News from the Middle East hasn't been good for a long time, but there are two events taking place this week that probably have Osama bin Laden, wherever he is, uncorking a flask of goat's milk and raising a glass in the general direction of George Bush.
First, Israel is withdrawing its settlers from Gaza, razing their buildings and handing the land to the Palestinians. This has been a long time coming, is probably morally right, and is probably necessary if any long-term peace can be arrived at. Bush has offered his support of the move, and it's one of the few areas in which we're in agreement. But it can't be denied that it's a victory for the Arab world and a victory for terrorists, who have ceaselessly tormented Israel.
Perhaps more significantly, although we won't know for some time, is what's happening with Iraq's constitution. They have missed their Aug. 15 deadline, and have asked for another week to deliberate. One of the main issues they have not settled is a clause that requires any law passed in Iraq to comply with Islamic law.
Now, bin Laden's hatred of the West, and the US in particular, goes way back. It's tied in to US support of Israel and our intervention in the Gulf War more than a decade ago. But his overarching goal in the Middle East is the elimination of secular, non-Islamic states. The biggest, most powerful secular state in the region was Iraq. Say what you like about Saddam Hussein--monster, murderer, maniac, it's probably all true. But he almost single-handedly kept fundamentalist Islamics from running that country, and bin Laden hated him for it, calling him an "infidel."
We haven't accomplished much in Iraq beyond deposing Saddam and kick-starting a new government there. If that new government turns Iraq into a fundamentalist Islamic regime, which many are arguing for (apparently with the support of neighboring Iran), then bin Laden's primary goal in that region will have been achieved.
Not what I think the administration would like to admit it's been fighting for. But if we're really "freeing'" the Iraqis, we kind of have to go along with what they want to do in their own country, right?