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America in Blind Flight

Vice-president Cheney isw planning to visit the Middle East in March. A decision on bombing Iraq may be made on his return. A war on Iraq would be disastrous, writes Matthias Nass in an article translated from the German.
America in Blind Flight

Combating Terrorism: A Military Strike on Iraq would be the Wrong War for the Wrong Reason at the Wrong Time

By Matthias Nass

[This article and two short comments originally published in: DIE ZEIT, 08/2002 are translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.zeit.de/2002/08/Politik/200208_1._leiter.html.]

Suddenly the mood has changed. The battle against terror that Americans and Europeans took up together after September 11 drives them apart five months later.

Power and highhandedness - which America offers us these days - is not a pretty picture. George W. Bush invokes the pride and determination of a "nation at war". We, America's closest friend, discover the hubris of the victor who will finish alone what has to be done.

That was the last straw for the European foreign ministers last weekend. For too long, the United States looked on inactively as violence escalated between Israelis and Palestinians. The former mediator has become a party and supports Ariel Sharon's "policy of pure repression", as France's foreign minister Hubert Vedrine laments. Now the Europeans want to take the initiative knowing well that their power alone will hardly accomplish anything. How else should the Americans be dragged out of their inactivity?

Washington's foreign policy is derailed and off the track with the phrase "axis of evil". Vedrine calls the American ideas of a crusade against terrorism "simplistic". An irritated Joschka Fischer recalls: "Alliance partners among free democrats can not be reduced to following. Alliance partners are not satellites."

After their quick victory over the Taliban regime in the fourth world land Afghanistan, the crest has powerfully swelled for the Americans. A wave of patriotism carries the president. His popularity ratings skyrocketed to alarming heights from 77 to 91 percent after his speech on the state of the nation. George Bush need not worry about approval at home when he leads the nation in the second phase of the anti-terror war.

The goal is Saddam Hussein's overthrow possibly this year. That the next front of the anti-terror war will be in Iraq is regarded as settled in Washington and at the top of European governments. Still George Bush has not signed any marching orders. Nevertheless no doubt can exist in his resolution to force a change of regime in Bagdad. In March, vice-president Cheney will travel to the Middle East. The decision about an attack on Saddam may be made afterwards.

A proof that Iraq was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or the anthrax assassination attempts has still not been shown. According to the CIA, there was no terror act of Bagdad aimed at America for almost a decade.

Secretary of Defense Runsfeld said a "far more deadly" danger is involved: weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a despot and their possible transfer to terrorists. However again according tot he CIA, neither Al-Qaida nor other terrorist groups in the past were supplied with chemical or biological weapons by Iraq.

Now Saddam Hussein is believed capable of every evil deed. His rule at the Tigres-Euphrates rests on naked terror against the Kurds, the Shiites, disloyal officers and even members of his own family. He waged war against Iran, used poison gas against civilians in his own country and suddenly attacked Kuwait. He set up arsenals of chemical and biological weapons and tinkered around with nuclear bombs. A murderer, a tyrant, a wicked man. You bet!

Is it therefore right to wage war against him? Obviously exclaim the hawks at the Pentagon: Perle, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. They have never pardoned their own government for letting Saddam "off the hook" in 1991 when his troops took to their heels in dreadful flight from the Americans. For a long time, no one in Washington listened to them. Now they set the tone. Even Colin Powell, guarantor for circumspection and solidarity in the Bush cabinet, demands a "change of regime" in Bagdad.

If necessary, American power alone should force him out. The half million soldiers of the Gulf war need not be pulled together. The Iraqi armed forces have not regained their old striking force. But whoever wants to overthrow Saddam must deploy ground troops. Turkey may be the military buildup area. Premier Ecevit is ready and will be paid richly for his loyalty to the Americans.

Europeans, Russians and Arabs all fear a conflagration in the Middle East stirred up by the Intifada. Israel, in fear of Iraqi rocket attacks, could strike back even more brutally against terror. In Saudi Arabia, the recruiting ground for worldwide terrorism, the Islamists could receive new stimulus. The Islamic world now blazing with hatred had its heroes to which Saddam of the year 1991 who suddenly attacked a brother land was not included.

Thus the Europeans rightly resist the war logic in Washington. No one really knows what Saddam concocted in his poison kitchens after he threw out the UN weapons inspectors in 1998. The largest inventories were destroyed at that time. Therefore all pressure on Saddam to allow the inspectors again in the land is right. "Intelligent" sanctions ( which goods may be imported and which remain prohibited?) must replace the past embargo policy. Pressure as an ultima ratio can also mean military force. The sanctions resolved by the world security council must be enforced.

However an attack on Saddam as a consequence of September 11 would be the wrong war for the wrong reason at the wrong time. It would be that "adventure" which Gerhard Schroder refused when he promised "unlimited solidarity" with the United States. There was no mandate of the Bundestag for German participation. Such a mandate may not be given...

When Gerhard Schroder visited George Bush in the White House, Bush was full of praise for the German special forces. In the hunt for Al-Qaida, side by side with American GIs, they had best stood the test in Afghanistan's mountains. The Germans need not prove their faithfulness to the alliance again every day.

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Comment by Jurgen Maier:

"The article hits the nail on the head. Hardly a country understands how to reverse the waves of solidarity after September 11 into their opposite as thoroughly as the US. Except for some fools in Germany who proclaim "unconditional solidarity" with the US (which no rational person should ever do and no American politician would ever do), the rest of the world has long turned away with shuddering and shaking heads) from the hubris of these flag-waving nationalists. Good night America."

Comment by Martin Steinmetz:

"As long as the world clings to the model of "wrong war" and "right war", it succumbs to the temptation of driving out "the devil with Beelzebub". If the world community will really advance in the development to a humane world society, it must finally understand that war was never and never will be a sensible means of politics. Otherwise the spiral of violence and counter-violence, of hatred and revenge, will only turn another time."

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