Feb. 10, 2003 -- PHILADELPHIA (APJP) -- All weekend I'd been getting cryptic e-mail and news reports about "Rummy" Rumsfeld's tirades regarding an assumed plan by French, German and other European leaders to trump President Bush's childlike plans to invade Iraq. Even The New York Times, which stands to gain, through war, millions of dollars in increased ad revenues and readership -- especially single copy sales -- ran an Associated Press (AP) report on this new plan by our Allies to "stop us before we hurt ourselves."
Basically, the Franco-German "plan" will send perhaps tens of thousands of UN peacekeepers -- not the US military -- to Iraq, and increase the size of the UN Weapons Inspectors from 100 to as many as 500.
United States troops, all 150,000 of them, would be allowed to remain poised for war -- but in essence war would be an impossible move for the Bush Administration to make without a UN consensus unless the United States was willing to fire on UN peacekeepers made up, presumably, of French, German and other European troops, as well as those from smaller nations who are not aligned with the bilateral invasion of Iraq by England and America.
In a sense, Bush is trumped, at least for now.
But he may be adolescent enough to move forward this week -- if only to avoid a face-slapping by the UN Security Council led by Russia, France, and Germany.
The President must be at once infuriated and contemplative as he recognizes that our allies, sans sycophantic Great Britain, appear at least to be engaged in a tournament chess game for peace -- while he, the President of these United States, is playing booze-bar eight-ball in front of the world under the appalling guidance of a congenial general-cum-statesman, Secretary of State Colin Powell, an aging and acerbic old-and-hard-liner wiseguy, Secretary of War Don Rumsfeld, the embarrassingly asinine but well-spoken National Security Advisor Condi Rice, and Bush's own cross to bear, political advisor nonpareil Herr Karl Rove.
Yet, what did Bush do Sunday but re-dispatch Rice, Powell and the rest of the usual crowd of "BushWhackers" onto broadcast and cable news to defend him, rather than take a moment, over a cigarette with wife Laura, and come to terms with the fact that he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.
And he's in this position because he's surrounded by the worst of the worst.
The problem for George W. is that there seems to be no way out, and the length of time that it's taken him to realize this might cost him a horrendous political price. It might cost him reelection -- and worse, it might cost American lives.
Either way he goes, whether he insists on launching an unprovoked attack in the face of an honest alternative put forth by others in the United Nations, or acquiesces to those relishing the prospect of going to war, it's bound to cost him -- especially when Americans on either side ultimately weigh the cost, both in human lives and on our economy, of having waged an unnecessary war in spite of colossal efforts at home and abroad to dissuade him.
By the end of the day Sunday the issue was clear: how can our President claim that sending UN peacekeepers into Iraq, especially if it were at Iraq's invitation or permission -- which I assume will be the next ax to fall on the White House -- will not "do the job" of holding Iraq to both key UN resolutions and disarming her in the process?
How can our President continue his recklessness, claiming that the rest of the developed world -- save a few politically and economically insignificant nations sucking up to us for aid -- are wrong, and that we are right?
Creepy Paul Bremer, the dashing New York terrorism "expert," and former ambassador to The Netherlands (which brings to mind revelations from the Dutch intelligence service proving that Prescott Bush helped finance Hitler before and during World War II) appears on television day after day to stir nationalism in American bones. Bremer, who is also a former partner of mortified Chilean and Laotian hit-meister Henry Kissinger, was on television this morning doing his job -- for his clients, not the nation -- by flogging the terror horse to increase fear among US citizens, to reinforce the latest Bush ploy raising the "Terror Meter" simply to increase America's fear and, consequently, proclivity for war.
The only problem is that most Americans do not equate Iraq with terrorism aimed at the United States, despite how hard the Bush Administration has tried to lead their opinions in that direction by playing on emotions from September 11th.
In fact, more people seem to believe that Egypt -- a seat of Islamic Fundamentalism -- and Saudi Arabia -- the homeland of 90% of the 9/11/01 murderers -- are the more likely real or potential culprits despite the Bush Administration's efforts to make it seem otherwise. The problem is that Bush has his father, many friends, and political allies doing business in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so those nations are out -- at least as targets.
Listen to Colin Powell talking about Saddam and Al Qaeda. Even while attempting in solemn tones to show a connection between Al Qaeda and some Iraqi citizens, Powell himself couldn't legitimately say there was a connection between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government.
Even Paul Bremer, for his own self-protection, wouldn't say there was any formal connection between Osama and Saddam -- yet he did toe the Bush line, warning that Saddam might supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction any day now.
It gets worse.
Let's say that President Bush does not wake up, and continues to delude himself that every nation on earth, with the exception of the UK, simply detests us because we're so cool and they aren't.
He then has little choice but to go forward. With any luck, only the American kids who have already died training for this mission will complete the casualty list.
When we've "taken" Iraq -- installed our puppet government and proceed to spend billions on this desert wasteland, mea culpaing for our acne-scarred conduct and proving to the world we are compassionate, while conservative -- then what?
The world won't be listening, NATO will be in a shambles, and most of our important allies will be angry -- for more than decades -- at our insolence, our stupidity, and our obduracy.
The dreadful thing about the French-German plan to avoid war in Iraq, and potentially in the region, is that it may -- if Bush remains a smirk -- result in the White House bypassing the UN entirely and ordering an attack on Iraq as early as this week -- if only to avoid a confrontation with our allies under the spotlight of the United Nations.
Worse, what if Kofi Annan ordered UN Peacekeepers into Iraq without our "permission?"
Then we'd have to fire at them as well. This is an "Omigod" situation for Bush -- so don't be surprised to see him move on Iraq, without due preparation -- which could be catastrophic for our boys and girls readying for war.
Senator John McCain -- putative Republican of Arizona -- said of the Franco-German plan this week, "As far as we can tell, it's a plan whose purpose is to block US military action and not make meaningful inspections -- but we don't know."
Of course, McCain may be half right -- in that it is a plan to stop us from going helter-skelter into a war, but this alternative plan does not necessarily mean that meaningful inspections and disarmament will not occur. It's just that this approach would take time, rather than show immediate results as the Bush Administration demands.
Donald Rumsfeld is sure to get an earful from whoever at the White House is in charge of boxing old men's ears. Why? Because all sources of information on the European chess games, including the German and French leadership, have refused to share their plans with him or any US official.
They simply don't trust him, or us, and that is bad. Exceptionally bad.
US business, which relies heavily on exports to much of Europe and the other 87 nations opposed to Bush's war, are sure to abandon the President sooner or later. Europe is sure to take punitive measures against the United States if it persists in this foolishness. US business, Bush's ace in the hole when it comes to campaign cash and media support, may soon realize that this Iraqi folly -- especially in the face of increasing, rather than decreasing threats from Al Qaeda -- spell doom for American business and the Bush Administration.
Emerging from an hour-long meeting Saturday with German Defense Minister Peter Struck , Rumsfeld said, he still "knew nothing" about the plan, but said inspections could only work if Iraq cooperates. If Mr. Rumsfeld knew nothing about the plan, and the Associated Press had a copy of it days earlier, I assume military intelligence let him down, or he was pretending ignorance in place of exhibiting fear.
As of last night, George W. Bush had five days until the French-German plan is presented to the United Nations -- possibly for a vote.
It's time for President Bush to retrench, lop off the heads of some of his top people, and begin to tidy his Cabinet.
Thus far everyone but Colin Powell has either embarrassed the President or gone along with this Iraq war freak show.
Even Colin Powell was somehow convinced, or intimidated, to dance to the "Get Saddam" tune, although he made at least what appeared to be a valiant effort to stop our headstrong President from running too fast.
Perhaps Bush should retain Powell, but I would be surprised if Powell would stand for yet additional discoloration of his once-publicly stellar, even if undeserved, reputation.
I say this to President Bush: If you believe that there are other men, far older, wiser, and more highly educated in the ways of the world than you and your top advisors are, then wait. "Set a spell" with those wizened "fereigners" and try to understand their unusual attitude, remarkable for its anti-US sentiment.
Maybe the attitude of the world is curious because you are the one who is unjust.
"When ten of your friends tell you you're drunk -- you had better lie down."
I woke up this morning, clicked on the television about 6 AM, and saw Lord Robertson -- head of NATO -- looking a bit flustered.
An unraveling had begun. Or had it?
France, Germany and Belgium this morning blocked NATO from planning for defending against potential attacks on Turkey -- the negotiated-for-money launching pad nation for US attacks against Iraq. You might recall that a series of multi-billion dollar deals with the Turkish government appeared to insure that United States armed forces would be able to use Turkey as a staging ground against Saddam. Our Middle East "partners," save Qatar, have backed away from this one -- although I haven't heard our President attacking the Saudis, for instance, as he seems to be France and Germany.
I wonder why?
Normally NATO would have routinely started to plan for the defense of Turkey. However, the protest by France, an hour before the routine kicked in, blocked any such move -- at least for a time.
The President must be furious.
NATO planning does not take long. Plans for the defense of NATO nations are drawn and redrawn by NATO staff continually, but the move by France, Germany, and Belgium show again the depth of the rift between the United States and its oldest and more formidable allies. The three countries in opposition want more time for Inspectors, and possibly UN Peacekeeping troops -- the President wants to move now.
Sixteen of nineteen NATO members back the plan to defend Turkey. Of course, Iraq will consider Turkey an offensive enemy inasmuch as it is allowing the US to launch an attack on that nation so the term "defending" may be a misnomer, as does the term "Secretary of Defense" these days.
It seems our own "Defense" Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, blew his cork over the weekend in Munich when, according the Associated Press, he warned the French and Germans that any delay in planning Turkey's defense and their failure to cooperate with us over Iraq were "inexcusable" and "risked" undermining the alliance's credibility.
This may seem, to the French and Germans, tortuous reasoning. In fact, NATO is only considering the defense of Turkey because the United States is about to attack Iraq -- the foundational reasoning for which is, at least, tenuous, fragile, and to many unsubstantiated.
Rumsfeld, who is known for bullying those around him -- especially journalists -- called the Franco-German move "Shameful, for me it's truly shameful." He made these remarks in Italy this weekend in an effort to embarrass those who want to put the brakes on any attack on Baghdad.
Secretary of State Colin Powell still plans to seek a United Nations resolution authorizing an invasion of Iraq, although he claims that if the next UN inspector's report, due this coming Friday shows that Iraq" is cooperating the Administration could reconsider.
I don't believe that.
This morning France and Germany are staying their course trying diplomatic efforts to avoid war in the Middle East. However, both nations signaled they would come to Turkey's aid if need be. Thus, the move by France and Germany may be designed merely to embarrass President Bush and placate their own voters who are not happy with the US position.
Time will tell.
The superpowers sticking with President Bush -- such as Norway -- are vocal. "I trust the alliance will stick together and we will help Turkey," Norwegian Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold said Sunday. "I have a strong belief in common sense."
Thus far there have been few comments by Spain and Italy who also back the Administration.
In the interim, Russian President Vladimir Putin -- the biggest player of all -- was on his way to Paris today to confer on Iraq with French President Jacques Chirac, the leading adversary of war against Saddam Hussein.
Putin and Chirac will announce that they believe that war with Iraq can be averted.
I am reminded of something my grandfather was likely to repeat all too often: "When ten of your friends tell you you're drunk -- you had better lie down."
There is no world leader who knows this as well as President Bush.
Perhaps he will begin to see that reliance on his current cabinet has caused him nothing but trouble. Perhaps he will begin, more fully, to concentrate on the Defense and not the Offense. After all, Tom Ridge -- Secretary of Homeland Security -- has said, and then retracted, and said again that he would have raised the Terror Meter to high regardless of Saddam. Perhaps President Bush will focus more on corporate crooks, rather than corporate cash.
ISSN No. 1523-1690