Posted by Merry from dial-alm-02-17.zianet.com (188.8.131.52) on Sunday, September 14, 2003 at 8:56PM :
Published on Friday, September 12, 2003 by the Philadelphia Inquirer
Latest Iraq Casualty: Our National Prestige
by Walter Cronkite
Americans are going on a diet of crow while President Bush goes to the United Nations to
beg for help in settling the Iraq mess, a move long urged by foreign-policy experts both in
and out of the Bush administration.
The President will be appealing to the U.N. Security Council, the same body that a year
ago he asked to cooperate in the Iraq invasion. He made what at the time seemed like an
excellent case for eliminating what he depicted as Saddam Hussein's threat to world
peace: his presumed stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
The President, however, concluded that speech by belittling the United Nations. He said
that it didn't matter whether the Security Council went along with us or not. If it didn't, he
proclaimed, we would go it alone.
This example of American hubris did not, of course, sit well with other major nations that,
despite our alliances and their oft-expressed friendship, always have been envious of
American economic and military dominance. France, which in its own exaggerated
self-esteem is perhaps the most sensitive of the other nations, led the forces that defeated
the American proposal in the Security Council. And, of course, we invaded Iraq with only
one major nation at our side, Great Britain.
Now it is turning out that we bit off a lot more than we can chew. The Iraqis are not as
universally delighted with our presence as the administration had expected, and we are
enmeshed in a guerrilla war against unknown numbers of angry and fanatical Arabs.
President Bush, clearly worried about the rising tide of public and congressional concern
over the course of events, went on television Sunday night to try to defend his policies and
rally support for them. He made a strong pitch that Iraq was the front line in the war
against terrorism and that the United States could not cut and run from that battle.
To do the job, though, he said he would be asking the United Nations for troops to help
relieve our weary and insufficient forces. He'll also be seeking financial help to meet the
staggering costs of fighting terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and rebuilding those
countries - a budget drain so great it is seriously affecting our government's ability to
supply the services our own people expect.
As he makes this new appeal to the United Nations, there is not the slightest admission
on his part that he might have been wrong in insisting on our unilateral action. Instead, our
government expects the Security Council, and the rest of us, to believe that this is not a
change of strategy at all.
Indeed, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that this has been the administration plan all
along. We are expected to believe that the United States, from the beginning of the war,
planned to ask someday for the United Nations' help. If that really was the original
intention, it might have been diplomatic to tell the Security Council that in the beginning.
Instead, the administration rejected or played down every suggestion that the United
Nations should have any substantial role in the postwar governing, policing or rebuilding of
We are in trouble, and the world knows it. We are going hat in hand as we seek means to
cut our losses in the Iraq debacle. We are pleading for help now from those very same
Security Council nations that we belittled before.
No matter what they do with our new request, those nations are going to wear a wry, "I
told you so" smile as they listen to our appeal. This might be about as embarrassing a
position as this nation has ever suffered in international affairs.
No matter how gloriously the President paints our Iraq invasion as a mission to save the
world from terrorism, there is no disguising the fact that in our desperate bid for help, we
are dining on a massive helping of crow.
Copyright 1996-2003 Knight Ridder
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