Deeper and deeper into Iraq quagmire and more
US President George W. Bush (R) meets with the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, (L) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday. The US is discussing a truce with some Iraqi insurgent groups in an effort to reduce attacks on US and Iraqi government forces, the number two head of US forces in Iraq said Thursday. AFP
NEW YORK - When Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon on 20 July 1969, scores of children born worldwide on that day were baptized with the US astronaut's first name, perhaps as a gesture commemorating his monumental achievement.
But as one news commentator wryly remarked last week one of the US president's so-called "benchmarks" for success in war-ravaged Iraq should be a similar gesture by Iraqi parents: their willingness to name their new born children "George W. Bush."
That, however, is more in the realm of political fantasy -- judging by the rising antagonism and hatred towards the Bush administration, not only in Iraq but also in the rest of the Arab world.
The month of May turned out to be the third deadliest month for US troops in Iraq, with the American death toll at 123, compared with 135 in April 2004 and 137 in November of the same year.
As it moves from one military blunder to another, the White House "surge strategy" -- to increase about 30,000 additional troops to the 130,000 already deployed to Iraq -- is not showing any positive results either.
The strategy to increase troops was primarily aimed at containing the insurgency by flooding the troubled cities and villages with more military boots on the ground.
But as the death toll continues to rise, the White House has been trying to turn the equation around by arguing -- rather pathetically -- that the increase in troops could also logically mean an increase in deaths because the insurgents have more US troops on their gun sights.
|Lanka hosts Ban Ki-moon
The Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, delivering the welcome address as the Chairman of the Asian Group at the special felicitation event hosted by all the Asian Member States in the UN, on 25th May 2007, at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. A musical concert was hosted by the Asian Group in the UN to felicitate the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Picture shows Ambassador Kariyawasam, addressing the gathering, three core-organizers of the event, the Permanent epresentatives of Japan, China and Republic of Korea joining him at the podium.
That argument, however, is not flying well even with the ruling Republican Party which is faced with more electoral defeats in the November elections, particularly if the US death toll keeps rising in Iraq.
As a result, there is increasing political pressure among Republicans that if the White House cannot show any positive results from the troop "surge," at least by September, the US should perhaps pull the plug on Iraq and decide on a phased withdrawal from the current quagmire.
Asked about the deadline set by politicians in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates refused to be dictated by a political stopwatch. "Our military commanders should not worry about the Washington clock," he responded. "That's for us to worry about."
In an op-ed piece last week, a Washington Post columnist said that few if any Republicans, want to go into the November elections with 150,000 American troops still under attack.
The piece, gloomily titled "Endgame Ahead," quoted the "supremely realistic Senate Republican leader," Mitch McConnell, as telling reporters that "the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it."
As a result, there is also a growing opinion even among Republicans that the Bush administration should talk to its neighbours, particularly Iran and Syria, seeking their assistance to halt the continued violence in Iraq.
That was one of the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG), co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton.
The Bush administration, which expressed reservations when the plan was released last December, is now increasingly moving towards that bipartisan strategy as the military options in Iraq continue to crumble.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is facing a new Cold War with Russia threatening to exercise its U.N. veto and thereby undermine U.S. support for several new initiatives in the Security Council.
The threat of a veto has so far prevented the US from introducing a resolution calling for the creation of a new member state Kosovo -- a province of the former Yugoslavia, which wants to secede from Serbia.
The Serbians, who are backed by the Russians, are refusing to concede independence to the predominantly Albanian-inhabited Kosovo.
The Russians have also strongly objected to a US-supported plan for anti-missile bases in their own backyard: in Poland and the Czech Republic.
After a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "All they're saying is. 'Don't worry, it's not aimed at you."
But Lavrov dismissed the US response as "ridiculous". And the political showdown between the US and Russia is expected to escalate.