"Today every second American recognizes that he or she was deliberately deceived. If Bush had told them the other motives of his war...the people and Congress would have refused their consent..The budget deficit at an all-time high of $455 billion will swell to $1.9 trillion in the course of the next five years.. The relection is in danger; the Macho totters." Translated from the German in: der stern, September 9, 2003
By Michael Streck and Jan Christoph Wiechmann
[This article originally published in: der stern September 9, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.stern.de/politik/ausland/index.html?id=512632&nv=pr&pr=1.]
When George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, turned to the nation on Sunday evening, he didn't look like one who had four weeks of vacation behind him. He spoke of great progress in Iraq, the courage of the soldiers and admonished the United Nations to assume responsibility. He said the usual things and didn't mention the problems, the guerilla war, the many dead GIs and the even greater number of dead civilians. He avoided the word chaos. Nevertheless the speech sounded like a cry for help.
The pictures from the White House didn't show a radiantly confident president as on May 1 aboard the aircraft carrier "USS Lincoln" when he the president landed in a jet and laughing and roaring in an airman's uniform highlighting his masculine features proclaimed the end of combat actions. The nation reveled in these pictures; the rest of the world abhorred them.
"There is no doubt in my mind that we will fail." George W. Bush
Only four months later George W. Bush is more unpopular than ever in his own country. For the first time since September 11, 2001, the majority of US citizens say they will not return him to office. Never in history was America's respect so miserable. The great announced peace plan for the Israel-Palestine conflict has failed. Afghanistan is far from the promised stability. The escalating guerilla war in Iraq forced Bush to eat humble pie with the United Nations so unloved by him. His foreign policy is disastrous according to nearly all experts.
George W. Bush, once inviolable or unimpeachable, has made himself vulnerable domestically. Once timid democratic presidential candidates who insult him as "a miserable failure" like Richard Gephardt, who urge "regime change at home" like John Kerry or attack Bush frontally like Howard Dean, mock him. "You should be embarrassed, Mister President. You should be ashamed. We need a new president, Mister President."
How could a politician who had the solidarity of the whole world after the attacks of September 11 become the most-hated man on this planet only two years later?
There was once another Bush, the sensible levelheaded Bush who overcame September 11 and its immediate consequences in a sovereign and statesmanlike way and kept in check the hawks among his advisors. A hawk like Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld scratched the initials "SH" for Saddam Hussein and the directive "go massive" on a notepad after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
This was the time when Bush spoke of the terrorists as "folks" and not as evil. The world mourned with America. In France, "Le Monde" titled its issue: "We are all Americans." This was a quiet time when Bush was at the peak of his popularity.
"In Afghanistan we helped liberate an oppressed people. We will continue helping them in making their country more secure, rebuilding their society and educating their children, boys and girls." George W. Bush
Bombs fell on Kabul on October 7, 2001. Moved by the terrorist attacks, the international community accepted the force of arms. Bush and German chancellor Schroeder were allies at that time. Two years are an eternity in politics. The liberating action under the pathetic name "Enduring Freedom" hasn't brought lasting freedom. Osama bin Laden is still on the run. US comedians joke that he has produced more videos in the last years than American rap stars. The country is in debris. Beyond the capital Kabul, warlords are in control. The Afghan minister for reconstruction, Amin Farhang, said disappointedly: "When the Americans began their war against terrorism, they used the Mudschaheddin, the current warlords, as their ground troops. They didn't want to use their own troops. Afterwards the warlords returned to power and will not surrender that power."
The government in Kabul must look on helplessly and destitute as the country suffocates in chaos. "If the Americans don't help us, I doubt anything will go forward. The Afghan soil is very suited for the reorganization of terrorism. One must be very careful. More strikes of the caliber of September 11 could occur.
Immediately after the attack, Bush promised humanitarian assistance of $320 million, a kind of Marshall Plan for rebuilding the country. However Afghanistan is far away. Afghanistan was quickly forgotten. The world looks at Iraq and Bush looks away. Afghanistan was completely missing in the 2003 US budget draft and had to be hastily added. For a long time there has been no more talk of a Marshall Plan.
If the US president could still count on international support in the months after the Afghanistan expedition, this began to change dramatically in the course of 2002. When he first used the term "axis of evil" in January, this could be ascribed to his love for the Old Testament that he discovered late. When he repeatedly divided the world in good and evil, this showed his fondness for cowboy terminology. However the constant repetition of the formula "Whoever is not with us is against us" sounded very simplistic, apodictic and totalitarian to many. The simple and often bombastic, pompous and inflated language with which Bush spoke to the hearts of Hollywood-friendly Americans terrified the rest of the world.
"Evil is real and must be fought." George W. Bush...
Bush's fate in the following one and a half years was arrogance, loudmouthed rhetoric and contempt for the international community. The rancher from Crawford, Texas who sat back and took things easy in his 57-year life, a childhood in prosperity, study at the elite Yale University, entrance in the oil industry, a man who never had to struggle except against his love for alcohol, had decided early on for a war against Iraq in a single-handed effort if necessary. Only the marketing strategy was debated.
This attitude of the president completely inexperienced in foreign policy did not correspond to his past policy. Iraq played no role in the first year of his presidency. He was not especially interested in the world. Bush still rejected a military strike against Iraq even after the attacks of September 11 when the FBI feverishly but vainly sought a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Political observers asked about the reasons for the sudden turn. The search for an answer led to a small group of high-ranking government officials who seemed to come from nowhere and seized or kidnapped Washington's foreign policy, the neoconservatives.
This was an extremely well-organized clique of Reagan disciples around the assistance secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, people not really appreciated by the president: urbane intellectuals at home in the political circles of the capitol. Their philosophy is based on the assumption that the world is a dangerous threatening place that the US as a hegemonial power has to rule. Only a strong and heavily armed America could guarantee world peace. In a 1992 strategy paper, Wolfowitz urged the world hegemony of the US to control Japan and reunited Germany. At that time his plans were regarded as dangerous and grotesque.
Now ten years later the Neocons promoted by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are in important positions of the Defense department and the State department and are influential in strategic decision-making. They have Rumsfeld and vice-president Cheney on their side. Cheney rejected Saddam's overthrow in the first Gulf war. These neocons were the ones who little by little took foreign policy out of Colin Powell's hands and organized the new national strategy that explicitly included the possibility of offensive warfare or wars of aggression. The Neocons convinced the president that Saddam's removal would lead to a new order in the Middle East - in America's interest. George W. Bush, the foreign policy novice or neophyte, was converted.
The new security strategy had imperial characteristics that can hardly be accepted in peace times. America with John Ashcroft instrumentalized the climate of fear and whipped through a monstrous legal package, the "USA Patriot Act", making possible the state's total surveillance of its citizens: monitoring lawyers and clients, snooping on the reading habits of library patrons, recording email communication, infiltrating religious minorities, issuing subpoenas to hearings of young Muslims, locking persons away for an indefinite time without citing reasons and military tribunals.
"I don't spend much time reflecting about myself and why I do things."
George W. Bush
The introduction of torture was also discussed in the course of combating terror. "All Muslims are suspects since Ashcroft came into office. We must assume every mosque in the country is under surveillance", said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson of the Council for American and Islamic Relations.
The absurd climax of the terrorist hunt was the plan of Rumsfeld's buddy ex-admiral John M. Poindexter for an Internet page predicting the political future of the Middle East - for instance the shooting of Vassar Arafat or the overthrow of the Jordanian royal dynasty, a kind of "state betting office for cruelty and terrorism" as Oregon Senator Ron Wyden mocked. In August, the controversial military advisor was forced to resign.
In this atmosphere, journalists and whole television broadcast stations were henchmen of the government. All doubts and criticisms were dismissed as unpatriotic. Drawing compatriots to his side in security questions was easy for Bush. He emphasized the evidence for the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq feared "in the form of a mushroom cloud" and even warned of Iraqi attacks on the US. The majority of Americans according to polls believed that Saddam was involved in the attacks of September 11.
This was the beginning of a chain of half-truths, lies and exaggerated scenarios to gain his compatriots' approval for a war. Today every second American recognizes that he or she was deliberately deceived. If Bush had told them the other motives of his war - the new order of the Middle East, the geostrategic focus on Eurasia -, the people and Congress would have refused their consent.
A central dilemma of Bush's system was revealed in the summer of 2002: the confusion of authority between the State Department and the Defense Department. The diplomatic failure was unavoidable. While Colin Powell fought desperately for inclusion of the United Nations, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz rejected this. At a White House dinner on August 5, Powell convinced Bush to seek the Security Council's approval. However Dick Cheney - behind Powell's back - emphasized Saddam's violent overthrow in a speech before war veterans.
"I know what I believe. I declare what I believe. I believe what I believe. What I believe is right." George W. Bush
The invasion of Iraq, known to the world public in early fall, was now America's short-term objective. Serious resistance began to form all over the world even if Gerhard Schroeder's categorical No to war arose out of populist motives. Bush didn't want to admit that the US was moving into international isolation a year after the attacks of September 11. He still trusted his na´ve belief that America would have the support of the world. America, after all, only did the good and wanted to liberate the globe from terror.
Bush had not lost everything at that moment. On Powell's obstinate urging, he actually accepted the arduous way to the UN. However the military buildup at the Gulf was launched at the same time. Washington's aversion against the United Nations and many international agreements and institutions - the Kyoto protocol, the International Criminal Court and the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty - reduced Bush's respect. "While the rest of the world cautiously watches America and takes seriously its view of things, Americans often don't know that other perspectives exist. If they know, it doesn't interest them", the political scientist Clyde Prestowitz wrote in his book "Rogue Nation".
The fiasco at the United Nations had its roots in the boundless naivety of the Bush administration. The Bush administration long believed winning the Security Council for a military action was a child's game and that the French and Russians and perhaps also the Germans would give way. They didn't.
The Bush administration thought the Security Council would yield to the superpower USA. The Security Council didn't. The No of the world was a No to offensive warfare or wars of aggression and to the American empire, a rebellion against too much power, too much arrogance and Rambo politics. Whoever walked through the corridors of the United Nations at that time sensed a secret satisfaction among many diplomats: for the first time the US was defied and put in its place or cut down to size. The defeat in the Security Council was the greatest humiliation that the US ever endured in the history of the community of nations.
Bush could possibly have won with more Clintonian charm and Carter's urbane nature. The refusal of the world was also a rebuff to him personally and to all he represents in the eyes of many: arrogance, bigotry, provinciality and a know-it-all attitude. Nobel peace prizewinner Nelson Mandela called Bush a man "who cannot think" and America a power "that wants to draw the world into a holocaust". A worldwide poll of the Pew survey research institute showed a dramatic collapse in sympathy for America. In friendly countries, the respect of the US fell to historical lows: in Germany to 45 percent, in France to 43 percent, in Spain 38 percent and in Turkey 15 percent.
Millions of people took to the streets everywhere in the world protesting the war policy. Never did an American president meet so much resistance. The theme of the new world order with new alliances against the only superpower was unmistakable. 95 percent of the world was against him according to Bush's formula "Whoever is not for us is against us." This didn't deter him.
"Dear compatriots, the dangers for our country and the world will be overcome... We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others. And we will prevail. May God bless our country and all who defend our country." George W. Bush
The war that Bush waged in Iraq was the first offensive warfare or war of aggression in the history of the US. This war violated international law and offended long-term allies. Perhaps all this would be unimportant when the promises for Iraq - glowing democracy, more prosperity and effective control of terror - become reality. The situation in Iraq is more difficult than ever five months after the war's beginning and with every new terrorist attack. There were many warnings from the US military but Rumsfeld refused to see them. Army chief-of-staff Eric Shinseki warned in February that hundreds of thousands of soldiers would have to be deployed in the post-war time. Ex-general Anthony C. Zinni, advisor to the State Department, said last week to marine officers: "Our instincts were formed on the battlefields of Vietnam where we heard all the filth and the lies and saw the victims. I ask you: Is this happening again? We have missed our chance with the United Nations. Now we return with hat in hand." This speech was later sold as a CD.
For neoconservatives like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush, there is hardly a greater admission of failure than their petition to the United Nations. The institution that according to Bush didn't do justice to its responsibility in the case of Iraq must now take the rap because Bush hasn't done justice to his responsibility. The "most expensive debating club of the world" should jointly finance the expensive US crusade. The superpower begs for help.
Whether Bush can compensate for his disastrous foreign policy with domestic success seems rather doubtful. 2.7 million Americans have lost their jobs in two-and-a-half years of his term in office. Conditions on the labor market worsen. In August the number of employees fell again around 93,000. America will have to accustom itself to these figures. The dreadful phrase "jobless recovery", economic recovery without increased employment, is evasive. The rich will largely profit again from Bush's tax reform to stimulate the economy. The budget deficit at an all-time high of $455 billion will swell to $1.9 trillion in the course of the next five years. Of the ten greatest corporate bankruptcies since 1980, six occurred in Bush's term in office including the scandal around the Texas energy giant Enron (one of the corporations that financed Bush's election campaign three years ago).
"I believe and hope that the American people trust me." George W. Bush
The gap between poor and rich is becoming greater and greater. In 2002, the number of US citizens below the poverty line rose around 1.3 million to 34.8 million. One percent of super-rich Americans have 40 percent of the total wealth. Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman said about Bush's policies 14 months before the election: "If he continues at this tempo, there will only be one job to cut in November 2004, the job of George Bush." The latest poll shows an approval rating of 45 percent for the president, the lowest since his assumption of office. The "New York Times" called his address to the nation "sobering" and strikingly subdued. The reelection is in danger. The Macho totters. Bush urgently needs help.
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