Friday, June 13, 2003

I may go get a haircut today:

"Bush is in trouble," he said.

This was neither a columnist nor a politician. It was my barber, Phil. And when Phil says that Bush is in trouble, he is.

Phil was born in the United States, but his parents are from Mexico. His Spanish is fluent. His intimate barbershop in San Jose reflects much of contemporary American society. His customers are U.S. citizens, but born everywhere: California, the Midwest, Latin America, East and Southeast Asia – they all come through. The TV is tuned to CNN, when there are no sports to watch.

"We knew that Saddam was a bad guy, but how many bad guys are there in the world? Are we going to go after them all?" Phil asks. "And where are all those weapons?"

I expect that Phil's words are being echoed in many barber shops, beauty salons, taverns, ball fields, golf courses and around a lot of kitchen tables this month as Americans begin to ruminate on the Bush administration's actions in Iraq.

It feels like public opinion on the war is beginning to turn. Like Phil's, the unquestioned support of many for the war is beginning to erode. But why should there have been strong support in the beginning and during the conflict, and slippage now?


However, for Phil and others, the bases on which Bush administration sold the war are cracking.

The defensive purpose of the war is now being called fully into question. Weapons of mass destruction have not been found. The al-Qaeda connection remains non-existent.

The altruistic nature of the war is being overwhelmed by stories of profiteering by American industrial interests with ties to the administration, like Halliburton, and continual reference to Iraq's oil resources. The idea that the United States was bringing democracy to Iraq is fading as American viceroy Paul Bremer establishes his own hand-picked counsel of transition leaders headed by Ahmad Chalabi, widely viewed as an American puppet. The majority Shi'a population has been excluded from the process.

Americans are increasingly seen as bullies. They are no longer defending anything in Iraq, and so are treated as unwelcome occupiers by the citizens, who protest and fire on them. Some 41 have died since May 1, when President Bush declared that military action in Iraq had ended; some in accidents, others from enemy fire.

Thanks to Buzzflash for the link.