March 10th, 2003
Oscar Wilde said about war, “As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular”.
As someone who is active on both sides of the Ocean, I am one of those Europeans who after the GW “Axis of evil speech was described as weak-kneed “European Elite“, by the Bush people. I like many Europeans oppose and reject the unilateral approach from the US on Iraq in its present form without the support of the United Nations and reject the unilateral views of the Bush administration.
I like to offer you my thoughts on the present situation, since I am against the coming war with Iraq by the US, without UN backing is unjust and illegal. This war should only be waged as a last resort, with all non-violent options exhausted. In the case of Iraq it is obvious that clear alternatives to war exist.
But Iraq is just a symptom. From the first day that George W Bush became President I have been deeply concerned about the “absolutist” direction my American friends are moving.
George W Bush said as a candidate “If we are an arrogant nation they will resent us” and he was right, the majority of the world resents him.
Since George W Bush, this intellectual giant of a man, became President of the United States, the result has been that the global and foreign policy of the US is now based on US domination as a national security strategy and this has become a central issue. The US reserves for itself the right to decide who might be its enemies and how they are dealt with. No other nation can be permitted to challenge its primacy.
Today we see America’s growing dependence on the military to manage world affairs. We see a President who is at the path of destruction of many of the world partnerships. America’s determination to employ its military might is pitted against the insistence of others who continue the post-war framework. As it has been expressed by senior officials of the Bush administration, “The UN is not a preferred organization; the new system in the world today is rested on American Primacy”. The National Security paper central assertion all but expunges the instinctive internationalization of Roosevelt and Truman. America’s global power must not be challenged.
As Woodrow Wilson said during WW I, “There is one response for us, force, force to the utmost, force without stint or limit, the righteous and triumphant force which shall make right the law of the world”. This administration lives also by the sword and understands that total victory in war commands total obedience from the defeated and opens a way to unhindered realization of political objectives.
This is cause for grave concern and ultimately will lead to a further des-integration of the alliance and other world partnerships.
It is too bizarre for words that the Bush “arms-and-oil” administration argues that the United Nations becomes “irrelevant” if it does not bow to the demands of the United States. The fundamental principle of the UN charter sets forth in article 2, the fundamental principle of the member states “to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
The fundamental question the Bush administration must answer in this respect is, “is the purpose in Iraq limited to the destruction of all of its present potential weapons of mass destruction or is your goal “Regime change”, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Oil and Gas reserves of Iraq and we must ask the question, who will be next in this conquest for power in the Middle East, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Libya! This, of course in the name of democracy.
What the world clearly has determined is that the Iraq regime is utterly untrustworthy, that Saddam is a tyrant and that his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction cannot be accepted. What the world wants is that that the UN weapons inspector return to Iraq and deal with the Saddam Hussein’s “weapons programs “and disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass are destruction, based on a two-step approach.
It must be concluded that the case, the desire for war of the Bush administration is driven by politics rather than logic and evidence and the administration is set on taking Saddam Hussein out and establishing a new puppet regime as envisaged by the Pentagon, a puppet regime just like was established in Vietnam, no matter what the consequences are, in order to establish a “Pax Americana” in the region. If the UN would support regime change, then they would have rendered themselves indeed as irrelevant.
As the brazen Bush imperialists try to occupy and install a new puppet regime “democracy” in Iraq, they are finding the reluctant allies inconvenient. The allies who are led by the brilliant foreign minister of France Dominique de Villepin, supported by China, Germany, Russia and others, are representing the views of the majority of the world.
Most members of the Security Council have so far resisted the enormous economic and financial influence, or better said blackmail that is being exerted by the US.
It is baffling to watch Bush threaten the United Nations that it will become insignificant if it doesn’t support this war against Iraq – as if the Bush administration has forgotten that the united nation is an expression of international will. By going ahead with this phony war with fuzzy arguments, American stature will further decline, but the US and the few allies it has left will obviously win the war but the US will lose the world.
This Unilateral action by the Bush administration creates a fundamental problem since the US constitution states that international agreements entered into by the US carry the force of law. Since the US has signed the UN charter, regime change is not only a violation of international law, it is unconstitutional.
It will further open the Pandora box in the Middle East and will cause much more anxiety in a already very unstable region. It will inflame the region further feeding terrorism, fundamentalist in Pakistan made already in the last elections major gains against President Pervez Musharraf, it will undermine the global campaign against terrorism and it will have further negative consequences on the economy.
It is very doubtful that the US is prepared for the consequences of a invasion of Iraq on the medium or long term, a sustained commitment to post-Ba’asthist institution-building is far from certain. The differences between the Sunnis and Shiites go back centuries. Kurdish nationalism dates back to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. It will most likely will result in a fury of killing, torture and chaos and the Kurds will use the US the same way the KLA “Kosovo Liberation Army” used the US to reach their political goals, causing even greater problems in the region, effecting Turkey and Iran.
What is however most alarming is the plan of the Bush administration to occupy Iraq, whereby a scenario is envisaged that Iraq will be governed by an American military commander – General Tommy Franks, head of the US forces in the Gulf, who would essentially assume the role that General MacArthur served in Japan after its surrender in 1945.
President G.W. Bush is using the same language Israel does, “It is forced upon us by Iraq’s refusal to disarm, we will be met an enemy who hides his military forces behind civilian, who has terrible weapons, who’s capable of any crime”. This are the same words of the butcher of Sabra and Shatilla, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, thereby indicating that with the demise of Saddam Hussein other Arab nation are given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated.
As G.W. said, “Rebuilding of Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations,” but “we will in remain in Iraq as long as necessary and not a day more”. How amazing, these same words Israel used when it invaded Lebanon in 1982. It took Israel 22 years and hundreds of Israeli lives – and thousands of Arab lives before the occupation ended.
The occupation plan of the US, deliberately seeks to isolate the already governing Kurdish people in the north, Shiite groups with potential ties with Iran, Sunni groups with potential ties to Saudi Arabia and tribes with their division are shunted aside, allowing the US occupiers to set up a new secular political system. How ironic. Precisely those that needs to be stitched together to make Iraq as a country viable.
This occupation cannot obliterate religious and ethnic cleavages, not eliminate long standing political organizations. Iraq is not a homogeneous, secular, industrial society, where all citizens share a common identity. Rather it is a society deeply divided along religious, ethnic and tribal lines.
The future stability of Iraq depends on whether the group the U.S. plan ignores can find a way to live together in one country under one political system without the hand of a US dictator to force them together. As an agent of American power in the Middle East, it will pose a threat to its neighbours. Rebuilding a nation, occupying it in order to free it, is an inherently arrogant act.
No one believes that the Bush administration is coming to modernize or democratize or bringing a better political system. After all, the policy of successive US administrations played a vital role in supporting the same regimes that it now describes as undemocratic or dictatorial.
How ironic it is, it was the same US that supplied Iraq with its bio weapon program in the 1980’s that G.W. now wants to eradicate. It was the Canters for Disease Control and Prevention in the US which sent samples directly to several Iraqi sites that UN inspectors determined were part of Saddam Hussein biological program, as the congressional records show.
But lets be clear about it, the main objective of the Bush administration is the stability of the Middle East, thereby allowing the US to take control of Iraq’s high-quality and easily extracted oil, thereby ending the Saudi domination of the international oil market. After all the US with 5 % of the world populations is using 42 % of the world energy sources.
The remarks from the Rand Corporation analyst, while briefing the Defence Policy Board on invading Saudi Arabia and further inflammatory remarks place everything in perspective. It makes an occupation of Iran and Saudi Arabia most likely, thereby confirming the imperialist direction the US administration is moving.
But what is really at issue, that relations between the allies, US and Europe have been deteriorating in the last two years in a massive way and are at the lowest since 1945. What is important to realize that the vision of the US has always been very positive in Europe but the present change in the overall strategy of the US makes is harder to see the present administration as a reasonable power?
There are constant differences which separate the Europe from the US, whether in crime, education, welfare, regulation, foreign policy and world governance, but it should be stressed there is more that we have in common then divides us, but the approach and priorities what we see as a civilized society as a whole are different.
It should also be stressed that this present widening of the strategic and conceptual gab between the US and Europe is dangerous and on the long term can only be seen as a strategic threat to the US. It may even be likely that in the future Europe and Japan which generally emphasizes the international rule of law and multilateralism will ally themselves with Russia in the event these differences with the US continue to grow.
Another aspect of concern for the US should be the budget dependence on European and Japanese investments. To put this in perspective, the European Union has a population of 375 million and a GDP of approximately $ 10 trillion, compared with the US population of 280 million and a GDP of $ 7 trillion. Europe spends about $ 130 billion on defence, a sum which is steadily decreasing, while the US is spending on defence $ 355 billion, which did increase sharply in view of 9/11.
These destructive policies of the Bush administration “you are either with us, or against us”, have done already and will continue to do tremendous damage to the US on the long term.
These policies find their origin in the influence of the ideological right in America on the present administration, the same civilians hawks who avoided military service in Vietnam and now calling for war from a safe distance in their comfortable homes and are blasting the generals and anybody else who dares to caution for this kind of approach.
In this desire to go to war, Donald Rumsfeld is seemingly as certain in his misjudgement as was Robert McNamara when the US plunged deep into the mire of Vietnam.
The main issue in American society is not about Iraq, the main issue is the debate between the unilaterists (radical and utopian) and the multilaterists (realistic). The one side which sees a US imperium and seeks unilateral action based on the US superior moral (!) standing and is aggressively anti-Europe and very pro-Israel. Countries that are not in agreement with these high moral standards of the US or a country that is seen as a danger to the strategic position of the US are in this respect endangered species.
This is imperialist in terms of its overwhelming military power, but I doubt the founding fathers had this in mind. A core group of conservatives is realizing long dreamt ambitions under the cover of this war against terrorism.
It is almost if McCarthy is coming out of the shadows, people are branded as unpatriotic when they dare oppose this war effort, individual rights are curtailed and the harm being done to civil liberties. It is almost perverse, people have been held in jail indefinitely and it is being refused to tell who is held. There are military tribunals, secret arrests and secret trials. The Bush administration has shown contempt to basic rights.
Benjamin Franklin’s said in 1755 to the Pennsylvania Convention: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”.
On the other side of this ideological fight for the soul of America which is fascinating, you have the multilaterists who accept that US power and interests are best served in co-operation with others. (State department versus the Pentagon)
After the events of Sept 11, there was a spontaneous outpouring of support in Europe and everywhere around the world for the US and the Americans, this window of opportunity has not been use by the Bush administration, it is now closed.
Forgotten was the State of the Union, the famous “Axis of Evil“ speech in which GW denounced Iraq, Iran and North Korea and the differences in perception how the US and Europe see the world became very clear. What further became clear was that the once held common values of freedom and democracy become increasingly frayed.
As Al Gore recently remarked “After Sept. 11 we had enormous sympathy, goodwill and support around the world, we have squandered that, and in one year we’ve replaced that with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, not at what the terrorists are going to do but what we are going to do“.
The serious question which we have a ask ourselves today is, has the once held belief of a division between the West and the Rest, been replaced by a division between the US and the Rest.
These differences in perception between Europe and the United States are a reflection of different views of democracy legitimacy within Western civilization and revolved around American unilaterism and international law. International law which the US has helped structure during the last 50 years and is now engaged in destroying.
A unilateral attack on Iraq will deepen the Anti-Americanism in Europe, Japan and across the Muslin world, both in Asia and the Middle East, who are very much aware of the rhetoric declaring war on Islam, not just terrorism.
In Europe, the US is getting the image of a rogue state, it is seen as the larges danger to world peace, attempting to destroy the institutions of international law that previous US administrations have carefully build. This sentiment is growing with every assault on the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and every rejection of treaty based responses to climate change or the unconditional US support for Israel which is seen as one of the largest factor contribution to these feelings.
In this regard it must be concluded that the first 100 days of the Bush administration were a disaster. The differences appeared in a number of disputes, starting with the withdrawal from the Kyoto agreements, the Rio pact on biodiversity, the US was removed from the Human right commission, poverty and sustainable development, the withdrawal from the ABM treaty, jeopardizing the Korean Détente, the Middle East conflict supporting Sharon as well as the pursuit of Missile Defence.
On May 9th, 2001, I observed, “after the crisis with China we saw a President who lives in the past, a President who has no long term view of the future, behaving like an Elephant in a China cabinet, supported by the old men in the administration, most of them men from the past, old men leftovers from the cold war policies. That it almost seemed that the US needs enemies or a cause to fight. It lacks strategic direction and the world has changed greatly and we in Europe are not satellite states of the US”.
Further intellectual difference between the US and Europe exist in such issues as capital punishment, gun control, the opposition of the US against a ban on landmines and recently the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as well as the opposition of the US to the ICC (International Criminal Court), leading to the Helms-Miller measure.
It is profoundly disturbing to most Europeans the change in policy as defined in the “National Security Strategy of the United States”, towards preventive war and pre-emptive strikes and its willingness to attack nations unilaterally even in the absence of a provocation. This is unacceptable together with the hostility and limited regard for international law and world opinion.
Now, Congress is authorizing the President of the United States of America without serious deliberation to use the forces of the US, whenever, whenever and however he determines, and for as long as he determines, if he can make somehow a connection with Iraq. As Senator Robert C. Byrd observed “This broad resolution underwrites, promotes and endorses the Bush doctrine of preventive war and pre-emptive strikes”. The conclusion can only be that this allows the Bush administration to unleash the dogs of war he is so much appetite for.
The clear statement of G.W. Bush at West Point was telling for the strategic change in the thinking of the Bush administration and their belief that US domination of international society is a natural historic conclusion, “America is the only surviving model for human progress”.
The conclusion on some neo-conservatives circles is that Europe and Japan are irrelevant and as Robert Kagan wrote “The all-important question of power – the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power – American and European perspectives are diverging”.
This new strategy is already compared with the pan-German expansionism of Wilhelm II, before 1914, unrealistic geopolitical ambitions and a pre-emptive strategy for dealing with opponents.
He followed the so called Schlieffen Plan to pre-emptively defeat Russia and attack France and created enemies faster than he could kill them. The same is presently being achieved by the Bush administration in the Muslim world. But like in ancient Rome, China and the British Empire, military pre-eminence is not a prerequisite for national security.
The principle involved is where the ultimate source of liberal democratic legitimacy lies, whereby Europeans believe that democratic legitimacy flows from the international community has preference over individual nation-state. In the case of Yugoslavia this was a multilateralism moral expression of the wills and norms of the international community.
In today’s modern diplomatic system, the justification and legitimacy of wars and national self-determination all find its basis in the principle of mutual recognition of national sovereignty, which is the constitutional basis of the United Nations.
The last Gulf War was justified in terms of international norms by the fact that Iraq has invaded and annexed a sovereign state. Iraq was the aggressor and the attack was sovereign itself. Without that justification, UN backing and the coalition was not possible.
It must be concluded without any clear aggression by Iraq against the territory of another sovereign state it is, the United States that would be undermining the entire international system – it’s very underlying consensus based on mutual recognition of national sovereignty – by initiating an attack.
Domestic repression as seem in the case of Iraq is not a pertinent justification and neither are the possession of weapons of mass destruction nor support for international terrorism – is sufficient to justify an direct attack on a sovereign state without a clear and present danger to one’s own sovereignty.
But this seems not to matter to the present US administration and in choosing the path of unilateral war towards Iraq the administration is failing in the responsibility to the American people and the world.
In this respect it is amazing that the administration has not used the momentum after 9/11 when the world came together, to reach consensus on many important subjects which affect the long term future of our existence.
The same can be said of the reaction to the historic Saudi peace proposal (Beirut declaration), the Bush administration lacks a coherent strategy and has not shown any leadership or even a balanced position in the Israeli/Palestine conflict and is still following Sharon, calling his “that man of peace”, accepting to isolate Arafat, who can be seen as perhaps not the desired moral leader of that a new Palestine state needs, but still Arafat is the only legitimate voice of the Palestinians.
To me it is evident that is not Arafat who should be isolated; it is Sharon who is once again inheriting the wind of his policies. But then it has always been his quest to end the Palestine / Israeli peace process and today we see the US giving Israel its support to proceed with its offensive. This makes the US responsible morally responsible for the war atrocities which are presently taken place in the occupied territories.
It is true they Arafat and Sharon deserve each other, but the destabilization we have seen unfolding could easily have been avoided by some leadership of the Bush administration.
I can only conclude that the 35-year occupation of the Palestine territories has corrupted Israel, which is dominating, expelling, starving, killing, and humiliating the Palestinians, inviting the destructive suicides attacks, resulting in the terrible waist of young lives we see in Israel, but this is not surprising.
The house to house razzia’s, the raids, the snipers, the executions and mass arrests remind me of the dark times of European history, we witness war crimes, crimes against humanity, a spiral of violence, which make it impossible to keep silent.
However it is not surprising if we look at the history of Sharon, who is already viewed by most people in Europe as a war criminal after the events at Sabra and Shatila, this is only a confirmation. This is the same Sharon who was in 1953 as commander of Unit 101, responsible for the massacre of Kibya, a small village in Jordan, where 75 people were slaughtered; of which 50 were women and children.
We must conclude that Sharon is on a stampede and leaving a path of destruction without a battle plan, or exit strategy. It is an illusion to think that by turning to massive violence the Israeli army can stop the resistance against occupation. The slogan “to root out terror” is a vain illusion as is his so called victory elusive, only diplomatic negotiations can bring a solution.
It is obvious that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is in no less flagrant a violation of the Security Council than Iraq. It shows the double standard of the US administration.
But now, the momentum is gone, NATO involvement in Afghanistan was unwelcome and rejected and we are in the same position as before 9/11 whereby it’s almost perverse, how this so called war on terrorism dominates the international agenda.
We in Europe who have lived with terrorism for decades, Germany, France, Northern Ireland, Spain have been effected, we view this somewhat different, we think that 9/11 was a one-off kind and that the likelihood that Bin Ladin will strike again in such a way is very small in view of the preventive measures being taken.
I am of the opinion that this creation of unrealistic fear it is being used by the present administration to further the conservative right agenda, and the world truly fears this irrational behaviour and they are getting all they want. Just like Thatcher used the Falkland’s war to get re-elected.
What we see happening, again and again goes back to the difference between long term versus short term thinking, the quest of power of the US, what we see today is the domino theory of the 1960’s but this time in reserve and the US in the role of predator.
Now the Bush administration neo-conservative agenda is focusing on Iraq, wanting to write its latest chapter in their sorry relationship with Saddam Hussein. The next target will be Iran and it seems he has already have forgotten about Afghanistan, but this is nothing new the same happens time and time again in US policy, just like it did with Afghanistan in 1980. There is no long term vision; the friends of today are the enemies of tomorrow as we see with Iran and Iraq both countries which have been supported by US administrations.
It is also not the first time that oil was a determining reason, the same happened in Iran in 1953 when the government of President Mossadeq was overthrown with the help of the CIA and the CIC, since no agreement could be reached with Western countries with regard to the oil concessions. The overthrown did re-establish the power and prestige of the Shah of Iran, until he himself was overthrown in 1979, ending the influence of the US in Iran.
This led ultimately that the Reagan administration started to support Iraq in 1983 after a visit of Donald Rumsfeld in the long and bloody war against Iran, fearing that that the Iranian revolutionaries would overrun the Middle East and its vital oil fields. During the next 5 years the US army backed Saddam’s armies’ military intelligence, economic intelligence, economic aid and covert supplies and ammunitions.
At that time, the US shipped chemical analysis equipment and numerous shipments of ” “bacteria/ fungi/protozoa”, to the IAEC, which could be used to make biological weapons, including anthrax. In 1988 the Reagan turned a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons by Iraq, first blaming Iran. At the same time the US supported the resistance in Afghanistan at a cost of $ 3 billion a year, supporting the same Bin Ladin the administration is now trying to forget.
After the Kuwait invasion, General Normal Schwarzkopf, commander of operation Desert Storm noted in his memoirs that “America’s allies feared that toppling Saddam would splinter and destabilize the region. The Shiites in the north might bond with their fellow religionists in Iran, strengthening the Shiite mullahs and threaten the Saudi border. In the north the Kurds are tempting to break parts of Iraq and Turkey to create a new Kurdistan”.
Another qualitative problem seems to be that the USA has Ambassadors who are first of all friends of the President and businessmen and not career diplomats. There is a well-founded theory that the Kuwait/Iraq war could have been avoided by a diplomat who would have informed Saddam Hussein that invading would have been unacceptable to the US.
So now we are at the start of a new war, the final page in the relationship between Saddam and the US. It has been said that it is not if, but when it will happen. This so-called war on Iraq, which should be about weapons of mass destruction and security of the United States, however I beg to differ, this is not about enforcing Iraq’s compliance with the UN resolutions, or even the fact that Saddam Hussein performance as a ruler is a matter of grave concern to the international community.
Saddam Hussein is a prime example of the type of leader who is totally untrustworthy and should be in front of the ICC in The Hague. Sharon and Arafat are both two excellent candidates. But it’s equally repulsive that the President of the United Stated is suggesting assassinating another head of state.
But this is not about Saddam Hussein, this is about Arms, Oil and Gas, a better strategic position in the Middle East and getting re-elected that is one of the reasons why this was cannot be delayed. The world sees the Bush administration position on Iraq for what it is, the Emperor has no clothes and he is a fraud. I think that there are better and more realistic alternatives, instead of declaring unilateral and immediate war.
There is this notion that American and British soldiers will be welcomed with open arms in Iraq, sheered as liberators and democracy will spread forth in the Middle East. This is very doubtful given the fact how the US is viewed as a colonial power with wants to dominate the region.
After 11 years of economic sanction and having been bombed during these years daily, water treatment plants have been destroyed and is has been made almost impossible to import purification chemicals like chlorine and medicines, which has led to doubling of infant mortality according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
It is more likely that the Arab streets will be inflamed and friendly autocratic regimes will be affected and in the worst case scenario replaced with Islamic fanatics. [
But then, this does not really matter, GW is just a puppet on a string, it’s about the real power behind the throne, in the dark corridors of power, the CIA, NSA, the Carlyle Corporation, Arms-Oil-Gas vested interests and getting re-elected.
But the real problems are different, 35 million citizens in the US are living beneath the poverty income, people are losing their job and losing their money in the stock market; the economy and the deficit is out of control, people are selling their homes to have capital.
The schools are overcrowded, there are not enough teachers, 23 % percent of all Americans are illiterate, 50 million more Americans cannot read or comprehend above an eight grade level, health care costs are out of control, and patient care is crumbling.
We can only conclude that this President is completely unprepared, especial intellectually. He substitutes platitudes and slogans for thought and analysis, having little capacity or interest in these mental processes, one could conclude he has contempt for them.
To conclude, the G.W. administration is creating terrorism out of unilateralism and arrogance, it’s a danger to the world and with its policies the US can only be viewed as morally obtuse and naive in failing to address terrorism in its broader and deeper dimensions, resulting in the decline of global support for US global policies, leading to further isolation. The harm which the Bush administration is doing to the long term influence of the US will take years to repair.
It is time that we start looking at what motivates this terrorism, radicalism and start to defuse the threat by changing the way these people grow up in all these Arab states. The Arab masses with their dissatisfaction and disillusionment, their lack of education, opportunity and hunger are the ideal breeding ground for terrorism, born out of despair and loss of hope. People who show, that they do not find the world a fit place to live.
The North / South conflict finds the underlying reason and we in the West have to consider what we must and can do about sustainable development, something G.W. Bush likes to ignore.
Mahatma Gandhi said 60 years ago, “The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed”.
William J J Houtzager