Ambassador Brinker's Reflections of the Middle East

Posted by Nancy Brinker
January 24, 2008
Ambassador Brinker, President Bush, and Dr. Al-Amoudi

This blog entry is written byNancy Brinker, Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State.

It's been just over a week since I returned from accompanying President Bush on his historic voyage to the Middle East. Although the road ahead is long, I'm encouraged by what might be possible to achieve -- with a lot of work and cooperation on all sides.

It was an extremely busy trip. Tel Aviv was our first stop on January 9. The Israeli welcoming ceremony was very colorful, complete with red carpet and "The Star-Spangled Banner” playing in the background. President Bush met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres on this first day.

The President also met with the family of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is still recovering from his stroke in 2006. On January 10, the President met with both Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

At Jerusalem's King David Hotel, I met with Quartet Representative Tony Blair, who is hard at work advancing the cause of Middle East Peace.

There were also visits to historic landmarks that were truly poignant. On January 11 in Bethlehem, we visited the Church of the Nativity, built on ground where Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was born. We also visited the Mount of the Beatitudes in Capernaum, where Jesus is believed to have delivered his Sermon on the Mount.

Holocaust Memorial

As someone who has lost relatives in the Holocaust, the most emotional visit was to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Authority. It is a memorial to the six million men, women and children of Jewish heritage who lost their lives during this tragedy. Yad Vashem contains the world's largest archive and library of material on the Holocaust, including 68 million pages of documents and nearly 300,000 photographs.

This was my second visit to Yad Vashem -- but it was no less moving for me.

We also visited the Children's Memorial, where Yad Vashem's director, Avner Shalev presented President Bush with a very special gift: the first replica of Carol Deutsch's Illustrated Bible. Deutsch created these precious illustrations while hiding in Belgium. Tragically, he was turned over to authorities and sent to Buchenwald, where he died in 1944.

Heading East

On January 12, we flew east to Kuwait. At Camp Arifjan, the President greeted U.S. troops, and thanked them for their hard work and noble sacrifices. They are indeed brave.

Later, in Kuwait City, I joined The President as he spoke at length with Kuwaiti female leaders about their hopes for their nation and the democratic process. They thanked the President for supporting women's empowerment policies, which are helping more women in the Arab world meet their educational and career goals. Many of the women thanked the President for Mrs. Bush's visit on her breast cancer awareness trip. They said they were hopeful that this commitment would continue.

A day later, we arrived in Bahrain's capital of Manama, again to an outstanding welcoming ceremony. The President and King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa were found to be in an especially jovial mood.

Later that same day, in Abu Dhabi, our hosts greeted us with what would only be the first of a series of meals. Our closing dinner was actually held in a secluded part of the desert. Due to unexpected rains, the meal took place in tents, with a large fire nearby to add warmth.

Guided by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan, the President actively took part in a falconry demonstration.

Also in Abu Dhabi, the President delivered a powerful speech on "a great new era” dawning in the Middle East, and how his Administration will continue to support freedom for people around the world.

The pace of the trip intensified the next day. The President made stops in Dubai, where he spoke with young student leaders from the Dubai School of Government. We also enjoyed a children's dance performance, and the President posed with the young performers.

In Riyadh, the President and I both met with Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi after a roundtable discussion with Saudi entrepreneurs. We talked about building democratic institutions that will empower women and prepare them for entering the workforce.

Our last stop was Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, where President Bush met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. For me, it was a happy reunion. I last spoke to President Mubarak during a White House visit with President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.

The President has announced that he will return to the region in May. It means that once again, all sides will be striving to build the foundations of peace and progress.



Tennessee, USA
January 29, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Wonderful summary.

I have as yet to be astonished at the fortitude and courage of President Bush in undertaking any visitation to the Middle East. He has done so on more occasions than, I believe, any other Residing US President at War in promoting conflict resolution in adjunct countries and directly within the areas of conflict.

Anyone who has ever been in security knows the personal risk involved, especially given todays weapons and fanatical elements involved. Mr. Bush represents the courage of all Americans in time of war and has shown his personal conviction by putting himself at such risk. It is a shame many people do not recognize the sincere effort he and the DOS make in administrating State Policies which have only peace as its overall objective. He is certainly the Leader and Head of all Services this great country provides to all nations showing the hand which is always available to help.

I am glad the trip was positive and hopefully productive.

While one mans opinion may not mean much, President Bush deserves acknowledgement the press seems to fail in providing. He has as much courage as his Dad. That's saying a lot, believe me.

New Mexico, USA
January 30, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"Also in Abu Dhabi, the President delivered a powerful speech on "a great new era? dawning in the Middle East, and how his Administration will continue to support freedom for people around the world."

Dear Nancy,

Figured you forgot to post the link to the speech, so here it is for those interested.

10 years from now folks will be remembering it for having helped define the terms of their success.

It has been called the work of generations. I think not so long ...changes in mindset happen at an exponential rate, and the laws of motion apply to socio/political probability theory implemented in practical application.

Florida, USA
February 1, 2008

Rick in Florida writes:

I thank president George w. Bush for his wisdom, resolve and stubbornness, because he knew he was right when the entire world was on his back and it is because of him that we are winning the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, so, thank the president for keeping our country safe!! We have not been attacked, because of the presidents dogged determination and dogged commitment and stubbornness.

Vote for John McCain, because he has the morals values and ethics and the military leadership character which can only be learned from being in the military and Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama do not have this experience!!

February 4, 2008

Clayton in Qatar writes:

Talk about a big bite out of a bland nothing-burger!

P.S., Were you chatting up Mubarak in the Reagan days because the old man was deep in sleep in front of his Egyptian visitors? Rumor had about an elephant in the room...must have been an odd conversation.

So what was the more odd Mubarak experience? Reagan or Bush Jr.?

Pennsylvania, USA
February 10, 2008

James in Pennsylvania writes:

I hope the President's Middle East initiative bears fruit because with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah ratcheting up its hatred for Israel, Syria and it's probable involvement in the Lebanon bombings, and Lebanon now on the brink also, and with Abbas and Hamas running separate areas of Government, the Middle East is beginning to look like a lit fuse ready to go off.

February 19, 2008

Yonaton writes:


Until Mr. Bush is able to face up to the truth of who is a terrorist and who is a friend,...
...he will not only not accomplish anything, but will cause harm.

If Mr. Bush thinks he can get a deal with people who constantly break their word,...
...and who are thugs and bullies,...
...he had better think again.

With America's misguided "help" of the "Palestinian" Arabs, they arm themselves and train their children to kill.

As long as Mr. Bush thinks Abbas, co-founder of the Terrorist group Fatah with Arafat,... a "man of peace," he will continue to blunder at America's expense.

America's foreign policy, vis a vis the Middle East, is about a dysfunctional as it can be. Until it is corrected to reflect reality, not unrealistic hopes, it will be a disaster.

For those who think America should pursue a "Palestinian" state, here is some reference material about who would make up that terrorist state.
And all the other good he does and seeks to do will be for naught if he persists in backing them.

Talk about "betting on the wrong horse!" So much for a "legacy."


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