For this week's Politics Thursday, I'm pulling together several somewhat unrelated topics, a few of which have spent weeks waiting to be heard. Next week I may address the President's 2006 State of the Union address, if I think I'm not beating a dead horse. Until then, besides Durst's excellent post, try reading FactCheck's debunking of many SOTU claims, and the Cunning Realist has a good first take.
This week America had a choice to show its commitment to democracy. We could have showed that â€œdemocracyâ€? means more to us than agreement with our policies.
With bi-partisan fervor, America failed. The Palestinian Authority did what we told them to, democracy-wise. They held internationally acclaimed free and fare elections. The old regime did not resort to vote fraud to keep power. Self-determination and democracy are what we claim to want. But they chose a party that is against American and Israeli policy. So instead of finding a way to fund the Authority with transparency to ensure the funds are spent on peaceful purposes, Democrats and Republicans alike vied with one another on how best to defund and punish Palestinians for exercising their democratic rights.
Don't get me wrong. Hamas is a terrorist organization and should be watched very closely. But so was Fatah. By failing to prevent attacks by the various "Fatah factions", Fatah demonstrated that they didn't really accept Israel's right to exist. They lied for power. Hamas is just upfront about its hatred.
For that matter, no Arab countries except Egypt and Jordan accept Israel's right to exist. Remember the deafening silence in the Arab world when Iran called for Israel's destruction? Hamas is simply expressing what the other governments in the region are thinking â€“ and what is routinely preached in Saudi Arabia's mosques.
So, what should have we done instead? Congratulate the Palestinians for a successful election and inform the Hamas government that they will be funded for one fiscal year IF they can show that the money is being used for humanitarian needs and economic development. After that, future aid will depend on the government of the PA recognizing Israel's right to exist. Give them enough time to sort things out, get a government into office and see if the responsibilities of governing curb their rhetoric. A better choice than making it crystal clear that we value compliance, NOT democracy.
Allied Torturers - I've created a new page on my personal web site listing countries that the US should stop providing gov't-to-gov't aid to if we want to be serious about standing against torturers. Since we're trying Saddam Hussein (rightly) for torture, we could at least stop writing checks to torturers who support our policies. Of course, perhaps some of these countries harbor secret prisons.
Pope and bishops on peace and war
Since the beginning of the year, the Catholic Church has issued a number of interesting statements that bear on peace and relations between nations. Because this post is getting long, I'll highlight two.
On January 1st, Pope Benedict issued the message In Truth, Peace for the celebration of the World Day of Peace. A day that gets no coverage in this country.
In this message, Pope Benedict XVI asserts that peace cannot exist without Truth. He boldly asserts "Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet." Recalling the lies of the 20th Century, he warns us "to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world."
Contrary to those in both parties that are convinced that "September 11th changed EVERYTHING" and all past rules of wars have flown out the window, Pope Benedict reminds us:
The truth of peace must also let its beneficial light shine even amid the tragedy of war. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, pointed out that ''not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced''.(7) As a means of limiting the devastating consequences of war as much as possible, especially for civilians, the international community has created an international humanitarian law. In a variety of situations and in different settings, the Holy See has expressed its support for this humanitarian law, and has called for it to be respected and promptly implemented, out of the conviction that the truth of peace exists even in the midst of war. International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace. Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples. Its value must be appreciated and its correct application ensured; it must also be brought up to date by precise norms applicable to the changing scenarios of today's armed conflicts and the use of ever newer and more sophisticated weapons.
While the Pope strongly condemns terrorism in this message, the focus is on the powerful and their obligation to seek the truth.
A few weeks ago, the US Bishops put out a statement called Toward a Responsible Transition in Iraq. The document, while not calling for an immediate withdrawal does deplore the "stay the course" chant coming out of the White House. I think the whole thing is worth reading, but would like to share this bit that bears directly on the falsity that "supporting the troops" means supporting the Iraq occupation and asking no questions about how we got here:
Our Conference wants to be clear. Raising grave moral questions regarding the decision to invade Iraq is not to question the moral integrity of those serving in the military. Expressing moral questions regarding the treatment of U.S. prisoners and detainees is not to question the professional integrity of the vast majority of those on deployment. In fact, asking difficult questions is a patriotic and moral duty that reflects our values and serves the bests interests of our nation and those who serve it with honor.