[Marxism] Iraq Colors Bush-Berlusconi Talks

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue May 18 08:00:16 MDT 2004

(In the United States, the 9/11 Commission is meeting and
Congressional investigators are still looking in, however
hesitantly, at the Iraq prison scandal, or Torturgate as
it's more properly dubbed. 

(Tomorrow the first of the US show-trials in Iraq will 
keep at least some spotlight on what the US-imposed 
occupation of Iraq really looks like, though Washington
hopes to use the trials to quickly move past the reality
of its true face at Abu Ghraib. Remember Bush's bragging
about Saddam's torture chambers and his rape rooms?

(Furthermore, in Europe, at Cannes, Michael Moore's new
film Fahrenheit 911 received the longest standing ovation
in the history of the Cannes Film Festival, and Spanish
troops have been withdrawn from Iraq after the Socialist
administration of Zapatero kept its campaign promise upon
winning the election. Italian troops have been targeted 
by Iraqi resistance fighters and here we read Italian
opposition parties have called for the withdrawal of 
their nation's troops if the United Nations doesn't take
over in Iraq. This was the same way Zapatero posed this
issue in his successful election campaign. And with Bush
planning to visit Europe on the eve of EU elections, the
US invasion and occupation of Iraq becomes even more key
as mass protests against Bush and the US war can expand.
And Israeli occupyiers continue triving Palestinians out.

(Washington's deepening international isolation, plus its
inability to stabilize its occupation of Iraq, will make
anti-war mobilizations on June 5th even more central now:

(And it is in THIS context that US president George W. Bush
will speak before an audience of ultra-rightist Cuban exiles
tomorrow about his plans to still further escalate the US
blockade of Cuba. Timing is everything, isn't it? Keep in
mind Pete Seeger's words to WAIST DEEP IN THE BIG MUDDY:

Walter Lippmann, Moderator
CubaNews list


Iraq Colors Bush-Berlusconi Talks

Pressures on Italian Leader
Underscore Difficulty Facing
U.S. in Managing Coalition
May 18, 2004; Page A4

ROME -- Photos of prison abuse, stepped-up attacks on
Italian troops and domestic political pressures are turning
what was supposed to be an upbeat meeting tomorrow between
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Bush
into a potentially awkward encounter.

The mounting criticism Mr. Berlusconi faces at home
underscores the difficulty the White House must confront 
in managing its increasingly skittish European partners.
Spain's new prime minister, Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,
already has withdrawn his country's troops from Iraq.
Antiwar sentiment is mounting in Britain, America's main
ally in Iraq, though British Prime Minister Tony Blair
yesterday declared: "There will be no cutting and running
in Iraq."

Mr. Berlusconi has been one of Mr. Bush's most steadfast
allies, and Italy's force of almost 3,000 is the third
largest in the coalition, after those of the U.S. and
Britain. Italy's support was dealt a blow yesterday when an
Italian soldier was killed in combat. In the past three
days, Italy's troops in Nasiriyah have come under fierce
attack, leaving 16 wounded and forcing a retreat from a
base they had held in the Iraqi city. The troops retook the
base yesterday.

The intensification of the fighting follows a hardening of
political opinion against the war. The center-left
opposition has made the Iraq issue the centerpiece of its
campaign in the June 13 elections for European Parliament.
Last week, Italy's major opposition parties, emboldened by
the embarrassment surrounding photos of prisoner abuse by
American soldiers, called for the withdrawal of troops if
the United Nations doesn't immediately take over direction
of the mission from the U.S.

That is causing ripples of unease among members of Mr.
Berlusconi's coalition, who are growing concerned the
coming elections could turn into a referendum on the
government's Iraq policy. In recent days, some of his
allies have become increasingly uncomfortable with the
unabashedly pro-American line the prime minister has taken,
and are urging him to take a tougher stance with Mr. Bush
during the visit tomorrow.

Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's minister for European affairs,
said the country should "insist strongly with our American
friends" on a speedy transfer of power to the U.N. Giorgio
La Malfa, head of the small Republican Party in Italy and a
member of the governing coalition, suggested the prime
minister should ask Mr. Bush for Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. Such a gesture, he
suggested, would help restore moral legitimacy to the
mission after the revelations of prison abuse. "So far, the
Berlusconi government has been supported by a cohesive
coalition. I hope it holds," he said.

For the U.S., Mr. Berlusconi's domestic political situation
is one of the latest challenges it faces in ensuring that
its current coalition survives intact. Mr. Blair is
battling sinking poll numbers because of the worsening
situation in Iraq.

Next month's vote for the European Parliament threatens to
crystallize discontent with the Iraq war among voters both
in Italy and the United Kingdom. European elections have no
immediate domestic implications, but they will be closely
watched by the ruling parties in both countries in the wake
of Mr. Zapatero's surprise victory at the polls in Spain
two months ago.

Mr. Berlusconi, who has resisted calls for a softening of
his Iraq policy, is scheduled to appear before Parliament
on Thursday to answer questions about the Bush meeting and
the Italian military mission. Mr. Bush is slated to visit
Italy June 4, nine days before the European elections.

---- Peter Mayer contributed to this article.

Write to Gabriel Kahn at gabriel.kahn at wsj.com

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