Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Bush's Iraq speech last night brought two interesting talking points. Firstly, his comments on the proposed destruction of the Abu Ghraib prison as a symbolic gesture. Whilst it is clear that he was forced into this speech by recent polling data on Iraq, as well as the recent wave of scandals, most recently the Chalabi incident, it is difficult not to see Bush as a leader that is increasingly desperate in the face of weakening power. His comments on the destruction of Abu Ghraib is a transparent attempt to bring closure to the abuse scandal by making the Abu Ghraib prison an isolated area of abuse, in order to sweep any systemic abuse problems under the carpet. Bush is undoutedly desperate to get this abuse scandal behind him, and insofar as the fact that this speech was largely an election speech rather than a policy speech, it is debatable whether the American public will be misled by this red herring.

Secondly, he also stated in the speech, "Iraqis will write their own history, and find their own way." My question is this: What would happen if, in the democratic elections in January, the Iraqi people chose to bring to power a party that endorsed a theological Islamic government as opposed to a multi-party democracy? Would the US stand for this? Would all that work, and all those 'coalition' deaths, be in vain? What scares me is how much Bush is relying on the creation of this democratic state, and how far he will be willing to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign country in order to make good on his 2004 election promises.

Kerry's response will be interesting, as for all his road work, he really hasn't seemed to make much connection with the US public on key election issues such as Iraq. The question six months away from the election is, whilst this election is largely going to be a referendum on bush, can he bring out enough of his political personality and policy positions to catch enough of the swing vote to propel him into the Oval Office?