"It began with Israel and it will only end with Israel!" It was the authentic voice of the British Broadcasting Corporation, or at least one of its most renowned and respected presenters, at a cocktail party last week. The Iraq Study Group, he declared, had finally sounded the death knell of the Bush doctrine. A chastened president would now have to kick out the neocon kids and listen to the "grownups." And the top priority would now be the unfinished business not just of 2001, but of 1967 and even of 1948. Had not James Baker himself — the most grown-up of all the grownups — endorsed both the return of the Golan Heights and the Palestinian right of return in his celebrated report?
The BBC now has a huge audience in America as well as in the rest of the world for its endless reiteration of the implied thesis that the Jewish state is the root of all evil — not only of war in the East but of terrorism in the West too — and that the "Israel lobby" rules in Washington. Gloating over the supposed triumph of Realpolitik since the midterm elections, the BBC can hardly contain its Schadenfreude at the departure not merely of Donald Rumsfeld but also of John Bolton.
Interviewing Mr. Bolton shortly before he announced his resignation, the same BBC presenter was taken aback by the acerbic ambassador's refusal to apologize for the invasion of Iraq, or indeed to agree with any of his assumptions about American policy: past, present, or future. The habitual hostility with which Bush administration officials are treated by the BBC was, unusually, turned back on the interviewer. "How do you know what my expectations were in 2003?" Mr. Bolton wanted to know.
The BBC has a much more deferential attitude toward another figure about to leave the United Nations: Secretary-General Annan. When he recently granted a valedictory interview to the BBC, the story was Mr. Annan's view that the situation in Iraq was now not only worse than under Saddam Hussein, but also "worse than civil war" — a view that is not only absurdly exaggerated but also incoherent. He was not asked a single question about matters for which he had personal responsibility. Not a word about the role of Mr. Annan's son in the oil-for-food scandal, nor about the United Nations' record in some of the worst acts of genocide since 1945: notably Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Darfur.
The British journalist Adam LeBor, who covered some of these crimes as a foreign correspondent, has written a devastating indictment of Mr. Annan's lamentable record in "Complicity with Evil: The United Nations in the Age of Genocide," out last month from Yale University Press. He and his book have not been mentioned on the BBC.
But Mr. Annan's speech this week at the symbolic venue of President Truman's library, which was billed as his farewell to America, proved to be a case of biting the hand that has been feeding him, in Mr. Annan's case, since 1962. Nobody begrudges the secretary-general his $400,000 salary, or even the munificent expenses that mean he can live virtually free. Such packages are normal for international bureaucrats and are only a fraction of the U.N. operating budget of $2 billion, not counting the many other U.N. agencies and peace-keeping bodies that push the total budget up to more than 10 times as much. Few people outside America are aware that the American taxpayer shoulders the lion's share of the cost of the organization — and the BBC certainly isn't going to remind them.
What made Mr. Annan's speech sadly typical of his time in office was not only what he did say — that America had failed to remain true to its principles and ideals — but also what he did not.
He did not say anything about the horrors of Sudan and Somalia, where Islamist governments have been pursuing genocidal wars for years, while Arab neighbors turn a blind eye. He did not say anything about North Korea, which has allowed millions of its own people to starve in order to create nuclear weapons with which to blackmail others. He did not say anything about the vile behavior of two out of the five permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia.
Worst of all, however, was Mr. Annan's failure to mention the conference of Holocaust deniers in Tehran this week. Though his office issued a brief statement rejecting Holocaust denial in general, he pointedly refrained from any specific condemnation of Iran. The BBC has reported this gathering of ghouls as if it were a mere eccentricity of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rather than the culmination of a concerted policy intended to accomplish nothing less than the delegitimization, and ultimately the destruction, of Israel.
Such an open advocacy of genocidal anti-Semitism by a state of 70 million people is rare enough, but this one is backed up by a $50 billion-a-year oil income, much of which is being spent on a huge program to create weapons of mass destruction and a levée en masse of terrorist "martyrs." It was not Mr. Annan, who can of course speak with impunity, but a handful of Iranian students who had the courage to call Mr. Ahmadinejad a "fascist" at one of his rallies this week. I expect that David Duke and the other delegates to the conference would agree with the students about Mr. Ahmadinejad: That is why they like him so much.
What is surprising is that Mr. Ahmadinejad's toadies appear to have friends in high places in Washington and London. Mr. Baker is reported to be pushing for a "Madrid-2" conference, ostensibly on Iraq, but actually intended to give Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia a platform, while excluding Israel. It would also offer "a unique opportunity for the United States to strike a deal without Jewish pressure," according to an unnamed administration official, who also claims that this plan is backed by such heavyweights as John Negroponte, Condoleezza Rice, and Nicholas Burns.
These reports would be alarming if they were not so incredible. The idea that Israel's fate could be decided without Israelis even being consulted exists only in the fantasies of a self-styled "realist."
But it is not too late for the president to stifle such speculation at birth. Mr. Bush is evidently keeping his options open, knowing as he does that the time may come — perhaps in a matter of months rather than years — when he will have to act to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Given that he may have to order a pre-emptive strike against the Iranian war machine, he does not want his hands tied by would-be Bismarcks blustering about Realpolitik. He has let it be known that he does not think much of the findings of the Iraq Study Group. For this relief, Mr. President, much thanks. I wish you would highlight the Holocaust deniers of Tehran to explain why the present Iranian regime is not one with which civilized people can do deals.