Three Cacti for Bush
By Pascal Riche
Monday 01 September 2003
His goals countered by the aggravation of tensions.
"The defense of American territory must be conducted by attack"
-- Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor to Bush
Before his departure for vacation at his Texas ranch in Crawford, George W. Bush pursued a triple objective: reestablish stability in Afghanistan and pull out the terrorists roots there; establish the first democratic Arab regime in Iraq; assure peace in Israel through the creation of a Palestinian state. But while busying himself around the barbeque, the president has seen his triple plan turn into a triple nightmare. Back at the White House since yesterday, he has to confront three impossible situations, but the Bush administration, locked into its ideological approach, has seemed impermeable up to now to the challenges presented.
Bush presents the difficulties encountered in Iraq as "a test of the will of the United States". There s no question of letting the UN take over. Iraq, in the Bush administration s thinking, must serve to reveal America s power and to demonstrate that a "preventative" and unilateral attack, as long as it s desired and conceived by the United States, may better the fate of the world.
As the president s National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, recently repeated, "The defense of American territory must be conducted by attack". But, in Iraq, attack who, attack what? Exhausted, American soldiers are cornered in a country that they don t understand and that is becoming a lightning rod for terrorists of all kinds. The American forces can t even identify them: ex-Baathists or radical Islamists? As Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who directs the American forces there, confessed, the United States suffers from a quasi-total absence of intelligence about the enemy and from very weak Iraqi cooperation...
In Washington, the administration pretends to believe everything is going as planned. Some practically openly rejoice to see Iraq become a "field of jihad": that justifies the war a posteriori (revealing the Iran-al Qaeda link) and above all, allows a concentration of enemies in one place, far from United States ground. The President himself is not far from sharing this vision when he declared Tuesday: "our army confronts terrorists in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and in other places, so that our people do not have to confront terrorist violence in New York, Saint Louis or Los Angeles"...
In Afghanistan, the situation is hardly any more encouraging. Certainly, unlike Iraq, a local government is in place. But Hamid Karzai doesn t control much outside the area around Kabul. The Taliban, still protected by Pakistan, have resumed their attacks in the last few weeks, with the complicity of certain local lords. The American government knows that nothing will change as long as its Pakistani "ally" maintains its two-facedness. Washington has decided to double American aid to Kabul. However, that s doubling a pittance: less than a billion dollars a year, i.e. what Washington spends every week in Iraq! It wouldn t all the same be unreasonable to imagine that a real improvement in the lot of the populace would allow a durable limitation on Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden s influence.
The third objective remains: the road map to Middle East peace. Israeli forces assassination of two Hamas militants in Nablus August 8th put an end to the cease-fire and set off a new escalation of hatred. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas authority, subject to extraordinary pressure from Washington, counts for little. To Bush s great fury, Arafat is bouncing back and taking the Palestinian Security Forces back in hand. The atrocious attack in Jerusalem August 19th served to chill any remaining hopes. As Time Magazine lucidly summarizes: "Does Bush s peace plan have the least chance in a place where a suicide-bomber- and father of children- explodes a bus full of children?"
Colin Powell repeats that the Palestinians and the Israelis have no choice but dialogue because "the end of the road map is a cliff down which both parties will fall". But Washington watches its plan sink and does nothing to save it. Its caution only feeds the deterioration of the situation. Back in Washington, Bush now has to chose: get further involved, with the attendant political risks, to advance his "vision" of peace; or, on the contrary, allow the situation to go under, and concentrate on what he knows how to do: campaign for reelection.
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