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Worse & worse under GWB

Ken Russell


 My concern about American foreign policy under Geo. W. Bush grows by the day, and in the last week has grown even further.

Two Americans, father and son, unexpectedly in Dunedin for hospital treatment, shared with a number of us their deep disquiet about the direction of their country under Mr Bush's leadership.  Now this was not the concern of the average Democrat that their country looks more than likely to be facing another term by a Republican president.  Their disquiet was far more profound than that.  It was more of the order of shame, both as Americans and as people who care for America's influence in the world, that they shudder at the thought a Bush re-election.  Every American I know who is resident in this country shares the same opinion, and feels it profoundly, that America and the world cannot afford four more years of Geo. W.Bush.

Developing events in Iraq fill me with dread.  The very worst eventuality of the invasion of Iraq now appears almost inevitable - civil war, with the American and British military either stuck in the middle with heavier and heavier casualties on all sides, or standing by, unwilling to intervene.  Every correspondent with any kind of independence agrees.  The situation on the ground in Iraq gets worse by the day.  Insurgency, dismissed as terrorism, is getting stronger.  Hostage taking is rising, with terrible consequences.  Iraqis wanting to join the police forces are being targeted, and stand every chance of being killed before they are trained.  American and British forces are becoming increasingly hated by Iraqis on both sides of the political divide, and simply want to go home.  It is another Vietnam.  The American appointed Iraqi government, with no popular mandate, is also hated, and the promised "free elections" next year seem destined to be a travesty.  Yet, in the American election campaign, Geo W. Bush trumpets the action he took in Iraq as being the right thing, and something he would do again in the same circumstances.  The polls seem to suggest it is a mindset most Americans still hold, though fewer by the day.

To top it all, this morning's news from the United Nations seems unbelievable, almost hoax material were it not for real.  The same Mr Bush, opening a new session of the General Assembly, has called for assistance from the world community to help America with the democratisation of Iraq.  Here is a president, whose armed intervention in Iraq was illegal by every UN protocol, and whose action was condemned by a large majority of member nations, now calling for international assistance in a process that by every criteria can only be judged a disaster, both for the Iraqi people and for America's image as the instrument of the desired Iraqi democracy.  Very clearly, it is not a model of democracy Iraqis want, nor understand.  It is western, very western, and totally unsuited to Iraqi traditions and temperament.  Yet President Bush and his advisers, backed by a solid phalanx of American public opinion, and despite condemnation from the entire Arab world, persists with the righteous notion that, of course, it must be the best outcome for the Iraqi people.  It is international arrogance on the grandest scale, yet in the fervour and patriotism of the American election, and the blinkered love affair so many Americans have with Geo. W., the untenable nature of his world view appears to escape his own people.

Are there redeeming factors in all of this?  Yes — but not, so far, the Democratic challenger, John Kerry, who appears so intent on staying on-side with conservative public opinion that he shies away from the head-on clash with the Bush administration ideology that would define a clear-cut difference for American voters.  He persists with his insistence that given what he knows now he would not have opposed the Iraq invasion, and if elected he would not immediately withdraw.  That is disappointing, to say the least, and inexplicable in the circumstances.

One redeeming factor, however, is that despite everything the American media remains open, and for the most part unfettered by cloying public opinion and government pressure.  There is an independent point of view freely available, providing an alternative voice.  I personally have only this week discovered a website I would commend to all with internet access.  It is www.counterpunch.org/ .  In it I have discovered a host of facts that add further to my own disquiet about what is happening today in America - Land of the Free, - a country where I nurture many friendships.


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