And, much as a devout Christian is commanded to fight Satan every moment in his life on earth, so must every human being fight terrorism and will be judged accordingly by the divine judge, Bush. And what is terrorism? Terrorism is what the enemies of the USA are doing. Friends of the USA cannot, of course, do such a thing. In Turkey, for example, it is the Kurds who are the terrorists, while the Turkish army is a humanitarian outfit. Good friend Putin does not commit acts of terrorism, his deeds in Grozni are nearly as charitable as those of Sharon in Jenin. But Arafat is a terrorist. He is also corrupt, also a dictator. This needs no proof. Sharon says so, and Sharon is beyond reproach. Arafat has to be eliminated, removed from office, expelled, murdered. (Bush, of course, does not speak of murder, but not so long ago the decree forbidding American agencies to kill foreign leaders was rescinded. Actually, in this instance their involvement is not needed, the slightest hint will suffice for Sharon to execute the deed at once.) What will happen after Arafat's removal-expulsion-murder? According to Bush, it's quite simple: reform-minded Palestinians will come forward, take some Palestinian professor from Harvard or Oxford as president and create the Palestinian Switzerland. Bush, of course, does not imagine that something very different is going to happen. The man after Arafat will have to show that he is no Mossad or CIA stooge, therefore he will have to be more extreme than Arafat. In order to avoid being executed as a traitor within 24 hours, he will have to create an alliance with Hamas. In the coming elections, the candidate of the "National and Islamic Forces" will surely win. That's the best-case scenario. In the worst-case scenario, there will not be an alternative leadership at all. Palestinian society will break up into hundreds of shreds, each of which will commit suicide bombings in the occupied territories, Israel, throughout the Middle East and the world. Chaos will reign supreme. This is what Sharon really desires, because it will enable him to carry out ethnic cleansing and annex the Palestinian territories, fulfilling his dream of at least 50 years. The good Bush certainly does not want this, but since he has become the squire of Sharon, a kind of American Sancho Panza to the Israeli Don Quixote, it's what the Don says that counts. After the speech, I met with a senior European diplomat. "Well, it may not be the most brilliant discourse we ever heard," he said with a slight, ironic smile, "But it's what we have got. It would not be wise to confront Bush head on, that would only cause him to become obstinate." If so, what can be done? The ironic smile did not leave his lips. "European diplomacy has hundreds of years of experience. The clever thing to do is to pick from the speech one positive sentence and blow it up, ignoring the negative parts." Europe will concentrate on the elections. These must be free, under close international supervision. For the elections to be free, candidates must be free to move. For parties to be formed and conduct their campaigns, there must be freedom of speech and association. All this is impossible under occupation. Therefore, first of all, the occupation has to be removed from the Palestinians territories. Under the Oslo agreements, the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem enjoy the right of active and passive vote, and they, too, must be allowed to move and campaign freely. Until the elections, the existing elected instituted, including the chairman of the authority, must continue to function. Europe will continue to deal with him. Arafat, of course, like any other citizen, has the right to present his candidacy — and, if chosen in a free election, the world (led by Europe) will recognize him. Nobody doubts that he will indeed be elected by a massive majority. So, after all, a golden thread can be found in the emperor's clothes.
* * *Attention: Hans Christian Anderson.