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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2006

February 6, 2006

NEW YORK ­ US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s flustered response to Hamas’ stunning landslide victory in Palestinian elections:

`I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,’ she offered plaintively.

Many veteran Mideast observers, this writer included, saw Hamas’ victory coming. How, one wonders, can the Bush Administration, with its huge intelligence apparatus and large diplomatic corps, keep getting everything wrong about the Muslim World?

Condi Rice got things wrong because she would not face facts. Her boss, President George W Bush, made similar lame excuses when trying to explain his embarrassing failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq by claiming all western intelligence services believed Iraq had them - which was patently untrue.

For a nation that spends $40 billion annually on intelligence to be so wrong about so much is utterly inexcusable. Condoleeza Rice now has made almost as much a laughingstock of herself as the disgraced former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who lied to the world about Iraq’s non-existent wmd’s.

Hamas won because of Washington’s total failure to push Israel into any meaningful concessions under its dead-ended `Road Map to Peace,’ fatally undermining Bush’s favorite, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party.

While Israel dragged on so-called peace talks, it kept building settlements on the West Bank and evicting Palestinians from their homes. During ten years of the Oslo `peace accords,’ the number of Israeli settlers on the occupied West Bank grew from under 100,000 to 450,000. Over 9,000 Palestinians remain in Israeli prisons.

Palestinians were fed up with corrupt Fatah leadership which appeared too cozy with the US and Israel. The more Washington bribed or arm-twisted Fatah leaders to comply with its wishes, the more Palestinians backed hardline Hamas.

The feuding gang bosses running Fatah stood in sharp contrast to Hamas’ disciplined, efficient, uncorrupt cadres.

When it became clear Israel’s leadership would continue PM Ariel Sharon’s plans to colonize the West Bank and confine Arabs in three isolated tribal reservations similar to `bantustans’ in apartheid South Africa, , Palestinians voted for Hamas.

Why didn’t Rice see this obvious fact? Because, like the rest of the administration and US media, her view of the Mideast is warped by ignorance, inexperience, and intense pressure from neoconservatives and Evangelical Protestant groups pressing for jihad against the Muslim World.

America’s shocked reaction to Hamas’ win shows how misinformed and misled it is about the Mideast.

The propaganda term `terrorism’ has so fuddled the minds of Americans that any rational analysis of Mideast events has become as impossible as it was during the 1950’s and 60’s to rationally analyze enormous developments within the communist world, like the Sino-Soviet split.

Hamas’ victory provoked hysteria in New York City last week. Local papers trumpeted, `Terror Nation,’ and `Terror Wins,’ absurdly claiming Hamas threatens the very existence of Israel.

Hamas is responsible for many bombings of Israeli civilians that it claims was retaliation for Israeli murder of Palestinian leaders and resistance fighters. Hamas refuses to recognize the existence of the Jewish state. Israel and the US brand Hamas as `terrorists,’ but to Palestinians, Hamas and its parent, the Muslim Brotherhood, are reformers and resisters of occupation.

Hamas has around 2,000 men with rifles. Israel has 200 nuclear weapons, armed forces of 568,000, 3,687 tanks, 10,400 armored fighting vehicles, 5,432 heavy guns, and 402 superb combat aircraft. Hamas bombers have killed Jewish civilians, but they do not threaten the Jewish state, as Israel and its American supporters keep ludicrously claiming.

During the `intifada,’ twice as many Arab civilians have been killed as Jewish civilians. Ironically, Israel discreetly helped create Hamas to rival PLO, and aided creation of Hizbullah in Lebanon for the same reason.

Mideast observers and this writer have predicted for years that true democratic elections in the Arab World would produce Islamist governments. Even recent US-engineered elections in Iraq backfired, creating a pro-Iranian Shia religious regime. Just before Iraq’s recent national elections, America’s new `democratic ally,’ Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, ordered his faithful to vote for Shia candidates or face being divorced by their wives and going to hell.

The Arab World has suffered some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt regimes. Mideasterners yearn for honest democratic governments that represent them, not foreign interests. Islamic parties appear to offer these qualities, though they have yet to be proven.

In the Mideast’s only fair election before Palestine -Algeria 1991 - Islamists won a landslide. Algeria’s military junta declared martial law and annulled the vote, igniting a ghastly civil war that killed 150,000. Now Palestinians have held the Arab World’s second honest vote.

It’s both sad and amusing watching the White House, which has championed democracy as a cure-all to its Mideast problems, threaten to cut off aid and contacts with a new democratic government because it disagrees with Washington. Cutting aid will only strengthen Hamas.

Hamas needs to renounce bombing civilians. The US and Israel need to begin talking to Hamas’ moderate wing. Name-calling is not policy.


  • The fury and riots that erupted in the Mideast and Europe after a Danish newspaper ran offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed are yet another example of the growing anger towards the west in the Muslim World. It also showed with shocking clarity that anti-Islamism has become a socially and politically acceptable prejudice in the west.

  • There have been huge protests in Thailand against its increasingly dictatorial prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Besides his murky personal financial dealings, he has almost single-handedly created a civil war in Thailand by his brutal and bloody repression of that nation’s Muslim minority.

  • This writer keeps hoping the US Republican Party will return to its moderate centrist policies and ditch the neocon ideologues and corrupt bagmen who have taken control. One positive sign is in Wisconsin, where candidate David Redick is running for Senate. Redick’s platform is pure traditional Republican at its best: small government, lower spending, strong defense but no imperial adventures. Watch his campaign. I will. He’s based in Madison, Wisconsin. See

  • The Egyptian ferry tragedy that took 1,000 lives is yet another horrifying example of the callousness and indifference of the Mubarak regime to the welfare of its people. It has billions to spend on new tanks and F-16’s, but no funds, it seems for maritime safety, and no care at all for the relatives of the victims of this totally unnecessary sinking. Major calamities ineptly handled are often the spark that ignites uprisings against dictatorial Third World regimes. Egypt, with a third of the Arab World’s people, remains a military dictatorship and key US ally.

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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