Bush camp elicits international distrust

Last weekend, I received an opportunity to participate in a conference in Dublin, Ireland – free of charge. On one particular night, I walked down a rather grimy street and chanced upon a shabby building with a peculiar function. It was the Cypriot Embassy. I immediately reflected on the location of the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Dublin. It sits secluded in the middle of the Phoenix Park – the largest enclosed urban park in Europe – just down the trail from the Presidential Palace. In fact, only these two residences sit inside the 1,750-acre park – clearly elucidating the considerable esteem the Irish hold for the United States.

Yet, when picking up a copy of the Irish Times – among numerous opinions about the recent nationwide ban on smoking in pubs – a debate raged over whether President George W. Bush’s Secret Service should be granted immunity from Irish law when he visits the country June 25. In the event a Secret Service man shoots somebody while protecting the president, the United States wants the serviceman to be immune from the Irish courts. It appears White House officials are having considerable troubles obtaining this. Ironically, former President Bill Clinton received it without question, not even 10 years ago.

This brings up an interesting point when considering the overused conservative argument that only Bush is a world leader with the necessary resolve to fight the war on terror. The simple fact is Bush is not a world leader. Few trust him, and thus, important allies are unwilling to treat him like an insider. He will never obtain the international cooperation needed for disabling international terrorist networks.

Creating conventional wars stuck in bloody quagmires might seem like a feasible method of fighting terrorists for an obsolete realist mentality such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s; but what is really needed is international cooperation of intelligence authorities operating outside the military-based, nation-state paradigm: James Bonds instead of George Marshalls. But with a group of leaders incapable of building enough trust to obtain a once-common diplomatic measure – in a country as pro-American as Ireland – how can we possibly expect multilateral sharing of sensitive, yet necessary, intelligence and investigative information?

Just last week, a laughing Mounir el Motassadeq strolled out of prison because German prosecutors never received the damning documents clutched in the hands of U.S. authorities. While the prosecutors repeatedly requested a testimony by Yemeni Razmi Binalshibh – currently in U.S. custody – some German authorities suggested the withheld transcripts of U.S. interrogations with Binalshibh would’ve been good enough. Nevertheless, el Motassadeq – admittedly trained by al-Qaida in Afghanistan and a co-signer on the will of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks ringleader Mohammed Atta – will face retrial in June with a likelihood of acquittal barring any U.S. cooperation on the matter. This is absurd.

I certainly don’t claim to have an insider’s opinion on what needs to be done as far as intelligence and the war on terror, but I cannot imagine international cooperation based on a confidential trust is irrelevant. After National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s public testimony with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks commission, one would think any administration facing that many problems with domestic coordination would at least welcome the idea of international intelligence cooperation. Yet, all we see is some weak British intelligence and other foreign scraps shanghaied to justify a war that has shattered much of the very trust the United States needs to actually succeed in dismantling international terrorist networks.

While Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was next to last on my list of tolerable Democratic challengers, I would nevertheless find it difficult to argue he would elicit as much international distrust as the Bush posse. Ultimately, although any challenger to Bush would inherit the formidable task of righting the tragic mess that is Iraq, as far as the “war on terror” goes, it seems to me any challenger would be better than Bush.

Douglas Voigt is studying abroad in Germany and welcomes comments at [email protected]