Bush: Lean on Syria
BUSH to Blair: “I think Condi is going to go (to the Middle East) pretty soon.”
BLAIR: “Right, that’s all that matters, it will take some time to get that together . . . See, if she goes out she’s got to succeed as it were, where as I can just go out and talk.”
BUSH: “See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.”
BLAIR: “Who, Syria?”
BUSH: “Right . . . What about Kofi? That seems odd. I don’t like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens.”
BLAIR: “I think the thing that is really difficult is you can’t stop this unless you get this international presence agreed.” . . .
BUSH: “I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We’re not blaming Israel. We’re not blaming the Lebanese government.”
So, the whole blow-up is Syria’s fault, for putting Hizbullah up to making mischief. No reference to Israeli actions in Gaza. No reference to, like, the wholesale destruction of Lebanon by the Israeli air force. And no blame for the Lebanese government of Fouad Siniora. And Bush thinks that Nasrullah of Hizbullah takes direct orders from Damascus. And he thinks that if Bashar al-Asad orders Hizbullah to stop firing its little katyushas and give back the two Israeli soldiers, everything will suddenly settle down.
It is an astonishingly simple-minded view of the situation, painted in black and white and making assumptions about who is who’s puppet and what the Israeli motivations are. Israel doesn’t appear as a protagonist. It is purely reactive. Stop provoking it, and it suddenly stops its war.
Since Israel is just being provoked and has no ambitions of its own, in this reading, it is useless to begin with a ceasefire. That treats the two sides as both provoking one another. Here, only Hizbullah matters, so you lean on Syria to lean on it, and, presto, peace breaks out.
It is a little window into the superficial, one-sided mind of the man, who has for six years been way out of his depth.
I come away from it shaken and trembling.
PS More from from Billmon.