September 13, 2003

Latest Iraq Casualty: Our National Prestige

From one of those few brave news media professionals
whose names have been scrawled on the John O'Neill
Wall of Heroes...Imagine if one of the nightly network
news anchors decided to follow the example of this
shining light of the Vietam-Watergate era...It is
unfortunate however that apparently in this country at
least for now the news media like the politicians are
going to follow, the electorate itself must lead (and
of course their votes must be counted accurately)...

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

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

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

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 Iraq.

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


Posted by richard at September 13, 2003 02:08 PM