Failed War on Terrorism on Display

Some of the disastrous consequences of George W. Bush's foreign policy, and therefore Stephen Harper's, are on display this week in Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan and elsewhere.

The president's pledge to create a Palestinian state has now been downgraded to the creation of a "description" of a state by the end of his term.

His cure for record oil prices is no more likely to be heeded now than before. Even if the sheiks heed him they can't buck the market forces unleashed by his wars abroad and his economic policies at home.

The Lebanese government that he has championed has been rendered impotent by the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah.

When Bush meets Fouad Siniora on Sunday, he will bestow on the Lebanese prime minister the only gift he knows: arms and military training.

The support is the same as that extended to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The marching order for each is the same: attack fellow citizens who resist America. Abbas must crush the terrorist Hamas, Maliki the anti-American insurgents, Karzai the anti-NATO Taliban, and Musharraf the anti-U.S. militants.

On the surface, it makes eminent sense to empower the good guys against the bad. But it doesn't when you think that the latter are the by-products of U.S. foreign policy, and that attempts to crush them with American arms have failed and also advanced the interests of their sponsors, particularly Iran.

All this points to the urgent need to address the issues that sustain the non-state actors who are proving so difficult to control.

Since the Bush-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md., in November, illegal Israeli settlement activity has gone up, the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank remains restricted by checkpoints, and the collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazans continues, with American and Canadian complicity.

Calling the Gaza blockade "a terrible human rights crime," former U.S. president Jimmy Carter got Hamas to agree to a ceasefire so that the firing of rockets into Israel would cease. But the offer was rejected and he demonized.

Human Rights Watch and two Israeli groups, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, have just made the same points Carter did and asked Bush to stop backing the Gaza closure. Canadians should demand the same of Harper.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has indeed staged a coup d'Af(c)tat, with Iranian backing, as Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Tuesday.

But, notes Jim Reilly, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the U of T, "Iran didn't create the Hezbollah as we know it. Hezbollah has its own reason for existing."

It represents the Shiite interests in the confessional political system set up by the French in the 1930s.

Secondly, "foreigners have always had their fingerprints all over Lebanon" -- French, British, Syrians, Israelis, Saudis, Americans and Iranians. Who is more legitimate depends on your point of view.

The Arab League can only provide a patchwork solution for Lebanon, which will remain unsettled until the confessional system is replaced by real democracy, and foreign powers stop propping up proxies.

In Pakistan, the collapse of the coalition government is no surprise. Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, is going by the deal she made with the Bush administration: that she would work with Musharraf, provided he withdrew the corruption and other charges against her and Zardari.

Musharraf lived up to his part of the unholy bargain. The current machinations between him, Zardari and others, aided and abetted by shuttling American envoys, are designed to ensure that the dismissed supreme court judges are not restored, lest they (a) threaten Musharraf's own tenure, and (b) question his quashing of the charges against Zardari.

All this has little or nothing to do with democracy, only with advancing Bush's failed war on terrorism, which has made matters worse for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Haroon Siddiqui's column appears Thursday and Sunday.

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