What did George Bush and Paul Bremmer discuss in their emergency meeting in the White House?
The fact that the US President's administrator in Iraq cancelled official engagements to have an emergency meeting at the White House is a clear sign that not everything is running well. What was decided in the meeting and what options are open to the US President?
The answer to the first question is simple: more of the same. The US and British governments are both following the line that the operation in Iraq was a success because the government of Saddam Hussein has been removed and that however difficult the situation is, it is better to stay and "finish the job" than to run away.
The answer to the second question is equally simple. There are three options for a successful solution to the crisis which Washington and London unnecessarily created with their refusal to use the instruments of international diplomacy and to follow the norms of international law. First, recognise that the situation is unexpectedly bad; second, admit that the present policy was wrong and third, redress the wrongs done.
The fact that every day, attacks by freedom fighters in Iraq are causing more and more deaths among US soldiers and now the soldiers of allied countries is proof that there is an active and hostile element within the country which either still supports Saddam Hussein (maybe 10% of the population) or wants to expel the foreign invader (60 to 80%). The Americans were not welcomed with open arms. They did not have to totally destroy the infrastructure of the country. The water supply is not a military target. The electricity supply is not a military target. The sewage system is not a military target.
The fact that the British Prime Minister has for the first time in history to argue the case for continuing to have friendly relations with the USA says everything, as does the fact that a massive majority of public opinion in Portugal, Italy and Spain, three Europoean allies who have also sent peace-keeping forces to Iraq, is totally against their governments' participation in what is seen as an illegal attack on a sovereign nation, an opinion echoed around the globe unanimously.
These are symptoms that Washington misjudged not only world public opinion but also the consequences of its actions in Iraq. Furthermore, these are early days and the attacks are increasing, not diminishing. To note, the first clashes this week between US forces and Kurdish rebels in the north of the country.
To blindly push ahead and commit more and more resources to controlling a situation which has already spiralled into chaos, while hordes of disaffected Moslem youngsters from Morocco to India pour into Iraq and Afghanistan to have a go at the enemy is to prolong a war against terror which was supposed to defend western interests.
Instead, it pushes the tissue of a cohesive international community further and further towards global conflict and gives the terrorists the right and reason they lost on 9th September: what is the difference between an islamic fundamentalist murdering US civilians in New York and the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Iraqu civilians by US troops? One can be labelled "terrorism" and the other "collateral damage" but neither are right and neither bring the world any closer towards peace.
The war against terror is not working. Afghanistan has become once again the feud of the drugs barons, chaos reigns outside the main cities, the Taleban are still free to attack at will. The inclusion of Iraq in this war was a monumental mistake and the fabrication of evidence to justify this attack has caused serious and deep mistrust of Washington and London around the globe.
The situation is unexpectedly bad. This must be admitted. Secondly, Washington would gain much more by admitting that the present policy was wrong and must be changed than by pressing blindly and arrogantly ahead, getting more and more deeply involved in an unwinnable conflict that looks set to last for decades.The 87 billion USD requested this year will become a habit. How long is the US taxpayer going to pay that sort of money for a war which did not even have a legal basis and which is bound to cause carnage on an ever-growing scale?
George Bush should realise that it is unpolitical to remain involved because by the time of the next election, if Iraq is not solved, it means that the USA is committed to an increasingly unstable area, long-term. Political suicide. This is the Vietnam scenario that Saddam Hussein referred to before George Bush "stiffed the world" by lying and presenting false pretexts for war.
Thirdly, to redress the wrong done is perfectly simple. Use the international institutions based upon the rule of international law. They were created for this purpose and both Washington and London signed the UN Charter. Involve the United Nations and create as broad-based a coalition as possible to replace the armed forces of the USA (certainly) and Britain (possibly), with peace-keeping forces, allowing the UNO to supervise Iraqi elections within, say, 100 days.
These elections should include as wide a representation of Iraqi interests as possible, which includes the Ba'ath party. However, here is the challenge because in removing Saddam Hussein, Washington committed a monumental error: it removed the point of equilibrium preventing the whole area from exploding into chaos.
Finally, there is no respite from islamic terrorism without addressing the fundamental cause: so long as Israel continues to sit on occupied territories, to build colonies on Palestinian lands and to treat the Palestinians as second-class citizens and so long as Washington bankrolls Tel Aviv under these conditions, both will continue to be targets of attacks for the foreseeable future.
Until Israel agrees to hand back 100%, not 90% or 95% or 99%, of the territories it illegally occupies and agrees to phase out the colonies, possibly paying a rent for occupation in the interim, phasing-out period, there will always be a focal point for Islamic terrorism.
These are the basic issues which George Bush refuses to recognise. Like a demented animal cooped up in a cage in a provincial zoo, he has adopted an obsessional repetitive behaviour pattern. The same steps, the same sounds, the same stance.
It isn't working.