REVEREND JESSE JACKSON: 'Quagmire in Iraq may engulf the world'

The Nation - Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Former US presidential candidate says Bush is in trouble
Shortly after US President George W Bush departed Thailand in an upbeat mood after winning international support for his campaign against terror during the Apec summit, veteran US rights campaigner the Reverend Jesse Jackson has arrived to discuss the dark side of the war and the troubles caused by US foreign policy.

Bush could end up losing the upcoming presidential election as his father did because of the messy situation in Iraq, the former US presidential candidate told Suthichai Yoon in an exclusive television interview with The Nation Group's editor-in-chief.

Jackson said the president had now become a big political target at home and was losing the support the world had offered in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

'Don't look for another shovel, look for rope,' Jackson said. 'More Americans are dying.'

Jackson gave the interview ahead of a formal speech he is due to present on the peacemaking role of the United States, at Thammasat University on Thursday. The event starts a series of high-profile talks and dialogues called Bridges, organised by the International Peace Foundation based in Vienna, which will feature Nobel laureates, intellectuals and activists.

Jackson insisted that Iraq had become 'the gravitational centre of Muslim resistance' and that arrogant US foreign policy combined with divisive usage of words such as 'evil' in referring to the enemy were not helping on the diplomatic front.

'It's no longer an Iraqi resistance but a Muslim one. We have unleashed a Muslim anti-American Jihad. We're fighting a phantom, a faceless adversary... Right now we're trying to lead by our guns [but] our values are our strongest weapons,' he said.

According to Jackson, Bush's reason for invading Iraq was because his father, Bush Senior, had been targeted for assassination by toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

The US is in a conundrum, he said. 'To leave now is to accept a defeat, which this administration is not willing to accept,' he said.

At a press conference yesterday, Jackson reiterated that the US was in a difficult position in Iraq and should seek France and Germany's help through the United Nations.

'Our country is at war today, unnecessary and painful... We need help to get out of this quagmire. Rules of the United Nations do matter. We should never again rush to war and do it alone in a unilateral way.'

The 62-year-old Jackson said the current Iraq situation was guerrilla warfare that US troops had not prepared for. He charged that the American media were being prohibited by the Bush Administration from shooting news footage of killed soldiers coming home in caskets.

This, he said, amounts to a removal of the 'human factor' from the war. Jackson said the war is in fact a 'unilateral pre-emptive invasion and occupation, which is dangerous and divisive.'

He said America should stop applying different rules to different countries, because it would not lead to peace. 'You cannot have one set of rules to trade with China and another rule not to trade with Cuba.'

Jackson, who warned that 'the flame of Iraq may engulf the whole world' said that public opinion in America was shifting as weapons of mass destruction had not been found and more US troops were being killed almost daily. 'What's more, the will of the Iraqi people has been underestimated,' he said.

'There is no future in the cycle of killing and wounding each other,' said Jackson, who is currently president of the Washington-based Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Jackson will give an address entitled 'Can the United States Become a Force for Peace? The US after the War on Iraq' at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, tonight at 8pm. A broadcast date of his interview with Suthichai will be announced soon.

Pravit Rojanaphruk