Cometh the axe

FAR from The confident American President that claimed victory and announced an "end to major combat in Iraq" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003, George Bush now seems a beleaguered man within the American polity.

In the three years since, he has hardly received any good news from Iraq, which has not done his public-approval ratings much good. Now, polls suggest that for the first time since the invasion, most Americans seem to believe Iraq is not part of the so-called war against terrorism, contrary to the Bush administration’s rhetoric. Statistics reveal a declining trend of Mr Bush’s credibility, with the majority appreciating the Iraq-terror link in 2002 and early 2003, then polls reflecting public opinion evenly split till as recently as June this year, but now fewer still buying the shoptalk. Also for the first time, more than 50 per cent Americans interviewed to gauge public sentiment believe going to Iraq was a mistake in the first place.

These developments bode ill for the president and his Republican party ahead of the November midterm elections, in which the Democrats’ chances of taking control of the House of Representatives and the Senate are looking brighter by the day. Apparently, they are hitting at the Bush administration’s soft underbelly with regard to the Iraqi occupation. Their argument that it has diverted resources and attention from essential anti-terror initiatives elsewhere, diminished US credibility, destroyed normal life in Iraq and disillusioned the American army about its ability to subdue an elusive enemy is finding converts for understandable reasons. Three-term Senator Joseph Lieberman’s Connecticut primaries loss to a newcomer might well prove to be the first political nail in the administration’s Iraq policy coffin.

Despite taking its sweet time coming, the neo-con lobby’s bungling of the Iraq case —right from the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) argument to the inability to contain the insurgency that is reducing the country to rubble —is fast coming to light. Now the White House is at a loss regarding its future course in Iraq as both staying and leaving are fraught with difficulties. They may have cleverly exploited public anger following 9/11 with their ‘good versus evil’ and ‘staying the course’ claims, but it seems that try as they might, the Republicans are not likely to avoid the axe this time around.

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