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Column: What Would We Do Without Albania?

The Bush administration's pathology of deception continues unabated. Its most recent outbreak of conning the already conned public is the claim that the United States' illegal, virtually unilateral and unprovoked military aggression against Iraq is but a partial expression of widespread international accord. France, singularly, is made out to be the global bad guy and martial party pooper; not the world's majority voice of opposition to America's depraved conduct abroad.

Why shoot, says the administration, we've got allies up to our eyeballs. The count has, at times, been a bit fuzzy -- how odd for this customarily precise White House when it comes to mathematics, especially on fiscal policy -- with diverse officials spouting diverse numbers. Aside from today's principal party line of 45 allies (which really means 30, because one-third, in a display of true solidarity with the U.S., prefer to pretend they've never heard of us), we have also been treated to allied counts of 35 and 40. In any case, all the estimates are within a comfortable 33-percent margin of error, a considerable improvement over the administration's budget forecasts.

Whatever the actual count, which includes the conveniently anonymously committed, 30 nations have been so bold as to raise their hands and be named. And a few of them have gone even farther. As we all know, allied Britain has promised the greatest number of troops -- ultimately 45,000 -- coming in at 12.9 percent of total "coalition" forces expected in Iraq. That's the good news. The bad news -- as some naysaying leftists such as columnists Robert Novak and Paul Craig Roberts might characterize it -- is that after Britain's contribution, 302,548 troops are still needed.

But not to worry. The leftover manpower burden doesn't all rest on the United States' shoulders. Indeed, because Dick, Donnie and Colin have taken the good time and trouble to amass the redoubtable "Coalition of the Willing," allies other than Britain are committing 0.00842 percent of the necessary troop balance, leaving the United States to compensate for only 99.991 percent of the shortfall. Perhaps these black-and-white statistics from the U.S. State Department will silence, once and for all, those whiners critical of the war as mostly an American ballgame.

For instance our traditional ally, Albania, is sending a contingency of 70 troops. Poland is anteing 200 troops and Romania, not to be outdone by a bunch of Poles, is raising the 200 by 78 more. That's the kind of good-natured competition and can-do spirit that will see us through these troubled times.

Australia promises 2000 troops. And that rounds out the Willing Coalition list; members willing enough, that is, to commit ground forces. Other much-touted coalition brothers include Spain, where a resounding 14 percent of the population has a favorable image of the U.S. and whose leadership has offered 0 troops; Turkey, 0; Italy, 0; Denmark, 0; and powerhouse Bulgaria, 0. Hitler's foreign policy had better luck attracting allies.

A few other less-touted coalition members are downright comical in description and symbolic of just how desperate the Bush administration has been to inflate its allied support.

Eritrea, for example, is one of the gang of 30. Its Gross Domestic Product is 0.00031 percent of the United States', and its per capita GDP -- you really have to work to accomplish something like this -- is less than Afghanistan's. Though zero Eritreans will be marching off to the Iraqi War, the little nation devotes a whopping 19.8 percent of its miniscule GDP to military expenditures (ours is 3.2). Such a shocking waste of resources is, however, easily explained. Eritrea is experiencing a frightful territorial dispute with another Willing Coalition member, Ethiopia, which, hard as it is to imagine, actually ranks less than Eritrea in per capita GDP. The only reason both nations bothered to enlist as absentee warriors against Iraq is that both are currying favor with the U.S. as leverage in a land-conflict resolution.

For mostly obvious reasons the coalition list excludes America's closest Middle East ally, Israel; which, by the way, between 1967 and 2000 stood in violation of twice the number of U.N. Security Council resolutions than Iraq earned for itself in the same period. But again, not to worry, because George Jr. has a "road map" to a comprehensive Mideast peace. The first step is a U.S. invasion of a Muslim country. That should help grease the skids.

Last week, in a cable-network news interview, a retired U.S. general said yeah, sure, we call the assault on Iraq a coalition product, but let's face it, this is America's fight. Just once -- just to break the monotony of deception, if nothing else -- it would be nice to hear the administration be as honest. Just once.

© Copyright 2003 P. M. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter's column is published weekly by History News Network and buzzflash.com.