Sunday, September 03, 2006

How the war in Iraq could have been different with a 3rd option.

On European Tribune, Jerome-à-Paris lashes out against The Economist for only admitting now that the war in Iraq was a mistake after having supported it. As he pointed out, this may be true of their editorial but not of their journalist who have been critical of the war for years.
Obviously the world was pretty divided on the question of
Iraq (old Europe v. New Europe, the U.S. v. most of the world?), yet I strongly believe that a binary view of the events is the wrong way to frame the story. That’s how the whole thing was sold to us but it is clear to me that the situation offered a third possibility and another moral position could be made.

Back in 2003, I was one of the few who was furious at both French president Chirac and George Bush. For that, I was given a hard time both in the U.S. and in France. A vast majority of people supported their government in each country. This divide between France and the U.S. was in fact what caused this blog to exist.

My position – but I think I can speak for both members of J2T – was that there should have been a U.N. intervention in Iraq, led by the U.S. We know now that there were no WMDs, we also know that the Bush administration has greatly spun the intelligence to fit their own agenda (‘spun’ or even 'lied to'). However, the fact remains that Saddam Hussein did not fully comply to the UN Resolutions and to what the inspectors required and we must be fair and remember those facts.

In his January 2003 report, Chief Inspector Hans Blix’s report stated that;

Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance – not even today – of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.

In fact, Iraq had failed to comply with two UN resolutions - resolution 687 and resolution 1441. In fact, 1441 was passed precisely because Iraq was in...

.. material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991), in particular through Iraq's failure to cooperate with United Nations inspectors and the IAEA, and to complete the actions required under paragraphs 8 to 13 of resolution 687 (1991)

In March 2003, Blix also stated yet another report that

"Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons programmes. Only a few new such documents have come to light so far and been handed over since we began inspections."

The problem of Resolution 1441 was the ambiguity of its conclusion when it concludes :

Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

Obviously, the reason why the resolution was voted, as it is often the case at the UN Council is precisely because of its ambiguous wording. It was easy enough to understand whatever fitted your agenda in the expression “serious consequences”.

Obviously, the Bush administration had already made up their minds, and the reason why they reluctantly attempted to go back to the UN is because the British who wanted unanimity for a second resolution. But by that time (March 10), French president Jacques Chirac declared that France would veto any resolution which would automatically lead to war. That, I remember, infuriated Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary and, in my mind, he was right about it.

So while most of the blame for the current failure in Iraq should obviously fall onto George Bush, it is my intimate conviction that Jacques Chirac also has some serious responsibility there. What was needed was a UN Resolution to push for a (true) coalition, probably led by the US to go to war and topple Saddam Hussein, who after all was no angel – a coalition that would have included Muslim countries and would have resembled the force used in the Gulf War. What 150,000 men could not do (like securing the border or providing law and order), 500,000 were more likely to do. Wishful thinking? Certainly Bush did not care much about diplomacy and had little patience with it but Chirac certainly did not give it a chance either.

To this day, I stand to the same position, but it was not an easy one to have during the heated discussions in 2003 and it was one that got me in trouble both in the U.S. and in France. I have yet to hear a similar position as it seems that even today, the divide remains. Those against the war tend to boast in an I-told-you-so posture while those who supported the war find themselves in a defensive position or in complete disarray. But one needs to go back to the facts and see that the events were actually framed so that only two options seemed to make sense – a US-British war or no war at all. I was against THAT war but certainly not against "A" war, and I fail to see my views were not shared by more. Maybe the spin was on both sides of the argument.

A “legal” U.N. war is what I supported. It may have taken longer to put in place but more importantly, it would have taken real statesmen and top world leaders to do so which clearly was not the case with either Chirac or Bush who had in common a big ego that prevented them from seeing the bigger picture. Those men were the worst leaders both France and the U.S. have had in a long time because they have no vision whatsoever. I also agree with Bernard Kouchner's view that at least the proper war in Iraq would have put an end to the brutal dictatorship there which is why the demonstration in support of Iraq always felt out of place. Certainly not the war we have seen though.

The question remains as to why Saddam Hussein failed to fully comply with the UN if he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. It has been suggested that that was either because Saddam Hussein didn’tactually know he didn’t have them any more (because his people lied to him out of fear) or because he wanted his old enemy, Iran, to believe he was still capable of waging a massive attack against them. The second explanation makes sense to me – that plus a sense of Arab pride.


At 05:08, Blogger Lisse said...

As time went on, it turned out that the Iraq invasion was never about WMD anyway. It was about "nation building," a concept Bush professed to deplore before getting into office.

While spreading democracy may be noble in theory, trying to do it on the cheap has been anything but. And that's without the speculation about the motives of oil and military bases.

Perhaps Chirac was right to smell a rat. And justified in turning up his nose at helping once the mess was made. Too bad, because I fear that only additional personnel will get this fiasco under control.

And now, the inadvertent empowerment of Iran threatens us all. I sometimes wonder if this situation is now not fixable.


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