CHICKENHAWK BUSH on dodgy ground
The "Chickenhawk Deserter-in-Chief" is finding himself on shakier and shakier ground. I do disagree with the writer's conclusion - I think it is still possible to stop this war before it happens. Keep on resisting and doing it loudly. The truth is that if he had not been the well connected son of a prominent politician he would have been Court Martialed for Desertion and probably have served time in the Stockade.
Chickenhawk Bush on dodgy ground
Those who served and suffered find strange bedfellows in Iraq protest, writes AARON HICKLIN
AMERICANS have a word for men like George W Bush and Dick Cheney.
In the parlance of Vietnam veterans Mr Bush and his vice-president are "chickenhawks", men who dodged the draft and now cheerfully dispatch young Americans to war. Not without irony they note that the most hawkish and bellicose government in living memory is filled with men who never saw battle themselves. Of the senior members of the US administration, Colin Powell, the secretary of state, is the single exception.
For many military men and women in America, the discrepancy has become a rallying call all the more potent because those who avoided the draft were invariably the sons of the wealthy and well-connected. Bush himself managed to stay home during Vietnam by getting a coveted slot with the Texas National Guard, only to go awol after completing his training as a fighter pilot, effectively making him a deserter.
This is just one of the reasons why an impending war on Iraq is creating strange bedfellows, and why staunch anti-war activists, such as Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology, find themselves in the same camp as a Gulf war hero like "Stormin" Norman Schwarzkopf. Across the country, a belated anti-war movement is finally finding its voice and feet.
Mr Gitlin said: "The administration must be aware that this is not just a New York or San Francisco hurdle, but that it's a heartland problem. It's Missouri, it's suburban soccer moms, and, despite the president's petulant demeanour, it must be plain to his advisers that it's not going over very well."
When Stewart Nusbaumer, a former Vietnam vet, set up Veterans Against the War in Iraq, he said he was overwhelmed by the response of career soldiers.
He said: "Those who have been in war look at conflict a different way. They believe the military should be used only as a last resort, whereas Bush is treating it as the first resort. He hasn't made his case with veterans who say, 'Look, I've been there, I've done that and there has to be a very clear reason to put your life on the line.'"
On Mr Nusbaumer's website that seems to apply equally to Republicans as to Democrats.
"I want my country to be a republic, not an empire," writes Steven McNallen, a self-described right-of-centre guy.
Larry G Hammer, another correspondent and a member of the US Air Force for 23 years, writes: "I'm a firm believer in the judicious use of military force when the welfare and safety of the United States is in peril, but President Bush's misguided policy on Iraq is a big mistake. As a Republican and a Texan, I am appalled by his lack of judgment and vision."
Contrary to the prevalent view in Europe, Americans are not all dumbly following their leader into war. In fact public opposition to unilateral action is on a par with public misgivings in Europe. When Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Democratic contender for the presidency next year, accused Mr Bush last Friday of "blustering unilateralism" he was not saying anything with which the majority of Americans did not already agree. A poll in the Wall Street Journal showed support for war without a second security council resolution slipping to only 29%. Almost half of all Americans do not support the war at all.
Michael Tomasky, a political columnist for New York magazine, said: "Polls indicated that big majorities of Americans have lots of reservations about Bush's plans for war, and to the extent that they agree they certainly want the UN to act within a multilateral context."
For many Americans, the Bush administration is rapidly losing its way, unable to articulate precisely why the war in Iraq is so essential. In the past year, it has become an article of faith that Mr Bush would sweep to a second election victory; such assessments now sound less like a foregone conclusion and more like wishful thinking. A year after his famous axis of evil speech, Mr Bush might be wise to soften the rhetoric when he gives his third State of the Union address tomorrow night.
"Most Americans want to hear a real solid justification for why we're doing this, which the administration in all this time still hasn't made," Mr Tomasky said. "If you get Americans to think about something, they usually have a very good instinct about what their country's principles are, and pre-emptive war on the basis of some future theoretical threat strikes a lot of people as basically un-American."
The situation has been exacerbated by Mr Bush's glaring inconsistencies. He was the first to trumpet the fact that it was his resolve that got weapon inspectors back in Iraq, but then immediately scoffed at the likelihood of their finding anything. His own administration, meanwhile, refuses to produce any evidence of its own that Saddam Hussein is in breach of the resolutions, while insisting that such evidence exists.
To many Americans, the administration's willingness to softball North Korea has made the urgency on Iraq seem increasingly suspect.
Just as importantly, perhaps, Americans are listening to European criticism. The relationship with Europe has always been fraught with mutual suspicion, but a relationship once built on necessity has turned uglier than anyone could have anticipated. Not since the end of the second world war has Germany refused to support the US on a major foreign policy issue.
It is arguable that, had Mr Bush gone the distance on issues close to Europe's heart - the Kyoto accords, an international court - he might now enjoy a less chilly reception in Europe. The example of Bill Clinton when he sent bombers into Serbia should have been instructive. Again that time, America received unwavering support from Tony Blair, while Germany furiously resisted. In contrast to Mr Bush, however, Mr Clinton worked tirelessly to bring Nato allies on board.
Mr Tomasky believes that Mr Blair alone of leaders in Europe has the power to make a difference. Without his support, he said, American support would fall away even more precipitously. "I think he could certainly influence American public opinion. His co-operation with Bush seems strange to a lot of American liberals, who saw how close he was to Clinton, and what soul brothers they were in many respects."
But few believe that war can be avoided at this stage. Mr Gitlin points out that the Gulf war was hugely unpopular, but that once forces are deployed, the public rallies round. "Even the Tet offensive, which famously discredited the Vietnam war, was immediately greeted with support from American public opinion. If this war is a matter of weeks long, it won't be long enough for the rally-around-the-flag effect to wear off."
- Jan 27th
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