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Bush administration silent on questions about post-war Iraq

March 5, 2003

By Joanna Cattanach

'So,' he asked pointedly, 'why don't you support a war in Iraq?' This was the first question posed to me at a recent sit down with a pro-war Baylor student. I smiled at the question and wisely chose to minimize the chances of the conversation turning into a sparring match by explaining my concerns for stability in the Middle East and the vital importance of international consensus building. Neither of us left the meeting having changed our positions, but both of us came away with a greater understanding of the opposing side's position.

The key leaders in the current crisis with Iraq could benefit from such discussions. I'm not advocating a debate along the same lines Saddam Hussein suggested in his American interview with CBS anchor Dan Rather, thoughtful as the offer was. No, I'd much rather see President Bush (and his minions of diplomats scurrying about the international community trying to drum up support for a war in Iraq) actually take into account the concerns many of these countries have. Thus far, the processes of intimidation and attempts to buy support have met growing resistance.

On Monday, the Turkish parliament, amidst overwhelming public outcry -- more than 95 percent of the population opposes war in Iraq and the stationing of U.S. troops in Turkey -- voted down a resolution allowing U.S. troops to use Turkish bases to establish a northern front against Iraq.

Mexican President Vincente Fox -- whose PAN party faces vitally important mid-term elections in June -- has been an outspoken advocate for a peaceful resolution with Iraq. Mexico holds a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council and has been under intense pressure from U.S. officials to support a war in Iraq. In an Associated Press article, one Mexican diplomat stated that U.S. officials made their position quite clear, 'They actually told us: 'any country that doesn't go along with us will be paying a heavy price.''

France, whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dubbed the 'old Europe,' has been blacklisted by American officials. This stems from their apparent ungrateful -- remember how we helped ya'll in World War II -- cowardly opposition to war and regime change in Iraq, and had the gall to suggest that U.N. inspectors needed more time.

It's not as if the Bush administration hasn't made good-faith efforts to make the case against Iraq. The Cabinet Cadets -- Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Powell -- have made virtually every public appearance, interview and dinner a forum for making the case against Iraq and for regime change.

Last week President Bush crashed an American Enterprise Institute banquet so he could squeeze in yet another speech for the justification for war against Iraq, an hour and half 'coincidentally' before Dan Rather's exclusive interview with Saddam Hussein. The anti-war movement, which Bush dismissed as nothing more than massive 'focus groups,' has fueled the fires of opposition in the United States and abroad.

Even supporters of military action for war in Iraq express reservations at the mishandling of the message, so to speak, for war in Iraq. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, recently wrote, 'I fear that Mr. Bush has failed to create a context for his boldness to succeed, a context that could maximize support for his vision -- support vital to seeing it through. He and his team are the only people who would ever have conceived this project, but they may be the worst people to implement it.'

Tough words to be sure, but they ring true. The current administration has focused primarily on U.S. military superiority, the 'American burden' to liberate the Iraqi people and the potential security threat Hussein presents to the rest of the world. But, when it comes to the tough questions -- how long will U.S. troops be stationed in Iraq? What will the economic and military burden be for the United States, how will regime change be achieved between warring Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Kurds, Islamic theocrats and secularists? And, will the liberation of Iraq lead to further attempts at regime change in the Middle East and North Korea? -- there has been silence.

As long as these concerns remain unanswered, anti-American sentiment abroad will grow along with opposition, and a war that has tentative roots in justification will be rejected as nothing more than an exercise in hegemony by the dictator of democracy George W. Bush.