By Charles Lambroschini
Friday 19 September 2003
With regard to Iraq, George W. Bush makes ambiguity a strategy. But for how much longer will the American public take his zigzags for a political line?
The latest example: the way he distances himself from his Vice President's linguistic blunders. During a television appearance Dick Cheney appeared to credit the thesis of complicity between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 terrorists. George W. Bush made an immediate correction, underlining that the CIA had never found any proof in this direction. But, given that according to the polls, 69% of Americans are convinced of the contrary, he didn't push his refutation any further.
The goal was to prevent Democratic candidates for the White House from exploiting the Vice Presidents' gaffes to accuse the president of having manipulated yet again allegations against the Iraqi tyrant. At the same time, George W. Bush couldn't retroactively annul his own denunciations of the links that might have been between Baghdad and Al-Qaeda. Nor the similar propositions that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld maintained before a Congressional Commission of Inquiry.
The President has undergone successive sincerities. Chronologically, the initial motive for the war was preventive liquidation of arms of mass destruction that threatened world peace. But, given American inability to discover any trace of these devices, which, according to former Chief UN Inspector Hans Blix's recent declarations, would have been dismantled by Saddam Hussein immediately after the first Gulf War, there was a shift to the humanitarian explanation. The discovery of innumerable mass graves proved that the Americans were right to fell this other bloody-handed Stalin. The United States, however, showed scant enthusiasm for punishing Liberia's dictator in a country without oil, or North Korea's, who's capable of glazing GIs with nuclear bombs; so the accent today is on the struggle against terrorism.
Truth is always the first casualty of war. So in 1964, Lyndon Johnson invented an attack of North Vietnamese ships on the American fleet in the Gulf of Tonkin to obtain Congressional approval for a resolution authorizing the bombardment of North Vietnam. But since the American public has retained from the Vietnamese catastrophe that a war justified only by a lie is not a just war, George W. Bush must imperatively escape from the quagmire trap before the primary election season.
The international community also has no choice. It must help Washington find an honorable exit so as to avoid the Iraqi and Palestinian hearths sparking a fire that engulfs the whole Middle East. That's the big difference from Vietnam: in Iraq, no one can want an American failure.
Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.
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