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Security is Indivisible

The policy of preventive war has brought only chaos and disaster.. The failure of this policy of Washington can be referred back to two fundamental errors. The first concerns the basic assumption that terrorism is the real sickness; the second error is overrating the military.

By Bernard Adam

[This article originally published in: Le Monde diplomatique April 8, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.taz.de/pt/2004/04/08.nf/mondeText.artikel,a0302.idx,5.]

The attacks of March 11 in Madrid show that the US crusade against international terrorism has failed. On January 28, 2003, George W. Bush in his State of the Union claimed that "intelligence service sources, secret reports and statements of persons incarcerated today establish that Saddam Hussein gave support and shelter to terrorists including members of al-Qaida." A few days later on February 5, 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented supposedly unequivocal evidence for ties between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The statements of the Bush administration were so convincing that 44 percent of the citizens at the moment of the US war crusade believed that most of the air pirates responsible for the attacks of September 11 were Iraqis. 45 percent were even convinced Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks. However US newspapers revealed surprise in the CIA and FBI over the inflated statements of members of the government even before Powell's appearance at the Security Council. In the CIA, many were very annoyed that the possible connections to terrorism were massively exaggerated. According to European secret service experts, there was no evidence for an al-Qaida connection.

A year later the two central arguments justifying the war of the "Coalition of the Willing" against Iraq are false. No weapons of mass destruction were found and connections to al-Qaida did not exist. In view of these facts, the US- and British governments tried to shift criticism to the secret service.

The situation of the US and its allies is just as awkward and disagreeable as the security situation in Iraq deteriorating every month. An average 17 attacks were perpetrated every day by the allied armed forces and 407 soldiers were killed since the end of the war declared by Bush on May 1, 2003 to the end of February 2004. The attacks against the allied troops and against the civilian population are constantly increasing. While no connections existed between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida before the war, this cooperation has probably developed on Iraqi soil in the meantime.

From October 2004, doubts were clear within the US government. A memorandum from Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted that the Dschihad gained new followers in the Islamic world and that the intervention in Iraq contributed to that increase.

The information available before the start of the war did not offer any adequate justification for the intervention of the United States as could be read at the beginning of 2004 in Janes Intelligence Report (www.janes.com) specializing in secret service analyses. The operations in Iraq diverted from the struggle against terrorism and undermined the internal security of the US. Some analysts say explicitly today the intervention created a new terrorist front. Similar groups in Iraq and other countries were fomented.

After the March 11 attacks in Madrid, the former special commissioner of the European Union for the Middle East, the Spaniard Miguel Angel Moratinos, declared: "The strategy pursued by the American administration and other western countries has failed catastrophically." The policy of preventive war has brought only "chaos and disaster". The president of the European Union (EU) commission, Romano Prodi, explained to La Stampa: "The conflict with terrorists obviously cannot be resolved through violence." He drew a negative balance a year after the beginning of the Iraq war "both in Iraq and outside in Istanbul, Moscow and Madrid. The terrorism that was to be stopped through this war is far more powerful today than a year ago."

The failure of this policy of Washington and its allies can be referred back to two fundamental errors. The first concerns the basic assumption that terrorism is the real sickness while it is the symptom of an evil experienced by certain groups. An effective and lasting control must start with the deeper causes from which the culprits draw their motivation. Long-term efforts are necessary that go beyond mere repressions and will show effects after several years.

The second error is in the overrated efficiency of military and technical security weapons. Attacking states or dangerous groups with heavy weapons makes targeted struggle against certain problems impossible. Such an "asymmetrical war" is enormously expensive (the Iraq war has cost $70 or $150 billion), completely ineffective and the cause of new problems.

It is illusory to believe that democratic societies of industrial nations can screen themselves as fortresses from the rest of the world. The global exchange, the desire to accelerate the traffic of goods and people and the necessity of protecting the freedom and basic rights of citizens, requires a high degree of openness and freedom of movement that at the same time makes us very vulnerable.

The security of the world is indivisible, in other words a common cause. Risks and threats in any corner of the earth could spread to our societies. This makes political dialogue appear as the medicine of choice rather than military violence. Concepts for the peaceful settlement and prevention of conflicts should be emphasized as the foundation of the joint foreign- and security policy of the European Union.

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