View Full Version : Bush War Critics Find Their Voice

11-25-2005, 01:06 PM
Bush war critics find their voice


Roger Hardy

As Iraq becomes a hotter political issue in the United States, President Bush finds himself under new pressure over his handling of a range of foreign policy issues, including the "war on terror".

Some in Washington are even speaking of a crisis of American leadership in the world.

Polls suggest a majority of Americans believe the US has lost its direction
A new book by American counter-terrorism experts Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Next Attack, begins with the stark words: "We are losing."

The two authors contend that, since the attacks of 9/11, the policies of the Bush administration have prolonged the "global insurgency" - as many now call the worldwide threat of radical Islamism - rather than curtailing it.

The recent hotel bombings in Jordan, which killed over 50 people, showed in their view, that Iraq is now the central arena of the global jihad - and that the poison is spreading to Iraq's neighbours.

The Bush administration finds itself under fire from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, as well as from experts like Mr Benjamin and Mr Simon.

Both, incidentally, worked on counter-terrorism under George Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton.

Washington bookshops are full of new critiques of the administration's policy on Iraq, several of them by former insiders.

Leadership crisis
In a recent speech, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security adviser in the late 1970s, spoke of a crisis of American leadership.

He believes the US is "sliding towards a war with the world of Islam".

In Iraq, he argues, it was necessary to re-define success, since the original goal of creating a stable, secular democracy there was no longer a realistic option.

Mr Brzezinski was speaking in Washington on the eve of a conference, bringing together Middle East experts from both the US and the region itself, which echoed and amplified these themes.

Referring to the damage done to the US's image by allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, a senior intelligence expert, Frank Anderson, lamented that the US enjoyed much less worldwide legitimacy today than it had during the Cold War.

Another ex-CIA man, Michael Scheuer, said the claim that al-Qaeda was dead was wishful thinking.

Can Iraq hold together?
A panel on Afghanistan and Iraq felt the administration had been slow to learn the limits of "hard power" and the need to use political and economic means to combat insurgencies.

A leading expert on Iraq, Phebe Marr, worried about the danger that the country might disintegrate along ethnic and sectarian lines.

The December elections in Iraq were seen as potentially positive, especially if Sunni Arabs take part in significant numbers.

However, one expert warned that Iraq's oil industry was suffering from serious degradation of infrastructure, the politicisation of the oil ministry and "large-scale corruption".

He referred to a growing number of POIs (pissed-off Iraqis).

The Bush administration, stung by its critics, is mounting a strong counter-offensive.

In a series of speeches Mr Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and others are attacking the Democrats for political opportunism.

Especially sensitive is the question of withdrawing some of America's troops from Iraq next year.

Mid-term elections in 2006 make this politically desirable. But the administration insists a phased withdrawal will happen only when Iraqi forces are up to the job of taking over.

It is sensitive to the charge that it wants to "cut and run".

Philip Wilcox, a former US diplomat and counter-terrorism official, told the BBC that if he were in a position of leadership he would declare victory and pull out.

"There's little more we can do. Our prolonged presence may forestall the natural evolution of Iraqi politics," he said.

Whether there is a partial withdrawal will depend not only on domestic US political pressures but on what happens on the ground following the December elections.

In the meantime the administration seems to have its hands full as it seeks to dispel the sense of crisis hanging over its policies in Iraq and the wider "global insurgency".