By MANIFESTO JOE
George W. Bush had one of his infrequent news conferences Thursday before taking off the rest of August, as he always does. And the topics were wide-ranging. One thing that was almost buried in The Washington Post account didn't escape my notice. He seemed to inform Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that there's a woodshed, and that he might be taken to it.
Al-Maliki met with Iran's leadership, and the talks were reported to have been cordial. That couldn't have been good news for Bush. Here's an excerpt from The Post's account:
Foreign policy absorbed much of the conference, with Bush denouncing Iran as a "destabilizing influence" in the Middle East even as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Tehran meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Bush brushed off reports of warm words and smiling pictures between the two, saying such cordiality was simply protocol. "You don't want the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out," he said, putting up his fists.
But Bush said he would warn Maliki against trusting Ahmadinejad, much as the president did with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at Camp David earlier this week. "If the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend, the prime minister," Bush said of Maliki, "because I don't believe they are constructive. I don't think he, in his heart of heart, thinks they're constructive, either."
One doesn't need to read too deeply between the lines to see a veiled threat. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that little "heart-to-heart."
But the problem is, what does Bush really have, at this point, to threaten al-Maliki with? He warns that Iran is a "destabilizing influence." How much more destabilized can Iraq become? Iran may be exploiting obvious semi-anarchy there in extending its already-formidable influence among Iraqi Shiites. And it may well be contributing to the slow carnage being inflicted in the country, and on U.S. troops. Given our two countries' history, would we have expected them to do otherwise?
How much worse, at this juncture, can things become for al-Maliki and his allies? They're grabbing desperately for anything they can hang onto.
In another account of this news conference, I read that Bush assured reporters that, although much work remains to be done, there is evidence that the Iraqi government is learning how to function.
The evidence of this I've seen lately is that close to half the government, the Sunni element, recently quit and is boycotting the process.
Bush seems determined to remain clueless until the end of his rule -- or the end of something, anyway. In any case, I think al-Maliki has more serious things to worry about right now than any "heart-to-heart" talk that George W. Bush could confront him with.
Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.