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Administration reeling as the occupation of Iraq unravels
Is Bush on the run?

September 12, 2003 | Page 3

CASUALTIES IN Iraq are mounting, presidential approval ratings are falling, and jobs just keep on disappearing. Is George W. Bush's presidency starting to fall apart?

Certainly, Bush's speech to the nation on Iraq September 7 only highlighted the sense of crisis that surrounds the administration as it scrambles to get a United Nations (UN) cover for its colonial occupation.

According to a Zogby America poll of likely voters released September 6, just 45 percent of respondents rated Bush's job performance as good or excellent--and 52 percent said that it was time for someone new in the White House. A majority--54 percent--gave Bush an unfavorable rating.

That's a stunning--and sudden--reversal of fortune for a president who was thought to have a lock on re-election as a "wartime leader." Just four months ago, the White House spin doctors put Bush in a flight suit so that he could declare from the deck of an aircraft carrier that "major combat operations are over" in Iraq. This time, they put Bush in pinstripes and gave him a new script. With weapons of mass destruction still not found, Bush tried to sell the occupation of Iraq as the "central front in the war on terror."

"We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today, so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities," Bush said. Bush even tried to hype the U.S. "liberation" of Afghanistan.

Never mind that the U.S. puppet government in Kabul is almost powerless outside the capital, the country has splintered between fiefdoms presided over by corrupt warlords, opium production is skyrocketing, and a rearmed Taliban resistance dominates a growing area of the country. In Iraq, the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad and a Shiite mosque in Najaf shattered the Bush administration's claims that the occupation is "on course"--and even the corporate media that recently parroted the White House line is acknowledging the bitterness of U.S. soldiers.

The truth is that rising Iraqi resistance--and the economic and social chaos created by U.S. rule--finally forced Bush to turn to the UN. The White House hopes that Germany and France--sneered at as "Old Europe" a few months back--will now bankroll a new contingent of UN-authorized troops from such countries as India, Pakistan and Turkey. That way, the U.S. military can do the killing while troops from poor countries do the dying--and American corporations resume the business of exploiting Iraq.

As Socialist Worker went to press, the UN Security Council had begun horse-trading over the language of a new resolution on Iraq--no doubt while cutting deals for greater European access to Iraqi oil and reconstruction contracts than the U.S. had previously allowed. This cynical maneuvering should put to rest the idea--shared by some in the antiwar movement--that an occupation run by the UN would be substantially different than open U.S. rule.

As Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Fox News recently, the final deal will mean that "American troops remain under a unified command, but the UN makes it an internationally authorized command, a so-called multinational force. Forget about blue helmets, forget about UN peacekeeping forces. That's a canard."

In other words, the "Plan B" that Newsweek magazine asked for in a recent cover story is taking shape. The White House may have to swallow the boastful words of the "Bush Doctrine"--preemptive war and unilateralism--but the bipartisan commitment to a more aggressive U.S. imperialism will remain.

That's why Howard Dean, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, opposed the invasion of Iraq--but vows to add more foreign troops to continue the occupation. And after ignoring the antiwar movement for months, Democrats in Congress are criticizing Bush--but they also promised that he would get the $87 billion he demanded in his speech last weekend.

Yet if Bush keeps bungling in Iraq and the economy unravels further, the capitalist class that runs the U.S. has a domestic "Plan B" as well--the Democratic Party. After all, the wealthy and the powerful understand the difference between words and deeds. They'll trade a U.S. flag in Iraq for a UN one--and a Democrat for a Republican in the White House--if that becomes the most efficient way to advance their agenda.

So while Bush may be in a mess, we can't wait for elections or rely on the Democrats to bring real change. It's time to fight for jobs, health care and education--and build the movement to bring the troops home now.

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