It is possible to state a truth -- even several truths, as President Bush did in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday -- and still reach wrong conclusions, as he also did.
The President's speech was as good a statement on the Middle East as we've heard from any president in a long time. "No nation can negotiate with terrorists, for there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death," he said.
Yet, the President is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to negotiate with Yasser Arafat, who fits the category described by the president about as well as anyone on the planet.
"Everyone must choose," said Bush. "You're either with the civilized world or you're with the terrorists." Wasn't that choice made some time ago by the PLO as it demonstrated its preference for terrorism over diplomacy?
What are the consequences for making the wrong choices? The president didn't say. Arafat always follows his signed promises with more terror because it works for him. He pays no price. He bears no burden. He kills and Powell comes to call.
The president said, "the situation in which (Arafat) finds himself today is largely of his own making." That's correct. But then Bush says, "Israel must understand that its response to these recent attacks is only a temporary measure." Why shouldn't Israel's response cease when the terrorism has ceased? Is the American war on terrorism temporary? Not according to Bush, who has repeatedly said it will be a long war and may never end. Why the double standard?
"Blowing yourself up does not help the Palestinian cause," Bush said. It does if that cause is to eliminate your enemy, which is what Palestinians say is their goal. It is also the stated cause of many Arab governments and their state-controlled media.
The president called on "the Palestinian Authority and all governments in the region to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities, to disrupt terrorist financing, and to stop inciting violence by glorifying terror in state-owned media or telling suicide bombers they are martyrs."
And if they won't, what then? He didn't say. Why should Israel's enemies tremble about words if there are to be no consequences?
The president called on "all who care about the Palestinian people" to condemn and act against groups which oppose the "peace process and seek the destruction of Israel." They haven't yet and are unlikely to do so in the future. What if they don't? What will the United States do and what will it allow Israel to do? Bush didn't say.
The president praised Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for his disingenuous "peace plan" that's nothing more than a re-hash of previous proposals to require Israel to pull back to indefensible 1967 borders and allow a "right of return" for millions of "Palestinians," who will finish Arafat's work. Bush called on other Arab states to "rise to this occasion and accept Israel as a nation and as a neighbor." And what if they don't? He didn't say.
"Israel should also show...a respect for and concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people," said the president. "...It is crucial to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians seeking to provide for their own families." The Israeli government, Bush said, "should be compassionate at checkpoints and border crossings, sparing innocent Palestinians daily humiliation." How is one to tell the difference between a homicide bomber and an "innocent Palestinian"? He didn't say. The Israeli military could use some guidance.
The president wants Israel "to halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas." Been there, done that. The terrorists come back to kill another day. He also wants "responsible Palestinian leaders and Israel's Arab neighbors" to step forward and "show the world that they are truly on the side of peace." They can't. Responsible leaders are either dead, or will be, if they try any such thing.
Bush mentioned Germany and Japan, once enemies but now "trusted friends" of the United States. What he didn't mention was that neither country became a friend until the U.S. military defeated their war-making regimes.
In war, you don't negotiate first with your enemy; you defeat him.
Whatever Colin Powell accomplishes won't be peace. Yasser Arafat will settle for nothing less than total victory. We used to fight our wars like that. Israel should not be forced to settle for less.