This week, I released "Reining in the Imperial Presidency," a 486-page report detailing the abuses and excesses of the Bush administration and recommending steps to address them. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. popularized the term "imperial presidency" in the 1970s to describe an executive who had assumed more power than the Constitution allows and circumvented the checks and balances fundamental to our three-branch system of government.
In his last official press conference as president George W. Bush vigorously defended the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, denying it had been slow.
Tuesday, The Times-Picayune -- whose staff was forced to abandon its New Orleans headquarters in the rising flood waters and whose reporters were the first to alert the nation that the city had not "dodged a bullet" on Katrina -- begged to differ. Strongly.
Twelve Editorial Staff Rules for the Great International Media When the News is from the Middle East
1) In the Middle East it is always the Arabs who attack first and always Israel that is defending themselves. This defense is called a reprisal.
2) The Arabs, Palestinian or Lebanese have no right to kill civilians. That is called “terrorism.”
3) Israel has the right to kill civilians. That is called “legitimate defense.”
Forget the bombardments, forget the electricity, food, even sleep. But no water? Because of the bombardments by sea, land and air, people cannot even go out to get drinking water from the city faucets. And when someone does have running water at home, it's undrinkable.
Because of my parents' history they knew what it meant to close people behind barbed-wire fences in a small area. A year, five years, 10 years. From 1991. How lucky it is that they are not alive to see how how these incarcerated people are bombarded with all the glorious military technology of Israel and the United States.
So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in "purity of arms". But why should we be surprised?
Don't get me wrong. Barack Obama—as every other U.S. president before him—will protect the special relationship with Israel. But the days of America's exclusive ties to Israel may be coming to an end. Despite efforts to sound reassuring during the campaign, the new administration will have to be tough, much tougher than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush were, if it's serious about Arab-Israeli peacemaking.
It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel's murder of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab parliament.
It ought not to be risky or disruptive to US foreign policy to say that Israel has an unconditional obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to lift its lethal, months-old blockade preventing adequate food, fuel, surgical supplies, medications and other basic necessities from reaching Gaza.
But in the looking-glass world of American politics, Israel, with its powerful first-world army, is the victim, and Gaza – the besieged and blockaded home to 1.5 million immiserated people, half of them children and eighty percent refugees – is the aggressor against whom no cruelty is apparently too extreme.
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