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   Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2004

30 August 2004

NEW YORK - Wherever he is, Osama bin Laden will be beaming next week as he watches my beloved hometown, New York City, turned into an armed camp and threatened by 250,000 angry, anti-Bush demonstrators and a major municipal nervous breakdown.

Sheik Osama has repeatedly warned America will never know peace until it withdraws from the Mideast and ceases supporting Israel. He ordered followers to attack the heart of America's power, its economy, and to keep Americans on edge.

Bin Laden has been horrifyingly successful. The 9/11 attacks cost America US $98 billion, and billions more annually for heightened internal security. The Bush Administration's constant, politically-timed warnings of imminent al-Qaida attacks — none of which materialized — and attendant media hysteria, have left Americans frightened and emotionally exhausted.

The Republican Convention opening here will be guarded by the city's 37,000 cops — a force twice as large as Canada's entire army. Ten thousand police will guard the convention center at Madison Square Garden, backed by thousands more FBI, ATF, Secret Service, and other `Federales.' Still, rumors abound al-Qaida may attack the convention — though experience shows al-Qaida tends to attack where it is least, not most, expected.

Road blocks, check points, flashing red lights, heavily armed paramilitaries, and armored vehicles will turn New York into a traffic nightmare, disrupt commerce, and make the world's most important city look like Damascus during a military coup, or a remake of the film, `Escape From New York.'

As this strange spectacle unfolds, the Bush and Kerry campaigns are arguing furiously about the 30-year old Vietnam War — at a time when the US is losing the wars it is now waging in Iraq and Afghanistan, where over 1,000 American soldiers have so far died.

Neither candidate has advanced any cogent or realistic plan for dealing with these military-political quagmires. Bush keeps intoning meaningless platitudes like, `we've got to stay the course,' or `we've got to fight for freedom.' Kerry keeps airily promising that troops from Europe and Muslim nations will somehow be induced to replace Americans on the Iraq firing line. No one should believe such nonsense.

But at very least, Bush has been consistent about Iraq, even though consistently and disastrously wrong. Kerry keeps shifting his position, and has seriously damaged his credibility by trying to be both pro-war and anti-war at the same time.

The sordid smear campaign launched against Kerry's war record by a Republican-funded hit-squad called `the Swift boat veterans' has besmirched both candidate's reputations and further damaged America's already battered image around the globe. Kerry's feeble reaction to the shameful Republican attacks seems further evidence of what seems like weakness and indecision.

How the Kerry campaign can get away with letting a draft dodging president attack his war record escapes me. Maybe Kerry's too much of a gentleman. How can decent Americans and veteran's organizations, like the American Legion, to which I belong, accept this disgraceful business and not roar disapproval at the president and his men? This is not politics, it's pure filth.

As a US Army veteran, I know that military citations are often awarded too freely in a process of mutual back-scratching, and over-blown to promote careers. Kerry may not be quite the Democratic Rambo he and his supporters contend, but at least he was there, in combat — while Bush was making sporadic guest appearances at the Texas and Alabama National Guards.

Mind you, the Bush Administration's didn't flinch from concocting a cascade of lies about the non-existent Iraqi threat — including Saddam's nukes and Iraqi drones the president actually claimed were about to spray poison on sleeping America. So why would the White House refrain from orchestrating fabrications against a genuine threat — at least to the current presidency — namely John Kerry?

Bush and Kerry ought to be debating how to pull 150,000 US troops out of two stalemated wars costing US $6.5 billion a month. A recent Spanish congressional report estimates that had Bush not invaded Iraq, oil would now be around $30 per bbl, instead of $43.

Americans have yet to understand the full cost of the administration's foreign misadventures. Or the fact that the puppet regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot survive without massive and permanent US protection. In other words, there is no foreseeable political solution to either war, and thus nothing that can be remotely called `victory.' Only more billions squandered and more lives wasted.

Neither candidate is telling Americans the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan, nor the mis-named `war on terrorism.' Sadly, many Americans don't want to hear awkward facts, as Gov. Howard Dean found to his chagrin. They want Bush-style bromides, candy-coated with American flags.

The hard truth is that the US is stuck in two no-win colonial wars, precisely what bin Laden long wanted. His strategy is to bleed the US in a number of small, debilitating conflicts.

The US is increasingly under attack by Islamic militants(aka `terrorists') who hate America not, as Bush fatuously claimed, because of its freedoms and democracy, but because of what the US has been doing in the Muslim World.

The anonymous CIA analyst who just published his brilliant new book, `Imperial Hubris,' calls Bush's invasion of Iraq, `the icing on bin Laden's cake.'

Americans need to debate that, not rehash Vietnam.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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    Eric Margolis
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