The Superpower's Paralysis
"The triumphalism of the Bush administration has vanished for a long time.. More than two and a half million jobs were destroyed since Bush took office.. The president's skid into the political danger zones was not surprising with strife in Iraq, a soft labor market, the shattering of public finances and painful cuts on the local and individual state planes.. No one has more reason for anxiety than Washington's neoconservatives."
The Superpower's Paralysis
By Martin Kilian
[This article originally published in the Austrian Weltwoche 30/03 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,
In Iraq, disgruntlement among US soldiers grows. In Washiington, the conflict over alleged evidcnce for weapons of mass destruction escalates. As if that were not enough, gigantic deficits and mounting unemployment figures put president George Bush under pressure.
The pictures were glorious as though created for the coming presidential election. George W. Bush, the victorious commander-in-chief, landed on an American aircraft carrier to celebrate the sailors and pilots returning home from the campaign in Iraq. Three months later the splendor of the event has faded. The pictures could even turn against the commander-in-chief in the White House.
The triumphalism of the Bush administration has vanished for a long time. American soldiers die almost daily in Iraq in a "classical guerilla war" according to the US commander in Baghdad, General John Abizaid. Chaos reigns unchanged in the Iraq protectorate of the Bush warriors. The bitterness of many American soldciers grows over the nature of their deployment and its long duration under miserable living conditions. "From victorious liberators, we have quickly become hated occupiers", declared the democratic congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, a member of the Armed Forces committee who is horrified about conditions in Iraq.
Two and a half million jobs destroyed
Loud squabbling broke out in Washington over the partly reckless reasons for war of the Bush administration before the start of the Iraq campaign. No weapons of mass destruction were found in the Tigris-Euphrates land. There is no talk any more about enormous stockpiles of poison gas and bio-weapons, Scud-missiles and mobile laboratories.
Instead, many investigations in Congress and further disclosures in the American media about the motives for marching into Iraq are nearly as threatening for the Bush administration despite republican majorities in both houses of Congress as the news from the economic front. The American labor market weakens despite a hesitant upswing. More than two and a half million jobs were destroyed since Bush took office. If the economy isn't considerably improved by the presidential election in November 2004, George W. Bush will be the first president since the Great Depression and Herbert Hoover responsible for a loss of jobs...
The decline of public budgets is just as depressing. Largely abandoned by the federal government, individual American states are stuck in the worst financial paralysis in decades. Funds for education, social programs and infrastructure are slashed almost everywhere.
Help from Washington should not be expected since the budget deficit of the Bush administration has reached a record level: $455 billion this year and $475 billion next year, a shortfall that the White House glossed over a year ago to justify tax cuts profiting mostly rich Americans. The occupation of Iraq wherfe nearly forty American soldiers were killed since the official end of the war on May 1 costs four billion dollars a month. These funds could have been invested in a speedy rebuilding of Iraq or urgently necessary relief for Hamid Karsais' beleagured Afghani government. The balance sheet of the Bush administration in Afghanistan iscorrespondingly wretched. By May 2003, five billion dollars were directly transferred to the Afghani government.
The president's skid into the political danger zones in polls was not surprising with strife in Iraq, a soft labor market, the shattering of public finances and painful cuts on the local and individual state planes. Only a bare majority of Americans still support the war in Iraq and a scant declining majority rate Bush's leadership in office positively. His recent claim that the United States "gave the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein a chance to accept UN weapon inspectors and he refused" also may not be beneficial to Bush's political reputation. Perplexed American commentators puzzled over what the president could have meant.
There are still fifteen months to the next election. However the inconsistencies and contradictions of the justification of the American invasion in Iraq threaten to become a long-running political issue with potentially grave consequences for the president and the neo-conservative war-mongerers. The current controversy over the falsified documents purporting to show Iraq' purchase orf uranium in African Niger to produce nuclear weapons is only the top of the iceberg.
The association of the Bush administration with crfude falsifications and the dismissed warnings of diverse experts foment the suspicion that Washington's war defenders had intentionally twisted the facts to their advantage. The Italian journalist Elisabeth Burba who first forwarded the Niger falsifications even said that the documents were "not genuine".
After American officials negotiated the papers of the international nuclear energy authority in Vienna in February 2003, its experts declared following a Google search and a brief research that the documents were falsified. Now the Senate committee on information control is occupied with the events. Although CIA director George Tenet accepted responsibility for the Niger debacle, the committee will not get around questioning Bush co-workers in the National Security Council. "We will pursue this wherever it leads", declared the chairperson of the committee, republican Senator Pat Roberts.
A chain reaction could be triggered since the Washington war-mongerers reach in their bag of tricks to convince the American people and the United Nations of the danger of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Thus Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly insisted he had "bulletproof evidence" of Saddam Hussein's cooperation with Al-Qaida terrorists. After meticulous research, the special terrorism committee of the United Nations declared no evidence was found. The American occupiers themselves didn't discover a trace of such cooperation in Iraq.
Rumsfeld and neoconservatives like former director of the CIA secret service James Woolsey emphasized the supposed Saddam-Bin Laden axis although Khaled Scheich Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, the two highest ranking Al-Qaida terrorists in American custody categorically and credibly denied Baghdad's cooperation with Osama bin Laden in interrogations in the fall of 2002.
The Niger connection, to democratic senator Carl Levin, was "only one of many dubious claims and exaggerations by the secret services and government workers on the eve of the war." The scrutiny of Congress and the American media of Rumsfeld's propaganda department, the so-called Office of Special Plans (OSP) could be especially dangerous for neoconservatives. Since the Saddam-discoveries of the CIA and the Pentagon news service, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) were too limp for the hardliners, the OSP troop manufactured news under the greatesrt secrecy. Led by pensioned Marine officer William Luft, a former colleague of vice-president Dick Cheney, the OSP group invented stirring discoveries entirely according to the taste of their clients, supervised and driven by the neoconservative Pentagon secretary Donald Feith and Rumsfeld friends Richard Perle and Newt Gingrich.
The Office of Special Plans "picked out the things that supported its theses and joined them into arguments presented to the president. "This is propaganda, not enlightenment" as D. Partrick Lang, head of the Middle East division at the DIA, criticized the operations of the office.
Whether Saddam Hussein's nuclear program, his connection to Al-Qaida, poison gas, anthrax or Syria, the Office of Special Plans was always there when Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle and Rumsfeld's assistant Paul Wolfowitz sought arguments for war. Past the CIA and the DIA, the Air Force plowed another field. They rummaged through "raw" dossiers of the CIA containing rumors and false reports... The exile troop bought nearly everything served up by the Office of Special Plans.
... Washington now faces a debacle in Iraq. "As a result of a rapid victory, we are in a drfeadful situation - without plans and without allies who help bear the burdens", warned congresswoman Ellen Tauscher.
The mood of the American troops who now must take the rap for the "massive illusions" of the Bush advisors is depressed. What some Gis give American rtelevision reporters borders on insubordination. "If Donald Rumsfeld were here, I would ask forf his resignation", declared Clinton Deitz from the Third Infantry division. Many soldiers are "visibly overtired and depressed", an American soldier told the daily Christian Science Monitor. Prozac was given to the Third Infantry division according to the neoconservative Weekly Standard.
Neveretheless the Pentagon is xconsidering commanding another 10,000 or more reservists to Iraq. This is not politically innocuous since the disgruntlement in the troops
has already passed to the families of the soldiers in the United States. This was obviously not intended. Wolfowitz belittled the warning when general chief-of-staff at that time Eric Shinseki warned Congress that an occupation of Iraq could require up to 200,000 men. He was "rather sure that we will be welcomed as liberators and therefore need less troop strength", Rumsfeld's assistant said.
Now the Bush administration hectically seeks for a substitute but cannot move the India government to send a division of 17,000 men to Iraq despite financial promises from Washington. Foreign mini-contingents including 133 Hungarian soldiers help along with 15,000 British soldiers.
Before the start of the war, the president saw the United Nations entering into history as an "ineffective irrelevant debating club". However France, Russia, Germany, India and other states are only ready to dispatch troops if a UN mandate is preswented and the community of nations grants an expanded right of participation in building and administering Iraq. Europeans will only contribute funds if either the United Nations or the World Bank manages and distributes the funds. "This will be very painful for those who advocated abandoning the United Nations", as foreign policy expert Joseph Nye of Harvard University describes the UN dilemma of the Washington hardliners.
Apocalypse on forty pages
At the end, president Bush will not have a choice. Nothing would be more politically indigestable than continuing American losses in Iraq together with a growing Iraqi anti-Americanism that didhn't answer the liberation from Saddam Hussein's reign of terror with gratitude. The democrats see an opporftunity coming up. The times when they didn't dare criticize the commander-in-chief in the White House for patriotic considerations and fear of the consequences are past.
The conviction that George W. Bush is unbeatable in the 2004 election is also past. "Marching into war under false pretexts is a grave accusation", the democratic presidential candidate and senator Bob Graham bellowed in the chase after the incumbent.
No one has more reason for anxiety than Washington's neoconservatives. Tha they have fallen to the defensive appeared last week when hardliner John Bolton , the number three person in the American State department, tried to convince a congressional committee of the danger of regional destabilization through alleged Syrian weapons of mass destruction. His appearance was postponed indefinitely after vehement protest of the CIA and presentation of a CIA dossier that tore to pieces Bolton's apocalypse on forty pages. "Something has gone dreadfully wrong", bemoaned the republican senator Olympia Snowe regarding the secret service debacle of the Bush administration. Something has indeed gone wrong.
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