11 June 2004

George Bush and the abuse of power

However desirable Saddam Hussein's overthrow might have been, the war in Iraq was not principally for that purpose, it was to find non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

To this point, instead of advancing the cause of liberty, that war has strengthened the terrorist threat and greatly increased the numbers killed.

There is still a large grey area between the authority of the new Iraq government and the American military stationed in Iraq.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has tried to say that the new government will be truly sovereign, but the US has made it plain that American troops will control their own destinies. How sovereign can a government be if there is a large occupying army within its borders?

Even today, if President Bush were prepared to hand the entire political operation to the UN and the Security Council, the chances of some good emerging from his ill-fated unilateralism would be greatly strengthened.

The joint military-civil operation in Cambodia demonstrated that, when the UN is given the resources and when governments have the will, a great deal can be achieved. Cambodia is a precedent worth remembering.

But whatever happens over the next six months, President Bush will not find his cause advanced by intervening in Australian politics and by supporting one side or the other.

What he has done is an abuse of power.

Malcolm Fraser was prime minister from 1975 to 1983.

George Bush did not have a sudden rush of blood to the head and endorse a vote for the Howard government at the next federal election. Press conferences at that level are scripted, at least to some extent. Bush has given Howard his endorsement before, most famously in his address to the Australian parliament where he assured a breathless Australia that 'Man of Steel' is Texan for 'fair dinkum'.

The Man of Steel is, I suspect, deeply out of touch if he thinks this presidential endorsement is going to play all that well in the Australian electorate. Foreign policy is about national interests. Ours converge with US interests in most cases. That, not the personal relationship between the Man of Steel and the Great Dubya, is what drives the alliance.

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