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http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EG17Ak03.html Jul 17, 2003 Iraq: Who takes the blame? By Jim Lobe WASHINGTON - Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld has become distinctly testy, while Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seems almost to have disappeared from public view, and Vice President Dick Cheney hasn't been heard from in weeks. Outgoing White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has been reduced to barnyard epithets when asked about how a reference to forged documents about alleged Iraqi purchases of African uranium made it into President George W Bush's State of the Union address in January, while the headline in the USA Today on Monday says "CIA director [George Tenet] nudged toward the plank". Bush's standing in the polls is declining rapidly. Indeed, a Washington Post poll published on the weekend says his overall job-approval rating, while still a majority, dropped nine points in the previous 18 days - as did public support for the Iraq deployment. The same poll found that 52 percent believe US casualties have reached an "unacceptable" level. Meanwhile, yet another US soldier was killed and six others wounded in a multiple rocket-propelled-grenade attack on their patrol in Baghdad on Monday, and two more on Wednesday, bringing to 34 the total number of US soldiers killed in combat since Bush declared the war over on May 1 after his celebrated flight to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, from where he made the announcement. Retired army generals are grumbling ever more loudly that the 148,000 US and 12,000 foreign troops in Iraq now are not enough to ensure stability, and even Rumsfeld was forced to admit publicly two days after predicting that the US occupation of Iraq will cost almost US$4 billion a month - twice as much as predicted before the war - that more troops may be required. The realization that the US did not prepare even remotely adequately for its occupation of Iraq and now appears to be drifting toward serious trouble has definitely dawned in Washington. Even Democratic presidential candidates smell blood and are baring their teeth. "It's important that we not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is the enormous failure that is looming in Iraq today," Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, among the mildest of Democratic aspirants and a supporter of Bush's war, told the New York Times after tearing into Bush for the loss of credibility he has suffered over the uranium report and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This is clearly a critical moment in the imperial trajectory on which the Bush administration's hawks, centered primarily in the Pentagon and Cheney's office, set US foreign policy after September 11, 2001. Their dreams of global supremacy based on the unilateral use of US military power are clearly foundering in Iraq as they come up against the very real limits of US manpower and their contempt for the interests of other nations. Increasingly, analysts in Washington agree that the only way the administration can get out its present situation with its power, treasury and credibility intact is if it hands over control of Iraq to a multilateral institution - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), if not the United Nations - capable of enlisting sufficient support from the international community, in the form of peacekeepers, aid and investment, to stabilize Iraq and launch it on the path to reconstruction. "The administration faces a classic tradeoff between keeping control and getting outside participation," James Dobbins, a former top US diplomat who helped run reconstruction and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan and elsewhere, told the Times. "This administration does not want to lose control, but they'll have to take another look at that position." Even Republican lawmakers are beginning to see the necessity of such an approach. On Friday, just one day after Rumsfeld admitted that occupation costs were twice what the Pentagon had predicted, the Senate approved a non-binding resolution urging the administration to reach out to NATO and the UN for assistance. "I don't want every kid that is blown up at a checkpoint being an American soldier," said Senator Joseph Biden, a co-author of the resolution and ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "This is the world's problem, not just ours. I want to give the French ... the honor and the opportunity to do the same thing as our young men do," he said. But such a course of action is anathema to unilateralist hawks such as Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney, who had confidently predicted before the war that only between 50,000 and 75,000 US troops would be necessary to police Iraq after the war, and now find themselves agreeing that at least 150,000 will be necessary for the foreseeable future. Rumsfeld said last week that Washington had approached "70, 80, 90" countries for police or troops to help out, but lawmakers mocked the seriousness of some of those requests and warned that very few countries would be inclined to respond given the Washington's insistence on overall control. That point was underlined on Monday when India, which the Pentagon had been counting to provide as many as 20,000 peacekeepers for Iraq, announced that it would not provide any in the absence of an "explicit UN mandate". The State Department expressed "regret" over the announcement, although Secretary of State Colin Powell has privately long warned that Washington was unlikely to get even aspiring strategic allies like India behind it without giving up more control. The announcement was seen as a major blow to the Pentagon, which has been telling Congress that Indian troops would constitute at least half of the foreign recruits. "This is chickens coming home to roost," one administration official told Inter Press Service. "One would hope the hawks would understand by now that their arrogance and unilateralism have serious costs, but that's probably too optimistic." He pointed to reports that NATO, if asked, may itself not have many troops to spare, given its current commitments in Afghanistan and the Balkans. France and Germany have indicated that their participation would require a UN mandate in any event. Indeed, there appears to be a growing consensus among military experts that the United States will itself have to send more of its own troops sooner or later. Dobbins, echoing predictions (mocked by Wolfowitz as "wildly off the mark") by the former army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, before the war, told the Times that he thinks the 160,000 troops there now will eventually have to be doubled. Most military experts believe that the deployment of even 100,000 US troops - let alone as many as 300,000 - will put such a burden on the army that Congress will face pressure to increase its size, adding billions of dollars to a defense budget that this year will exceed $400 billion, roughly equal to the anticipated federal budget deficit. Such assessments help explain a growing sense that, while Tenet's job may be on the line most immediately, top Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, may soon find themselves facing calls to resign for so badly misjudging postwar requirements. Indeed, H D S Greenway, a mainstream columnist in the Boston Globe, called Saturday for both to be "given the boot" for their "fatal combination of hubris and incompetence". "The damage done is incalculable and not just in material terms," he wrote. "The political damage has been far worse and will be far more lasting in its consequences." (Inter Press Service) _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk