Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:22 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:22 | SYDNEY

Bush fails the schoolyard insult test


Sam Roggeveen


14 January 2008 15:26

What's every schoolkid's reply to an insult from a peer?: 'I'm not a (insert favourite insult here), you are.' Can I suggest to President Bush's speechwriters that they keep this retort in mind when reviewing his speeches? Take the President's overnight remarks about Iran in Abu Dhabi:

It sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world -- while its own people face repression and economic hardship at home. It undermines Lebanese hopes for peace by arming and aiding the terrorist group Hezbollah. It subverts the hopes for peace in other parts of the region by funding terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad. It sends arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Shia militants in Iraq. It seeks to intimidate its neighbors with ballistic missiles and bellicose rhetoric. And finally, it defies the United Nations and destabilizes the region by refusing to be open and transparent about its nuclear programs and ambitions. Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere...

You have a right to live under a government that listens to your wishes, respects your talents, and allows you to build better lives for your families. Unfortunately, your government denies you these opportunities, and threatens the peace and stability of your neighbors.

That's a decent list of complaints, all with at least some merit. But at least three of them are dead easy to hurl back at the US with the schoolyard retort. On support for extremists, how about US military and diplomatic support for the misogynist dictatorships of the Persian Gulf? 'Intimidating 'neighbours with missiles and bellicose rhetoric'? Given Bush's arms sales to the region and his Iran rhetoric, this is a rather breathtaking claim. Last, how about threatening 'the peace and stability of...neighbours'? Whatever America's intentions in Afghanistan and Iraq, that is exactly what the US has done to Iran's neighbours.

The point is not that the US has no legitimate concerns about Iran or that the US is no better than Iran. It's that Bush makes it pitifully easy for his Middle Eastern critics because his arguments are so tone-deaf.