With Support for Bush Slipping Because of the Iraq Mess, Electoral Considerations Now Dictate Foreign Policy. but How to Pass the Buck to the UN without Being Seen as a Quitter?

By Stephen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), September 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

With Support for Bush Slipping Because of the Iraq Mess, Electoral Considerations Now Dictate Foreign Policy. but How to Pass the Buck to the UN without Being Seen as a Quitter?


Stephen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


A senior Republican congressman just back from Iraq is talking privately over lunch on Capitol Hill. The occupation of Iraq is going a lot more badly than the American people have been told, he says; chaos rules much more than people are realising. Major efforts will have to be made to stop the country sliding downhill into violent anarchy. Three days later, the same congressman is on cable news. The Bush administration's plan for Iraq is going smoothly, he tells his much larger audience. There is no need to panic: all is under control.

The Bush administration is awash with such sophistry over the invasion and occupation of Iraq. When Dubbya broadcast to the nation on 7 September, he seemed tense and nervous. He looked like a loser and hesitantly delivered a badly written, 17-minute speech--there were few of the rhetorical flashes that his speechwriters usually insert, often with considerable success. "And for America, there will be no going back to the era before 11 September," he said. "We have learnt that ... the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities."

Tony Blair may be in trouble over sexing up the reasons why Britain should join the Iraq invasion, but the charge sheet against Boy George and his cronies is considerably longer. In his broadcast, for example, Bush claimed yet again that there is a link between Iraq and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, even though his intelligence agencies say no such link exists. And the American people have been hoodwinked: polls show that seven out of ten now believe Iraq and Saddam Hussein were connected to the terrorist attacks. Even the once-liberal Washington Post is misled, saying that the invasion of Iraq was an "important component of [the] war against terrorism". No such rhetoric flows from the Bush administration over Saudi Arabia, where the link with the atrocities is palpable.

WMDs? We know about them, or rather the lack of them. Intelligence agencies' reports? We now know that the CIA told Bush there was no connection between 11 September and Iraq. We also now know that Bush and his neoconservative chums were warned that a US occupation would likely result in bloody uprisings ("obstruction, resistance and armed opposition"). But in the frenetic rush to war, such reports were ignored. Amid the war preparations, the then army chief, General Eric Shinseki, warned that hundreds of thousands of US troops would be needed to keep the peace after the invasion, but his projections were dismissed by the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, as "wildly off the mark".

According to the polls, for the first time since 11 September 2001, support for Bush has slipped--to the extent that a majority of Americans would prefer to have a different president. The main reason for this is anxiety over Iraq, in particular the growing number of deaths of US soldiers since 1 May (when Dubbya announced, in theatrical pilot togs and with an aircraft carrier as backdrop, that "major combat" was over). This is the domestic background against which Bush and his cronies are now turning to the United Nations, whose "responsibility" (as Dubbya so outrageously said in his broadcast) is apparently now to intervene in Iraq. Unless the steady trickle of US military deaths is transferred to UN troops, Bush will face serious trouble in next year's presidential election--which is already beginning to hot up. …

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