A Symbol of Everything Wrong With Bush Era, Cheney's Visit to Middle East Can Only Make Things Worse
Similar to Ariel Sharon's disastrous and oft-discussed visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount (Sep 28, 2000) -- a symbolic slap in the face that led to an escalation in Middle East tension -- Dick Cheney's upcoming "diplomatic" visit to the Middle East will be nothing more than a provocation resulting in yet another explosion of violence. More Americans and more Iraqis will die as a result of his trip.
If the Bush administration was serious about saving lives, building U.S. credibility in the world, involving regional allies, and ending the Iraq occupation -- then they would put Dick Cheney back in his hidden location, lock the door from the outside and throw away the key.
Cheney should not be allowed anywhere near Middle East diplomacy. Any diplomatic effort that involves Dick Cheney will result in one thing and one thing only: more violence, more failure, more death.
An Icon of Violence
Of all the people in the world, today, there is not a single person who symbolizes the arrogance, violence and deceit of the Bush era more than Vice President Dick Cheney.
More than just a failed leader, Cheney has become an icon of violence -- a man whose name and face are synonymous with the an authoritarian view of politics rooted in the ignorant idea that unilateral force can sow everlasting peace.
There have been other icons of violence in history, but Cheney is the most dominant in today's world. Even more than Bush, who has become a symbol of a failed Machiavellian prince, Cheney iconic status is built on his soulless bureaucratic tenor, his relentless commitment to long-since-debunked propaganda, and his constant repetition of doomsday scenarios predicting nuclear Holocaust. Al this means that Cheney did not happen up on his iconic status by chance. He created it himself.
Is there anyone in America -- anyone in the world -- who does not know this about Dick Cheney? No. We all know it. Even in the vile and twisted tangle of the Bush White House, they all know what Cheney symbolizes in the world. They all know that no person is more hated, more distrusted than Dick Cheney. They all know that the world is waiting -- hoping -- not for Dick Cheney to take on a greater role in the mess of the Iraq occupation, but for Dick Cheney to just go away. Far, far away.
Despite all this, next week the White House will send the icon of violence on a diplomatic mission to the Middle East -- ostensibly, in Dana Perino's words, to "follow-up" on the diplomacy of the recent meetings in Sharm el Sheikh.
What a ridiculous idea. What a foolish idea.
Dick Cheney's visit to the Middle East will do to that region what saltwater does to an open wound, what gasoline does to an open flame. Cheney's visit will bring more pain, more flames, more bombs, more lost limbs, more piles of corpses, more puddles of blood, more destroyed Iraqi hopes, more destroyed U.S. military families.
Cheney's visit will send diplomatic efforts backwards, not forwards. It will destroy alliances, not build them.
The first step to ending the mess in Iraq is not to give Cheney a greater role, but to strip him of any role whatsoever.
U.S. Diplomacy Needs A Team Symbolizing Hope
The only real way for U.S. diplomacy to succeed in the Middle East would be for the Bush administration to send a symbol of hope to the region to build confidence and restore broken ties. But who, if anyone, can the Bush administration tap do fill that role? Is there anyone at all who has the symbolic clout to fill those shoes?
Possibly, although unlikely.
Former Secretary of State James Baker, for example -- while not exactly a symbol of U.S. peace making, still retains somewhat of an image of as honest diplomat as a result of his prior work in the region and his efforts on the Iraq Study Group.
But beyond Baker, it is hard to imagine someone in the Republican Party ranks who has the image, the experience and knowhow to make this happen.
The only solution, then, might just be to build a diplomatic team of powerhouse diplomats whose combined experienced and symbolism would be enough to breathe life into the corpse of Bush's diplomatic effort. This symbolic team would need to function outside of the morass of distrust and suspicion created at every turn by Rice, Cheney and the rest of the Bush team.
Such a symbolic team was once assembled to give Bush advice in January 2006, although that advice was quickly ignored.
Now would be the time to go back to that file, back to that list of people and offer them use of Air Force 2 while Vice President Cheney takes a break to spend more time with his family (or whatever they need to say to get Cheney out of the spotlight).
Diplomatic Capital Unused By Bush
The end result of swapping this symbolic team of diplomats for Dick Cheney would be that the United States would diminish the prominence of its most infamous icon of violence and start drawing on its untapped reserves of diplomatic capital. This would be a hard choice to make for the Bush administration, but it would be possible.
In the past, the Bush team has always seen America's symbolic diplomats as fodder for PR scams foisted on the public. The greatest example of this approach, of course, was the use of Colin Powell to sell the invasion of Iraq in a UN general assembly speech. Rather than seeing Powell as a symbolic giant capable of brokering peace, the Bush administration used him -- burned up his reputation to close the deal on a propaganda campaign that hoodwinked Congress and vast sections of the public.
But in politics it is never too late. Even with his reputation still charred from that speech, Powell would be an asset to a diplomatic mission -- if he were paired with Albright, Cohen, Baker and the like.
Imagine such a team of giants? The result would be a step in the right direction instead of the daisy cutter explosion of a visit from Cheney.
Cheney simply has to be kept far away from anything that even remotely smells of diplomacy--in the Middle East and everywhere else.
It would be a small step, but the end result would be more than a few lives saved.
(cross posted from Frameshop)