This story broke as the Iraq Survey Group delivered its first report to Congress. According to this report, no chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons had been found so far in Iraq. The president and his surrogates assertion that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States because of a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction that have been proven to not exist. The famous forty-five minute launch window credited to Saddams anthrax ridden UAV s by the Blair administration has been discredited as well. Even the fear that Saddam would unleash a chemical attack on American troops as they closed in on Baghdad proved groundless.
The occupation of Iraq has been sinking deeper and deeper into a Vietnam like quagmire, with no exit for the United States any time soon. The American soldier and the American taxpayer are now fully committed. They could both be there for ten years at a cost of $100 billion.
As the summer passed, Bushs poll numbers slowly sank into the political abyss below 50 percent.
Something had to be done, so Mr. Bush dusted off a little-used and ill-used secretary of state and pushed him into the now-hostile world of the United Nations to negotiate behind the scenes. The United Nations is, most of the time, ambivalent to the worlds problems, doing little to violate any brother member nations sovereignty with boorish behavior, such as sanctions. Actual effective intervention is rare. After all, the next time it might be their country. Vicious civil wars and accompanying bloodbaths in place, such as the Congo or Rwanda, are debated and condemned, with the occasional French paratrooper thrown into harms way as a token of support. So the United Nations remains mostly harmless. Even action against a man with so little defense as Saddam Hussein proved difficult to arouse and daunting to the Bush administration.
But Bush was forced to appear before the General Assembly, hat in hand, asking for help in the form of troops and money, where, before the mess in Baghdad, he could move unilaterally with little concern for foreign feelings.
Now he had to eat diplomatic crow. He didnt like the taste, and worst yet, the members forcing him to eat it did not want to pick up the check. Why should they commit political suicide by exposing their own soldiers to Iraqi wrath, with nothing to show for it?
It now would seem that the dogs of war set lose by the Bush team and the compliant American Congress might have been left in the kennel. Attempts to threaten those criticizing the war are beginning to prove fruitless and embarrassing.
And the approval numbers seemingly have nowhere to go but lower.
The president of the United States has serious political problems. Someones got to take the fall. The war wagons are circled inside the Beltway, closing ranks and trying to avoid the public political guillotine that is sure to come. After all, Richard Nixon fired his two closest friends and advisors, Bob Haldemann and John Ehrlichmann, and threw them to the Watergate prosecutors when his presidency was threatened with a possible impeachment.
With a Democratic Party now emboldened by falling numbers and questions from the left and right, Bush must react to regain control. His primary political image as the in-charge commander-in-chief must assert itself in November 2004, which is not that far away.
And Bush isnt the only member of the administration facing political difficulties. The forming of the Iraq Stabilization Group does not bode well for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The administration still claims that the responsibility for running postwar Iraq rests with the defense department. Even so, the secretary of defense must be uneasy with the White House looking over his shoulder, calling the shots, and possibly overriding his authority. Rumsfeld has tremendous power and is a key player inside the Neocon circle who pulls the strings on the war on terror. He will not be easy to displace. But the intelligence community is putting heat on this group. Members of the intelligence community see themselves bypassed and then blamed for intelligence failures, embellishments, or just plain lies.
And the state department is no friend of the Neocons or of the Defense Department. The state department sees them as having stampeded Congress into an easy victory and now a vicious occupation at the cost of years of diplomatic working. An alliance between Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld might form against an emerging Condoleezza Rice. Colin Powell still maintains his tremendous popularity, and he may wish to remain aloof as the struggle runs its course. But the failure of the United States to muster post-war help in Iraq must be causing him problems. And some of the stench of failure in this administration must surely rub of on the secretary of state. His own political future is at stake. He is not an old man, and he still has ambitions. He may not wish to go down with a torpedoed Bush administration.
Their president must be re-elected. George Bush is the only candidate that they can package. But the political reality cannot be denied. For that to happen, someone must take the fall. The question remains, who? The story hitting the news wires on Monday morning was another political bombshell shot from inside the beltway. Reuters was confirming that President George W. Bush was reorganizing the reconstruction effort in Iraq. A central authority was needed, one to coordinate the efforts and crack the whip if need be. The reorganization effort was to be called the Iraq Stabilization Group. Heading this new agency will be none other than Dr. Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor.
This announcement came on the heels of two other controversial stories now engulfing the White House. Both of these stories broke at the same time.