Washington Week

America might rely on 'coalition of the willing'

Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 9:47 p.m.
WASHINGTON - Thanks to France and Germany - dubbed the "axis of weasels" by some Iraq war backers here - America might have to rely entirely on what the White House is calling a "coalition of the willing" to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
Don't look for the Bush administration to enumerate all its allies, since many have agreed to help so long as their participation is kept quiet.
As best as we can discern now, these are our likely war partners: Great Britain, which has pledged one-quarter of its military forces; Australia, which already has dispatched a couple of warships; and Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands, for unspecified support. Plus a big block of assistance would come from Eastern Europe, particularly from countries new to NATO or aiming for membership.
Among these "new Europe" states, as Defense chief Donald Rumsfeld calls them, are the Czech Republic, which will send 250 chemical weapons experts, Bulgaria, which has anted up a Black Sea air base, and Romania, which will allow the United States to use military bases. Hungary is allowing GIs to use a Hungarian base to train Iraqi exiles to fight and Poland will offer whatever America wants.
Saudi Arabia has pledged to keep the price of oil down, while Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have opened their doors to U.S. troops.
  • Smelling blood and reading public opinion polls, Democrats aim to attack what they are calling a rush to war. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., promises to force a debate in the Senate after Bush's State of the Union Address on Tuesday to show that support in Congress for war is eroding fast.
  • Pentagon watchdog groups are blasting the Pentagon for convening a conference with private industry contractors at the lavish Trump Taj Mahal Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., this spring.
  • Look for a furious lobbying blitz to follow the expected call by a Bush administration commission to slash team slots for female athletes as part of an assault on the Title IX federal law that has boosted athletics for girls. Soccer moms and the group Dads with Daughters are mobilizing to protect the 1.4 million high school and 78,000 college slots that girls now need for parity with boy athletes, as the law intends.
  • A new government guide is available that tells how to prepare for terrorist attacks or other disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a 102-page handbook - called "Are You Ready?" - that offers strategies for dealing with everything from tornadoes to toxic spills to terrorism. Get it at www.fema.gov.
  • Smoking might be bad for your health but a new study suggests nicotine may help fight Alzheimer's and other memory-destroying illnesses. Researchers in North Carolina slapped nicotine patches on 11 older men and women and found their ability to recognize objects and make quick decisions improved.
  • Pressure is mounting on Congress and the White House to establish a national water policy, and even a national water agency, to oversee the allocation of increasingly scarce water resources, particularly in the West.
  • Expect a storm of criticism when John Snow, Bush's pick to be the new Treasury secretary, faces Senate confirmation the last week of January. Democrats intend to flay former CSX Corp. chief executive Snow for his failure to pay child support decades ago, his 1982 DUI arrest and for the bankruptcy of Columbia Gas, on whose board he sat. Even more pointed will be criticism of the fact that CSX didn't pay federal income tax from 1998 to 2001 despite reporting $900 million in profits.
  • Pity America's executive class. Top employees are getting the ax at a rate 24 percent higher than last year, according to job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Save some pity for new college graduates. Employers project hiring nearly 4 percent fewer new grads than they did the last academic year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
  • QUOTABLE: "I'll try to show more active interest in the president's address than the (Tennessee) legislature showed in mine." - Freshman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and former Tennessee governor, about the State of the Union address Tuesday.
    "Anybody that can count to 10 without taking their shoes off would know better." - Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., criticizing an anti-war group for clogging a House office building hallway while delivering a petition to his office.
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