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Monday, Oct. 3, 2005

Bush's choice: America or the empire


Special to The Japan Times

KUALA LUMPUR -- Deep down, U.S. President George W. Bush should grasp the seriousness of his debacle. If true, then he must also appreciate the time element in averting the worse-case scenario, which he, along with an increasingly alienated number of ideologues are imposing on their country.

Iraq is a multifaceted disaster, and its calamitous effects are hurting America on many levels. The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq is creeping up to the 2,000 mark. The figure of those wounded and maimed -- some permanently disabled -- is several folds higher.

This war is too costly. Hundreds of millions of dollars are diverted from the U.S. budget everyday to feed the war machine; good news for the Pentagon and the military establishment maybe, but not so good for the majority of Americans, especially the poorest among them.

The U.S. Army is stretched too thin, bogged down in a war gone awry. Many National Guard units, whose sole mission is to tend to the nation's needs in times of crisis, were deployed to Iraq. The consequences of such indiscretions were exhibited in the Katrina disaster to a humiliating degree.

Public opinion has been illustrative of Bush's heedless foreign-policy conduct. A recent CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll found that 67 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq. The majority of Americans, according to the poll, want to see serious cuts in military spending and a diversion of resources to help in the post-Katrina rebuilding efforts.

But that is simply not feasible. The security in Iraq is deteriorating, and the insurgency is gaining momentum. All attempts to diminish the authenticity or magnitude of the resistance have failed. What's going on in Iraq is not the work of a few infiltrators, nor can it be narrowly defined according to ethnic classification or the character of one or a cluster of individuals.

If the war was a faltering empire's attempt to thrust itself in a highly strategic geopolitical location and thus gain control over precious energy sources, then it was a strategic blunder. It is threatening the stability of an entire region and also exposing the inadequacies of U.S. military capabilities.

If U.S. military strategists -- especially those close to the president -- possess the courage to extract lessons from history and recognize the complexity of the political reality in Iraq, they would undoubtedly conclude that the war in Iraq is simply unwinnable.

Knowing that the U.S. cannot prevail in the war, the Bush administration is focusing on winning time by diverting attention from Iraq with smoke screens. There was the "bringing democracy" to the Arab world charade, with its last episode being the elections mockery in Egypt. And before that was the frenzy over the Islamic madrassas and how they gives birth to "little terrorists" -- to use the outlandish term of one CNN journalist, and so forth.

But every smoke screen has eventually dispersed to reveal the same tragic reality that the White House is laboriously trying to conceal: Bush's war has no future strategy and no quantifiable objective. Once these two elements are removed, all that is left behind is war for the sake of war, a perpetual, endless military strife devoid of meaning except that cruelly inferred by an extremist zealot or a conceited ideologue. Evidently, the Bush constituency thrives on both.

Even a pompous president with a divine mission must recognize a disaster when he sees one. It is improbable that Bush actually believes his own rhetoric of a world full of promise, which he supposedly molded, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Lebanon or Gaza.

Americans are distancing themselves from the conflict and the administration's inflated projections. Despite the duplicity and outright ignorance of the media, an estimated 300,000 antiwar protesters descended on Washington D.C. on Sept. 24, demanding an immediate end to the war in Iraq. They included representatives of 250 American families who lost loved ones in Iraq. Also coming in droves were hundreds of war veterans, many of whom became disabled in Iraq. They all came seeking answers, disclosure and an end to the incessant war madness that has engulfed their nation.

But Bush is unlikely to yield. He too has a crowd for which he cares deeply, convoluted interest groups that are a bizarre mix of business elites and corporate contractors, religious fanatics and top military brass.

Bush's immediate constituency is unified in its war agenda, each group for its own reasons. An immediate withdrawal from Iraq is an ideological defeat; an irreplaceable financial loss for some; an end, if temporarily, to unwarranted military interventionism and the injurious diminishment to America's political hegemony. Considering that occupying and controlling Iraq was the pinnacle of the Bush war advocates' infamous manifesto on how to "secure the realms" of an increasingly challenged empire, a withdrawal from Iraq would certainly be the end of that dream.

Yet staying in Iraq in a futile "hunt" for "terrorists" with an augmenting insurgency that is steadily engulfing the whole country is nothing like the envisaged "cakewalk" fantasy that also foresaw Iraqis showering the liberators with flowers and candy. Iraq has grown to become the empire's most dreadful nightmare.

This self-inflicted predicament presents Bush and his administration with two arduous options: to disown their commitment to the empire and to exit Iraq immediately, saving some face and an opportunity -- if only a meager one -- to manage the crisis they've helped create with the hope of reconciling with the majority of the American people, or to weather the Iraqi storm, hoping for a miracle before their ship is completely sunk.

The hundreds of thousands of Americans who marched on Washington in protest of Bush and his costly wars -- in fact the majority of the American people -- have made their voices loud and clear. Will Bush and his self-righteous ideologues listen, just for once?

Ramzy Baroud, a veteran Arab American journalist, teaches mass communication at Australia's Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. His forthcoming book, "Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising," is being published by Pluto Press, London


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