The world on the war

How the international press views the attack on Iraq.

Published March 20, 2003 9:16PM (EST)

United Kingdom, Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian

Those who wish this war had never happened should now want it to end as swiftly and painlessly as possible -- in a U.S.-British victory ...

There will be a momentum, even excitement, to war once the bombs drop and the TV newsmen get deep into their sandpits. Nevertheless, critics of this war have to keep up their own fight. No task will be more crucial than the vigilant protection of the truth as it suffers its very own aerial bombardment.

When the time comes, we will have to remind our accusers that we did not question this war because we believed Saddam was a cuddly grandpa: we knew the depths of his depravity. Our doubts resided elsewhere. For one thing, we never believed that Iraqi liberation was the real motive of this war. Witness Bush's address, in which the humanitarian argument was jumbled up among the old, bogus ones: Baghdad's links with al-Qaida and the direct threat posed by Iraq to America's security.

If the pro-war camp says such concerns are academic -- who cares about motive, so long as the end result is the same? -- we need to have an answer to that too. It is this: our fear is that the Bush administration, given its intentions, cannot be trusted to get Iraq's future right. Intention has an effect on outcome, and if this war is being fought only peripherally for the benefit of the Iraqi people that fact will have an impact on the post-war settlement. Of course, almost any new arrangement will be an improvement on Saddam. But two arguments made repeatedly these last few months will still hold firm: the price in Iraqi deaths may well be too high and other, less lethal means were possible.

It will be hard to say all this once the killing begins in earnest: the drama of war will make opposition look pale and passe. But doubters should hold their nerve. Our reason for opposition was never that victory would not come easily: most predicted it would. We feared instead for what that victory would cost and what would happen afterwards -- and those fears still stand.

Saudi Arabia, Nicolas Buchele in the Arab News

The new totalitarian regime prevailing in America and taking hold in its satellites around the world has learned important lessons from the failed experiments of the past. The first of these lessons is that the greatest liability to the survival of a regime is a strong and erratic leader ...

Thus without Hitler's deranged ambitions, the Third Reich might really have lasted a thousand years. Similarly, if Stalin had kept his genocidal ambitions in check, the Soviet Union might have continued to enjoy its initial popularity among sections of the West and at home.

With these examples in mind, the leader has been eliminated as a factor in U.S. politics. George W. Bush's very nullity as a politician throws into relief the fact that the United States has long been governed, not by its people, but by interests that are happy to remain largely anonymous, do not rely on individuals for their hold on power, and are recognizable in public mainly by a soothing corporate blue.

Americans often seem baffled that others fail to admire their system of government. They know after all that in the United States there exists a lively culture of debate, where the whole lunatic spectrum of opinion can find a platform of one kind or another (though at the same time the difference between the political parties it is actually possible to elect is vanishingly small)....

They have a vibrant and largely unchecked artistic community. They have the First Amendment ...

The reason for all this is that the new totalitarianism has learned a second lesson from its heavy-handed predecessors. If artists and intellectuals were able to do precisely nothing about Hitler or Stalin or any of the legion of tin-pot dictators around the world, it follows that you might as well have freedom of expression.

In the new totalitarian system, people can say whatever they like, and it makes absolutely no difference.

The impending war on Iraq is only one example among many of a supposedly sovereign public completely powerless in the face of a government bent on a course of action ...

The most important lesson to the new totalitarianism, then, comes from ancient Rome, and is simply that people sufficiently supplied with bread and games will put up with anything.

Philippines, Adrian E. Cristobal in the Manila Bulletin

A little after President Bush issued his ultimatum to Saddam, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told reporters that the government is giving its moral and political support to the war, but that he won't give them the satisfaction of knowing the details ...

Political support implies expediency ... Being on Bush's bad side certainly pays no dividends.

What can be more moral than benefiting, albeit with some risks, from the war with Iraq?

How can we distance ourselves from former colonizers and allies like America and Spain, to whom we are historically bound? As the godfather said once, there will be a time when he shall be asking for a small favor.

And that's also none of our business, we who are in the periphery of power.

Jordan, Editorial from the Jordan News Agency

As the United States goes to war, Jordanians and Arabs find themselves haunted by the same question that they have been asking Washington for the past few months: What is the plan? Speaking after the Azores summit on Sunday, President George W. Bush reiterated his commitment to a "unified" Iraq. That, like 95 percent of what Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said after their summit, was nothing new.

What Bush has failed to mention so far is how he intends to keep Iraq united, how he intends to foster the emergence of a representative administration including all ethnic and religious components of Iraqi society.

No Jordanian, no Arab has ever bought, even for one single second, Bush's blabbering about bringing democracy to this region. A democratic government in Baghdad would reflect people's anger and revulsion against U.S. policies, and translate it into policies.

Australia, Editorial from the Sydney Morning Herald

It should not have come to this. The international community should not have failed to disarm Iraq peacefully. The United Nations Security Council should not have failed so spectacularly. The United States and Britain should not have been left to go it alone. And when the moment of truth arrived, Australia should not have been so deeply committed to a course set by the United States and Britain that it had no choice. We could only confirm the already promised support and are now in a deeply regrettable war.

Australia has, however, gone further than its interests and its international obligations require.

Australia's support in the process that has led to war should have been more circumspect. We were right to cooperate with U.N. sanctions for peace and to support the creation of a broad international alliance. We were also right to lend symbolic support in the military build-up which tried, but failed, to make Saddam disarm.

Australia was wrong, however, not to have foreseen the danger of becoming so deeply committed that in an instant we find ourselves committed not to a broad and united coalition of forces, but a venture led by the United States and supported by Britain, Spain and to a much less and symbolic degree by a few others. Australia's military capacity, always more symbolic than strategically vital in a conflict such as this, is now committed on a distant stage. It would be better applied closer to home. Unfortunately, it is too late for that. Unfortunately, Australia is committed to this war.

Ghana, Editorial from Accra Mail

What would such a war mean to the distressed economies of Africa?

A lot. For starters, if the war should drag, and the price of oil soars, Africa's fragile economies would be hardest hit.

Even if the war is short-lived, Africa would still lose out because the reconstruction of Iraq would take top billing like the "emergent democracies of Eastern Europe" have been enjoying since the '80s.

Right now Africa is grappling with the concept of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). It is highly unlikely that NEPAD would make any headway should the guns roar and tanks roll into Iraq. NEPAD would as well consider itself part of the collateral damage of this war.

Israel, Editorial from Haaretz

It would, without a doubt, have been preferable if American diplomacy had succeeded in gaining more widespread military and diplomatic support for the campaign against Iraq. For a short moment, following 9/11, it had seemed that the nations of the world planned to join forces in the battle against global terrorism. But with time, it transpired that selfish concerns of certain states -- in particular, the temptation to gnaw at the puissance of a wounded superpower -- have overcome even the universal interest in stripping a tyrant like Saddam Hussein of his ability to strike.

To the good fortune of the Iraqi leader's victims, the United States has not weakened in its resolve to oust Saddam, despite the problems and disappointments encountered en route. Israel, which has placed itself firmly in the pro-American camp, hopes for a hasty outcome, with a minimum of losses.

Russia, Boris Kagarlitsky in the Moscow Times

The issue is no longer Saddam Hussein or even Iraqi oil. If the United States doesn't go to war now, it will in effect be admitting that its foreign policy over the past year was utterly pointless. President George Bush could apply some spin, of course, by declaring that only the pressure brought to bear by the U.S. military buildup forced Hussein to disarm.

This is the hope of European and Arab leaders. But they view the Iraq crisis in the context of international politics, whereas for Bush the war in Iraq is a domestic issue ... If the war that everyone is expecting doesn't happen, American patriots will be deeply disappointed. Like all nationalists, they will only be fully satisfied when the blood starts to flow. Somehow it just wouldn't seem right if the administration's stated goals were achieved without a shot being fired. National pride demands human sacrifice ...

War has become a riveting made-for-TV extravaganza. The average American is used to watching CNN footage of wars in obscure countries where the good guys crush the bad guys with high-tech weapons. Bush has promised to serve up the same kind of entertainment, only on a bigger scale. Now he has to stand and deliver.

Iran, Parviz Esmaeili in the Tehran Times

The silence of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and other U.N. officials also seems to confirm the idea that the U.N. has been stripped of its authority to decide about the world, which has actually been transferred to a real axis of evil with Bush as its head ...

In fact, instead of allowing the U.N. and the international community to disarm Iraq, the Bush administration and its lackeys are disarming the U.N. and the international community.

History shows that the bitter smell of gunpowder also bothers dictators. No dictator has ever succeeded in conquering the world. Warmongering will not lead to U.S. supremacy in the world and instead will bring about the collapse of the Western superpower. A Persian proverb says: "It may come early or late but it will finally come."

By Compiled by Laura McClure

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