Analysis: Bush says Iraq world's problem

By NICHOLAS M. HORROCK, Chief White House Correspondent  |  Sept. 18, 2003 at 6:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Having impatiently thrust aside the United Nations last March and invaded Iraq, President George W. Bush will try to coax its members to assist in the rebuilding of the war-torn country and relieving the hard-pressed U.S. military of some of the dangerous tasks of policing Iraq.

Bush's address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday will perhaps be one of the most crucial of his career, trying to bring an organization he ignored and humiliated to come to the aid of the United States in a job far more difficult than he or his administration envisioned.

Despite a lightning victory over Saddam Hussein's forces, the White House has come to see the dangers of going it virtually alone and Bush now finds himself with growing domestic opposition to staying in Iraq as well as increasing dangers in Afghanistan. For 30 years, conservative Republicans have opposed the United Nations. Now Bush's distaste for operating through multinational organizations has been left in shreds by his decision to seek help on Iraq and may give the world organization a major boost.

President Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, writing in Foreign Policy Magazine last month, argued that "despite their unilateralist tendencies, Bush administration officials will welcome (Security) council support when battling rogue states and terrorists in the future." She doesn't see Bush's "preemptive strike" doctrine as a bar to compatibility with the U.N. charter.

The president has sought in recent weeks to move past the disagreements of last spring. On Sept. 7, when he went before the American people to announce he was asking for an extraordinary additional $87 billion to secure Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush said he recognized "not all of our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein.

"Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with the present duties there. Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and defeating them must be the cause of the civilized world," Bush said. He said the United States has three aims in Iraq: establishing security, giving power as soon as possible to the Iraqis, and helping them form a lasting government.

But Bush was forced to modify his stand on how U.N. troops would be integrated into the Iraq force. In the proposal delivered by Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier this month, Bush has said the United States would retain military command of all forces in Iraq, but it would require this force report to the U.N. Security Council.

Bush's argument next week is expected to be threefold. He believes that Iraq is the new battlefront in the war on terror that he launched in September 2001 after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Bush defends his decision to remove Saddam Hussein as a backer of terrorists in the Middle East, though he said on Wednesday that he had seen no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.

He and U.S. military commanders claim Iraq is drawing what they call "terrorists" who come through its porous borders and fight the Americans, suggesting it could be a culminating battle of the war. But several news agencies have interviewed opponents of America in Iraq who argue that the American occupation has rallied Muslims of various sects to resist Western forces.

Lastly Bush will argue that there can be no going back. "For the Middle East and the world, there can be no going back to the days of fear, when a brutal and aggressive dictator possessed terrible weapons," he told his audience on Sept. 7.

Since declaring major operations of the war completed on May 1 aboard the USS Lincoln, Bush has had to retreat step by step from assertions he and his main ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, made to get support for the war. The most damaging, of course, is the charge that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ready to use. None have been found by either military forces or a special team the United States still has in Iraq. Former U.N. inspector Hans Blix said in an interview earlier this week that he believes Saddam destroyed the weapons.

Until August, though, Bush kept promising that the evidence would be found.

Bush said in his State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium, implying there was an active nuclear program in Iraq. The CIA and others found the report on which that was based to be questionable and got it removed from a Bush speech last fall, but it appeared again on January. Bush claims it was wrong to include it, but he has never made it clear how it got there.

The most telling wrong assertion was on how easy the reconstruction of Iraq would be and who would pay for it. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolferwitz's contention was that Iraq's oil revenues would pay for the cost, but a senior administration official said at a briefing Wednesday that Iraqi oil revenues would be $12 billion in 2004 and $19 billion in 2005 and 2006. The Iraqi Governing Council, the 25-member, handpicked U.S. entity helping get the country's administration started is forming a $14 billion a year annual operating budget which would only leave $5 billion for capital improvements in 2005 and 2006.

While Bush is hoping to mollify his world critics, opposition at home has been growing on several fronts.

The need to go to Congress for an $87 billion emergency budget has opened up Bush to criticism by both Democrats and Republicans. The money, which the president requested Thursday, is more than his administration estimated for the entire war. Congress voted $79 billion for the war and now Bush needs an additional $87 billion. It was widely held in Washington that Bush's first economic adviser, Larry Lindsay, left government because he had estimated the war would cost $200 billion.

The request for U.N. aid and the domestic congressional battle Bush faces are closely entwined. Bush's plan is to use some $65.5 billion of the new money to support military operations in Iraq and more than $21 billion for civilian development. But administration officials have estimated that the country needs some $50 to $75 billion and others claim the bill could be as high as $100 billion. At $75 billion, the U.S. $21 billion leaves a shortfall of some $50 billion. This is money the Bush administration hopes world "donors" will pickup. A "donor's conference" will be held in October.

The $65.5 billion would keep U.S. forces in Iraq at the level of 130,000 troops for all of 2004 and provide for some of the training of domestic military forces. A U.S. defense official said Wednesday in a briefing that the United States would hope to have organized a 27-battalion mechanized infantry force in Iraq by the end of the year. It is being trained by private trainers under the supervision of the U.S. Army. One battalion will graduate shortly.

The country is also planning to augment its police with a civil counter-terrorism force. Bush has been pushing this news out of the government to underscore that the United States is going to stay and Iraq is a good investment for others.

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