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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: George W. Bush et les républicains sur la défensive

by BRUNO ODENT, editorial

George W. Bush and the Republicans are on the Defensive

Translated Sunday 22 October 2006, by Patrick Bolland

The record losses registered by the US army in Iraq - 2,789 since the invasion (1) reinforce public opinion which has decided to hold the US president responsible for this in November 7 legislative elections.

The record number of lives of US soldiers in Iraq – more than 70 American soldiers have died since the beginning of October 2006 – is feeding American public opinion with increasing doubts about the grounds for the Iraqi invasion. This is putting George W. Bush and the Republican Party on the defensive, less than three weeks from the mid-term legislative elections. The White House tenant has even admitted, for the first time, just last Wednesday, a possible analogy between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam, when he declared thatone could compare the present attacks in Iraq and the historical offensive of Têt, during the Vietnam War.

If the comparison is certainly valid for the high number of military and civilian victims and for the mess in which the US military is bogged down, in spite of the more sophisticated means it can now count on, cetrainly compared to its adversaries, the relevance of the comparison has its cleart limitations.

George W. Bush has forgotten that in Vietnam, the United States was facing a united army of national liberation, while in Iraq, the US invasion brought about a complete breakdown of Iraqi society and initiated a civil war.

The situation is extremely bad in Iraq and is much worse than the US Chief Executive is even beginning to admit. It’s so distarous that it brings doubt not just among the Democratic elite, but among the Republicans as well. The latter have started to work on possible ways of getting out of Iraq. James Baker, who was Secretary of State under Bush Senior, is about to recommend, in a report to Congress, which should only become officially public after the November 7th election, a gradual withdrawal and a concentration of troops around the city of Baghdad.

Playing the security card

The Bush team is trying to counter-attack by banking on fear and on the whole issue of security. The policy announced of total control of air-space is part of this, along with the scare-mongering rhetoric, of halting the eventual development of nuclear arms by the North-Koreans regime, supposedly to become available to terrorist networks. But nothing is working in Bush’s favour: the foreign policy of the President has become much too unpopular. Most Republican candidates to the Senate or to Congress have carefully avoided including presidential policies in their campaign plans.

According to a poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, published last Wednesday, the Republicans are now 15 points behind the Democrats. More seriously for Bush, according to the same poll, 47% of the people questioned are against maintaining a Republican majority in Congress. The prosêct of the Republican Party losing its majority in the two Chambers appears more and more credible.

As a result, many editorialists are surprised by the extreme timidity of the opposition candidates as far as the Iraq war is concerned. According to a Gallup poll, 64% of the Democratic candidates are declaring themselves against any Iraq withdrawal calendar. This creates a lot of bitterness among anti-war militants who have called for a massive sit-in in front of the White House on the day of the 7th November elections.
But the rejection of the war is far from the only motive of the negative vote which seems to be coming, unless Bush is able to launch an ultimate "bombshell". The clear impoverishment of a large part of the population which affects even a fringe of the middle-class, is also feeding into the overall dissatisfaction with Bush.

(1) Translator’s note

The data on the niumber of US military who have died in Iraq comes from "The Human Cost of Occupation" on 20 October - (http://www.antiwar.com/casualties)

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