Just As I Thought

Depends what the meaning of “willing” is

They like the phrase “coalition of the willing,” don’t they? Makes it sound like Bush actually did manage to get the world behind his plans. In reality…

There must have been shock in Baghdad and awe in Paris last week when the White House announced the news that Palau had joined the “coalition of the willing.”

Palau, an island group of nearly 20,000 souls in the North Pacific, has much to contribute. It has some of the world’s best scuba diving, delectable coconuts and tapioca. One thing Palau cannot contribute, however, is military support: It does not have a military.

Palau is one of six unarmed nations in the coalition, along with Costa Rica, Iceland, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the Solomon Islands. Then there’s Afghanistan.

Asked if Iceland would be supplying troops, ambassador Helgi Agustsson gave a hearty Scandinavian guffaw. “Of course not — we have no military,” he said. “That is a good one, yes.” In fact, Agustsson added, “we laid down weapons sometime in the 14th century,” when the Icelandic military consisted largely of Vikings in pointy helmets. The true nature of Iceland’s role in the coalition of the willing is “reconstruction and humanitarian assistance,” Agustsson said, adding that this has not been requested yet.

Therein lies the peculiarity of the coalition of the willing. Some on the White House list, such as Turkey, have been critical of the war and uncooperative. Many of those on the list, such as the unarmed nations above, will do far less than countries such as Germany, which adamantly opposed the war but is defending Turkey from Iraqi missiles. To join the coalition of the willing, a nation need do nothing more than offer “political support” — essentially, allow its name to be put on the list.

Administration officials have furnished the list to demonstrate, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued, that the current coalition “is larger than the coalition that existed during the Gulf War in 1991.” But that 34-member group was an actual military coalition, with all members providing troops, aircraft, ships or medics.

By that standard, there are only about a half dozen members of the coalition in the current war. In addition to the 250,000 or so U.S. troops, there are 45,000 from Britain and about 2,000 from Australia. Denmark and Spain have sent a small number of troops, though not, apparently, for ground combat.

… White House press secretary Ari Fleischer described it last week: “All told, the population of coalition of the willing is approximately 1.18 billion people around the world. The coalition countries have a combined GDP of approximately $21.7 trillion. Every major race, religion and ethnic group in the world is represented. The coalition includes nations from every continent on the globe.”[The Washington Post]

From the start, this administration has bent the English language and spun the truth far more strenuously than the Clintonites ever did. Thank goodness they brought a new attitude to the White House.

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