Monday, February 19, 2007

Were the French Right on Iraq (2)?

It seems now (see our previous post) that the French may have been right in predicting the chaos that would follow an American invasion of Iraq (read de Villepin's speech to the UN for an eery vision of today's situation). The US is known for winning wars and losing peace.
So was the war a mistake? Given what we see today, so it seems. But I think that if THE war (badly planned as it was) was a mistake, A war against Saddam Hussein may have been a necessary evil anyway.
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 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.
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 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 on George Bush, 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 did not give it a chance either. Hubris on both sides!

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. Once again, "THAT" war was wrong from day one, but probably not "A" war.

A “legal” U.N. war was needed. I also agree with Bernard Kouchner's view that at least a "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 19:45, Blogger Tororoshiru said...

To put a "bémol" (I wonder how to translate this typically French saying?) to this enthusiasm for French views: while opposing the war 2003, a majority of French people (and most probably French officials) believed Iraq owned WMD; however, they thought that the consequences of waging a war were doomed to be worse than those of maintaining a status quo... so, from an American point of view, if they were "right", it was for "wrong" motives...

The main reason (that still could be viewed as "wrong") why most of us the French thought that neither a better-planned war, nor one backed up by the UN, would have had much better consequences, is considering what the mottled Iraqi opposition to Saddam was standing for, and how little was the hope that a national consensus in Iraq could emerge from any form of foreign military intervention.

The people from Iraq that wanted most to get rid of Saddam Hussein were from:
a) the Iraqi Kurd community, whose main goal was, and remains, to establish an independant Kurdish state, and that have been brutally reminded that, as Turkey, US's most prized ally in the Muslim world, has made clear it will never ever allow such a state to exist, even outside its frontiers, no US government will ever back up such a claim; so, they have seen the removal of Saddam Hussein by the army of such a trustful ally of their second-most hated foes, the Turks, as a mixed blessing at best;
b) the Iraqi shiite community; the main reason they hated Saddam was, they viewed him as a puppet of the US, hired as a mercenary to wage a war against their Iranian brothers... so I'm not sure it would be misrepresenting their feelings to say that they view the US government less as a crusader for human rights as as an incompetent dog-handler not knowing better than killing the dog he can't compel to obey (this view being probably not uncommon among Iraqi Sunnites too)...
c) not to forget, of course, the small genuinely progressive, secular, pro-Western, anti-baathist opposition minority, whose enthusiasm for a Western intervention, as strong as it may have been in the beginning, may well have slightly faded over years, considering that whatever the future Iraq will be, it will be definitely neither secular nor progressive, moderately pro-West, and former baathists will most probably play a prominent role in it...

I'll give at least credit to the Bush team for one thing: they may have been sincere in thinking that an international military intervention in Iraq was the right thing - the moral thing - to do, as opposed to what any US government from the cold war era whould have done if confronting the same issues: backing up more or less overtly (the old-fashioned way that seemed to work, at least for some time, in Iran, Greece, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Venezuela), a military coup by any political or military Iraqi leader they deemed more pro-American than Saddam...

I may sound cynical, but I wonder if many people in the western world wouldn't have preferred (not ever admitting it) the US to chose this path once again: of course it wouldn't have been quite ethical, and respect for human rights wouldn't have been well served (and, of course, US would have been faulted for that, as usual), but the death toll would undoubtedly have been much lesser... apparently, there's no shortage of cobbles for paving hell. On both sides of any divide.


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