Wednesday, Jul 23, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
And the first impression is that there is indeed a very long way to go. Mr. Bush, faced with the guerrilla warfare in Iraq, is arguing that what is happening on the ground is essentially an `extension' of the hostilities which is a part of the war to `liberate' Iraq and that the U.S. will "see this matter through."
After a meeting with the Italian Prime Minister at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr. Bush said efforts were under way to "broaden the coalition" to bring more security to Iraq. "... The more help we can get, the more we appreciate. And we are continuing to work with other nations to ask their help and advice," the President said after stressing that talks with the Italian leader did not cover that country replacing the U.S. as peacekeepers in Iraq.
The Bush administration, stung by the recent developments at home and in Iraq, is trying to reach out to the United Nations after nations such as France and India refused to send military units without a mandate from the U.N.
For a country that worked `very hard' to keep the U.N. out of the substantive aspects of post-conflict Iraq, the U.S. is now trying to see if a mandate from the world body is possible so that other nations can participate in the task in Iraq.
The administration, especially the White House, has started working overtime to see if it could get back the lost political ground at home; anda damage control exercise is on.
On Monday, the White House sent its Communications Director, Dan Bartlett, with a set of points to be presented to the Republican staff aides in the House of Representatives and the Senate so that a coordinated response can be made to the allegations and charges made by Democrats.
One media report said the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, himself in the focus on Iraq debacle, is planning a major speech on the issue. The administration is worried that in the ongoing debate on Iraq it does not have the upper hand and that it needs to address Republican members of Congress who are increasingly wary of the goings-on.
Different and positive
The daily spin from officials aside, the administration has gone to the extent of bringing to town its top civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, mainly to drive home the point on Capitol Hill that what is happening in Iraq is much different and more positive than the scene conjured up by daily reports of American soldiers being ambushed or gunned down.
Although some explain that Mr. Bremer's visit to Washington and to Capitol Hill had been planned for weeks, the that idea he may be stepping in to rescue the White House persists.
Mr. Bremer is meeting the President and all his top Cabinet officials and is due to appear before a Congressional panel. Mr. Bremer is in for a tough session with many members venting their feelings that the administration allowed things to worsen in Iraq.
"He needs to know that we think things are slipping and he has a very short period of time in which to work. We need to put this into... turbo-drive, before the situation gets away from us," the Republican Congressman, Doug Bereuter, said.
Members of Congress, particularly Democrats, are increasingly concerned that the U.S. has slipped into a Vietnam war situation in Iraq from which getting out would not only be difficult but costly in human and material terms.
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