President Bush gave a press conference today, and if you haven’t seen it, or have only seen snippets on the news, you really should read the whole thing, here. Bush covers Iraq, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran, the economy, and more. He does it with wit, humor, insight, and dogged fidelity to the principles he has advanced from September 12, 2001, to the present. And somehow, he manages to treat cranks like Helen Thomas, who pops up with an anti-Israel question, with far more consideration than they deserve. The press conference contains many excellent exchanges, but I’ll just reproduce this colloquy with the appalling Ms. Thomas:
Helen. (Laughter.) What’s so funny about me saying “Helen”? (Laughter.) It’s the anticipation of your question, I guess.
Q Israel broke its word twice on a truce. And you mentioned Hezbollah rockets, but it’s — Israeli bombs have destroyed Lebanon. Why do you always give them a pass? And what’s your view on breaking of your oath for a truce?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. I like to remind people about how this started, how this whole — how the damage to innocent life, which bothers me — but, again, what caused this.
Q Why drop bombs on —
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish — let — ma’am. Ma’am, please let me finish the question. It’s a great question to begin with. The follow-up was a little difficult, but anyway. (Laughter.) I know you’re waiting for my answer, aren’t you, with bated breath.
This never would have occurred had a terrorist organization, a state within a state, not launched attacks on a sovereign nation. From the beginning, Helen, I said that Israel, one, has a right to defend herself, but Israel ought to be cautious about how she defends herself. Israel is a democratically elected government. They make decisions on their own sovereignty. It’s their decision-making that is — what leads to the tactics they chose.
But the world must understand that now is the time to come together to address the root cause of the problem. And the problem was you have a state within a state. You have people launch attacks on a sovereign nation without the consent of the government in the country in which they are lodged.
And that’s why it’s very important for all of us, those of us who are involved in this process, to get an international force into Lebanon to help the Lebanese government achieve some objectives. One is their ability to exert control over the entire country; secondly is to make sure that the Hezbollah forces don’t rearm, don’t get arms from Syria or Iran through Syria, to be able to continue to wreak havoc in the region.