Sunday, January 11, 2009

Democracy isn't so good if you vote the wrong way?

Norman H. Olsen served for 26 years as a member of the US Foreign Service, including four years working in the Gaza Strip and four years as counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. He was most recently associate coordinator for counterterrorism at the Department of State. He and his son, Matthew N. Olsen (director of Explore Corps, a nascent NGO that uses outdoor education and youth programming to facilitate peace-building among young adults, with several current projects in the Gaza Strip) have a piece in the January 12 edition of the Christian Science Monitor entitled, An inside story of how the US magnified Palestinian suffering (The covert push to empower Fatah failed. And isolating Hamas just made things worse. But it's not too late to change course):

A million and a half Palestinians are learning the hard way that democracy isn't so good if you vote the wrong way. In 2006, they elected Hamas when the US and Israel wanted them to support the more-moderate Fatah. As a result, having long ago lost their homes and property, Gazans have endured three years of embargo, crippling shortages of food and basic necessities, and total economic collapse.


It didn't have to be this way. We could have talked instead of fought.


Hamas never called for the elections that put them in power. That was the brainstorm of Secretary Rice and her staff, who had apparently decided they could steer Palestinians into supporting the more-compliant Mahmoud Abbas (the current president of the Palestinian authority) and his Fatah Party through a marketing campaign that was to counter Hamas's growing popularity – all while ignoring continued Israeli settlement construction, land confiscation, and cantonization of the West Bank.

State Department staffers helped finance and supervise the Fatah campaign, down to the choice of backdrop color for the podium where Mr. Abbas was to proclaim victory. An adviser working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) explained to incredulous staffers at the Embassy in Tel Aviv how he would finance and direct elements of the campaign, leaving no US fingerprints. USAID teams, meanwhile, struggled to implement projects for which Abbas could claim credit. Once the covert political program cemented Fatah in place, the militia Washington was building for Fatah warlord-wannabee Mohammed Dahlan would destroy Hamas militarily.

Their collective confidence was unbounded. But the Palestinians didn't get the memo. Rice was reportedly blindsided when she heard the news of Hamas's victory during her 5 a.m. treadmill workout. But that did not prevent a swift response.

You can read the whole thing here.

I wonder how do you spin this to fit the happy talk into the ongoing legacy project? I don't know about you folks but I am terribly exhausted. Is it a new day yet?

1 comment:

Guyver said...

Thank you for a great post. I think this signifies everything wrong with our public diplomacy over the last 8 years. We try to put lipstick on a pig and hope people will buy it without addressing the core issues.