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WHAT WE THINK
Bush's popularity ratings plummet from post-war highs
Like father, like son?

October 3, 2003 | Page 3

FAILURE TO get help from the United Nations (UN) for the occupation of Iraq, mounting casualties and lengthening deployments for U.S. soldiers, scandals over intelligence that was used to justify the war, and more statistics showing economic misery on the rise. And all that was just in one week last month for George W. Bush.

Five months after he declared victory in Iraq and enjoyed sky-high opinion poll numbers, the consequences of Bush's bloody occupation are consuming the administration with a sense of crisis, even as the jobless recovery eats away at political support on domestic issues. All this has raised the possibility of a repeat of George Bush Sr.'s performance after the first Gulf War in 1991--sky-high wartime popularity that turned into a rout in the presidential election the next year.

Nevertheless, an anonymous administration official last month told reporters that there was "no sense of panic" in the White House. "Maybe there should be," Newsweek magazine observed. "Diplomatically, militarily and politically, Bush now finds himself in an unaccustomed and uncomfortable position: a hostage to events he cannot control, depending on the kindness of strangers--from weapons inspectors to restive congressional Republicans to erstwhile foreign allies." Or as an unnamed United Nations official told the Washington Post, "They're on their own. It's between them and the American taxpayer."

It's too early to tell if the Bush administration will end up as the political equivalent of Enron--a hyped-up and supposedly unstoppable operation that crashed amid lies and fraud. But the fingerpointing on Iraq is already a sight to behold.

Pentagon brass are blaming the administration's neoconservative ideologues for underestimating the task of occupying Iraq. And the neocons are pushing back, blaming their old favorite, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for failing to properly execute the plan for world domination.

If the resistance in Iraq has put the heat on Bush, the crisis has brought back to the surface all the doubts about the war from the months before the U.S. invasion. Millions of people around the world believed before the U.S. invasion that Saddam Hussein's supposed "weapons of mass destruction" were just a pretext for a war for empire--and that democracy can't be imposed at the barrel of a gun.

Those antiwar voices were drowned out--in the U.S. at least--by the media's flag-waving celebrations after the fall of Baghdad. But the months since have vindicated our arguments--and now millions who supported the war are disillusioned and bitter about its results.

This is why Democratic presidential candidates--including those who supported the invasion--now constantly sound off about Bush's handling of the occupation. Yet while they're happy to use Iraq to score political points, the Democratic Party establishment won't consider damaging "U.S. credibility"--that is, its worldwide image as a military superpower--by calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

No matter who the president is, the price tag for the occupation--$87 billion for the next year alone--will increasingly weigh on workers who have seen their incomes decline and poverty increase, despite an economic recovery. That's why it's important to keep organizing--both to end the occupation and to shift resources from the U.S. military machine to job creation and social spending.

A key focus for the movement is the upcoming demonstrations against the occupation on October 25 in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. One of the most important contingents will be made up of military families who are speaking out against the way that the armed forces have sent their sons and daughters to kill--and be killed--for oil and empire, not to "defend America," as they were told.

The growing opposition to the occupation among military families is a signal of a much wider sense among millions of working people that this war was never in their interest. We have a crucial opportunity now to reinvigorate and expand the antiwar movement. Let's build the October 25 protests to take our message as far and wide as we can: End the occupation--bring the troops home now!

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