POSTSCRIPT / March 13, 2003 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bush Sr. tells Bush Jr.: Unilateral war is risky

BUSH ISOLATED: President George W. Bush is getting increasingly isolated as he insists on pushing an unpopular war against a sovereign state that has not committed any act of aggression against America.

Great Britain is the only nation of consequence that has sent fighting forces to join the unilateral attack on Iraq. For this warlike stance, British Prime Minister Tony Blair himself is now in danger of being deposed.

The leaders of Spain, Bulgaria and Turkey who support the invasion have also stoked virulent anti-war sentiments among their constituents. On the other hand, much of the civilized world appears to be coming to the conclusion that war is not the only option left.

Pope John Paul II and other key religious leaders, including Bush’s own Methodist pastor, have voiced, in similarly but separately inspired invocations, deep moral objections to the US-led war for control of the Iraqi oil fields.

The showdown vote in the UN Security Council yesterday was another ringing repudiation of the resolution being pushed by the US, the UK and Spain to give Iraq a March 17 ultimatum to discard its presumed weapons of mass destruction or be reduced to ashes.

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PA TELLS JUNIOR: Now no less than the President’s own father, former President George Bush Sr., is voicing misgivings and in effect telling Bush Jr. that hopes of peace in the Middle East would be ruined if the US invaded Iraq without international support.

In an article dated March 10 filed from Washington, writer Roland Watson of The Times of London reported:

Drawing on his own experiences before and after the 1991 Gulf War, Mr. Bush Sr. said that the brief flowering of hope for Arab-Israeli relations a decade ago would never have happened if America had ignored the will of the United Nations.

He also urged the President (Bush Jr.) to resist his tendency to bear grudges, advising his son to bridge the rift between the United States, France and Germany.

“You’ve got to reach out to the other person. You’ve got to convince them that long-term friendship should trump short-term adversity,” he said.

The former President’s comments reflect unease among the Bush family and its entourage at the way that George W. Bush is ignoring international opinion and overriding the institutions that his father sought to uphold. Mr. Bush Sr. is a former US ambassador to the UN and comes from a family steeped in multilateralist traditions.

Although not addressed to his son in person, the message, in a speech at Tufts University in Massachusetts, was unmistakable. Mr. Bush Sr. even came close to conceding that opponents of his son’s case against President Saddam Hussein, who he himself is on record as loathing, have legitimate cause for concern.

He said that the key question of how many weapons of mass destruction Iraq held “could be debated.” The case against Saddam was “less clear” than in 1991, when Mr. Bush Sr. led an international coalition to expel invading Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Objectives were “a little fuzzier today,” he added.

After the Gulf War, Mr. Bush Sr. steered Israel and its Arab neighbors to the Madrid conference, a stepping stone to the historic Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords, in much the same way that the present President has talked about the removal of Saddam as opening the way to a wider peace in the region.

In an ominous warning for his son, Mr. Bush Sr. said that he would have been able to achieve nothing if he had jeopardized future relations by ignoring the UN. “The Madrid conference would never have happened if the international coalition that fought together in Desert Storm had exceeded the UN mandate and gone on its own into Baghdad after Saddam and his forces.”

Also drawing on the lessons of 1991, he said that it was imperative to mend fences with allies immediately, rather than waiting until after a war. He had been infuriated with the decision of King Hussein of Jordan to side with Saddam rather than the US, but while criticizing the Jordanian leader in public and freezing $41 million in US aid, he also passed word to King Hussein that he understood his domestic tensions.

Mr. Bush Jr., who is said never to forget even relatively minor slights, has alarmed analysts with the way in which he has allowed senior administration figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, aggressively to criticize France and Germany.

There are, however, signs that Mr. Bush Sr.’s message may be getting through.

Father and son talk regularly and it was, in part, pressure from Mr. Bush Sr.’s foreign policy coterie, that helped to persuade the President to go to the UN last September.

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SEASIDE CONCERT: If you haven’t been to Roxas Blvd. lately, visit it one of these nights. Better still, do so tomorrow and spice up your evening with a special open-air recital of acclaimed concert pianist Filmer Flores.

Or, swinging to rougher fare, you might choose to come around on Saturday to the Independence grandstand at the Luneta to watch, for free, a non-title bout between our own IBF superbantamweight champion Manny Pacquiao and Kazakhstan featherweight champion Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov.

Mayor Lito Atienza, who is excited about this revival of interest in the Luneta and the boulevard, said Florez will perform at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Rajah Sulayman garden park in front of the Malate church beside the Aristocrat restaurant that never sleeps.

Atienza sponsors regular cultural shows in various plazas in the city. Some past performances featured the Three Tenors (Nolyn Cabahug, Robert Seña and Lemuel dela Cruz) at Liwasang Bonifacio; the Jiangsu Performing Artists (China) at Plaza Balagtas; and Tanya Chua (Singapore) at Rajah Sulayman.

Tomorrow’s repertoire of Flores, a Russian-trained Filipino concert pianist, includes Fantasy KV475 (Mozart), Scherzo No. 2 in Bb minor (Chopin), Ballade No. 1 in G minor (Chopin), Larawan (Buencamino), and Souvenir de Filipinas (Santiago).

You must have heard of the glowing globules of light that have perked up the seaside stretch from the US embassy to the Manila Yacht Club. People stop to gawk at the unusual illumination and discover the other welcome spots in the re-landscaped boulevard. Drop by and find out yourself. Bring the kids.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 13, 2003)

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