Road to Damascus

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Road to Damascus

by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis

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President George Bush charges that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s trip last week to Syria was undermining US foreign policy. He’s absolutely correct.

If ever there was an administration whose foreign policy needed undermining, it’s the Bush/Cheney diumverate. The House and Senate do not traditionally take a lead in foreign affairs, except, of course, for assisting Israel, but these are extraordinary times and extraordinary measures are needed.

Speaker Pelosi, the third-ranking government official, and a remarkably capable lady, is doing all Americans a service.

The republic’s founding fathers were deeply worried a future president might run amok or make himself an absolute ruler. The primary constitutional architecture of the US government is designed to thwart such dangers through a brilliant system of checks and balances. Problem is that King George III’s reincarnation in the White House and his servile Republican flunkies in Congress have combined to undermine this vital mechanism.

Congress was created as the premiere branch of government to express the voice of the American people. Its leaders have the duty and every legal right to intervene when they see the executive branch leading the nation over a cliff and repeatedly violating the Constitution, be it at home or abroad.

Nancy Pelosi was quite right to ignore Bush’s narrow-minded refusal to talk to Syria. She went to meet President Bashar al-Asad in Damascus. Interestingly, Pelosi was joined by some of the leading members of the pro-Israel lobby in Congress.

Whether she was carrying secret messages from Israel to Syria remains a question of considerable debate. But the US Congress, dominated as it is by lobbies aligned with Israel’s right wing parties, is a vital player in Mideast politics, and should have an active voice in any moves towards peace.

Pelosi arrived in Damascus at a crucially important moment. The Arab League just unanimously reaffirmed its historic offer to Israel of full recognition and permanent peace in exchange for a withdrawal to Israel’s 1967 borders, sharing Jerusalem, and some kind of compensation or resettlement of 4.5 million Palestinian refugees. This is essentially the same plan proposed to Bush by the respected Iraq Study Group in Washington.

Never has Israel and its neighbors been closer to peace. In fact, before expanding its borders in the 1967 war, Israel would have jumped at such an offer. But instead of backing this dramatic opening, Bush and Cheney have been busy preparing to launch an air war against Iran, and have been pressing Israel to attack Syria and Lebanon. Pelosi’s opening to Syria comes at this crucial moment.

The need for Congress to alter the direction of Bush’s ruinous foreign policies were shockingly displayed in a recent BBC/University of Maryland survey that should be required reading for every American.

Surveying 26,000 respondents in 25 different nations, the study (that included Americans) found the dominant view was that the US is playing a u201Cmainly negativeu201D role in the world. Two-thirds believed the US military presence in the Mideast is stoking conflicts.

Most shocking, when respondents were asked which nations posed the greatest danger to world peace, or were most negatively regarded, the answer was a new u201Caxis of evilu201D: Israel, the United States and Iran.

Horrid North Korea came just ahead of the USA. This is appalling, considering the hundreds of millions the US government spends annually promoting its image abroad.

The world’s most respected nation was Canada — constant target of scorn by US conservatives — followed by France, Japan, and the European Union.

This shattering report is about much more than a popularity contest. When the United States, not long ago regarded as a beacon of liberty, human rights, and democracy around the globe, finds itself most disliked, along with Israel and Iran, it’s time for the alarms to go off.

It is precisely this surging worldwide anger against the US, notably over Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Bush’s refusal to join the fight against global warming, that is fueling the violent anti-American groups westerners call u201Cterrorists.u201D America’s image abroad has become a vital function of its national security.

The Bush/Cheney Administration’s aggressive Darwinian policies, and Bush’s lamentable persona, not only power anti-Americanism everywhere, they have, ironically, restored and reinvigorated leftwing parties around the globe.

It’s too soon to tell if Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Damascus bears fruit. But her visit came at the clear demand of America’s majority that voted in the Democrats to make this disaster-prone administration change course. For the outside world, Speaker Pelosi at least offers a seeming antidote to Bush and Cheney and a reminder that the American government has not entirely fallen into the hands of ideological extremists.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

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