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Dubya At the Bat

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It's the bottom of the ninth inning and the home team is losing 4 to 0. There are two outs and George Bush is at the plate. The count is two strikes and no balls. The opponents' closer, King Abdullah, toes the mound, rears back, and fires a high hard one to the President. Obviously fooled Bush never moves his bat off his shoulder. "Strike three," the umpire yells. The game is over. But, wait a minute: Bush disputes the call; claims that as President of the United States he gets more strikes; the game isn't over until he says it is. In case you missed it, on March 28 and 29, the annual Arab Summit was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The highlight was Saudi King Abdullah blowing a high, hard one by President Bush. In most contests it would have been the third strike and the game, the occupation of Iraq, would be over. The Bush Administration considered King Abdullah a staunch ally and, historically, there have been close ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family. Nonetheless, at the Arab Summit Abdullah called the occupation of Iraq "illegal;" adding, "In the beloved Iraq, the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism." The Saudi King warned of the possibility of civil war. The White House didn't see Abdullah's pitch coming: Testifying before Congress, U.S. Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns admitted the Administration was "a little surprised to see those remarks." A few hours later, the White House reacted defensively. Deputy Press Secretary, Dana Perino said, "It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq... we are there under the U.N. Security Council resolutions and at the invitation of the Iraqi people." Of course, it's not only Saudi King Abdullah who views the US involvement in Iraq as an occupation: it's the entire Arab world including the U.S. sponsored leadership of Iraq. Speaking at the same Arab Summit, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani admitted the "American liberation of Iraq ... has turned into an occupation, with tragic consequences on the country." He said, "The decision to turn the liberation of Iraq into an occupation... was contrary to what Iraqi parties and national forces were planning at the time... [made] without understanding the Iraqi's point of view." What's clear from this brouhaha is the Bush Administration's Iraq policy has zero support from Arab states, whether they are primarily Shiite or Sunni. In response to the diplomatic debacle, the White House got defensive; claimed that total loss of support for the occupation is not a third strike and "the game" should continue. George Bush and Dick Cheney insisted US forces would stay in Iraq until we win, however long that takes. The Administration doesn't seem to care that the occupation has lost the support of the original members of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," the Arab states, and the rest of the world-except for Israel. They claim the Iraqi people want us to continue the occupation. But surveys continually indicate the Iraqi people don't want us there. The latest study, conducted by the British Opinion Research Business found that "53% of Iraqis believe that the security situation in Iraq will be better when the U.S. departs. Only 26% feel it will be worse." An earlier poll featured in The Economist found that 78 percent of Iraqis "oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq." (Fifty percent said that conditions are worse "compared to how they were before the war.") Looking back over four years of the Iraq war, there have been many moments when it appeared the tide had turned: the unchecked looting after Baghdad fell, the rise of the Sunni insurgency, the use of sophisticated improvised explosive devices, the bombing of the Al-Askari shrine, and the decision by England to begin withdrawing troops, to mention only a few. None of these was as devastating as the loss of support from Saudi Arabia. This signifies that the US is alone in the Middle East except for the support of Israel. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that this is not a good situation for the U.S. to be in. Unfortunately for America, George Bush is not a rocket scientist; CEO; baseball player; or even a cowboy. He is a politician who likes to dress up in costume and pretend he's a cowboy, baseball player, CEO, President or Commander-in-chief. But he isn't capable of playing any of these roles. As a result, Bush can't accept that his Administration has totally and absolutely failed in Iraq. He'll continue to stand at the plate and argue that because he's President there's a different set of rules: he gets as many strikes as he wants and the ballgame isn't over until he says it is. But you and I and the rest of the world know the truth: there is no joy in Bushville; Dubya has struck out.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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