Al-Ahram Weekly Online   19 - 25 June 2008
Issue No. 902
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Making no waves

The Irish referendum, the new Club Med and Bush's Euro fest to solicit trans-Atlantic solidarity are to ensure that his vintage war on terror is not dead in the water, but none of them hold any water, writes Gamal Nkrumah

United States President George W Bush refuses to reconcile himself with defeat in his self-styled war against terror. His European tour this week corroborated his mulishness. President Bush is incapable of accepting that he is a failing bungler. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean oblivious of the utter state of contempt in which the world, including Americans themselves, hold his bloodstained record. In his characteristic clumsy waffle President Bush declared that he "fully understands that while some want to say that the terrorist threat has gone, or that it's nothing to worry about, it is something to worry about."

Trans-Atlantic politics is obviously beginning to stutter towards something approaching lunacy. President Bush self- assuredly concluded, "the people of Afghanistan and Iraq appreciate it." Presumably the "it" refers to the American occupation of the two respectively occupied countries. How much of a milestone are Afghanistan and Iraq to the Bush legacy is not hard to gauge. A recent CBS poll came to the conclusion that a walloping 61 per cent of Americans believe that Iraq would "never" become a stable democracy. And, the same poll concluded that no less than 62 per cent believe that the war in Iraq is disastrous. Bush obviously has few trumps to play at this stage of his presidency. The entire Arab and Muslim world's future is full of pitfalls in spite of the Bush administration's drive for democratisation in the region.

The European nations that played host to Bush fell over backwards to appease him, Britain not excluded.

Britain, too, pledged not to weasel out of its commitment to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of fighting international terrorism. The war, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proudly proclaimed, was "in the British national interest".

Not to be outdone, Brown pontificated that Britain would stand by the US and pledged an additional 230 British troops to be dispatched to Afghanistan. Some 7,800 British troops are permanently stationed in the war- ravaged Central Asian country. "There is still work to be done and Britain plays, and will continue to play, its part," Brown vowed.

These are times when every political move of the world's most powerful nation's lameduck president is measured against prior expectations. In sum, the worst of the horrors unleashed by the war on terror proved remarkably prescient as foretold by anti-war activists. These truisms, however, were lost on Bush and his European hosts.

Bush's European tour comes against the backdrop of the outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty last Thursday. The European Union (EU) reform treaty, drawn up in the Portuguese capital Lisbon last year, was a compromise in more ways than one. European politicians and business leaders are keen on a more binding and synchronous Union. Europeans are obviously not so convinced.

Forgive my credulousness, but this is a momentous referendum: Europeans basically have rejected the very notion of a United States of Europe.

In the final analysis few European politicians would risk alienating the European electorate. The more conspiratorially minded suspect that enlargement is the surest method of ensuring the European public opinion's aversion to a more meaningful and closer union in which national sovereignty would be further eroded in the assumed interest of continental good.

The Emerald Isle has done splendidly on the economic front over the past two decades, thanks in large measure to its membership of the EU. Yet it rejected the Lisbon Treaty.

Ironically, Ireland is singled out among the 27 member states as constitutionally obliged to hold a public vote on the matter. The other 26 EU member-states did not hold referendums for the repackaged EU constitution which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Incidentally, Irish voters already rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001.

For all the recent air of wearing inevitability, the Europeans appear bent on expansion rather than consolidation. Europe is being enlarged at an alarming rate -- very contentiously eastwards and now even southwards with the French-proposed New Union for the Mediterranean. The clumsiness of the name belies its political clumsiness.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has even taken the concept a step further. Sarkozy who masquerades as a master tactician, is the most ardent proponent of the idea. At Sarkozy's behest, a sumptuous summit meeting is planned for 13 July in Paris.

Few would dispute France's dishonorable treatment of its former colonies in North Africa, and in particular Algeria. Parallels will be drawn between this slick new affair and the more sinister French colonial past, but this is not an issue that was touched upon at the Franco-American summit in Paris. As far as Sarkozy and Bush were concerned, assimilating the underdogs at home and abroad into the ruling Western-dominated world system with its democratic pretensions is the issue at stake. Their trial run in Afghanistan and Iraq has gone awry. Now they're trying a more subtle but equally nefarious variant. The naked truth, however, is that they are performing in the buff.

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