Speaking before the Israeli Knesset on May 14 on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary, President George W. Bush (left) announced, "Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along." He went on to say, "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.''
Although Dubya didn't mention Senator Barack Obama by name, many observers felt that the president was targeting the Illinois senator because Obama has repeatedly spoken of the need to negotiate with Iran. Obama promptly responded to the president: "It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists."
The appeasement comment was a cheap shot, but not a surprising one. Worse yet, it was downright hypocritical. Even a cursory review of the long history of American foreign policy reveals numerous bungled foreign policy maneuvers by Republican presidential administrations, from the Eisenhower administration's role in the 1953 overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh's democratic Iranian government (and its replacement with the tyrannical Shah of Iran) to the Reagan administration beefing up the Islamic Republic's deadly arsenals in the Iran-Contra Scandal (and using profits from those weapons sales to finance known rapists and drug dealers in Nicaragua) during the 1980s. Let us not forget that the Taliban grew out of a group of ragtag anti-Soviet Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas that benefited greatly from extensive aid from Washington, D.C. -- a group that Dubya's hero, Ronald Reagan, likened to America's Founding Fathers.
And what of the Bush administration's extensive dealings with Saudi Arabia and other repressive theocracies in the Middle East? (Recently, a useful article appeared on the Centre for Research on Globalization's Website about U.S. arms sales to tyrannical regimes around the world -- to see it, click here.) The myth that negotiation with "terrorists" is verboten is absurd when one begins to assess the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that occurs on a daily basis between Washington and countries that sponsor and offer sanctuary to known "terrorist" groups. Dubya is going old school by borrowing cheap, low blows from Senator Joseph McCarthy in an attempt to smear Barack Obama. Maybe he should work harder at improving his own discredited presidency before hurling accusations of appeasement at those brave-hearted souls who are trying to undo the catastrophic damage he has been so instrumental in inflicting on the rest of the globe.
By the way, the Senator who said, "Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided" was a Republican -- William Borah (1865-1940) of Idaho (right). To be certain, his remark about Hitler -- made before America's entry into World War II, when isolationism was the order of the day -- was naive. Yet, in sharp contrast to Dubya, Borah was a humanitarian reformer who spent much of his life working tirelessly to make America a better, more livable place.