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Eastern Daily Press, Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Bush is out on a limb of his own choosing

Shakespeare's words are often best. And Macbeth's conclusion: "I am in blood stepped in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er" seems apposite in the context of looming war.

George W Bush is not Macbeth. But like Macbeth, he has propelled himself to what is, I now suspect, a point of no return.

The President has raised the volume and hardened the tone of his rhetoric on Iraq. But no. hard evidence has been revealed.

Preparations for war continue.

Yet despite a media blitz, the country is less willing than a few months ago to accept that America should, if necessary, go it alone.

The White House was not surprised when France, Russia and Germany declared against an invasion but was rocked when, late last week, Canada did so, too.

Sniffy assurances of White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer that "a Iot of countries are on our side" sounded more hollow by the day.

Mr Bush and Mr Fleischer continue to say Britain is committed to attacking Iraq and removing Saddam. Jack Straw made the right noises when he visited Washington last week.

More British forces are on their way to the Gulf.

But if Tony Blair is serious when he says military action must have UN backing, Britain will sit this one out because there is no chance the Security Council will agree to invasion any time soon.

So Mr Bush is perched near the end of a long branch. He may choose to stay there a bit~longer by giving weapons inspectors more time to finish their jobs.

But it is almost inconceivable he will want to climb down or could find the courage to do so.

In today's State of the Union address to Congress he will talk tough on Iraq but it's unlikely he will present compelling evidence that Saadam still has weapons of mass destruction because - if it exists - that would compromise its sources.

Mr Bush faces the devil's dilemma. He'll be damned if he goes to war and damned if he doesn't. But let's not forget he chose to go out on a limb.

© Eastern Daily Press

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