International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

May 27, 2004

May 27, 2004





**  President Bush's "surprisingly rosy" speech "left many questions unanswered."

**  Dailies say "a little more humility" would help alleviate the world's "deep mistrust."

**  Critics term the speech and UN resolution "camouflage to perpetuate" the occupation.

**  Outlets dismiss the plan to raze Abu Ghraib as "empty symbolism."




'Rhetoric without concrete proposals'--  Dailies said Bush's "vague" speech lacked "vital details needed to inject some much-needed realism" into his Iraq vision.  Official China Daily termed it full of "old rhetoric but few specifics" and Slovakia's financial Hospodarske Noviny heard "nice flowery phrases about majestic ideals, but that was all."  Japan's liberal Asahi was "deeply disappointed" that there was "no new course of action."  Muslim writers concluded the speech "failed abysmally on all counts" and contained no "viable coherent strategy."  Numerous papers linked the speech to the presidential election, labeling it a "showpiece to serve Bush's re-election campaign" and "arrest the erosion of his popularity."   


Bush 'should have acknowledged' that 'mistakes were made' in Iraq--  Bush did not "show any humility" or offer "even a trace of self-criticism," carped papers such as Canada's leading Globe and Mail, which said Bush "would have been more credible if he had been frank" about Washington's "mistakes."  Britain's independent Financial Times urged Bush to make a "clean public break with his disastrous mishandling of Iraq."  Other papers called the speech a "statement of desirable goals" that, said India's centrist Tarun Bharat, would have been "welcome had they been executed around 14 months ago."  But some editorialists praised the speech as a "good beginning"; Singapore's pro-government Straits Times judged Bush "correct not to give any sign that he is less than resolute." 


'America should not attempt to maintain control behind the scenes'--  Arab papers demanded the U.S. "restore full sovereignty to the Iraqi people and end the current occupation."  The pro-government Saudi Gazette held that "a transfer of sovereignty in which actual control...remains in someone else's hands is not much of a transfer."  Canadian and Chinese dailies agreed that the new UN resolution "should not legitimize occupation under another name."  Some writers alleged the U.S. "wants to keep Iraq on a leash" even after June 30; Germany's centrist Stuttgarter Zeitung concluded "talk about the transfer of sovereignty is a lie."


Destroying Abu Ghraib is 'too little, much too late'--  Many dailies downplayed Bush's promise to demolish Abu Ghraib as a mere "propaganda gesture" that was his speech's "only new element."  Spain's centrist La Vanguardia alleged the proposal came about only because Bush "urgently needs to erase the most despicable episodes of the occupation."  Arab observers opposed the idea; Tunisia's independent Ash-Shourouq said destroying Abu Ghraib "means obliterating the traces of the huge crime committed by the U.S."  But Indian, Canadian and Russian dailies termed the idea a "clever move" that has "symbolic value." 


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 76 reports from 38 countries over  25 - 27 May 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "How Bush Path To Iraqi Democracy Will Also Liberate U.S. Forces"


Foreign editor Bronwen Maddox commented in the conservative Times (5/26):  "It was a mistake for President Bush to force his landmark speech on Iraq into the mould of 'five democracy and freedom'.  He made it sound like a program for treating addiction, and one that was too brisk to expect much success.  He claimed to be laying out the path to Iraq's 'empowerment' and democratic health, but was clearly instead laying out five steps to the liberation of 100,000 U.S. troops.  The spurious structure of the five-point scheme only emphasized the lack of practical details.  Delivered a year earlier, it would have been an acceptable, workmanlike account of the huge amount of work that still needed to be done.  But with five weeks left before the handover of sovereignty to a new, handpicked Iraqi government, it restated existing working notes, while doing nothing to fill in the practical gaps....  The neatness of the scheme is at odds with the violence on the ground.  After June 30, the U.S. loses much of its control over whether events unfurl according to this plan."


"A Framework For Iraq At Last "


The independent Financial Times editorialized (5/26):  "Does the content of the proposed UN resolution and of Mr. Bush's speech now provide the minimum conditions for a viable handover?  It would have done six months or a year back, when the Financial Times was arguing for rapid and maximum involvement of the UN in Iraq.  But the situation is now far worse owing to the steady degradation of security in Iraq and the damage done to America's reputation from its mistreatment of prisoners.  At least we can be grateful that the sticking to the June 30 deadline....  The transfer of power's security provisions are murky, however....  Mr. Bush's unwillingness to make a clean public break with his disastrous mishandling of Iraq is part of the problem.  He has shifted position, particularly towards the UN, on which he is relying to broker the composition of the interim government.  But he does not say so publicly in a way that could change the overall climate.  The impression is that he is pushed into every concession, especially by his plummeting poll ratings.  In the wake of the U.S. torture scandal he offers to demolish the Abu Ghraib prison.  But such symbolism is likely to be offset by the outsize U.S. embassy under construction in Baghdad.  It is unthinkable that the U.S. should cut and run from Iraq, leaving it a failed state.  But to prevent that, Mr. Bush will have to go further to put meaning into his pledge to build a 'free and self-governing Iraq.'"


"Bush's Latest Plan Is Constructed On The Flimsiest Of Foundations"


The center-left Independent editorialized (5/26):  "President Bush's speech on Monday evening setting out his Iraq policy was addressed to several different audiences.  It was designed to still the audible murmurings of disquiet among the Republican faithful in Congress, to convince sceptical Iraqis that the U.S. is sincere in its determination to hand over control of their country, and to persuade the anxious international community that America was, at last, taking account of the opinion of others.  His most important audience, however, was the wider American public, which will pass its own judgement upon Mr. Bush in November, and is increasingly fearful that the Iraq mission is becoming a disaster....  Peer a little closer, however, and the 'plan' proves to be an edifice constructed on the most fragile foundations....  There will be five more 'major' presidential addresses on Iraq before the 30 June hand-over.  But if there are many more suicide bombings, urban insurgencies and U.S. casualties, even far finer words than those Mr. Bush uttered on Monday evening will not matter a whit, and he will end up a one-term president like his father."


FRANCE:  "Bush Explains But Is Not Convincing"


Jean-Louis Turlin held in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/26):  “George W. Bush wanted to give new coherence to his Iraqi policy.  But he failed to be convincing....  Many questions remain unanswered....  In his speech President Bush did not announce a new strategy for Iraq....  His main objective was to be reassuring....  The president’s performance showed a more humble Bush, although still determined to achieve his mission in Iraq, ‘where the U.S. is confronted by changing war conditions.’  Obviously conditions the Bush administration was not prepared for.”


“Bush Calling The Allies To Arms For The Sake Of Iraq”


Pascal Riche wrote in left-of-center Liberation (5/25):  “President Bush, whose face and Iraq strategy have both suffered some damage, was to speak to the American people last night....  His speech was meant to signal he is back in charge, as a response to the media which has become more and more critical....  The aim is to step away from the ‘past’ and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse incidents and move towards the future....  President Bush, who will give five other speeches on the future of Iraq wants to prove that he has a plan to resolve the crisis, in association with the UN, and that he is not groping in the dark....  But opposition to his plan will be strong, beginning with France and Germany....  while at home television networks did not plan to carry his speech."


GERMANY:  "A Superpower's Call For Help"


Matthias Nass judged in center-left weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (5/27):  "In Iraq, George W. Bush is trying to save what can be saved. And this is not much.  The bankruptcy of his strategy is complete: politically, morally, and militarily.  Never since Vietnam has America got to such a degree on the wrong track; never before since then have we seen the U.S. superpower's policy not knowing in which direction to go and so frightened at the consequences of its own activities.  The government in Washington is now also disintegrating into warring factions.  The Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA are feuding with each other in a reckless and intriguing way....  In a speech at the War College, President Bush has now, hidden behind rhetorical bombast, asked for assistance....  But those are wrong who hope that the superpower is now willing to pursue a multilateralist policy.  Nevertheless, it is important to help America at a time when it asks for assistance.  On the one hand, because George W. Bush and his war cabinet are unable to find a way out of the Iraqi horror...and, on the other hand, because the deep rift between Americans and Europeans could be healed through a joint reconstruction effort.  This could begin on July 30....  Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac cannot have an interest in a humiliated superpower.  Of what use will it be to accuse the superpower of having begun the war on unfounded reasons, of having driven the Iraqis to the verge of a revolt with their dilettantish occupation policy.  They all know this.  It would worsen the situation in Iraq even more if the United States withdrew in panic.  At the end of 2005, after elections, the constitutional referendum, and the formation of a really sovereign government--a withdrawal will hopefully be possible.  The opponents of the war are also responsible for Iraq having enough time for its reconstruction by then."


"How Do I Tell It To the Voters"


Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg opined (5/26):  "The beginning of a series of TV addresses with which George W. Bush wants to regain the voters' support failed miserably.  Instead of explaining his strategy for Iraq's future, Bush offered a policy of symbols....  But the president's failed appearance hides that Iraq is really faced with change.  Almost simultaneously with Bush's speech, the United States and Britain submitted a UN resolution that will suspend the occupation and returns full sovereignty to Iraq on June 30....  It will now be crucial to see how the course is set and how great will be the say of the Americans in Iraq....  Only if there are chances to integrate all--the war coalition, the Iraqis, and the international community--will there be a real chance for a stable Iraq.  The UN resolution offers a basis for this....  The U.S. government has understood that it will be doomed to failure in Iraq if it wants to do everything on its own.  Maybe the president should tell this to his voters in his next address, too."




Dietmar Ostermann opined in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (5/26):              "In order to break up political and psychological barriers not only in New York, a clear signal of the president that Washington is really willing to make a new beginning would have been useful.  It is more than questionable whether lost Iraqi confidence can be regained by simply razing the Abu Ghraib prison or by quietly replacing the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez, as a likely pawn in the politically still unresolved torture scandal.  But Bush, whose election campaign is built on his role as supreme commander, was unwilling and unable to exercise any self-criticism."


"Bush, The Wrapping Artist"


Washington correspondent Wolfgang Koydl filed the following editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/26):  "Apart from the proposal to raze the Abu Ghraib prison...George W. Bush's address contained the same slow-moving articles....  But Bush was unable to set a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq...because he does not it know it either, and because he does not want to please the insurgents and terrorists between Fallujah and Karbala with precise data on a day when they can do whatever they want."


"The U.S. Mock Giant"


Hans Monath judged in an editorial in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (5/26):  "Bush again did not mention a timetable for a definite end of the military occupation.  But only with such a timetable the Americans could show the Iraqis that they are serious about [Iraq's] independence.  To the world, the U.S. government could also demonstrate that it continues to control events.  This would also prevent a looming mystification of terrorists as heroes who would recommend the withdrawal as a victory of car bombs over a superpower and thus a global model.  In order to seriously discuss such a strategy, official Washington should admit that the cases of torture are not minor dirty marks on a perfect success story but the obvious evidence of the failure of an arrogant policy.  But Bush will not do this shortly before the elections.  Neither would John Kerry.  This is why little speaks for Washington taking advantage of its last options for action in Iraq.  This is fatal, for neither Americans nor Iraqis can be impressed with appeals to hold out."


"Bush Does Not Know What To Do"


Olivia Schoeller noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (5/26):  "George W. Bush's rhetoric on the Arab world has clearly changed since the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.  It was remarkable that he mentioned the Islamic culture respectfully and praised the achievements of the Arab world.  It also came as a surprise that he admitted that not everything is going well in Iraq.  But apart from that he said nothing new:  the enemy is evil, Iraq is the last frontier, democracy is good and also possible in the Arab world.  No one doubts that."


"No Answers"


Centrist Stuttgarter Zeitung held (5/26):  "In his announcement George W. Bush still did not give an answer to the most urgent questions.  Neither was he able to explain to the Americans when the U.S. forces will return home and how many more people will be killed in Iraq, nor did he explain to the Iraqis how he wants to bring together Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis in an alleged sovereign transition government.  And he did not answer the question how an Iraqi government can be sovereign if international forces in Iraq can do whatever they want.  How serious should the Iraqis take such a transition government that has no influence on U.S. forces?  The talk about the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq is a lie, one more lie in a series of lies."




Center-right Maerkische Oderzeitung of Frankfurt on the Oder contended (5/26):  "No, Bush will be unable to correct the consequences of his misguided post-war policy. Symbolic decisions like the dismissal of General Sanchez or the razing of the Abu Ghraib prison will not help.  His speech was everything else but a blow of liberation--he rather admitted his helplessness."


ITALY:  "Bush Disappoints America And The World"


Bruno Marolo commented in pro-democratic left party (DS) daily L’Unità (5/26):  “On Monday night George Bush addressed a nation that is concerned about the war in Iraq and in 33 minutes he described a situation that has no way out.  He did not indicate the conditions for a withdrawal of troops and he said he would deploy more if needed....  He had promised to announce ‘solid measures,’ but instead he...listed the objectives that he has not yet been able to achieve, without explaining why things should go better in the future.  He took on only one commitment:  he will build a new top security prison in Baghdad....  Perhaps he’s fooling himself that in this way he will erase from the Iraqis’ minds a shameful chapter of the occupation....  Bush is in trouble....  Those who were expecting a change in course were disappointed.  When the scandal erupted Bush apologized to the Iraqis for the torture, but he’s not willing to apologize for having allowed their country to turn into a bloody madhouse.”


"The White House Disappoints U.S."


Vittorio Zucconi noted in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (5/26):  “There were no novelties, no new road map....  In the next five weeks, the strategy of the speeches leading up to Iraqi sovereignty with a U.S. leash, traditionally increase a president’s popularity and polls are likely to improve.  But if he continues to propose the same worn-out rhetoric we heard on Monday evening, the positive effects will be short-lived.”


RUSSIA:  "Bush's Five Steps"


Sergey Chirkin wrote from New York in official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (5/26):  "U.S. President George Bush has set forth his vision of Iraq's future.  It is the first of a series of speeches he is going to make as he is seeking re-election.  The idea is to turn away public opinion from the U.S. troops' latest setbacks in Iraq and to post-occupation prospects for that country, and to repair the president's tottering image.  Bush was speaking at a military college in Pennsylvania.  The choice of venue was hardly fortuitous.  To make a good start, the Administration thought it important to find a responsive audience.  The cadets [sic] and their instructors fit that role perfectly."


"Bush Promises To Destroy Abu Ghraib"


Yevgeniy Bai filed from Washington for reformist Izvestiya (5/26):  "The president tried to dispel the Americans' growing doubts about his Iraq policy.  The political situation in America, as well as in Iraq, is about to reach the boiling point.  A mere five weeks before sovereignty transfer in Iraq and slightly over five months before the presidential elections in the United States, most Americans are quite unclear about what is going to happen in the U.S.-occupied country after the magic date of June 30.  They wonder if the president has any plan at all for Iraq and its political future....  Nobody expected the president to set a date for troop withdrawal.  Under the circumstances, it is simply unthinkable.  The only sensation caused by the president's speech is that he has decided to raze the notorious Abu Ghraib prison to the ground.  That is a clever move.  Bush did not apologize for the methods the U.S. military used in Abu Ghraib.  Instead, he said that the old prison, a symbol of death and torture, will be destroyed to make way for a new, super-modern, high-security one."


"Nothing New"


Leonid Gankin commented in business-oriented Kommersant (5/26):  "It does not take much to see that things are going from bad to worse for the occupation forces....  It is naïve to think that a formal transfer of power will change the situation.  The provisional government will be seen as collaborationist.  Formed by the Americans, it will operate under U.S. control, with the U.S. military maintaining its presence in the country.  This means that George Bush, his popularity ratings plummeting disastrously, is heading straight for defeat in November.  To win the elections, he needs somehow to stabilize the situation in Iraq.  He can only do so by sharing authority with the UN and bringing in an international peacekeeping force.  The GIs should stay in the barracks, out of the angry public's eyes....  By deciding to change nothing, President Bush is putting national interests ahead of his own....  Is it selflessness or thoughtlessness?"


AUSTRIA:  "Bush’s Presidency Will Be Decided In Baghdad"


Senior foreign editor Anneliese Rohrer commented in centrist daily Die Presse (5/26):  "With his speech on Iraq, George W. Bush could not win back trust, nor credibility....  The launch of his offensive aimed at explaining the point and purpose of the Iraq war to U.S. voters has failed miserably.  Whether five additional speeches will save the situation remains to be seen....  In truth...the White House has long since lost control of the political processes in Iraq....  The most striking aspect of his speech, however, was Bush’s incessant invocation of the wishes and aspirations of the Iraqi people.  Whoever followed the speech, could not help but feel that he was clearly trying to dictate what the Iraqi people’s interests are supposed to be....  All those who--given the post-war chaos in Iraq--were hoping for a change in the U.S.’ political course, or even a trace of self-criticism, should remember that the speech was aimed at domestic, not at international approval."


BELGIUM:  "New Wine In An Old Bottle"


U.S. affairs writer Lieve Dierckx remarked in independent financial daily De Tijd (5/26):  "With his speech Bush not only wanted to regain the support of the American people for his Iraq policy, but also hoped to appease the skeptics in the UNSC--France, Germany, Russia and China.  Bush not only wants their support for the draft resolution that the Americans and British introduced on Monday, but he also wants to persuade them to send troops to Iraq.  It is very doubtful that Bush will be successful.  Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Beijing said yesterday that the U.S.-British draft document is a good basis for debate, but that the document needs much improvement.  Those four countries do not even contemplate sending troops to Iraq....  The president...will henceforth speak about his Iraq policy every week until the transfer of power takes place.  That means that he has five weeks to stem the tide.  To be successful, he will have to sing another tune.  New wine in old bottles won't help him."


"A Lack Of Vision For Iraq"


Foreign editor Gerald Papy wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (5/26):  "Which project did George W. Bush defend on Monday night? Nothing more than what was already written in the timetable of the transfer of power....  If there is more or less an agreement on the broad lines of the program, the international community remains divided about its implementation details. Yet, the U.S. President remained desperately silent or vague, whereas one expected him to develop a 'clear strategy.'  What will be remembered of George W. Bush's address?  The announcement that the Abu Ghraib prison....  It is not with these tricks that Iraqis will regain some confidence in the U.S. Army and administration.  George W. Bush's luck today is that all big countries want to avoid repeating the major confrontation that took place before the war. But, fundamentally, one is entitled to share former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's doubts whether 'the current President enjoys the credibility to gather the kind of international cooperation that he is calling for.'"


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "With One Year Delay"


Frantisek Sulc opined in center-right Lidove Noviny (5/26):  "President George W. Bush is trying to convince the Americans that he knows what he is doing in Iraq, and that everything will work out just fine.  His speech yesterday...was not bad, but it was delivered one year too late....  The president has outlined five points that should help to improve the situation there.  However, they will work only if the Iraqis accept them.  They would have worked if presented last year, and they only might perhaps work this year."


GREECE:  "Tougher Days In Iraq;  George Bush And His Close Aides’ Future"


Senior editor Stathis Efstathiadis argued in elite, staunchly pro-opposition To Vima (5/26):  "Only the fact that President Bush was forced to admit last week that ‘much tougher days may lie ahead of us,’ indicates the extent of the failure of U.S. policy and the impasse of the White House in view of November’s elections.  With falling ratings...the chances of his re-election are dropping to the point that political analysts predict that it will only depend on John Kerry’s lack of charisma.”


"President Bush’s Tongue And The Sincerity of Intentions"


Elite, staunchly pro-opposition To Vima editorialized (5/26):  "When you seek such symbolism [as demolishing the Abu Ghraib prison], you should ensure that you learn how to pronounce the symbol of the problem that you created for yourself, your policy, your country, your allies....  The mentality of looking down on things, as shown by one’s inability to learn to pronounce one name, painfully contradicts one’s sincerity of intentions.  In this manner, only impasse gains.”


HUNGARY:  "Building On Ruins"


Gabor Horvath, Washington correspondent for top-circulation, left-of-center Nepszabadsag, editorialized (5/26):  “Abu Ghraib will be demolished.  This was the only new element in George W. Bush’s speech....  The speech did not include a couple of important elements, which could have helped the ordinary American and Iraqi citizens have a better idea of what to expect from Bush.  The president did not give an exact deadline for the withdrawal of troops.  Neither did he outline the conditions under which, if set, the United States would leave Iraq [to cope] on its own.  He instead made a dim promise that Iraq would, ultimately, have a chance to write its own history and that nobody would want to make an American out of the Iraqi people.  Another important element that was missing from the speech, namely how Bush thinks to win over both the Iraqi and the international public to support his plan."


"Dim and Risky Future"


Liberal Magyar Hirlap opined (5/26):  “They only have an idea.  This much can be concluded from the president’s televised speech, in which he was meant to outline Iraq’s future to the world.  How the presidential plans will be translated into action, is another issue.”


NETHERLANDS:  "Lack Of Humility"


Left-of-center Trouw noted (5/26):  "George Bush does not show any humility at all....  Bush cited some coalition success stories:  2,200 new schools, 240 hospitals, 1,200 clinics, and a production of 2 million barrels of oil a day....  But he did not offer apologies for the abuse of prisoners...[or] even acknowledge that excessive actions in military operations caused harm, for example in Falujah.  And he continues to place Iraqi resistance in the same category as international terrorism....  We must admit that there is no simple solution in Iraq, certainly not concerning security...and we must admit that the British and Americans are making an effort to meet the wishes of critics in and outside of Iraq.  However, the deep mistrust would probably be more easily removed if Bush would demonstrate a little more humility and acknowledge mistakes.  Unfortunately we don't see this at all."


"Too Little And Too Late"


Influential independent NRC Handelsblad editorialized (5/25):  "Bush's five-step plan does not contain anything new and is simply too little, too late....  Iraq needs an internationalization that goes much further than Bush has proposed and so the new [draft UNSC] resolution still has room for improvement....  It would have looked good for Bush if he had acknowledged that after the triumph in Iraq mistakes were made....  For the Netherlands, soon to decide whether or not to extend the Dutch mission in Iraq, Bush's words are an invitation for negotiations and setting conditions.  Yesterday we learned that the Abu Ghraib prison would be taken down.  But in Washington no one has paid a political price for the misdeeds.  A resignation of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would be more than just symbolism.  It would mean taking political responsibility and show that the U.S. is aware of the depth of the crisis.  The Netherlands should raise this issue behind the scenes.  The draft resolution cannot be blindly accepted simply because it mentions the word 'multinational' a few times.  Same advice here:  try to influence.  Military presence in Iraq is an important societal responsibility.  But Dutch presence is not something taken for granted.  There must be much more in return than is currently the case."


NORWAY:  "Iraqi Quagmire"


Independent VG commented (5/27):  "The comparison is unpleasant, but the entire Iraq-affair more and more resembles the military and political quagmire Vietnam turned into 30 years ago....  President George W. Bush tries to solve this.  In the period leading up to the Iraqi handover, he is heading a well-coordinated PR campaign.  The purpose is chiefly to make American voters look ahead, and try to convince them...  The President's speech and five-step plan for Iraq...raises more questions than it gives answers.  In reality, the most concrete proposal was to demolish the ill famed Abu Ghraib prison, where U.S. soldiers filmed their own grotesque abuses of Iraqi prisoners.  These disgusting pictures...have hardly increased the appetite for a more active participation in Iraq in strong anti-war countries like France and Germany.  Neither in Paris nor in Berlin are there many objections to leave President Bush to sweat it out [in Iraq].  In both places it is well known that Iraq may be the final nail in the President's political coffin in the election."


"Pathetic Speech From A President Under Pressure"


Centrist Nationen observed (5/26):  "President Bush spoke a lot about what he would like to achieve in Iraq, but little on how he will bring it about....  We would like to be able to believe in his plans.  But so far the problems in occupied Iraq have been too many, and the positive solutions too few, to make his speech reassuring.  The problems in Iraq are far greater than Bush will admit."


ROMANIA:  "Counteroffensive"


Foreign policy analyst Ana Maria Nitoi opined in the independent Gardianul (5/26):  “George W. Bush tried on Monday evening to assure the entire international community of the White House’s good intentions, presenting the so-called political calendar of Iraq after June 30, when the transfer of sovereignty will take place.  George W. Bush’s speech at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania represents the first step in a counteroffensive meant to improve the image of the United States, seriously damaged by the semi-failure in Iraq up to now, and at the same time, Americans’ perception towards their leader in the White House, with only six moths to go before the presidential elections.”


SLOVAKIA:  "Bush’s (Non) Strategy For Iraq"


Columnist Brano Ondrasik commented in his column in the financial Hospodarske Noviny (5/26):  “The U.S. State Department promised that President George W. Bush would present his vision for Iraq in his highly anticipated speech.  The whole world watched to see what the Washington strategy will be for controlling the chaos, democratization, and setting a time limit for the foreign troops’ presence.  The world never got the answer to most of the key questions.  Instead of solving them, Bush just changed the policy to a new non-specific five-item plan.  We could hear again nice flowery phrases about majestic ideals, but that was all.… The June 30 date will be the last chance to put the train called Iraq back on track....  Rhetoric without concrete proposals is not what the public wants to hear, and moreover it does not consider the needs of the Iraq people.”


SPAIN:  "Late Steps By Bush"


Left-of-center El País commented (5/26):  "Bush has a strategy to try to recover his popularity ahead of the elections in November, but not to solve the situation in Iraq, for which he has no new ideas....  For the Anglo-American promoters of the new [UN] resolution there is little doubt that the new provisional government will request the troops to stay, thus turning them from occupiers into invited guests....  The president's speech does not provide any novel proposal, except for the demolition of the prison of Abu Graib...the only concession to his critics....  As for the 'five-step' plan, it is a mere statement of desirable goals...that may have made sense one year ago, but now arrives too late.  Bush is not proposing that the UN have control over the military as Zapatero asked, which confirmed one of his predictions....  The [term] for the presence of foreign troops should be none other than when full elections are held in Iraq and what the new government decides.  Anything else means deepening the mistakes that have already been made to date."


"Bush's Touch-Ups"


Centrist La Vanguardia argued (5/26):  "George W. Bush has touched up again U.S. strategy in Iraq with a speech that combined the president's wish to rid himself of the problems of that country with the need to continue justifying the presence of troops....  Announcing the demolition of the sinister prison of Abu only a propaganda gesture by a Bush who urgently needs to erase the most despicable episodes of the occupation of Iraq.  In fact, the main part of the strategy that is being developed by the White House depends on its proposed resolution to the UN Security Council.  Washington and London hope to get international blessing to allow their troops to stay in that country, blessed by the UN, but without losing military control or the ability to set the calendar for a definitive withdrawal....  Bush also needs to clean up his image for the future voters in the presidential elections....  Involving the UN in Iraq, smoothing things over with countries such as France, Germany and China, and turning the occupying troops into a multinational force is now an urgent need for a president who wants reelection."


TURKEY:  "Bush’s Remarks Are Still Threatening"


Fuat Bol wrote in conservative Turkiye (5/27):  “President Bush made his eagerly awaited speech, yet he continues to mix threatening remarks with the facts.  The president underlined that the fight against terrorism is not a war of choice for the U.S., but one that was foisted upon the U.S.  He reiterated that it is time to take action, not to talk....  The purpose of his remarks were to convince the international public about the need for the ongoing war on terrorism and to call on friends and allies to side with the U.S.  However, the truth is that every backward or cruel regime in the Middle East, including the Taliban and Saddam, used to enjoy U.S. support.  Their tyranny was made possible by military and political support from Washington....  The current situation does not give us hope for a better future.  After the U.S. occupation, Iraq is living in pain and agony.  Moreover, the misguided U.S. policies in Iraq have helped to fuel more hatred and vengeance that will increase threats to the future of Iraq and the wider region.  None of this is going to bring peace and democracy to the region.”




SAUDI ARABIA:  "Iraq Threatens Bush Reelection"


The English-language pro-government Saudi Gazette held (5/27):  "President Bush's recent impassioned speech to the nation promising five specific steps towards achieving American goals in Iraq was impassioned for a very good reason.  Events in Iraq are beginning to make it look like Bush, in the same way as his father before him, may very well become a one-term president....  The simple fact is that opinion polls show public support for President Bush ebbing away and Iraq is the primary reason....  What started out as part of the war against terror against a state that was supposedly producing WMD, a state categorized as a supporter of al-Qaida, has become a quagmire in which most of the moral and political certainties advanced for the original invasion have vanished.  Bush's dilemma is how to provide a fresh vision of the future while glossing over the mistakes that have already been made.  His rhetoric was a reminder of how he remains trapped by the past.  In a speech delivered at an army college in Pennsylvania, he said Iraq was now the central front in the war on terror.  The five specific points he referred to included the handing over of authority to a sovereign Iraqi government and the establishment of the stability and security in Iraq that democracy requires.  He promised the U.S. would continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure; encourage more international support; and move toward free, national elections that would bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.  The problem is that to carry out this list requires a continuing U.S. military presence because Washington's vision of democracy (liberal, capitalist, and secular) doesn't tie in with local versions.  To admit this is to admit the scale of the problem that still lies ahead.  The one new concession to reality was Bush's attempts to get the UN on board for any future plans for Iraq.  That may prove difficult because the UN is not going to want to be restrained by controls imposed by Washington while Washington will not want to lose control of its military in Iraq.  In the absence of a local alternative security matters automatically default to U.S. troops.  A transfer of sovereignty in which actual control of a country remains in someone else's hands is not much of a transfer.  The Bush administration has yet to show itself capable of squaring that circle."


"Face-Saving Escape"


The pro-government English-language Arab News held (5/26):  "Some words stick in the throat. 'Abu Ghraib' stuck in the throat of President George W. Bush when he spoke to a US Army college of his vision for the future of Iraq. As well it might. The president twice fumbled the name of the notorious prison when he promised that if the Iraqi government which takes over on June 30 wished it, America would tear it down and build a modern, maximum security facility in its place.  What he failed to realize is that Abu Ghraib is not a symbol of the brutal depravity of Saddam’s dictatorship--there are plenty of other reminders of those horrors. It is rather the place where America betrayed its own ostensible aims in Iraq and destroyed the last vestiges of hope that ordinary Iraqis had in the coalition.  Now we are coming to the endgame of all Washington’s blunders.....  As Bush made clear in his speech, the Coalition Provisional Authority is to be dismantled totally. Still, coalition forces would remain in Iraq in support of the Iraqi authorities for at least a year, after which the situation would be reviewed.  The degree to which the Iraqi administration will be able to control the operations of these forces and also the issue of immunity for coalition forces from prosecution in local courts are yet to be settled....  For all his brave words about 'seeing the task through,' Bush has run out of ideas. His major concern now is saving his administration from electoral defeat in November, and for that he needs a face-saving escape from Iraq.  The greatest sleight of hand in his speech came when he protested that he had always sought to involve the UN.  It suits him now to forget the contempt with which he treated the UN in the run-up to the invasion. He needs someone now to whom he can hand over the problem of Iraq."


JORDAN:  "Speech, Resolution Not Enough"


The independent, elite English-language Jordan Times declared (5/26):  "If there was any hope that US President George Bush's speech on Monday at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, would show a clear intention to end the US occupation of Iraq posthaste, that hope was swiftly dashed....  His statements that US forces would remain and their number will be increased "if they need more troops" leaves little doubt that Washington's future course on Iraq will be more of the same.  Meanwhile, too, the US-British draft resolution on Iraq that was submitted for consideration to the UNSC appears to confirm the suspicion that the U.S. is not about to let go of Iraq....  Instead, the proposed resolution is seeking new camouflage to perpetuate the current occupation.  The draft aims first and foremost to 'legitimise' the so-called multinational force in Iraq beyond June 30, ostensibly with the 'consent' and cooperation of the projected caretaker government that has yet to be formed....  The UN resolution could offer the US an honourable exit strategy if its goal were really to restore full sovereignty to the Iraqi people and end the current occupation of their country. The best hope for Iraq is to hold free and fair national elections as soon as possible.  With the US presidential elections nearing and Bush's approval rates slipping, the resolution of the Iraqi conflict assumes an added sense of urgency. Besieged by a chain of failures that have erased any positive effects of the continued US presence in Iraq (if there were some at all), Bush cannot count on his nationally broadcast speech in Carlisle, nor on the resolution presented to the UNSC, to change his image or that of his government's handling of Iraq. More crucially, he cannot change the realities on Iraqi soil."


LEBANON:  "Another Potential Turning Point In Iraq, And The Stakes Are High"


The moderate, English-language Daily Star remarked (5/26):  "Two new developments on the Iraq diplomatic front suggest to the global community that there is another potential turning point in the current, sad chapter in Iraqi and, indeed, U.S. history. These are the speech delivered Monday by President George W. Bush, and the US-British draft UN resolution on Iraq. Both are resplendent in their use of words and projection of visions for a free, democratic Iraq, beginning with an Iraqi interim government assuming office on June 30....  While sounding promising, there is still a sense of deja vu about such assurances....  The U.S. must live up to its latest promise and ensure that an absolute transfer of authority--political, military and economic--does go ahead. America should not attempt to maintain control behind the scenes....  Now is also the time for the world community to get involved. Those who have hesitated because of the U.S. role in Iraq should put aside reservations in favor of getting Iraq back on its feet. And, finally but not least, the Iraqi people themselves need to step forward decisively and seize the small window of opportunity that will exist after June 30 to make full use of international support to turn their country around and demonstrate they have what it takes to set an example of regeneration and transformation in the region.  The stakes are high. Chaos and violence will reign for a great many years if this vitally important venture fails."


MOROCCO:  "Bush's Address On Iraq: Neither Honest Nor Convincing"


French-language, pro-opposition Al Bayane maintained (5/26):  "The America media was very critical Tuesday morning after Bush’s address on prospects for Iraq, highlighting the fact that he did not admit his errors and refrained from presenting a convincing strategy on the future of Iraq."


"While American President is ‘Reassuring,’ The IISS Is ‘Concerned;’ Al Qaeda Galvanized By Iraq War" 


Amina Talhimet remarked in French-language, leftist Liberation (5/26):  "The occupation will end and the Iraqis will take care of their own affairs, declared the American president, George Bush.  Nothing new, besides the razing of a prison and the Saddam-era torture having a plague-like effect on the army of the greatest democracy on the planet.  The day after Mr. Bush’s speech, the International Institute for Strategic Studies published a report demonstrating that Washington and London’s ‘preventive’ war has galvanized international terrorism."


SYRIA:  "A Show Piece By Distinction"


Eyad Mahfoud commented in government-owned Al-Ba'th (5/26):  "In his speech, President Bush did not admit to the huge failures his country has faced on many issues, especially with regard to the war on Iraq. In the first place the speech was a showpiece to serve his re-election campaign and stop the deterioration of his popularity as reflected in recent opinion polls....  Bush did not hide his concern about continuing military and political difficulties in Iraq nor that the coming days will be tough ones. However, his claimed strategy of establishing a democracy in Iraq was faced with skepticism because it was vague and incapable of putting an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people over the past 14 years....  The speech was meant for media consumption to divert attention from Bush's political and military failures, especially his claims about Iraq's WMD."


"Demolishing Walls"


An unsigned op-ed in the government-owned Syria Times read (5/26):  "President Bush presented glad tidings and brought the good news that the U.S. would tear down the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but only after getting Iraqi approval to build a modern, maximum security prison....  Good, Mr. Bush. That will create more jobs and work for US companies. It will also mean more well-equipped cells for more and more prisoners, where no videos or cameras can be sneaked to.  Any abuse will not be recorded or filmed. US soldiers can do whatever they want. Mr. Bush, demolishing the walls of Abu Ghraib does not mean ending the scandal or abolishing the abuse. The walls that should be demolished are those in the minds of the abusers those who look at themselves as superiors."


TUNISIA:  "Abu Ghraib's Assassination"


Co-editor-in-chief Jameleddine Karmawi stated in independent Arabic-language Ash-Shourouq (5/26):  "The most important aspect of President Bush’s speech is that the coalition forces will remain in Iraq after June 30....  [Ironically] Bush was still making reference to Iraqi’s ‘sovereignty’....  My belief is that the important thing that matters for the U.S. is that it controls petroleum resources in Iraq after June 30....  What struck me most in Bush’s speech is that he emphasized on the destruction of 'Abu Ghraib' to sweep off the scandal which has not stopped hurting the Empire....  Changing the decoration is a cinematographic move, not a political one....  Evidently, Bush omitted from his speech the still missing WMDs and the presumed relation Iraq has with the 9/11 events. Moreover, he did not talk about the law that allows him to imprison the former Iraqi president....  It is my legitimate right to question his intentions as he insists on destroying the prison of Abu Ghraib....  Bush knows full well that every city in the West is replete with museums and jails which were turned into memorials...and since Abu Ghraib epitomizes the suffering and torture of Iraqis, destroying it means obliterating the traces of the huge crime committed by the U.S....  Bush has not come to Iraq with freedom but he will compensate that by putting up a statue that stands for freedom....  Abu Ghraib has to remain...because at the end, the latter is more sacred than the building of the transitional government...because this prison has included free people who said no to the alluring American slogans."


"An Attempt To Get Out Of The Iraqi Quagmire"


Senior editor Noureddine Achour asserted in independent Arabic-language As-Sabah (5/26):  “Following the insinuation of the American civil governor Bremer a few weeks ago about the possibility of seeing the American forces withdraw from Iraq because of the insecurity reigning there and the increasing resistance operations, Bush’s and Blair’s governments have resorted to the UN in an attempt to give legitimacy to the post-June 30th handover of authority to Iraqis....  To legitimize their pursuit of occupation in Iraq, the US and Britain are proposing a multiethnic force led by the US in Iraq with the possibility of reconsidering its role a year after the transfer of power. However, the leaked draft resolution poses question pertaining to the future of Iraq: how the US and Britain can get out of the Iraqi quagmire,  to what extent the Iraqi government can take charge of the issue of security, and whether the Iraqi authorities will have the power to ask coalition forces to evacuate and to be responsible for resources available. It does not seem that Washington and London are ready now to answer those interrogations because of the absence of a real plan concerning the post-war period in Iraq. This was blatant in the difficulties they had in dealing with the Iraqi reality on the ground....  By looking at the political situation and at the factions, we are likely to note the difficulties in helping Shiites, Sunnites and Kurds reach a compromise on the role of each party in the future Iraqi government.”


UAE:  "Long On Words, Short On Ideas"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News maintained (5/26):  "Iraq is not an election issue for White House strategists to spin to the American public, it is a country in truly desperate straits and the sooner George Bush realises this the better. The US president's speech was meant to soothe frayed nerves, provide a vision both for Iraq and the coalition troops there and, most importantly for the Iraq people, show that Washington actually has a strategy. With just five weeks to go before Iraq regains a tarnished version of sovereignty, it was important for Iraqis to see that Washington knows what it's doing. Bush failed abysmally on all counts.  It was not what he addressed that caused so much concern but what he didn't address. Security for Iraqi men, women and children is non-existent. Bush made no mention of how to improve it. Schools, hospitals, universities need to be built as well as the country's infrastructure. These issues are not being met. And finally only an international agreement of the future of Iraq, will even begin to solve that desperate country's problems. Bush was notably vague on this.  By Bush's own words the situation is bound to get worse before the handover of autonomy. This is an amazing admission for Bush to make and is a damning indictment of his lack of policies. It is alarmingly clear that the US president does not have a strategy and in the lack of a viable cohesive strategy hope for a peaceful stable Iraq diminishes every day.  Bush spoke as if he was targeting voters rather than the problems facing Iraq. The Iraqi people deserve so much more than a president in the White House who is so utterly out of his depth on the international stage and so blind to their plight."


"Lost In Bush Land"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times stated (5/26):  "Few had expected any dramatic outcome from US President George Bush's much-awaited address on Iraq. The speech...offers too little, too late. True, he has reaffirmed the US commitment to June 30 power transfer deadline. But we have been there and heard that before.  The fact is the American president is fighting a losing battle both in Iraq and at home in the US. Even as Bush has sought to attack the doubts that threaten his presidency by portraying Iraq as a pivotal point in the 'war on terrorism,' he has perilously linked the campaign in Iraq to the poll battle he is waging for his re-election. And the writing on the wall is starkly clear: If he loses the war in Iraq, he loses the presidential poll battle in the US....  .  As in the past, this speech was not short on quintessential Bushspeak....  Taking the bully pulpit to a decidedly military setting, Bush held forth on how Iraq had become the vanguard of freedom's fight in Middle East. The only saving grace in the president's speech was his outlining of a five-point plan for Iraq....  The U.S. president's speech...will not succeed in restoring the world community's--least of all Iraqi people's--trust in the U.S. mission in Iraq. The least Bush could have done was to offer an unconditional apology to the Iraqi people for the appalling destruction, humiliation and shame the occupation army has unleashed on the country....  Of course, the U.S. could never hope to be forgiven by Iraqi people for the rape of their land. But it could have at least made a serious attempt at redemption. President Bush has failed yet again to convince the world that the US is repentant over Iraq disaster."




AUSTRALIA:  "Talk Of Independence But U.S. Wants To Keep Iraq On A Leash"


Paul McGeough opined in the liberal Sydney Morning Herald (5/27):  “In his Monday speech...George Bush spoke of 'full sovereignty.'  But if it is to be 'full' and 'sovereign' there should be none of the palaver we have at the UN where the Security Council is being asked to vote on a motion that would authorize U.S. forces in Iraq to 'take all measures' to keep order and which leaves their presence in the country open-ended.  Equally, if a Security Council motion is needed to legitimize an ongoing foreign presence in Iraq, why the unseemly plan for an exchange of letters at a later date on a range of vital issues, like the relationship between the Iraqis and foreign forces and the treatment of detainees and prisoners?....  With all this caveat confetti hanging in the air, it was hardly surprising when Bush briefed reporters in the Oval Office after Monday night's speech, that he balked when asked if it was imperative that Iraq become a democracy or that it have free elections.  In other words, were they free as a nation to decide their own fate?...  The White House's new Iraq plan is its old plan--repackaged as 'five points' in the hope that some might be fooled into believing that Washington knows what it's doing, even if voters are deserting Bush in droves.”


“Bush Promises To Soldier On”


The national conservative Australian asserted (5/26):  "The good news is that President George W. Bush has promised to stay the course in Iraq. The sobering news is that he has no new ideas on how to quickly end the killing and advance the cause of democracy in Iraq. In essence, Mr Bush's speech yesterday offered nothing new....  The U.S. will continue to fund the reconstruction of the shattered state. And it will fight on against the terrorists who will kill whoever they can to prevent the creation of a democratic Iraqi nation. The objectives are spot-on. For all the failings of the American occupation, the prospect of a democratic Iraq as a beacon of hope in the Middle East is worth the present pain.  Nor can the President be blamed for not setting out any new strategies on how all this is to be done. It is hard to see what the US can do other than stick to the timetable for the transfer of power....  Mr Bush was sadly silent on issues where the Americans can, and must, manage better. The humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by their guards has given many Iraqis enough evidence to decide that the Americans are as brutal as Saddam's regime. The President's promise yesterday to demolish the Abu Ghraib prison where the mistreatment took place is too little, much too late. And the Americans must improve their urban combat tactics. City streets are no place for infantry equipped with heavy weapons that can kill innocent Iraqis kilometers away from their intended targets."


“The Long Road Ahead In Iraq”


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald stated (5/26):  "Mr Bush realizes the deeper the difficulties the US faces in Iraq, after invading without UN backing, the more it needs that support. But in his speech, he links the suicide bombers and militants in Mosul, Karbala and Baghdad with those who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001....  Such misunderstanding of the turmoil consequent on the invasion of Iraq can only dismay those in the international community whose help the U.S. now badly needs. “


“The President Has Come Close To Losing The Argument On Iraq--And He Knows It.”


International editor Tony Parkinson observed in the liberal Melbourne Age (5/26):  “George Bush sought yesterday to stop the rot. His speech on political and security developments in Iraq marked the beginnings of a campaign to counter powerful undercurrents of doubt and despondency emerging in the US. The presidential address aimed at reassuring an anxious American public on two counts: first, that the US mission in Iraq is not a lost cause, and, second, that his presidency is not a spent force. It came not a moment too soon....  This time, like his allies John Howard and Tony Blair, George Bush is on the razor's edge. His political survival depends on arresting and reversing the drift towards despair.”


CHINA:  "The U.S. Wants To Attend To State Affairs From Behind A Curtain In Iraq"


Li Qingchun commented in official International Herald Leader (Guoji Xianqu Daobao) (5/27):  “Bush’s five-step plan for the Iraqi reconstruction did not establish a schedule for the withdrawal and it shows the U.S. has no intention to withdraw military from Iraq within the short term.  The U.S. military’s record shows the U.S. will return only limited powers to Iraq.  Bush said the U.S. ‘will provide technical experts to Iraq'....  Obviously they will not just provide technical support, they will actually dominate the future of Iraqi politics and become the invisible hand controlling the Iraqi political situation.  The U.S. will not easily give up the spoils of Iraq.  What has changed is the political language.  What will never change are the national interests.”


“Bush In A Rush To Get Rid Of Iraq"


Yang Hailun opined in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/26):  “Facing various pressures, Bush realizes that the solution is to rid himself of the Iraqi mire as soon as possible, then he will have enough time and strength to deal with other issues related to his reelection.  In Bush’s latest speech, beyond the actual steps, it mostly is geared toward stirring people’s emotions....  This was a habitual trick of former President Kennedy – using his own failure to exaggerate the enemy’s power and emphasize his own importance....  Once the U.S.’ and UK’s new resolution is passed in the UN, the international community will be more involved in Iraq’s affairs, and the belief is that this will release much of the Bush Administration’s pressure regarding the Iraq issue.”


"Bush Puts New Labels On Same Old Rhetoric"


The official English-language China Daily noted (5/26):  “With the prison scandal and escalating violence in Iraq continuing to erode Washington's credibility with the Iraqi people and the rest of the world, US President George W. Bush on Monday launched his latest effort to convince skeptical Americans and the world about a "clear" strategy for handing over power to the Iraqis....  Nevertheless, he offered old rhetoric but few specifics on how to rectify the administration's miserable mismanagement of post-war Iraq....  Invading a sovereign state without UN authorization was a huge mistake. Designing a power transfer without handing over full state power--again without UN blessing--will be equally grievous.... However, the draft text presented to the UNSC for deliberation by the U.S.-British alliance does not give a definite timetable for ending the occupation by the US-led multinational force and instead calls for a review after a year, which a new Iraqi government can request earlier.  A review would be similar to an open-ended mandate and would not mean the force would leave unless the Security Council, where the U.S. has veto power, decides it should do so....  Washington's notion that its military presence and continuing political tutelage will translate into political stability and democracy in Iraq is no longer credible. The truth is that the US military presence itself is unnecessary.  Security Council members began debating the draft resolution yesterday. Voices of Iraq and Arabic countries should be respected.  We can only hope a consensus will be reached quickly - one that lays the foundation for making "Iraqis governing Iraq" possible and giving the UN a full role to play in the process.”


CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Details Lacking In Bush's Vision For Iraq"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (5/26):  "The picture of Iraq's future painted by U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday was a surprisingly rosy one.  And it was created with the use of broad brush strokes.  Missing, however, were the vital details needed to inject some much-needed realism into this vision....  Then there is the lack of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.  The resolution provides for them to remain for at least another year, at which point the situation will be reviewed.  They could be there indefinitely.  These issues need to be resolved because they threaten to undermine the legitimacy of the new government.  They risk giving the impression that the occupation will, in effect, continue even after the new leadership is in place....  The speech also failed to provide an insight into how the security situation is to be improved.  Without peace and stability, the road map will just not work.  And the increased role for the international community envisaged by Mr. Bush will fail to materialize....  There was no hint in the speech that Mr. Bush is willing to admit having made mistakes in Iraq.  A little humility at this stage would be persuasive, especially when it comes to winning the support of skeptical members of the UN.  But building confidence in the U.S. vision for Iraq--in the U.S., the UN and the Middle East--will depend on showing that the road map can be followed.  It will take more than a rousing speech to turn the dream into reality."


JAPAN:  "Let's Find A Way Out Of The Iraq Maze"


Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri observed (5/26):  "President Bush has reaffirmed a political timetable for Iraq, which includes transferring power on June 30 and holding direct elections by January of next year....  Top priority must be placed on ensuring the smooth transfer of full sovereignty to Iraq.  As the initiator of the Iraq war, the U.S. is responsible for supporting the transition of authority through its diplomatic and military resources.  Securing internal security will be even more important after June 30. In the lead-up to the deadline, feuding forces are expected to intensify their fight for greater influence.  This domestic power struggle may result in military conflict.  Establishing security is key to holding elections....  It is vital that the U.S. respond appropriately to the prisoner abuse scandal in order to make Iraq understand that the U.S. military presence is crucial for domestic security."         


"Speech Not Convincing"


Liberal Asahi editorialized (5/26):  "In the face of the stalemate in Iraq and the split of the global community over the postwar nation, we wonder if President Bush's speech was persuasive.  The fact that he did not say anything new except that Abu Ghraib prison would be demolished reflects his increasingly precarious position. He failed to answer questions on many issues, including efforts to contain resistance and the timing of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.  The address was not broadcast on three major networks because of its 'political and partisan' nature.  Support rates for President Bush have recently plunged to the lowest level ever.  With the presidential election only months away, President Bush must feel very vulnerable.  We wanted to hear what has gone wrong with his Iraq policy and hoped that he would to set forth a new course of action to reconstruct Iraq.  His speech, however, left us deeply disappointed."


"U.S. Should Stabilize Iraq Through International Coordination"


Business-oriented Nikkei opined (5/26):  "President Bush outlined a five-step plan for the democratization of Iraq.  It is a constructive proposal.  But, the real issue is whether Iraq can build a political system in which the sovereignty of Iraqi people is fully respected. The U.S. military, which will continue to play a leading role in a multinational force even after the planned transition of power, may need more troops in Iraq.  However, every effort must be made not to leave the impression that the U.S. will continue to dictate the course of action.  France, Germany, Russia and others are required to use diplomatic wisdom to cooperate with the U.S."


NEW ZEALAND:  "When Bush Comes To Shove"


The Southland Times editorialized (5/27):  "More than just empty symbolism can be found in United States President George Bush's decision, announced in his recent 'we shall not fail' speech, to abolish the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq....  This dismal structure was home to torments inflicted not only by Saddam Hussein's vile administration, but more recently by U.S. troops.  Mr. Bush said the demolition would be a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning.  He could more accurately have called the prison a discomforting symbol of what is wrong with the previous new beginning, announced when the U.S. invaded in the first place.  If anything, the demolition announcement underscores the arrogance of the U.S. stance in this country, which Mr. Bush seems to think he has acquired, however temporarily.  The prison does not, after all, belong to anyone other than the Iraqi people.  It's not his to bowl.  It is hard for a man who, practice as he may, cannot seem to pronounce Abu Ghraib, to sound authoritative when he speaks of it.  But then Mr. Bush's occupation of Iraq remains all effort and no attainment....  If anything the speech has triggered a more ardent climate of criticism, not only of his administration's role but the jingoistic reporting and lack of critical scrutiny from many branches of the U.S. media....  More analysts within the U.S. are at last talking in the same terms as the greater part of the rest of the world:  a flawed strategy, dreadfully inaccurate intelligence, inadequate forces on the ground, flagging domestic support and a political leadership that seems to have multiple agendas above and beyond simply defeating the insurgents."


"Bowling At Bush"


The moderate Christchurch-based Press opined (5/26):  "Increasingly war-weary Americans must have taken heart from their President's speech, delivered yesterday. Its appeal to patriotism and show of determination to finish the Iraq mission will draw a favourable response....  But American optimism risks being blown away by the next death of a GI in Falluja's dusty streets. In wars, rhetoric matters but not as much as the body count and the reality on the ground.  George Bush faces an additional reality check--he will be tested at the ballot box in six months and is by no means a shoo-in. Were the soldiers back on U.S. soil by election eve, Bush the victorious President would sweep the country, but a rapid and bloodless exit from Iraq is improbable. The bombs are likely to be exploding as Americans cast their presidential ballots. In the interim, they will witness more military being sent into battle and intensifying evidence that Iraq is becoming a morass.  Bush in his speech could not avoid the need for an extra draft but he sought to reassure that the troops would not be sacrificed in a doomed crusade. He sought to lay out a strategy that would bring peace and prosperity to Iraq with minimum casualties. But his reliance on the June 30 hand-over of governing powers to an interim Iraqi administration as the guarantor of peace is unconvincing.  Crucially, the U.S. will continue to take responsibility for security, and that will expose the President at his most vulnerable--the Commander-in-Chief who presides over a mounting flow of body bags. No-one should feel gleeful at this prospect, not even those who opposed the war and detest the Bush presidency. An unstable Iraq threatens the security of the region and that threatens the security of the world. Oil supplies and the moderating of extreme Islam--two crucial international issues--hinge on the stable condition of the Middle East."


PHILIPPINES:  “Iraq Disasters”


The liberal Today contended (5/26):  "Bush promised to demolish Abu Ghraib and build in its place a modern detention facility. The proposal seeks to destroy a hated symbol of abuse. But the damage has been done--and, as far as the Iraqi people are concerned, nothing less than the immediate departure of the troops of the U.S. and its allies can begin to repair it....  Although the U.S. claims that its invasion of Iraq--and, earlier, of Afghanistan--aimed to make the world safer from terrorism, it has only succeeded in breeding more terrorism by creating critics and enemies where once there were sympathizers and friends.  But the biggest disaster, as far as the American president is concerned, still looms on the horizon....  Bush faces an election in November--and with it the prospect of his following in the footsteps of his father, who failed to get himself reelected after the first Gulf War.  The U.S. president’s speech...focused more on the concerns of his domestic constituents, and less on the international anxiety over his mishandling of the Iraqi conflict. With his survey ratings dropping as the fighting in the Middle East drags on, Bush needs a way out before it is too late to arrest the erosion of his popularity.  It is likely, therefore, that the U.S. will keep its promise of a handover by the end of June. While the Iraqis and much of the world community would welcome a U.S. withdrawal, it will not be the graceful exit that Bush is hoping for.  For one, the stated objectives of the U.S. invasion have not been achieved. For another, the Americans would be leaving Iraq in a far worse condition than they found it. Rather than affirm its leadership in the community of nations, America’s expedition in Iraq has squandered a large measure of its international prestige.  And there’s nobody to blame for that except George W. Bush. “


SINGAPORE:  "Bush Stays The Course" 


The pro-government Straits Times declared (5/27):  "U.S. President George W. Bush's speech on Monday laying out his plans for Iraq did not contain any surprises.  But the fact that it did not was the most important thing about it.  Despite the barrage of criticisms that have been leveled at his Iraqi policies recently...he did not budge from his determination to stay the course.  That may not be the most popular electoral position to take just now, but Mr. Bush was correct not to give any sign that he is less than resolute.  If his speech had detailed a so-called 'exit strategy', for example, as his critics have been demanding he should, that would have sent a signal to jihadists and Saddamites that Washington was going wobbly.  Instead, without once mentioning an 'exit strategy', Mr. Bush set forth a five-point plan to stabilize Iraq....  Mr. Bush's 'exit strategy' is simple:  it hinges on success.  The question is how is he going to achieve it.  Mr. Bush left many questions unanswered in his speech....  As Mr. Bush acknowledged in his Monday address, it is crucial that the U.S. gets international support, but that is unlikely to be forthcoming if Washington does not provide the UN with as clear a plan as possible.  Iraq is likely to be wracked with violence for some time.  It is of crucial importance that the international community, especially Europe and the U.S., cooperate to stabilize the situation.  Whatever disagreements the U.S. and its European friends and allies might have had during the run-up to the war, all agree that a chaotic Iraq is in nobody's interest.  In a crucial sense, the pre-war disagreements do not matter any longer.  Invading and occupying Iraq might have constituted an optional war, but creating a stable, post-Saddam Iraq is not one among a number of options--it is the only one....  Iraq may not have been, as Mr. Bush claimed, the center of the war on terrorism before the invasion, but there is little doubt that it has become so after.  His speech on Monday was a good beginning, but he will have to do more to explain how he intends to put his plans into effect and gather greater international support for those plans."


SOUTH KOREA:  "Bush’s Dangerous Iraq Policy"


Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (5/26):  “President Bush has once again disappointed the world.  In his first speech to the American people about U.S. policy toward Iraq since the outbreak of the sexual abuse and torture of Iraqi POWs by U.S. soldiers, Mr. Bush continued to show arrogance by asserting the legitimacy of his policies and by failing to offer an apology for the illegal and unilateral U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has entailed the prisoner abuse scandal....  Furthermore, Mr. Bush made clear his intent to continue stationing 140,000 U.S. forces in the war-torn country even after the planned transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis in late June....  This is nothing short of a declaration that the U.S. will stay on as an occupying force while continuing to encourage the killing....  Mr. Bush appears to be turning a deaf ear to anguished Iraqi groans or global criticism.”




INDIA:   "America In Deeper Trouble" 


Mumbai-based centrist Marathi-language Tarun Bharat stated (5/27):  "President George Bush's five-step plan in Iraq, declared recently at the United States Army War College, has come a bit too late in the day.  Bush spoke of a new resolution in the UNSC, which will help move Iraq towards self-government.  He has also expressed hope in a first-ever freely elected, truly representative national governing body in Iraq's history.  But these plans would have been welcome had they been executed around 14 months ago.  Bush virtually disregarded the UN and the entire international community when he invaded Iraq.  After America's Iraq policy has evidently failed, it is not these grandiose plans but words of apology that we expected from the American president....  His May 25 speech seems like a schoolboy's attempts to read out the homework done so far.  From what is palpable, the coalition forces will hand over the reins to the transitional national assembly in Iraq by June 30 and then wait and watch until the U.S. presidential elections take place in November....  The new resolution, prepared by Bush to be placed before the UN does not have any specifics with regard to the international support enlisted in Iraq.  The U.S. is likely to control the military operations in Iraq even after June 30, as per the draft resolution."


"Bush Tries To Mollify Americans On Iraq"


Chidanand Rajghatta wrote in the centrist Times of India (5/26):  "The Bush administration on Monday suspended a general over the prisoner abuse scandal and announced it was replacing the top American commander in Iraq, even as the wheels seemed to be coming of the US occupation of Iraq. A politically--and physically--bruised President Bush went on national television to tell Americans that the US was handing over authority to an interim government in Iraq on June 30. Bush said an essential part of rebuilding Iraq would be the creation of a modern prison system. The slightly desperate pitch was aimed at mollifying Americans who have now, finally, begun to have serious doubts about the whole Iraq affair. Bush approval ratings have plunged to record lows....  There is now palpable anxiety in the administration over the mess in Iraq. Bush is scheduled to make one major speech a week in the five weeks before the U.S. is slated to hand over authority to an interim government on June 30. The U.S. is also rushing back to the UN for various resolutions. Although Monday's address was presented as 'Iraq's five steps to freedom,' absent any plans for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq--an exit strategy--the measures could mean little."


"Razing The New Bastille"


The nationalist Hindustan Times opined (5/26):  "President Bush's five-point strategy for the immediate future of Iraq--as laid out in his keynote speech the other day--may not convince many people. The Bush plan is indeed noble. But unfortunately it does not amount to much else in the strife-torn country that is descending deeper into chaos with every day that passes. Even Mr. Bush's proposal to demolish the notorious Abu Ghraib prison is too little, too late, although it merits symbolic value. Bush's imperatives of sounding confident are clear, even if they lack credibility. Weeks of unremitting bad news from Iraq leave him no choice but to try and convince audiences at home and abroad that the disturbing uncertainties in Iraq are only mirages that will vanish, come June 30 when power is handed over to the interim government. Unfortunately for Bush, some crucial signboards are missing in his roadmap. They don't tell us much about how a nation, which is now divided between the secular and more democratic Kurdish north, Shiite and Islamic south, with the Sunni cauldron in between, will reconstitute itself into democratic and secular Iraq. The problem with the Bush plan is perhaps not its lack of clarity, but the plan itself."


PAKISTAN:  "Deceptive Satan"


An editorial in sensationalist Urdu-language Ummat read (5/27):  "President Bush is hundred per cent right when he says that the enemy of Iraq and the United States is the same and that enemy is none other than himself.  President Bush in his animosity towards the Muslims and Islam has forgotten that this would also cast negative effects even on the Americans citizens themselves.  Al-Qaida has reportedly expanded its network to sixty countries of the world.  How could the U.S. fight against it at so many places?  Prudence demands that the Bush administration withdrew its troops from Iraq at the earliest."


BANGLADESH:  "The Bush Gimmick"


Independent English-language News Today observed (5/27):  "What President Bush calls for 'full restoration of sovereignty' in Iraq it is just another gimmick to confuse the world opinion.  He refuses to set a deadline for troops withdrawal.  It is not clear if his efforts would succeed but in the event they do, it would further erode the credibility of the United Nations.  Whatever credibility it still enjoys is perhaps due to its refusal to put its seal of approval on the invasion.  The foremost precondition for any UN involvement should be replacement of occupation forces by a multinational force under its own supervision."




NIGERIA:  "Iraqi Future For Iraq"


Ola Balogun maintained in Lagos-based independent New Age (5/27):  "Most ironically, as if in a direct playback of history, the Anglo-American scheme for post-Saddam Iraq envisages the existence of a local Governing Council consisting of Iraqis nominated by the occupying powers, who are planning to retain the right to maintain an expeditionary army of close to 150,000 troops indefinitely in Iraq.  Against this background, it has become truly comical to note the fury of the Anglo-American coalition when faced with the refusal of the vast majority of Iraqis to accept this version of 'instant democracy.'  Clearly, the recalcitrant Iraqis need iron handling to get to the promised democratic paradise....  There can thus be no doubt that the future of Iraq will undoubtedly be determined by the Iraqis themselves, rather than by external occupying forces.  In the long run, true democracy in Iraq may well lead to the emergence of a federated state comprising of an autonomous Kurdish region in the north and separate but closely linked Islamic Sunni and Shiite regions in the rest of Iraq, with control of Iraq’s mineral resources vested in the hands of the people of Iraq.  Iraqi democracy can obviously never be the outcome of the activities of foreign expeditionary forces seeking to achieve concealed objectives under the cover of a supposedly civilizing mission.  Obviously, it should be left for the people of Iraq to decide by themselves where their best interests lie."


UGANDA:  "Iraq Tortures A Sign Of Hatred Against Muslims"


The conservative, Islamic Weekly Message concluded (5/25-31):  "America is refered to  as the strongest democracy in the world, the world's only super power and bastion of freedoms. That a side, the US is an upholder of human rights Internationally. However, the United States has failed to live up to the world's expectations in Iraq, because of what  US soldiers are doing to Iraq prisoners especially those at Abu Ghraib.  These acts explain a deep-rooted odium against Muslims by a bigger and organized circle in the US administration and military, not an isolated incident, as some people want us to believe. In fact some media reports say those soldiers tortured Iraqis under orders of  the military intelligence so that they can be softened for interrogation. Are these the values that Americans claim to promote? Or, is this the liberation that the people of Iraq should sing about?  President Bush claims the war on terrorism is not against Islam or Muslims, but war against bad people who are bent on killing innocent people. Actions though show something different. President Bush and the Congress should do their best and address the root cause of this graviuos behavior by America's military rather than trying to do some public relations so as to cover these abuses."




CANADA:  "Time To Destroy An Evil Place"


The nationalist Ottawa Citizen opined (5/26):  "The physical destruction of the Berlin Wall was a necessary catharsis for the people of the Soviet Bloc.  So was the leveling of statues of Lenin.  The journey from tyranny to liberty is of such transformative significance that nations historically have needed to mark it with symbolic gestures, from re-naming streets to executing dictators in the town square.  As Mr. Bush acknowledged, it is up to the Iraqi people to decide what constitute appropriate symbolic gestures.  But a good one to start with would be turning Abu Ghraib into dust."


"Give Iraqis True Power"


The liberal Toronto Star remarked (5/26):  "Five months before American voters go to the polls, there is one burning question on their minds:  when will President George Bush hand back power to the Iraqis, call off the occupation and bring home the troops?  It's a question Iraqis are asking, too. And with reason....  Iraqis are clamoring to run their own show, with international help.  But that's not quite what Bush proposes in the resolution he has put before the UNSC.  He wants the UN to give him a free military hand in the 'post- occupation' phase, even though the UN didn't endorse the war....  This leaves Iraqis fearing the UN will rubber-stamp a long occupation....  It should be amended to give Iraqis the right to send foreign troops home, and full control of Iraq's own security forces.  They should have a veto, too, over the activity of the foreign troops on Iraqi soil.  There is merit in having the UN endorse a plan to restore Iraqi sovereignty, and to expand the international community's role in providing security and aid.  Iraqis deserve help.  But the UN should not legitimize occupation under another name."


"Bush's Iraq Plans Are Stable If He Has A Steady Hand"


Marcus Gee commented in the leading Globe and Mail (5/26):  "With just five months to go before he faces the voters again, George W. Bush finds himself in a serious mess in Iraq....  The whole Iraq enterprise is clearly in the balance.  The noble goal of transforming Iraq from a tyranny to a free country with a representative government has proved far harder than Washington expected....  Because of all this, a sense of near-panic has taken hold in parts of Washington.  In the media, and even among many members Congress, the feeling is that Iraq is already lost....  Mr. Bush would have been more credible if he had been frank about the mistakes that Washington has made over the past year, from the failure to control looting in the war's aftermath to the dissolution of the Iraqi armed forces, to the almost utter lack of planning for the postwar period.  His administration has yet to come truly clean on prisoner abuse in Iraq, which appears to be the fault not just of bad apples in the military but of a deliberate, high-level decision to use dubious 'stress-and-duress' interrogation techniques.  But he succeeded in his main purpose:  to show that he has a coherent plan and the determination to carry it out.  Despite the awful news of the past few weeks, the war in Iraq is not lost yet.  The worst ending would be a premature, panicky retreat.  That would be a disaster not just for Iraq, but for the status of the U.S. and the security of the whole world."


"Iraqi Quagmire Threatens To Sink Bush"


Paul Koring offered the following analysis in the leading Globe and Mail (5/25):  "U.S. President George W. Bush is twice mired:  in the quagmire of an Iraqi occupation gone wrong, and in the sinkhole of domestic politics, where the failures in Baghdad threaten to drown his chances for re-election in November.  In order to truly persuade critical swing voters, Mr. Bush requires a very different message than he does when trying to persuade the rest of the world to help create a stable Iraq.  So when he recast his objectives for Iraq in last night's televised speech, it was supposed to satisfy two audiences.  Few Americans will cast their ballots next November on whether prospects for Middle East peace have improved or Baghdad's streets are safer.  But they do want their troops home, and some, at least, despair of America being vilified abroad--even as Mr. Bush's generals warn that more troops, not fewer, may be needed until after Iraqis hold their first-ever free elections, scheduled for late this year....  The president's biggest problem is that he is fast running out of ways to justify both the initial war and the occupation.  Saddam Hussein's banned arsenals turned out to be a mirage.  There is no evident progress toward making the war a beachhead for democracy in the Arab world.  And the moral high ground of ousting a brutal dictator has eroded....  For Mr. Bush, that makes sharing the costly and difficult task of enlisting the rest of the world that much more difficult.  And without the rest of the world in Iraq, his sales pitch looks shaky at home."


ARGENTINA:  "Bush Will Demolish The Abu Ghraib Prison"


Jorge Rosales commented in daily-of-record La Nacion (5/25):  "Having the lowest popular support since he took office, US President George W. Bush acknowledged last night that he expects a resurge of violence in Iraq in the following weeks, but he confirmed he will hand over power to a local government on June 30. Also, in a clear attempt to stop criticism of the White House, he announced that the US would demolish the Baghdad prison where US soldiers tortured Iraqi prisoners....  In this way, Republican strategists' worst fears have begun to be reflected in opinion polls--the negative impact of the torture scandal and the feeling that Iraq could become another Vietnam are increasingly stronger....  The general impression among Americans is that just as the US proved to have a conclusive plan to put an end to the Hussein regime in a couple of weeks, today it lacks a strategy on how to stop the spiral of violence and lack of control and how US troops will withdraw from Iraq."


BRAZIL:  "Empty Speech"


Center-right O Globo declared (5/26):  "Bush resists giving explanations. But in view of his constant decline in popularity polls--a headache especially in an election year--he has promised to present a clear, objective plan of action.  Judging by last Monday’s speech...the man who has dragged Americans into one of their more unfortunate military adventures doesn’t know how to get them out of this mess.  Bush didn’t even admit he had made mistakes--an essential pre-requisite for any change of behavior or correction of course.  In a rhetorical outburst he announced the intention to demolishing the infamous Abu Ghraib prison....  He did not apologize; he did not announce energetic measures to prevent the repetition of those hideous scenes that have hurt the reputation of the U.S. armed forces and jeopardized the credibility of the U.S. as an agent for democracy.  He limited himself to citing measures that have to be taken--such as passing the power to the Iraqis, obtaining UN’s approval to maintain the U.S. presence, improving security, eliminating terrorism and preparing for free elections. He did not explain how to reach those objectives, and instead of feeding hopes he increased the frustration of those who no longer believe his administration may be capable of resolving the gigantic problem he has created.”



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