- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

As Operation Iraqi Freedom unfolds, one fiction still lingers from the seemingly endless prewar debate. According to this myth, that lonely cowboy, President Bush, has been hellbent to oust Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush's loyal sidekick in this endeavor is Tony Blair, the Iron Gentleman of Great Britain.
America "needs to start to make some friends on this planet," Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, recently said. As my friend William Mullin, who calls this war "unjust," recently demanded: "How can Bush think he is right when the whole world thinks he is wrong?"
In fact, America fights Iraq with plenty of company. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced last Tuesday that the Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq would assist U.S. efforts to boot Saddam from power. This "Coalition of the Brave," as New York Post columnist John Podhoretz calls it, comprises the following 34 countries:
Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Holland, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.
America and these nations encompass Earth's six inhabited continents spanning 22 time zones.
Overwhelmingly Muslim Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Uzbekistan are among those publicly standing with President Bush. Also, Islamic Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates informally serve as staging areas for coalition troops and equipment.
Among coalition members, "Each country is contributing in the way most appropriate for it," State Department press officer Tara Rigler told me. "Some have committed military combat and support forces to the coalition. Others are providing access, basing and overflight rights. Still others have committed themselves to post-conflict peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts."
Miss Rigler added that beyond the coalition, 15 more nations are helping quietly or "offering defensive assets in the event that Saddam uses weapons of mass destruction." Even feckless French President Jacques "Never Mind" Chirac now says France may join the coalition if Saddam deploys one of the weapons of mass murder Mr. Chirac argued the dictator lacked in the first place.
"How to get rid of this threat concerns people around the world," Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Thursday. "I understand the start of the use of force by America and support it."
"The time has come to take a stance," Danish Prime Minister Anders-Fogh Rasmussen said last Tuesday. "It is unacceptable to make a mockery of the international community's authority."
It is unfortunate that the Bush administration's public diplomacy wheezes so far behind the private dialogue that assembled this impressive alliance. During the months of discussion on Iraq, a greater sense of symbolism, stagecraft and storytelling would have made life far easier for Mr. Bush and his proponents. Americans, for instance, never saw him hold a press conference with Kurds who survived Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons attacks, nor were they offered frequent and sustained descriptions of Iraq's extensive financial and logistical assistance for global terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, the March 16 Azores summit was a major lost opportunity.
Mr. Bush's meeting with Mr. Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on an isolated Atlantic island 900 miles west of Portugal fortified the peacenik claim these men are political lepers whose Iraq policy the entire globe disdains.
Instead, President Bush could have rendered the logorrheic anti-war protesters temporarily speechless. His ally, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, could have hosted a gathering at the perfectly secure Aviano Air Base near Venice. The coalition's heads of state easily could have flown in to show their solidarity with President Bush and against Saddam Hussein. In the mother of all photo opportunities, these leaders could have posed beside a pair of fully loaded F-16 fighter jets. This event, choreographed in a major European state abutting France, would have whittled Mr. Chirac's stature to that of Pepe Le Pew.
As President Bush confronts Iraq and such looming challenges as North Korea, he always should remember that many foreign chiefs share his concerns and endorse his actions. Facing the cameras among that broad front will help lure international opinion his way.
As for President Bush's critics, they still oppose this war. But even they now must admit that we are not alone.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Va.

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