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Finger off the pulse; thumb on the scale
Detroit Free Press
June 30, 2004

It sure looked like good news. There was Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, handing Iraqis back their country.

But what actually happened was one of the oldest tricks in the book, the old bait and switch, a technique President George W. Bush has turned into high art.

While newscasts showed the turnover, a New York Times-CBS News poll showed Bush's approval rating falling to 42 percent, its lowest ever -- and found that 45 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the president.

Newscasts displayed prominent Republicans putting a positive spin on war.

But what happened was a new American general took command of coalition forces and other American officials will oversee much of Iraq's financial and war business.

What wasn't said

What we saw was the president scrawling a note to Condoleezza Rice during a NATO summit in Istanbul, saying "Let freedom reign!"

But what happened was freedom returned to America with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that "enemy combatants" must have the right to challenge their detention, instead of being held without access to counsel. A "state of war is not a blank check for the president," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote.

Bush proclaimed that "the Iraqi people have their country back" -- but he didn't say "Sorry" about those missing weapons of mass destruction. He didn't say that coalition forces -- 90 percent of them are American -- aren't going home anytime soon. He didn't tell us the Army is preparing an involuntary recall of about 5,600 civilians who left the service and still have a reserve obligation or that more forces may be needed soon in Afghanistan.

While the national media covered the turnover like V-J Day, it missed an ironic sense of deja vu that echoed through Monday's events: Paul Bremer waving as he boarded a plane to leave Iraq was reminiscent of the president standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln a year ago, declaring our mission accomplished with 138 American soldiers dead.

And then, more than 700 more American soldiers died. And there is no end in sight.

One, two, three

The Bush team has ignored a persistent lack of stability in Iraq -- a country where terrorists roam so freely that some captured U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun by sneaking into an American base and luring him away, according to reports. He was missing for one week, his blindfolded face shown on TV for two days before he was declared captured, not missing.

There was little to celebrate Monday. Richard Holbrooke, former ambassador to the United Nations, said it best: Phase One was a successful military operation, Phase Two was a disastrous occupation, and Phase Three is a transfer of power so shaky that security concerns dictated that it be done two days early.

One good thing came from this week's dose of reality TV: Stepford Americans, once too afraid to question, are waking up and seeing Bush's strategies as fantasy: A new CNN-USAToday-Gallup poll found that nearly three-quarters of Americans approved of the transfer of power, but 60 percent saw it as a sign of U.S. failure.

That's what happened in Iraq this week:




Posted: July 1, 2004


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