The world press on the war

The editor of a Saudi Arabian newspaper asks, "What have the Arabs done to help themselves over the last 40 years?"


Compiled by Laura McClure
April 18, 2003 10:44PM (UTC)

Saudi Arabia, Arab News editor in chief Khaled Al-Maeena in the Arab News

"We are all suffering from low-level depression," a friend of mine said the other night. I didn't have to ask him why. "Yes," I said, "the events of the past month have been traumatic, and we are all anxious to see what the future has in store for us."

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"God only knows," another friend commented.

"True," my friend answered, "but God helps those who help themselves. What have the Arabs done to help themselves over the last 40 years?"

They were 40 years of infighting, political rivalry, and economic programs that never took off and focused on issues that were of no benefit to national interests. ...

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There were real problems in the area that had to be resolved. Palestinian land was occupied and its people oppressed and killed on a daily basis by heavily armed Israeli forces with full economic and military support from the United States.

We should have seen such problems as a challenge -- a challenge to develop and modernize our society within the parameters of Islam. Instead, we did the opposite. We started chanting slogans and singing songs of yesteryear, in praise of past glories ...

The absence of the rule of law, lack of accountability and absolute rule over an intimidated public disrupted any social or economic progress. Thus while other countries progressed, the Arab world with its brimming coffers became mired in Third World status ...

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Now, with the fall of a tyrant, a fresh breeze is also blowing in the Arab world. A wind of change ...

We must not let future generations down by bequeathing them a legacy of a society that is divided, a national debt that will break their backs, an educational system that churns out parrots and a society that wallows in self-pity and snivels in mortification at the first sign of a problem.

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The more a society lags behind, the more aware its intelligentsia should be of the qualitative leaps that have occurred elsewhere, because the gap between what is and what should be is widening by the day. But we have failed to realize this, and intellectuals and the media are shirking their responsibility to make us aware of that widening gulf.

But it's not too late to start ...

This is the time to learn our lessons from the past.

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South Africa, Cedric de Coning in the Star

Describing the anarchy reigning in his country now, one Iraqi said: "There used to be one Saddam Hussein, now everybody is a Saddam Hussein."

What should be done to restore law and order and who should be doing it? There is no ambiguity in international law, in the form of the Geneva Convention, on this point. When an invading party obtains effective control over a given territory, it invokes a legal responsibility to protect the civilian population, and to provide for their essential humanitarian needs ...

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Articles 55, 59 and 69 of the Fourth Geneva Convention address the duties of an occupying force, which are, amongst others, to provide access to food, medical supplies, clothing, bedding, means of shelter and other supplies essential to the survival of the civilian population. This does not mean that the military force has to provide the humanitarian assistance itself, but it has to ensure the population access to aid. At this point, it is no longer a question of allowing the free flow of humanitarian goods, it is a legal obligation to ensure that the basic needs of the population are met.

Unfortunately, some seem unable to separate the humanitarian emergency co-ordination role from the debate over who should lead reconstruction efforts and help establish an interim administration in Iraq -- a role which the US is determined to control.

Others see the UN as the only body able to establish an internationally acceptable transitional administration in Iraq. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the US to govern Iraq without being perceived as an imperialist occupying force, especially in light of the anti-US sentiment the war has evoked in the Middle East.

In the meantime, thousands of Iraqis need urgent humanitarian assistance.

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The UN's role in the flow of emergency humanitarian assistance should be de-linked from considerations over who should oversee the long-term transition. It is time to focus on those in whose name the war was said to be fought in the first place -- the innocent people of Iraq.

Russia, Pavel Felgenhauer in the Moscow Times

With the war all but over and the victors clear, many in Russia are asking questions: Why did our military and intelligence people get it all wrong? Why did they tell yarns about "resolute Iraqi resistance," when the regime and its armies were crumbling? Did these falsehoods seriously affect national decision-making, and is the spin still continuing? ...

It wasn't only Russian media that were biased; in the West it was more or less the same. The French and German media, and many British publications, were one-sidedly antiwar and anti-American, while some U.S. outlets indulged in Soviet-style pro-war chanting.

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The Iraqi crisis created a multitude of strange bedfellows. As late as April 7, the Guardian newspaper carried a story piling praise on a group of unnamed Russians, who during the war published daily assessments of the campaign on a number of web sites under the collective pseudonym "Ramzaj."

The Guardian story assumed that the Ramzaj group was an alias for Russian military intelligence, or GRU, and that this was "really the one source of reliable information on this war -- coming from Russian spies." ...

The Ramzaj bulletins are clearly not a verbatim copy of the material the Kremlin was getting from the GRU or KGB-successor intelligence agencies. But the essence and quality of the official stuff may be the same. The degradation that engulfed the military after the demise of the Soviet Union has not spared the intelligence community or the GRU. The Guardian has it wrong: The GRU is no longer "the most sophisticated agency of its kind in the world." ...

A high-ranking government official told me last week that for half a year or more, Russian secret services, including military intelligence, were lobbying the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin to back Saddam Hussein in the confrontation with the U.S.-led coalition.

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This week, with the fray over, another official connected to the intelligence services (not retired) told me: "Our leadership never had any illusions about an ultimate American victory. It was the French that genuinely believed a miracle Saddam victory was possible and scolded us for being 'fatalistic.'"

That's always the way: The losers shift the blame about who made the decision to back the wrong horse, while the victors fight over the spoils.

United Kingdom, Paul Brown in the Guardian

Hundreds of tonnes of depleted uranium used by Britain and the United States in Iraq should be removed to protect the civilian population, the Royal Society said yesterday, contradicting Pentagon claims it was not necessary.

The society's statement fuels the controversy over the use of depleted uranium (DU), which is an effective tank destroyer and bunker buster but is believed by many scientists to cause cancers and other severe illnesses.

The society, Britain's premier scientific institution, was incensed because the Pentagon had claimed it had the backing of the society in saying DU was not dangerous.

In fact, the society said, both soldiers and civilians were in short and long term danger. Children playing at contaminated sites were particularly at risk.

DU is left over after uranium is enriched for use in nuclear reactors and is also recovered after reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. There are thousands of tonnes of it in stores in the US and UK.

Because it is effectively free and 20% heavier than steel, the military experimented with it and discovered it could penetrate steel and concrete much more easily than convential weapons. It burns at 10,000C, incinerating everything as it turns to dust.

DU has been suspected by many campaigners of causing the unexplained cancers among Iraqi civilians, particularly children, since the previ ous Gulf war. Chemicals released in the atmosphere during bombing could equally be to blame.

Up to 2,000 tonnes of DU has been used in the Gulf, a large part of it in cities like Baghdad ...

Professor Brian Spratt, chairman of the Royal Society working group on depleted uranium, said that a recent study by the society had found that the majority of soldiers were unlikely to be exposed to dangerous levels of depleted uranium during and after its use on the battlefield.

"However, a small number of soldiers might suffer kidney damage and an increased risk of lung cancer if substantial amounts of depleted uranium are breathed in, for instance inside an armoured vehicle hit by a depleted uranium penetrator." ...

He added: "We also recommend long-term sampling, particularly of water and milk, to detect any increase in uranium levels in areas where depleted uranium has been used.

Hong Kong, Paul Belden in Asia Times

On the first night of bombing in Baghdad, I recall having written about a much-loved young peace activist named Uzma Bashir who had gone to Iraq to serve as a human shield, and whose many friends had gathered in an Amman hotel to hear the latest news from Iraq. They were all very frightened for her safety, I wrote.

They needn't have bothered. As it turned out, the bombing campaign didn't hurt Uzma one bit. It did, however, really really piss her off.

When the first American tank column arrived in Paradise Park ... on the morning of Wednesday, April 9, they met a young woman who was still pulling on her shoes while running out into the roadway holding up a huge hand-lettered sign that read: "How many children did you kill today?"

Naturally, one of the tank operators lowered his gun barrel so that it pointed directly at Uzma's face. "Bring it on!" she screamed. "You bastards! Murderers! Go ahead and kill me, you pricks!"

Some liberation. And some Uzma, too.

In the time since, as US forces have methodically consolidated their hold on the city, the legend of Uzma has grown in the telling, until she has become something of a force of nature in her own right. Nothing seems to stop her, and nothing shuts her up. ...

Seemingly every soldier has heard of her. On hearing her name mentioned in passing, one US Marine told me: "Yeah, we drove over to the the hospital in Saddam City to provide security the other day, and she was standing out front yelling, 'What, did you come to finish them off'!?" ...

So the legend lives on, and grows in the telling, until it's not likely that many soldiers in this town who happened to cross her path will ever forget the name Uzma. Some of them even have listened to a word or two she has to say. "I managed to bring one soldier to tears," she crowed.

Saudi Arabia, Mohammad T. Al-Rashid in the Arab News

Hunger is the nadir of physical human existence; despair is the psychological one. There are plenty of both in Iraq these days. As for the Arab world, the despair is there in massive doses too. The dictator is gone. That is just about the only bright spot in this entire mad canvas of war and blood.

Iraq is the exposed flesh that everyone can see, but the rest of the Arab body is aching with the same malady. ... The first victims of this war would be the voices of reason and sanity in the region. The fanatic will have his field turned and fertilized and ready to sow with the all the madness that fanaticism is capable of. So what to do? ...

I think it is time to unite. No, I am not talking about the Arab world. I'm talking about Islam and Christianity. The Pope, head of the largest religious community in the world, spoke volumes though his voice was feeble and shaky. He was against the war, as was the majority of Muslims.

Fundamentalism is not the exclusive domain of the Middle East. The Far Right in America has its agenda and now that they have control of the mighty American war machine, the problem is global. Will Iraq be the first drop of blood on the road to Armageddon? ...

The majority of Christians and Muslims are not the extremists that factions from both sides are. In the absence of a vociferous majority, the small bands of extremists become deafeningly loud. ...

The clash of civilizations is a fiction created by those who have an agenda and a visible objective. Those who profit from war and covet the realms and homes of the other are those in favor of clashes of this sort. It is time, therefore, for the moral authorities to step in with determination and vigor. ... The emir of Qatar's gesture was a step, and it would be better if he invited the Pope to balance the invitation he extended to the invading armies.

United Kingdom, Robert Fisk in the Independent

Yesterday I found myself at the Ministry of Oil, assiduously guarded by US troops, some of whom were holding clothes over their mouths because of the clouds of smoke swirling down on them from the neighbouring Ministry of Agricultural Irrigation. Hard to believe, isn't it, that they were unaware that someone was setting fire to the next building?

Then I spotted another fire, three kilometres away. I drove to the scene to find flames curling out of all the windows of the Ministry of Higher Education's Department of Computer Science. And right next to it, perched on a wall, was a US Marine, who said he was guarding a neighbouring hospital and didn't know who had lit the next door fire because "you can't look everywhere at once"....

The Americans say they don't have enough troops to control the fires. This is also untrue. If they don't, what are the hundreds of soldiers deployed in the gardens of the old Iran-Iraq war memorial doing all day? Or the hundreds camped in the rose gardens of the President Palace?

So the people of Baghdad are asking who is behind the destruction of their cultural heritage: the looting of the archaeological treasures from the national museum; the burning of the entire Ottoman, Royal and State archives; the Koranic library; and the vast infrastructure of the nation we claim we are going to create for them.

Why, they ask, do they still have no electricity and no water? In whose interest is it for Iraq to be deconstructed, divided, burnt, de-historied, destroyed? Why are they issued with orders for a curfew by their so-called liberators?

It's easy for a reporter to predict doom, especially after a brutal war that lacked all international legitimacy. But catastrophe usually waits for optimists in the Middle East, especially for false optimists who invade oil-rich nations with ideological excuses and high-flown moral claims and accusations, such as weapons of mass destruction, which are still unproved. So I'll make an awful prediction. That America's war of "liberation" is over. Iraq's war of liberation from the Americans is about to begin. In other words, the real and frightening story starts now.

India, Anthony Shadid in the Indian Express

In the tumultuous days of Baghdad's new beginning, the country's emboldened Shiite Muslim majority has embraced its freedom with an explosion of public ritual unseen by many in their lifetimes.

Young and old in Kadhimiya, the spiritual centre for Baghdad's Shiites, have flooded the streets in marches that began hours after the government fell. ... "I can't express my feelings. All I feel is joy," said Sami Abbas standing amid crowds of worshippers under the gold-leafed domes of the shrine. "This is the first time I've seen this for 30 years."

Along the street, soaked in sewage and strewn with trash, residents looked on with a mix of devotion and awe -- grief over the ceremony of remembrance and jubilation that it was happening. Some beat their chests to the rhythm of the instruments. "We've been waiting for this moment for a long time," said Sayyid Mohammed Sayyid, clad in black.

Black, green, white and red flags, once a sign of subversion, flutter from the mosque's walls. The dictates of the government hung at the entrance were torn down in favour of the commands of the clergy in holy city of Najaf, the burial place of Ali. "The honoured clergy of Najaf forbid stealing property of the state that belongs to the people," one sign reads. Another forbids the entry of women into the shrine who are wearing makeup and have failed to veil themselves. "Saddam forbade everything. He forced us underground," Abbas said.

The procession was infused with the sense of a new order, with voices tumbling over each other. Some spoke of revenge. The Americans must bring Saddam to Iraq for a trial, said Md Abdel-Amin, "so that we can punish him." Others apologised for shouting at a visitor. "I can't stop. I'm happy! I'm happy!" said Azz el-Din Hassan, his voice still loud.

Australia, Paul McGeough in the Sydney Morning Herald

Baghdad has become rumour city. Everyone has a view on whether Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, in the country or off and over the border, getting closer by the day to the billions of dollars he is said to have stashed away for a life on the lam.

Back in the late 1950s, Wamid Nadhme, now a professor of political science at Baghdad University, was an exchange student in Cairo. He took the sort of phone call that few young Iraqis abroad would have had the courage to ignore - Saddam was on the run and needed a safe house.

The future dictator slept on Nadhme's floor for three nights before going underground. ...

Nadhme painted a less-flattering image: "If they try to capture him, he'll run and he'll die.

"He's a bully; he's not brave." ...

We were at Nadhme's home on the banks of the Tigris, sitting in his darkened sitting room, when he rounded off the discussion of Saddam with a dramatic flourish: "Saddam is still alive -- I spoke to a person who was with him on [last] Tuesday night."

This is important. On the Monday, March 31, US bombers dropped four bunker-buster bombs on a house in suburban Mansour: well-heeled but home to many Baath Party loyalists, a favoured Baghdad locale for the Hussein family and a preferred presidential bolthole during the 1991 Gulf War. ...

Two buildings away from the target is the house in which Saddam and some of his closest associates, including his younger son Qusay, were hiding out. ...

In the old days none of this could be discussed. But now people fall over themselves to talk to foreign reporters. At the edge of the crater, a voice says: "He got away 10 minutes before the bombing," and heads nod in general agreement. ...

Mohammed Jowad Ali, the captain of an Iraqi supertanker until Baghdad's oil trade ground to a halt late last year, says more than 25 members of the Republican Guard knocked on the door of his home, discarding their uniforms as they arrived and demanding a loan of "pyjamas and slippers".

"One of them was a brigadier who left his pistol and ID papers with me. He came back two days later to collect them.

"We gave them every pair of slippers we had in the house."

Ghana, Haruna Attah in the Accra Mail

Nobody is perfect. I am not.

Saddam Hussein is (was) not. George Bush Jr. is not. Tony Blair is not. Jacque Chirac is not.

My pro-Western sentiments are no secret. Nor do I have any apologies for that. I even happen to enjoy things English. That's also an open secret!

I cried real tears -- to the surprise of my colleagues at ADM -- on September 11 2001. I remember when I was doing my editorial of condemnation, it was through a film of tears.

The tears that have been coming to my eyes these days have been for those Iraqi innocents like little Ali whose arms were blown off by "smart" bombs and had his entire family wiped off.

Without limbs and family, what world is little Ali growing up to meet? If these smart bombs had had the good manners to ask little Ali to choose, he would have said "leave Saddam alone so that I can keep my arms and my parents." ...

Yes, Saddam (and some would include Pinochet; the Palestinians, I'm sure would even put Sharon in that category) had to go, but I can't also help feeling that the price was too high.

Former US President Jimmy Carter felt the war would squander all the sympathy the US had after September 11. I think he stands vindicated even as George Bush celebrates victory. But perhaps it is not sympathy the US is after, but the acknowledgement that it is the unchallenged superpower of human kind ...

Jamaica, Geof Brown in the Jamaica Observer

There is a common notion that to criticise the US-led coalition which has fought the war against Iraq is somehow anti-American or anti-British. That is rather like saying if your spouse is taking a course towards a common enemy of yours, and you object to that course, you are ipso-facto against your spouse. There are those taking the rather simplistic position that Jamaican objection to the Iraq war is an assault on Jamaican/American relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. ...

Jamaicans have always shown a remarkable ability to separate their likes and dislikes of a person or situation. They love Reggae and Rastafarian Bob Marley, yet they adore jerk pork, forbidden in the Rastafarian religion. In politics, they said that Opposition Leader Edward Seaga was the better man to manage the economy, yet they voted in Prime Minister Patterson to run the country even as the economy was experiencing major difficulty. It is in such a perspective, that we must now judge the state of Jamaican/American relationships, consequent on the majority Jamaican objection to the Iraq war.

Jamaicans may not have admired the war against Iraq but they continue by and large to admire America and things American. But they also accept and largely like Cuba despite American anti-Cuban government policy.

Already, the old European allies of the USA who stood firmly against the war are beginning to mend fences. It is certain that in a very short time the great powers of the US, France, Russia, Germany and China will join hands and resources to help rebuild Iraq. We of the "minnow" countries should avoid any unnecessary divisions internally, reflecting pro-or anti war positions. It is necessary now to move forward, recognising that in the real world, when the bulls fight, the minor insects get trampled. We must act in our best interests while maintaining our integrity as sovereign states respecting the sentiments and preferences of our own peoples. Jamaican/American relationships must be regarded in that light.

Qatar, K S Dakshina Murthy in Al-Jazeera

For close to a month now, U.S.-led forces have been looking for the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that Iraq's Saddam Hussein government had kept "hidden". Nothing has been found so far, and the search continues.

A key factor in the invasion was the WMD reason, despite the fact that United Nations inspectors had not come up with anything. Failure to find chemical weapons in Iraq has however not come in the way of the US pointing its fingers at Syria. This has triggered off alarm bells in the Arab world.

Arab governments say the US stand on chemical weapons in particular and WMDs in general is hypocritical. For, Washington's closest ally in the region Israel too possesses WMDs, including chemical weapons, and it is not being pressured to dump them. ...

According to a Carnegie analysis, US intelligence believes Syria has a significant stockpile of the nerve agent sarin ...

The Carnegie analysis notes that Israel too possesses advanced chemical weapons capabilities, although the details of what they have is not known. ...

In the absence of information from the Israeli government, non-Israeli publications have made many claims about Israel's chemical weapon capabilities, from the trivial to the most sensationalist. The government of Israel, as part of its traditional deliberate ambiguity policy, has neither confirmed nor denied those reports, Carnegie points out.

Acknowledging the difficulties in assessing Israel's CBW programs and capabilities, the analysis quoting experts states that "a near-consensus exists among experts -- based on anecdotal evidence and intelligence leaks -- that Israel developed, produced, stockpiled, and maybe even deployed chemical weapons at some point in its history."

Quoting other studies, the Carnegie analysis says that Israel had an operational chemical warfare testing facility. The chemical capabilities of Syria, Iraq and Iran are matched by Israel's possession of a wide range of these weapons, it says. ...

The CNS states that Israel has an active weapons programme, but may not have deployed chemical warheads on ballistic missiles. It has the production capability for mustard and nerve agents. ...

The CNS' Amini study says that Syria may have one of the most extensive chemical weapons programmes in the developing world. Its initial chemical warfare program and stockpile of chemical agents were allegedly supplied by Egypt in 1973 prior to the October War with Israel.


Compiled by Laura McClure

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