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Asahi Shimbun Newspaper in Japan Covers Cindy's Protest
Bush's war in Iraq: The moment has come to decide whether to withdraw.
The Asahi Shimbun (Japan)
"Why did my son have to die?" This simple question from a bereaved mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq is fueling growing war-weariness across the United States.
Already, three weeks have passed since the mother, Cindy Sheehan, 48, set up camp near President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he is spending his summer vacation.
Last April, Sheehan lost her son, a 24-year-old army specialist, in Iraq. Since early August, she has been asking to meet the president in person and calling for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.
Once the national media started covering the story, Sheehan began picking up supporters who pitched tents alongside hers.
Waves of anti-war demonstrations have spread across the country.
Bush has refused to meet with Sheehan. Even so, he has felt compelled to defend the war in Iraq and the presence of U.S. troops there during his various public appearances outside the ranch.
Bush has defined the U.S. military presence in Iraq as the mainstay of the "war against terror." He has argued that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would only encourage terrorists and allow them to build footholds to stage attacks against the United States and elsewhere.
The justification for going to war, that the Saddam Hussein regime had a hand in the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, proved to be false.
The rationale for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is to maintain stability and help the country's reconstruction.
For the most part, the current turmoil in Iraq stems from a conflict of interests among the Kurds, and the Shiite and Sunni Arabs.
The situation is no longer one that bears any resemblance to that of postwar Japan or former West Germany, where the United States spearheaded efforts to introduce democratic values. The political goal of democratizing the entire Middle East region is also weakening.
Bush is losing his power of persuasion.
According to an American opinion poll, the president's approval rate stands at 45 percent, one of the lowest since his inauguration.
Fifty-four percent of the respondents believe sending troops to Iraq was a mistake.
The situation reminds us of the quagmire days of the Vietnam War.
When asked about withdrawal, although 28 percent of the respondents favored maintaining the current troop level, 33 percent supported a full-scale pullout. And 23 percent supported partial withdrawal.
The figures show that the American public no longer sees the rationale for keeping troops in Iraq.
This shows that the "Sheehan shock" did not appear out of the blue. There were already widespread doubts among the public about this war and her actions proved to be the catalyst to push those anxieties out into the open in the form of anti-war protests.
It would be humiliating for Bush to withdraw U.S. troops without achieving his goal. Clearly, though, the presence of 140,000 American soldiers in Iraq has not improved security.
The turmoil is only growing deeper.
The only realistic solution is to set out a road map for a phased withdrawal according to regions or time frames, and gradually make way for self-rule.
This is the harsh reality of Iraq. The American public is also clamoring for a decision. Everybody is watching to see if the Bush administration can take this crucial step.