American journalist and writer Mark Danner explains to Peter Morgan why support for the Bush administration is slipping.
You've recently written about the minutes of the meeting that took place between Tony Blair and his foreign policy and security advisers in the run-up to the war in Iraq, now known as the 'Downing Street memo'. How significant have these revelations been in the US?
The Downing Street memo has fit in with a general perception on the part of the US public that the war was begun on false pretences and the Bush administration was not honest about the reasons they were taking the country to war in Iraq. All of this results from the fact that the war is going badly.
Within the memo itself it is interesting that Blair at one point says, 'We need a political strategy that will function well at least until the military strategy is successful', meaning that the war, once it was successful, would essentially have justified itself. The fact is the war has not been successful and it has not justified itself, so there is more and more pressure being put on the original rationale. Although probably 80 percent of the US public has only a very vague idea about the specifics of the memo, it does dovetail with a general perception, and intensifies a general perception, that the rationale of the war is becoming cloudier and more difficult to discern.
The rationale for going to war which was stated by Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and other public officials has gone away. We have this misty, murky indistinct reason for being there. So the US public is left only with this awful 'present' in which Americans are being killed every day without any rationale and without any sign of an ending. And I think that the Downing Street memo fits into the general notion that we shouldn't be in Iraq, something is not right and we've been misled. So I think in that sense the Downing Street memo has been important.
How has this created problems for the Bush administration generally and are you beginning to see splits and ruptures emerge within official US politics and the Bush administration?
Well, at this point barely a third of the US public tells pollsters that the war was worth fighting. And so nearly two thirds say it was a bad idea. Similar numbers think that the president's performance on Iraq has been inadequate, and the president's general popularity ratings have plummeted - they are now in the low 40s, which is about what they were for President Lyndon Johnson around the time of the Tet offensive in 1968.
This plummeting in popularity has not been noticed that broadly in the press, so there's still an interesting divorce in a funny way between the press treatment of the administration, although it's become somewhat harsher, and the general lack of popularity with the public.
The above, sent in by Polly, is from Peter Morgan's "The Thrashing Around of the Beast" (England's Socialist Review). It's Sunday and we're in the midst of our "What's being reported outside the US mainstream media." This entry focuses on Iraq.
Olive e-mails to note Reuters' "Iraqi police, soldiers killed in Baquba attacks" (Australia's ABC):
Unknown gunmen killed 19 Iraqi police and soldiers and wounded another 16 in three separate attacks near Baquba, north of Baghdad, on Saturday, police and hospital sources said.
The first attack came in the morning at an Iraqi army checkpoint 30 kilometres north of the mainly Sunni Arab city, when four soldiers died.
Later, four police officers were killed by armed gunmen at a checkpoint in the centre of Baquba, 65 kilometres north of Baghdad.
The third attack was on a checkpoint manned jointly by police and soldiers four kilometres south of Baquba, in which seven police and two soldiers were shot dead.
Deidre e-mails to note "Editorial: New ideas needed to help Iraq" (New Zealand Herald)
Two polls last month suggest that President George W. Bush's job approval rating is at the lowest point since he began his presidency. In part, this can be attributed to rising petrol prices. Mostly, however, it reflects growing disillusionment with events in Iraq, That sentiment can only have deepened over the past week or so, despite the President's attempt to rally Americans to the cause of a "free Iraq" - and now there is further questioning of his leadership to contend with in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (see below).
During that short period, the White House's attempt to secure a draft constitution more amenable to Iraq's dethroned Sunni minority fell largely on deaf ears. More dramatically, a stampede on a Baghdad bridge, which killed about 1000 Shiite pilgrims, brought tensions among Iraq's rival communities to a new peak. A civil war threatened as the long-suffering Shiites blamed Sunni insurgents for provoking the incident. For the meantime, that conflict has been averted. The Shiites, who comprise 60 per cent of the population, continue to place their faith in the path to a democratic Iraq laid out by the United States. On October 15, there will be another step along that track when a referendum on the draft constitution is held. Frustratingly, this, however, is shaping as a severe obstacle.
Gareth notes "Iraq war 'costlier than Vietnam' " from the BBC:
The monthly cost to the US of the war in Iraq is now greater than the average monthly cost of the Vietnam War, a report by two anti-war groups says.
The report put costs in Iraq at $500m (£278m) a month more than in Vietnam, adjusted for inflation.
This makes Iraq the most expensive US war in the past 60 years, they say.
Gareth also notes Rory Carroll's "Sunni teenager who died saving Shias hailed as hero" (England's The Guardian):
A Sunni Arab teenager who died saving Shias during last week's stampede disaster in Baghdad has been hailed as a hero whose sacrifice should unify Iraq.
Othman al-Ubeydi drowned after rescuing at least three people who tumbled into the Tigris when Shia pilgrims panicked at rumours of a suicide bomber among them, leading to 1,005 deaths.
The 19-year-old student's face was on newspapers and television screens yesterday and the provincial council said that a street would be named after him.
Mr Ubeydi was sitting down to breakfast last Wednesday when loudspeakers from his Sunni mosque said Shias needed help at the al-Aima bridge, where Iraq's deadliest disaster since the 2003 invasion was unfolding.
While hundreds were crushed to death on the bridge, hundreds more jumped or fell into the river. Witnesses said that the teenager, a strong swimmer and wrestler who trained at a gym, repeatedly dived in and saved between three and seven people. However he was exhausted when he tried to save a large woman, and she reportedly pulled him under.
Iraq's government and media called Mr Ubeydi a martyr of national unity whose heroic sacrifice should reconcile Shias and Sunnis, rival Muslim sects which have edged towards civil war.
Dominick e-mails to note "Saddam lawyer says October trial gives too little time to prepare defence" (The Irish Examiner):
LAWYERS for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein complained yesterday that plans to start his trial next month gave him too little time to prepare his defence.
British-based lawyer Abdel Haq Alani also said Saddam's defence attorneys are being kept in the dark on charges against him and doubted that the trial would start on October 19 as announced by Iraqi officials.
Saddam's family called on his new legal team to highlight alleged breaches of the Iraqi former dictator's human rights since he was captured and imprisoned. Raghad Hussein, his eldest daughter, is assembling a new panel of international legal experts to represent her father and claims he is being treated unlawfully.
Following meetings with supporters from Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan and Lebanon, she said: "Participants discussed the recent developments of trial and the conditions of detention of President Saddam Hussein and his comrades which breach all human rights international laws, treaties and conventions."
Mick e-mails to note Ros Davidson's "Sign of the times: dissent on America's highways" (Scotland's Sunday Herald):
It's a new American graffiti – the art of freeway blogging. Americans driving to work or the mall are increasingly being confronted by guerrilla art, or political messages, strung across freeway bridges or staked on verges and embankments.
Agitprop for the post 9/11 era, the signs are typically anti-Bush or anti-war and succinct enough to grab the attention of motorists whizzing by. Or cryptic enough to linger annoyingly, like an advertising jingle.
As dissent over the war in Iraq and the Bush presidency grows, illicit "freeway blogs" are sprouting daily on major freeways from California to New Jersey. Road workers, and ordinary drivers who differ politically, tear down the cardboard signs but new ones soon appear.
"The war is a lie."
"Yee-ha isn’t a foreign policy."
"When Clinton lied, nobody died."
"War president? My pet goat."
"Jesus drives an SUV. Mohammed pumps his gas."
"Osama Bin Forgotten."
"Why change horsemen mid-apocalypse?"
"You have the right to remain silent but I wouldn’t recommend it."
On a Seattle bridge, alongside the Republican slogan "comp-assionate conservatism", stands a stylised reproduction of the infamous photograph of a hooded Iraqi prisoner, arms stretched out and wires attached for electrocution.
Above a busy freeway near Sacramento, the official home of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a triptych of small but prominent cardboard posters is affixed to a bridge: "Worst." "President." "Ever."
And outside the First Baptist Church in upper New York State, the sign has been altered, a technique known as culture jamming, to read: "Jesus Loves You. Bush doesn't."
American politics is famed for rude bumper stickers and big brash badges. But never before has guerrilla art, rather than official adverts for a particular candidate or party, been so common.
Proponents say that the blogging is a free speech retort to corporate-run media and endless advertising billboards. The country is more divided than it has been for a generation, and millions of people spend hours daily on car-choked freeways.
DK e-mails to note Georg Mascolo's "CINDY SHEEHAN VERSUS GEORGE W. BUSHThe Iraq War Besieges Crawford" (Germany's Der Spiegel):
Why the effort? It's all because of Cindy Sheehan -- a mother whose son Casey died in the war in Iraq -- and her disgruntlement with the ongoing violence there. For weeks, she has been besieging the ranch near Crawford where US President George W. Bush has been spending his astonishingly lengthy vacation. With the unassailable authority of a grieving mother, Sheehan asks the question that the rest of America is also beginning to ask: For what, exactly, are our children dying?
It's the stuff of drama -- the story of the president and the grieving mother. Ever since Cindy Sheehan arrived in Crawford on August 6, she has been demanding that the president answer her questions in person. "I don't believe that my son died for a noble cause," she says.
Bush may have refused to give in to her demands, but the persistent Cindy has become a constant fixture, her presence felt whenever the president makes a public appearance at the ranch or whenever his motorcade comes or goes. Indeed, the president and the mother are already deeply involved in a very public dialogue. We owe them something, says the president, referring to US soldiers who have already died in Iraq. We must "finish the task they gave their lives for."
[. . .]
Throughout the country, peace groups have begun dreaming of the emergence of a powerful anti-war movement that could force the president to withdraw from Iraq. The protestors at Camp Casey have already assembled a crude model of a commemorative plaque, with the inscription: "The end of the Iraq war began here in 2005."
And Pru e-mails to highlight this from the UK's Socialist Worker:
"Iraqis rise to stop the US’s plans to divide and rule"
Over 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets across Iraq last week to campaign against the US orchestrated constitution.
Those marching were overwhelmingly Shias protesting against the threatened break up of their country and the ongoing lack of electricity, oil and basic services.
One banner in Baghdad's Sadr City read, "Iraq will remain without fuel, water and electricity as long as the occupation remains." Another banner read, "Occupier, our oil is for us, not you!"
In towns such as Ramadi and Tikrit, Sunni Muslims also protested against the proposed constitution, shattering the myth that just one section of Iraqis opposes the US plan.
The US-approved constitution threatens to break Iraq into competing states battling for control of the country's oil wealth. It is a recipe for civil war.
Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-war Labour MP, told Socialist Worker, "The experience of taking the troops into Iraq has led to the deaths of around 100,000 people.
"It has not brought more civilisation or freedom. The US and UK troops are the cause, not the solution, of many of Iraq’s problems.
"The troops must leave Iraq so that the Iraqi people are given the opportunity to decide their own future."
Pressure is mounting inside the US to bring the troops home. Wes Hamilton served in Vietnam and is a member of United States Veterans for Peace. "The troops need to come home now. Any delay just means that more people die," he told Socialist Worker.
"It only took a matter of days for the British and American troops to invade.
"Why can't they withdraw at the same pace? Too many innocent people have died, American, British and Iraqi. This tragedy must end."
Wes added, "This anti-war movement is a people's movement. It is the working class people of our countries who are the victims.
"It is our taxes that pay for it and our sons and daughters who are sent to die -- while the multinationals are gorging on profits from Iraq.
"They are currently building 14 military bases in Iraq, and they are spending billions of dollars in doing so.
"But they are not spending the money to rebuild the country, to allow the people to live in peace.
"Working people in America are waking up, they are becoming conscious of the truth about this war. And they will be out on the streets on the 24 September making their voices heard."
Here in Britain Ghada Razuki from the Stop the War Coalition's national office reports that support is swelling for the UK wide demonstration in London.
"There have been Stop the War activist meetings held in many parts of Britain in the past couple of weeks.
"Groups have been coming together to plan the best way to get as many people as possible out on 24 September.
"The atmosphere at these meetings leaves you in absolutely no doubt how important this demonstration is.
"The meetings have been big with lively discussions. The fact that Muslims in particular are being attacked by both the government and the media has really angered people.
"People are excited by the plans for 24 September. There will be three feeder marches from east, west and south London, all converging on one central area.
"This is an opportunity to show the word that we are still here and that it is time to bring the troops home."
Sat 24 September, 1pm central London called by: Stop the War Coalition, CND, Muslim Association of Britain
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