New York (UPI) Aug 25, 2005
The big surprise I got when I arrived in the United States for the first visit in 12 months is to what degree the United States is beginning to tire of Iraq.
There is depression, confusion, some conservatives and liberals are switching positions with a few hard-line conservatives saying let us get out and some die-hard liberals saying let us send more troops.
It is all an amazing surprise to those of us living in the Gulf who have gotten used to Iraq as it is right now and kind of live with it.
The other huge surprise is how low George W. Bush's popularity is. He seems out of it, distant, his administration, which enjoys a very strong image in the Arab world, appears, over here, confused, weak and lackadaisical.
The way we see the Iraqi conflict in the Arab Gulf region is very different from the way it looks here. In the Gulf, it has become a kind of routine: American soldiers are there. Fewer of them are dying. Indeed far more Iraqis are busy killing one another instead.
The Americans in the Gulf appear firmly implanted in Kuwait and Qatar, too. Iraqi insurgents are mostly blowing up other Iraqis and their purpose is just to have chaos not to win a war because they know they cannot militarily defeat the Americans. This is the Gulf view. Over here in America, the issue is seen very differently.
An American mother whose son died in Iraq has spoiled President Bush's yearly vacation by camping outside the gates of his ranch in Crawford, Texas. She was in the news every day. Indeed an anti-war movement is building rapidly across the country. Every night for the past week I have seen nothing but full debates on all talk shows about Iraq.
Why are we still there? When are we getting out? How are we going to get out? What happens when we get out? The interesting thing is there are no answers. People blabber on, but offer no answer.
This is what I mean by America is getting tired - tired mostly of not being able to come up with a solution, an answer, and a light at the end of the tunnel.
The killing of Americans and Iraqis, which is in the news everyday, is only part of the tiring. It is read in the middle of the newscast as routine. The greater frustration to Americans is how this story will end and how it can be ended. The old arguments about how Bush was wrong to go in and that he lied about weapons of mass destruction is all over. Americans know that they have in the whole Gulf region now 160,000 soldiers and the past is the past.
The question is the future and it looks darker than black ink.
Discovering to what degree this malaise has spread into the number one conversation in the media here is a stunner. It is on every talk show on television, dinner conversation and White House speeches, every night.
The other obsession is Islamic fundamentalism and jihadi Muslims. Everyone hates them here without exception, including radical black American Muslims. Every radio show talks of Islam now and the talk is not flattering. No one says Islam is the religion of peace. Some of the stuff is actually pretty insulting.
This is something we have to thank our brave jihadis for. They have smeared a whole religion. Pat Robertson, the conservative Christian fundamentalist radical who has his own television audience of several millions, went so far the other day to call Islam a religion of terror. Then a few days ago, he actually called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez the president of Venezuela.
What was amazing is the tame reaction from the White House, the State Department and other institutions of government and the media. They called these racist, hate-mongering remarks for which anyone -- in Britain for example-- would be stripped of their citizenship and expelled "regrettable"!
What? Only regrettable, nothing more? When does it become criminal?
What is criminal then? If a Muslim preacher said let us assassinate President Bush or that Judaism is a terrorist religion, what would happen to him?
Robertson has a history of getting attention for inflammatory remarks. In May he said the threat to the United States from activist judges was "probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."
In 1998, he warned that hurricanes and other natural disasters would sweep down on Orlando, Fla., because gay men and lesbians were flocking to Disney World on special "gay days." And he has often denounced the United Nations as a first step toward a dangerous "one world government."
The other large observation about America 12 months later is how demoralized Bush and his administration seem to be. The fire in the belly seems to have gone. And the president's rating on everything from the war in Iraq to the economy is dramatically down.
So America has gone into hibernation. Let us wait for the end of summer. Maybe something will happen here such as a movement against the war. The signs are multiplying. The organization is forming. We may have it and then the question will be for Arabs: what happens if America does leave Iraq and the terrorists move in full time.
(Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent for the New York Times and energy editor of the Wall Street Journal, is managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
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Two US Infantry Battalions Ordered To Iraq: Pentagon
Washington (AFP) Aug 25, 2005
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday ordered two battalions from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division to deploy to Iraq for 120 days to beef up security for the elections, the Pentagon said.
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