NEW YORK—The president’s 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his sons to get out of Iraq or die comes against a background of dwindling U.S. support for Bush. People are tired of sitting around waiting for war, but there’s also growing rumble of discontent with the president’s other policies. More than ever the invasion of Iraq is Bush’s war. His future, and the future of the conservative movement that dominates the nation’s politics, ride on its success.
The president can’t afford to lose. Tonight Bush played directly to his conservative base: insisting that the administration’s “peaceful efforts” had failed because of the Iraqi “thugs” in power, and warning that “hundreds of thousands” of people here and around the world face imminent threat of attack by Saddam. This claim goes far beyond any
that has previously been made. People who oppose the war already have been attacked as unpatriotic. Bush tonight made clear that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will unroll a new broader dragnet against suspected terrorists, who now, under the Justice Department’s interpretations of the USA Patriot Act and other laws, can include any passenger on an airplane or anyone who contributes to a charity the
government deems to be subversive.
With oil and natural gas prices at all-time highs, the world economy faces the possibility of a worldwide economic downturn, if not depression. Germany has been battered like at no time since the 1930s. Oil-dependent Japan hangs on the brink of an economic crash that will affect all of Asia. High oil prices will also plunge developing nations into depression—all at a time when the AIDS crisis is ravaging Africa.
In the domestic economy, war means at least $20 billion a year in the “reconstruction” of Iraq, much of it going to big construction firms that helped Bush get elected, along with more giveaways to the rich backers amid rising unemployment.
Unilateralism is an abrupt change in foreign policy and conceivably leading to the breakup and demise of the UN—long a conservative goal. The Congress is dead in the water, unwilling or unable to debate, question, or investigate the causes of war or plans for the aftermath.
Every major Democratic presidential candidate is tied to Bush’s war. Whatever the outcome, these geniuses stand to lose.