Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

George Bush throws in the towel--and he's the last one to know!

War, er what??? I missed this last week. Someone must be working over George W. Bush really good--surprisingly, it's probably the war weary, deployment drained, troop-challenged Pentagon. The war is waning. An article on the arm wrestling between Rumsfeld and his boss, Bush, appeared today in Le Monde in an article by Corine Lesnes.

George Bush confronted by the doubts of the American people

A march supporing the troops? Organized by the Pentagon?? Military experts were surprised, to say the least, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced today that he was going to organize a street demonstration in Washington [dubbed the America Supports Your Freedom Walk].

Rumsfeld made the announcement during a joint press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers. At a time when Americans are not at all sure that the war in Iraq has reinforced their security, the two Defense Department officials explained once again that the war "was worth it" and that the insurgents will not win, except if the "Iraqis, the Americans and the international community begin to waiver."

Against this backdrop, Mr Rumsfeld anounced that the Defense Department has taken the initiative in organizing a "march for freedom" to show the troops that the country is behind them. The march will start at the Pentagon, said Rumsfeld, and will end with a concert on the Mall in the heart of the capital. It will take place Sunday, September 11th, the anniversary of the 2001 attacks as if you remind everyone, if needed, that the war on terror and the combat in Iraq are perfectly linked.

During this bloody month of August, the Pentagon obviously is in need of support. Thirty-five US soldiers died over the last ten days, plus four more today. August's casualties are greater than those for the entire month of July.

Whatever the political configuration in Iraq, the insurrection remains constant: 125 attacks on average per month. For the last two weeks officers have found a new reason to worry. They have seen huge quantities of explosives, sophisticated detonators and easily transportable explosive devices suddenly appear, similar to the three mines which killed 14 Marines on August 3rd. The US military claims that hundreds of these armaments have arrived from Iran. When asked what the basis was for the planned pullout of 30,000 troops or more announced last week by the Rumsfeld's own general staff and now demanded by 1 American out of 3, the Secretary displayed a certain amount of irritation. His generals had jumped the gun: Nothing has changed; it's conditional. The President has said so since the beginning. I said, [ :( --Nur] "since the beginning!"

Among the conditions for a withdrawal are those on which Washington has no little or no influence. There is what the Iranians are doing. Are they going to be cooperative or not?, asked Rumsfeld. And if they don't cooperate, then the conditions on the ground will be less favorable. Same goes for the Syrians. How are they helping and how are they not helping?

Rumsfeld is expected tonight in Crawford as well as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a status meeting on Iraq. Mr. Bush's public image is at its lowest point since his second oath of office. According to a CNN/Gallup/USA Today published on Tuesday, 45% of Americans are satisfied with his management of the country. Bush has dropped 12 points in six months. And in a sign that the confusion between Iraq and September 11 is damaging him, only 51% approve of his management of the War on Terror, once his strong suit, dropping from 57% in March and 65% eighteen months ago.

For the last two weeks, Americans have been bombarded with contradictory messages, according to researcher and Brookings scholar Michael O'Hanlon. They witnessed a display of public disagreement which they hadn't seen since George W. Bush's first mandate when Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell waged a war of leaks and duels on the editorial page. A clash over theory right in the middle of a war. After having heard The Global War on Terror talked about for three years, the American public has learned in the pages of the New York Times that the war message is being replaced by a more subtle and less military-centered concept: The Struggle Against Violent Extremism, [S.A.V.E. Bush's ass--Nur] a more sociological notion which includes the causes of terrorism.

This new distiction is interpreted as a capitulation by the US military, which, caught in the Iraqi trap, had to admit that the greatest army in the world is unable to solve everything. The supporters of the war thought they were hearing not Don Rumself but John Kerry, who, when he dared to compare terrorism to a nuisance last year, became the target of innumerable jibes. In a blistering editorial, neoconservative Bill Kristol lambasted Don Rumsfeld and anyone else holding the belief that the War on Terror "is not really a war." In a Weekly Standard article entitled Bush vs. Rumsfeld, Kristol wrote: The president knows we have to win this war. If some of his subordinates are trying to find ways to escape from it, he needs to assert control over them, overrule them, or replace them.

The President himself lost no time in setting the record straight. Since then, Donald Rumsfeld has been very careful to use the word, war. But on August 4th in Los Angeles in remarks before the World Affairs Council, Rumsfeld proposed a slick synthesis: This war of ideas is at the heart of the war on terror; a conflict between a totalitarian ideology of the extremists, and the now-tested vision of free societies. It requires a military, diplomatic, and financial response. But make no mistake, it is a war.


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