FW: [snow-news] Philippe Coste: 'A radical about-face in American policy'

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Sat Nov 22 10:35:01 MST 2003


-----Original Message-----
From: jensenmk [mailto:jensenmk at plu.edu]
Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2003 8:46 AM
To: snow-news at lists.riseup.net
Subject: [snow-news] Philippe Coste: 'A radical about-face in American
policy'


[Translated from L'Express]

The New Iraq

BUSH'S ABOUT-FACE
By Philippe Coste

** In the face of mounting attacks and divided public opinion, the United
States announces the establishment of an Iraqi government by June 2004.  But
the troops are staying. **

L'Express
November 20, 2003

http://www.lexpress.fr/express/info/monde/dossier/irak2/dossier.asp

Paul Bremer looked grim on Nov. 12 as he announced to the press from the
White
House steps the first wrenching reconsideration of his mission in Iraq.  The
American administrator in Baghdad had flown into Washington the day before,
in
a big hurry, without even waiting for the arrival in Iraq of the Polish
prime
minister, on his way to visit his 2,400 soldiers.  Bremer's rushed return
had
been decided on Sunday in a short telephone conversation with Condoleezza
Rice, George Bush's national security advisor, whom Bush had rung up on his
cell phone from the stands of the Washington stadium where this fan of
American football was cheering on the local team, the Redskins.  The
frequency
of telephone exchanges between them had increased in October, when Bush
dropped the thorny post-Saddam dossier in "Condi"'s lap.  Up till then this
area had been the subject of noisy spats between the secretary of defense,
Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the cabinet of
Dick
Cheney, vice president.  But they had been talking even more frequently
since
the headquarters of the Red Cross in Baghdad was blown up on Oct. 27 and the
increase in attacks against the GIs.  And finally they arrived at this
conclusion:  the shift in American public opinion made a transfer of power
to
the Iranians necessary and unavoidable.

While the Redskins increased their lead, Bremer, on the other end of the
line,
finally accepted a failure:  the impossibility of the 24 members of the
Iraqi
Provisional Governing Council, which he was supposed to dominate, agreeing
on
the first steps toward a new Constitution, which was presented by
Washington,
even this summer, as the preliminary condition to any sovereign election of
a
government in Baghdad.  Such a process could take four years, against a
background of chaos and daily explosions, but another election, with the
presidency of the United States at stake, is looming in November 2004.

So Condi Rice decided, and called Bremer back to the fold for an
extraordinary
war council organized just before Donald Rumsfeld's departure for a tour of
Asia and George Bush's departure for London, and it included Dick Cheney and
Colin Powell.  After a day of discussions, they decided to effect a radical
about-face in American policy:  the establishment, before June 30, 2004, of
a
provisional government designated by a National Assembly of delegates from
the
18 Iraqi provinces, followed by the convocation of a constituent assembly,
and, finally, a referendum and direct national elections in the vicinity of
2005.  An "Afghan" plan, called for -- in vain -- by France and the UN ever
since the entry of American troops into Baghdad.

Since the beginning of Ramadan, the Americans have been dealing not with 10
daily attacks, but on average 35, and last week ended, after the collision
and
crash of two helicopters, with the discreet return of 24 additional coffins
to
Dover Air Base, in Delaware, which is strictly off limits to every
journalist.
 Bush's speech on Nov. 13, reaffirming his commitment to reestablishing
democracy in Iraq, and the cockily named operation "Iron Hammer," limited to
the spectacular pounding by air of empty hangers where al-Qaeda agents were
supposed to have been able to take shelter, were suppposed to demonstrate to
American and Iraqi public opinion that the White House's new pragmatism does
not constitute a pull-back.

But times have changed nevertheless.  The *National Journal*, the magazine
for
professional politicians and lobbyists, put on its front page "The French
were
right about Iraq," and analysed at length the experience of the traumatic
decolonization of Algeria.  The press and the television news are now
showing
every day images of those crippled by ambushes, and even the Fox News
channel,
devoted to Bush, addressed Bremer outright with a bold "So, we're losing it,
this war?"  If Bush wants to recover the confidence of Americans, more and
more perplexed and divided on the wisdom of the military adventure, he is
also
committed, like his military chiefs, to winning back "the hearts and minds
of
Iraqis," at a time when, according to a CIA report, most of the population,
enraged by American impotence, is beginning to lean toward the insurgents of
the old régime and their Islamist allies.

By taking once more their destiny in their own hands, thinks Bush, the
Iraqis
may get back the initiative in the pacification of their country, which has
turned into a playing field of the al-Qaeda group, with at their sides
American forces who are no longer occupiers but "invited guests."  Their
support would end the paranoiac isolation of the GIs in Baghdad and would
make
up for their amazing errors:  Bremer had been warned by the CIA about the
dangers in dissolving Saddam's old army.  "You're going to turn 350,000
Arabs
against you, and what's more, they're armed," he had been told last May.
But
he had orders.  The Pentagon ideologues and Dick Cheney's entourage had no
trouble convincing Bush, drunk for a time on ambitions worthy of FDR, to
make
the "de-Baathification" of institutions a top priority.

METICULOUS CONTROL OF THE POLITICAL PROCESS

The passivity of the conquerers in the face of early looting was explained
by
the absence of precise orders to manage the immediate post-war period.  This
failing was made worse by a painful shortage of informers on the ground.
Dick
Cheney, accused these days by the press and by his detractors inside the
administration of having personally "hand-picked" bits of intelligence
supporting suspicions of Iraq's chemical and nuclear rearmament, was, like
Rumsfeld, in the dark about the fact that Saddam Hussein was already
preparing, even before the American offensive, the deployment of a future
guerilla war against the occupiers.  The Pentagon and top commander John
Abizaid, who is said to be planning soon to leave the CentCom base in Tampa,
Florida, in order to move nearer to Iraq, are hoping that the perspective of
national sovereignty will mobilize the masses against the 5,000 -- perhaps
50,000 -- Iraqi and foreign combatants, or that, at least, this will untie
the
tongues of potential informers.

The shift in American tactics does not necessarily inaugurate a new
multilateralism.  France, which would like to see the UN take responsibility
for the period of transition to democracy in Iraq, is conscious of the
difficulties that the institution would have in reestablishing itself in
Baghdad after the terrible attack against it.  After the prudent withdrawal
of
Japan, following the attack on Italian headquarters in Nassiriyah on Nov.
12,
the help of new allies, including the French, in the form of a financial
contribution rather than a military unit not available at the present time,
would not at all reduce the ostensible domination of the massive American
forces in Baghdad.  And in any case Bush, through Bremer, wishes to exercise
tight control over the political process in Iraq.  The neoconservative
idealists in Washington, led by Paul Wolfowitz, no longer openly insist on
the
promotion of their Baghdad pawn, the businessman Ahmed Chalabi, who is much
disparaged by the State Department.  Before dissolving his administration in
June 2004, Bremer will have to deal directly with the Shiites, who represent
60% of the population, so that they temper their demands for direct
elections
that would give them absolute power, to the detriment of the Sunnis.  For
its
part, the American administration will have to give up the dream of a
secular
and naturally pro-American state in the Middle East, for it's already
certain
that the future Constitution will make Islam one of the pillars of the new
Iraq.  Meanwhile, between now and November 2004 Bush will have to refrain
from
provoking the Iraqis too much.  In the interest of his reelection, but, even
more, in America's and the West's interest.

--
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Chair, Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Webpage: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
E-mail: jensenmk at plu.edu




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