Blair, Bush on shaky ground

There are growing signs that the jerry-built alliance between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush over the issue of Iraq is cracking, with more cracks to come. Blair is facing growing dissatisfaction from Labour Party members of the Parliament. A survey by The Guardian newspaper found just under a quarter of the MPs questioned want Blair to step down at once. The Guardian said a like number want a peaceful change either before or after the next election. That leaves only slightly more than a quarter of the Parliament offering unconditional support. It is expected that Gordon Brown would succeed Blair. One MP, who wished to be anonymous, declared: “The big thing about Gordon is that he’s in the Labour movement. People feel he’s rooted in that way, that Blair not only isn’t, but doesn’t want to be.” If Blair goes down, there is a strong likelihood that Bush will fall as well. Asia Times noted that the president is facing a potential “perfect storm” resulting from the constant flow of bad news from Iraq and Afghanistan and mounting domestic unrest about the war and the occupation. Writer Jim Lobe stated: “That storm is likely to gain even more force when the public has a chance to absorb this past week’s events, which mostly slid under the media radar as (hurricane) Isabel approached the capital. “Particularly striking were signs of growing disarray at the highest levels of the administration, revealed by remarks such as Bush’s assertion that there was “no evidence” linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks. “This statement directly contradicted both what Vice President Dick Cheney claimed as recently as Sept. 14 and what he and some Pentagon officials had been advocating months before the war.” There were these additional developments: the U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said the popular resistance in Iraq is broader than remnants of Saddam loyalists, Islamic radicals and terrorist infiltrators. Rolling with these facts, Bush’s popularity and approval ratings have skidded to where they were or lower than they were in the period just before the Sept. 11 attacks. Coupled with these negatives there is a rising chorus of Democratic demands for “heads to roll” at the highest levels of the administration because they believe Bush made a major mistake in invading Iraq. The crosshairs are trained on Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and Condoleezza Rice and weak intelligence analysis. John Murtha, ranking member of the appropriations defense subcommittee, is calling for resignations. “I am part of it. I admit the mistake,” Murtha said. “We cannot allow these bureaucrats to get off when these young people [in Iraq] are paying the price. Somebody’s got to be held responsible for this.” Murtha declined to name any officials publicly but privately is known to be highly critical of Cheney and Wolfowitz, partly because of their ties to Halliburton. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, commenting on the Iraq conflict, said: “If Iraq was not a sanctuary for al-Qaeda before, it certainly is now.” Add to that alarm and distress in the Congress over Bush’s demand for $87 billion to pay for rebuilding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year. Administration officials have said that won’t be enough to get the job done. Recent talks with our allies indicate the anticipated contribution of between $10 billion and $20 billion for that cause will not be forthcoming. The administration is under pressure to yield some control of political and economic aspects of the Iraq occupation to the U.N. What is making some csongressmen nervous is the fact that any shortfall on that $87 billion will have to come from the taxpayers. This at a time when the deficit is racing toward a record $500 billion and eroding voters’ confidence in the administration’s ability to manage the economy. That’s a lance pointed directly at Vice President Dick Cheney. Earlier this year Cheney personally lobbied the Republican leadership in Congress to back off on a bill that would have given such control to the State Department. Some senior Republicans are now calling for that. At the same time these issues were festering with neo-conservatives outside the administration who support Cheney, Wolfowitz and Feith, neo-cons kept up an attack on Rumsfeld for refusing to send more troops to Iraq. Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, attacked Karl Rove, Bush’s political advisor, for warning Republicans there must be no further wars for the rest of Bush’s first term. Rove is also teetering from the exposure of a CIA agent, supposedly through the White House. More next week.

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