In the latest of his high crimes and misdemeanors, U.S. President George W. Bush gave false hope last night to Americans and the world that stability can be achieved in Iraq and the Middle East using the same methods that have repeatedly failed in the past.
The "new way forward" Bush unveiled in a nationally televised speech calls for a further escalation of U.S. troops in Iraq, when three previous troop "surges" have made no difference. Bush again is installing new generals, describing their skills in the same glowing terms he used in announcing previous changes of command.
Anti-war demonstrators protest outside the northwest gate of the White House after President Bush's address regarding his revised Iraq strategy in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
More American soldiers seeking to flee to Canada
A surge in the number of calls from American troops during the past week has prompted a Canadian war resistance group to ask for help in housing soldiers fleeing the U.S.
"We have noticed an uptick since the summer, but this is much more intense," said Lee Zaslofsky, co-ordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign, a Canada-wide organization.
Zaslofsky says the demand is being driven by President George W. Bush's call for more troops, coupled with a waning appetite for war south of the border. The soldiers, he says, include both reserves and those returning from past deployment. Zaslofsky says the group has received calls from at least 24 concerned U.S. soldiers.
"If you have room where you can house a resister for a few days, a few weeks or longer, please get in touch with us," the group said. The campaign has been running since 2004 and is based in cities across Canada.
Estimates on the number of U.S. soldiers who fled to Canada range from a few dozen to a few hundred.
Demanding "patience, sacrifice and resolve" from the American people in the year ahead, Bush vowed the U.S. will rededicate itself to rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure. Similar pledges in the past have been thwarted by an Iraq insurgency a fraction of the size it is today.
And the president will ask for yet another massive appropriation of Iraq-war funding from the U.S. Congress, funds to be administered by the same bureaucracy in Washington and Baghdad that has overseen the squandering of billions of dollars through corruption and mismanagement.
Once again, Bush promised to apply pressure on the Nouri al-Maliki government in Baghdad to take on more of the job of running Iraq, and especially to end the bloodbath of sectarian violence.
That is a fantasy.
Al-Maliki's own party is a proxy for the Shia leadership in Tehran. When not turning a blind eye to the majority Shiites' low-grade campaign of ethnic cleansing against the minority Sunnis, al-Maliki has fed that conflict, most recently with his government's botched execution of Saddam Hussein. One could not ask for a less effective ally in bringing tranquility to Iraq.
More important is what Bush did not say last night.
The president withheld from Americans that the United States is losing the war Bush launched almost four years ago.
And that Iraq has descended from a quagmire to a civil war, in which 132,000 U.S. military personnel are preoccupied with not getting themselves killed in the sectarian crossfire.
And that the Iraqi middle class the last hope for Iraq to rebuild itself has long ago departed into self-exile.
That "the hell that is now Iraq" (as Saddam said from the gallows) threatens to spill over Iraq's borders into a regional conflagration.
That Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey have been warning the White House for months that they are preparing to take up arms to protect their fellow ethnic Sunnis in Iraq, by invading Iraq themselves if necessary.
That Washington think-tanks and Bush's own administration are girding for a "nightmare scenario" in which the Saudis try to militarily reinforce their fellow ethnic Sunnis in Iraq to stave off their extermination and Iran steps up its military aid to the Shiites in hopes of setting up a puppet Shia regime in south and central Iraq to gain control of the southern Iraqi oilfields. A strengthened Iran is a scenario the otherwise Sunni-dominated region seeks at all costs to avoid.
Even Turkey, one of America's most reliable allies in the region, has amassed troops to invade Iraq from the north to squelch the ambitions of Iraqi Kurds seeking to create a "greater Kurdistan" that unites ethnic Kurds in Iraq, southern Turkey and northern Iran, and also to protect Iraq's Turkmen community.
That is the Pandora's Box that Bush so unwisely pried open in March 2003.
Should the whole region erupt in conflict, the world oil price would jump at least 50 per cent, there would be a complete stall in the Israeli-Palestinian cohabitation process, and a massacre would ensue among Iraq's remaining 25 million civilians.
To his record of lies, torture, illicit spying on and detention of innocent Americans, and his debauching of the U.S. Constitution he is sworn to uphold, Bush now means to add a needless prolongation of an unwinnable war. And to do so against the will of Congress, the recommendations of Congress's Iraq Study Group report last month, and the 70 per cent of Americans who disapprove of Bush's performance in office.
Why? In order that his successor as president and not Bush wears the stigma of defeat in Iraq.
That was the Nixon-Kissinger gambit in Vietnam, a war Nixon widened to Cambodia and Laos, seeking the chimera of "peace with honour" at a cost of tens of thousands of dead GIs and millions of Southeast Asian peasants. It would fall to Gerry Ford to finally end the war, in 1975.
Choosing among the least bad options available in Iraq, Bush could reduce America's troop presence by two-thirds by year's end, and station a remaining 50,000 U.S. troops along Iraq's borders to stem the inflow of insurgents and be poised to crush sporadic episodes of ethnic cleansing.
Bush could partition Iraq along ethnic lines and set up the equivalent of Alaska's Permanent Fund to ensure that every Iraqi receives a quarterly dividend from the country's oil revenues. That would be a sure way of surfacing intelligence from Iraqis about the whereabouts of the insurgents who have been destroying Iraq's oil infrastructure ever since the U.S.-led invasion.
Finally, Bush could recruit a credible envoy a Colin Powell, Richard Holbrooke or James Baker to assuage Iraq's neighbours Syria and Iran (with whom Bush stubbornly refuses to talk). And to assemble a genuine coalition of America's allies to provide troops and funding to establish and maintain the peace in Iraq's cities. It was, after all, a Japan dependent on Kuwait oil supplies that funded most of the Gulf War. And wealthy European nations also reliant on Mideast oil, including France, provided troops in that conflict.
In 1966, president Lyndon Johnson vowed that "we shall stay the course" in America's hopeless struggle with the Viet Cong. It is unfathomable that LBJ's long-discredited war rationale finds expression in this day and age in the delusional assertions of a foreign-policy naοf ensconced in the White House.
With so much more at stake in the Mideast than in the Mekong Delta, the world can no longer afford being held hostage by the absurd co-presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
The question is, what is the world going to do about it?
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