More than 200 killed in a Baghdad neighborhood. Is Iraq in a civil war? Another Lebanese politician is assassinated. Will Lebanon restart its civil war?

Violence, questions, violence, questions swirl around the Middle East in a seemingly neverending cycle.

One thing is unquestionable — the Bush administration’s “neoconservative” foreign policy is an utter failure and has made the region a more dangerous place.

Like a spider’s web — intricate and complex, connected and tangled — these Middle East problems are inter-related, and many threads lead back to the White House.

The Bush administration’s policies of unilateral war and militarism to control the region, including its oil and labor resources, have created much of the turmoil. Its drive for constant war and a (little talked about) Middle East Free Trade Zone will lead to more chaos.

Like the problems, the solutions are inter-related, to enable the peoples of the Middle East to achieve peace, security, true national sovereignty, real democracy, and a better life.

So where to begin? One positive step is the cease-fire between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Gaza territory. While shaky, it has been holding — no rockets fired from Gaza to southern Israel, in exchange for Israeli troop withdrawal. It suggests possible steps forward for peace and a Palestinian state, although many issues, like the apartheid security wall, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, exchange of prisoners, and more, need to be talked through and resolved. Congress should support peace efforts, and perhaps read former President Jimmy Carter’s new book “Peace, Not Apartheid.”

An open-ended occupation of Iraq by the U.S. will continue to tear that country apart. The Bush administration is blaming the Iraqi government for the disastrous crisis of bloodshed, brutality and death. But the U.S. is “in charge” of security, not the Iraqi government. It is the U.S. that has created this disaster, playing one group against another. The U.S. has to change course, begin a rapid, orderly withdrawal and allow the Iraqis themselves to take charge.

The voters demanded a new direction in foreign policy, away from militarism and unilateralism and toward diplomacy and international cooperation. That’s what’s necessary for a better landscape across the Middle East.

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