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The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Bush: Holding the line," June 5, 2004

Iraq war President George W. Bush on May 24 became the first sitting president since George Washington to visit the historic Carlisle Barracks, now home to the Army War College, delivering a speech to refocus Iraq war policy and resurrect his own declining poll numbers. The president laid out a five-point strategy for Iraq's transition to self-rule, promised to keep U.S. troops in Iraq at the current level of 138,000 after the June 30 transition, and pledged to demolish the Abu Ghraib prison complex in favor of a U.S.-funded "humane" prison system.

The president told war planners that the United States "will persevere and defeat" terrorism "and hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty." But representatives from the Iraqi Governing Council told WORLD that they already fear the president's democracy goals are slipping away in favor of a UN roadmap that is high on appeasement and low on liberty.

Between the president's speech and a draft UN resolution circulating among Security Council members to facilitate the transition, Iraqi leaders say there is no mention of the transitional administrative law they agreed to earlier this year. That law is a blueprint for permanent government and contains a bill of rights unlike any on the books in the Middle East. Iraqi leaders (who asked not to be identified because of ongoing discussions with the Bush administration) told WORLD that they believe the law is deliberately being downplayed by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in an effort to appease Iraq's neighboring dictatorships and radical Shiite elements in Iraq and Iran.

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Europe President Bush is likely to receive a kinder, gentler reception in Europe during a June visit to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing (story, p. 24). That won't stop European leaders from trying to dilute U.S. influence in post-handover Iraq. France, Germany, and Russia are siding with China in bids to subordinate U.S. military control to an interim Iraqi government and/or UN mandates.

European leaders, however, may be in for a surprise as voters go to the polls in upcoming European parliamentary elections. Leaders of anti-war "red state" countries may find themselves in as much trouble with the electorate as their pro-war "blue state" counterparts (story, p. 22).

For President Bush, debates of the day are just that. In a White House interview on May 26 with WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky and seven other journalists, the president said, "Short-term history will be written by people who didn't particularly want me to be president to begin with" (cover story, p. 18). His detractors aren't succeeding at tempering his views on transforming domestic or foreign culture-be it support for a marriage amendment or for freedom in the Middle East. Day-to-day strife for a wartime president, however, is changing his appreciation for past presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan-and increasing his Christian devotion. "I read Oswald Chambers every morning," he told the journalists, and, "I pray all the time."

Terrorism Intelligence sources are warning that al-Qaeda is planning an attack within the United States this summer. "This disturbing news shows a particular intention to hit the United States hard," reported Attorney General John Ashcroft last week.The Justice Department released the names and photographs of seven suspects who "pose a clear and present danger" to the United States. Mr. Ashcroft said that al-Qaeda views as a success the reaction of Spanish voters to the Madrid railway bombings, and may hope for similar results in America.

Israel Israeli forces pulled out of the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on May 24, after six days of hunting for militants and destroying two weapons-smuggling tunnels. The raids killed 41 Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prepared to ask his 23-member cabinet to approve the first part of a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which involves evacuating three small settler camps. His Likud Party rejected the entire plan earlier in May. The Gaza Strip has 7,500 Jewish settlers in 21 settlements, among a population of 1.3 million Palestinians.

Sudan After stalling negotiations for months, the Sudanese government on May 26 signed the final three protocols to allow a full peace accord with southern rebels after 21 years of war.

The protocols smoothed out the last sticking points-how power would be shared, and how the central regions of the Nuba Mountains, Abyei and Southern Blue Nile would be administered in the transition.

The sides agreed on a 70-30 power-sharing ratio, with the Islamic government controlling the majority in the north and the rebels controlling the majority in the south. President Omar el-Bashir will remain head of state, while southern rebel leader John Garang will be vice president.

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