The "coalition of the willing" in Iraq has vanished -- from the White House Internet site, at any rate.
US President George W. Bush's list of about 50 countries that openly backed the March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein was once easily found by following a link from www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/coalition.html.
No more: A visit to the White House web site Friday found that the list has disappeared, and that the link that led to it -- "Who are the coalition members?" -- is gone as well.
"This is not unusual. If there is incorrect, or out of date information, we take it down," White House spokesman Jimmy Orr told AFP. "What we're doing right now, with the entire Iraq site, is we're updating the information."
Orr said the list was taken down "a couple of weeks ago" and would not say when it would return.
Some Bush critics have suggested an election-year motive for the move, citing a tense exchange two weeks ago between Vice President Dick Cheney and his Democratic rival, Senator John Edwards, about coalition casualties.
After Edwards charged in their October 5 debate that US troops had suffered 90 percent of the casualties, Cheney angrily retorted that the statistic was "dead wrong" because it omitted deaths and injuries suffered by Iraqis.
"When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the US with 50 percent, not 90 percent," Cheney said.
But Iraq was never considered a coalition member, and was never on the official White House list of coalition nations, leading some critics to charge that the list was pulled down to protect Cheney.
© Copyright 2004 AFP