War of words

What the international press and other voices are saying about the attack against Iraq.

Published March 20, 2003 8:23PM (EST)

Iraq, Where is Raed?

The all clear siren just went on.

The bombing could come and go in waves, nothing too heavy and not yet comparable to what was going on in 1991 ... Around 6:30 p.m. my uncle went out to get bread. He said all the streets going to the main arterial roads are controlled by Ba'ath people. It's not curfew, but you have to have a reason to leave your neighborhood, and the bakeries are, by instruction of the Party, selling only a limited amount of bread to each customer. He also says that near the main roads all the unfinished houses have been taken by Party or army people.

I watched al Sahaf on al-Jazeera. He said that the United States has bombed the Iraqi satellite channel, but while he was saying that the ISC was broadcasting. If it really did hit the ISC headquarters, it would have been right in the middle of Baghdad. What was probably hit were transmitters or something. All TV stations are still working.

Israel, Bradley Burston in Haaretz

A Pentagon-dubbed "decapitation" mission, a pre-dawn air assault with Saddam Hussein as its reputed target, may have been President George Bush's best chance to stave off a protracted war, which could spell ultimate defeat even if American troops score strings of tactical victories.

But even if the Iraqi president is killed or captured, could the American people still be facing years of war, in Iraq or elsewhere?

The killing or capture of the Iraqi leader might help shorten the war's timespan, but it is overly simplistic to believe that the removal of Saddam Hussein or his sons would spell a swift conclusion, said Haaretz intelligence analyst Yossi Melman.

"One must give Iraq's generals, its leadership, and the [ruling] Ba'ath Party due credit," Melman observes. "It is not just a regime ruled through tyranny and terror. There is that, to a great degree, but these people are also guided by ideology, that of the Ba'ath, the common cause, the notion of the Iraqi nation.

One particular problem for the campaign against Saddam Hussein is his intensely loyal inner circle, including a core of some 10 top generals, key players in his rule, many of them members of Saddam's family clan.

Now that the apparent 'liquidation' bid has apparently failed, the Americans can be expected "to concentrate on breaking lines of communication, targeting the regime's command and control centers, in a 'divide and rule' strategy, to isolate Saddam Hussein and his central command from the other, more peripheral areas of Iraq - in sum, to push him into losing control of the situation."

The question of whether the Bush administration will follow an Iraqi campaign with threats of military force against other nations on the White House blacklist may in the end be decided by domestic considerations, rather than the desire to bring about changes in regimes that, in terms of nuclear potential alone, are potentially far more dangerous than that of Saddam.

"If he is still at war when he runs again, even if he is winning that war, I don't believe he will be re-elected, if only because of the economy," says Melman.

Jamaica, Editorial in the Jamaica Observer

Hardly anyone would doubt that America, with its vastly superior technology and military might, will easily overcome Iraq in the war that President Bush has ordained against Saddam Hussein.

The real difficulty will be ensuring ... that it is not a peace to end all peace.

Iraq, after all, is itself an unnatural construct, fashioned from the European expansion in the Middle East early in the 20th century and the final dismemberment of the old Ottoman Empire. Its disparate groups of Kurds, Shiite and Sunni Moslems and Marsh Arabs have rarely had coinciding interests, and any national identity has by and large come from a central government unrestrained by democratic niceties.

Although America has argued that the removal of Saddam will usher in democracy and a new order in the Middle East, we are not clear if this democratization will apply to its allies, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates.

And with anti-Americanism swelling in the Middle East, President Bush will have to do more than talk about a new road map to peace in the region and for an independent Palestinian state ...

These are difficult issues, but they are not the only ones that the Cheney-Bush White House and the U.S. State Department will have to face.

The rent in the Atlantic alliance over America's unilateral war ... could signal the disintegration of NATO and a re-assertion of Europe, led by France. Britain may eventually be the odd man out in this new Europe, which would see itself as the counterpoint to American power. In this dispensation, Britain would likely find its place fully, and permanently, in an Anglo-American relationship.

The best bet for America is that this war goes swiftly and, in so far as war can be, cleanly. Otherwise the peace, when it comes, may be elusive.

Turkey, Ilnur Cevik in the Turkish Daily News

This is the first administration in Turkish history that has managed to ruin Turkey's ties with the United States -- and the EU -- in such a short time span ...

The notorious government motion that was supposed to define the Turkish involvement in the Iraq war has been turned into a nonentity by the United States telling Turkey "we only want overflight rights and the rest is meaningless."

This means the United States did not even request using Turkish bases or deploying troops in Turkey. They simply gave the elbow to Turkey, leaving Ankara empty-handed, with no economic relief to cushion the negative effects of the war.

On Wednesday the United States simply made a statement saying it will support the Turkish economy as long as Turkey sticks to the IMF and World Bank programs. They did not mention any new economic package, which is to be expected when you are so uncooperative with Washington.

Well done gentlemen! No other administration could have performed this miracle of ruining our ties with the United States and the EU at the same time.

There is even gossip that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leadership is in fact Islamist -- and moved to finish off Turkey's relations with the West in both the United States and Europe. We doubt this.

All we can say is that they listened to the wrong people: those who kept on telling them the Americans could not launch a war against Iraq without Turkey, and those who urged them to use Byzantium tactics to bargain with the Americans.

Russia, Pavel Felgenhauer in the Moscow Times

The Iraqi problem is out of the hands of the diplomats, as generals, servicemen and women take over the show. Considering the total mess the diplomats have made, any change may be for the better.

As the United States this week finally and firmly assumed its role as undisputed world hegemon, the old world order created in 1945 began to fold. It was France and Russia that gave the existing system the kiss of death by exposing its emptiness and fundamental immorality.

During the Cold War, the international order was based on a balance of power between East and West that was reflected in the U.N. Security Council -- where each side had the capacity to block the other.

Of course, during the Cold War there were many local wars in which East or West bypassed the official rules to subvert enemy client states. Some nasty regimes were forcibly replaced by others that were often even less humane, although ideologically different. But the balance between East and West, reflected in the Security Council, together with the principle of absolute sovereignty, helped keep an array of bloody dictatorships in power for decades.

The recent fracas in the Security Council over Iraq was mostly about the limits of sovereignty.

After the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Brezhnev doctrine of limited sovereignty was formulated proclaiming the right of the Soviet Union to invade satellite states in order to support pro-Moscow "socialist" regimes. Now a new Bush-Brezhnev doctrine of limited sovereignty may become the basis of international law. The United States now claims a sovereign right to invade any other country to change a nasty regime, if the president and Congress agree to it. The U.N., France, Russia and other "veto holders" can go and get stuffed if they do not like this new emerging world order.

In Moscow, the United States' bypassing of the U.N. created some panic. Many in the Russian elite are saying: After the United States goes to Baghdad, then kicks Iran and North Korea into submission, then strangles the Belarussian dictatorship, maybe it will decide to forcibly correct Russia's behavior.

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.

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.

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.

By Compiled by Laura McClure

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