Bush in Europe

THE more things change, the more they seem to remain the same for President George W Bush. During his final lap of the so-called farewell tour of Europe, the US leader visited British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Even before Bush made an appearance at 10, Downing Street, the British Press had been abuzz with speculation that Prime Minister Brown could unveil an early exit from Iraq.

Brown, under fire over disasters like the 42-day detention and the economy down in the dumps and with his approval ratings plunging, is clearly looking to offer the British people especially his disaffected Labour party something to cheer about.

On the other hand, the last thing Bush, the discredited lame duck US president, wants is the desertion by his Atlantic ally and key member of the so-called coalition of the willing. Especially when less than six months are left before Bush leaves the White House.

So notwithstanding how much Bush wants to declare 'mission accomplished' in Iraq and bring the US troops home, the US president is not in a position to do so right now. Neither can he afford the parting of ways by the crucial ally like Britain at this point of time.

The US-led coalition cannot afford to cut and run as yet. Iraq still remains an unholy mess, even if there appears to be some relative calm of late. Bush, Brown and all members of the coalition do know this. Only they can't admit it to themselves. So this president obviously wants to drag this as far as January when there'll be a new president in the White House. So Iraq will be the headache of Bush's successor.

Those hoping for some honest and frank talk on the part of the US leader yesterday as he faced the European Press at 10, Downing Street would have been disappointed. Bush continues to live in denial.

Hence the big talk about the success of democracy and freedom in Iraq, whatever that means. Hence the insistence that this war inflicted on Iraq and the subsequent removal of Saddam Hussein were justified and the right thing to do. So what if more than a million innocent lives have been wasted and a whole country has been totally wrecked? So what if the war has destabilised the whole of Middle East and exposed the Muslim world to the forces of extremism?

Bush has no answers to these questions. Nor does he have any regrets or sense of shame over visiting this catastrophe on the land that has been the cradle of civilization. But history's verdict on the US leader and his eight years in office will not be so forgiving.

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