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Proxima estación: Esperanza? (1)

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Default profile picture Morag Young

Following the beat of the world’s drum after the veto led down by peace partisans on February 14th.

Following the beat of the world’s drum after the veto led down by peace partisans.

In the days following the veto laid down by the partisans of peace at the NATO summit, and the UN Security Council meeting on February 14th, a spot light sweeps across the debate on Iraq: the stakes, analysis of the political actors and the mobilisation of public opinion. Everything is following the beat of the world's drum...

After the courageous decision taken by the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis to use its veto at the NATO meeting, and then to press for a policy in favour of peace at the UN, the question still remains to be answered as to whether the Bush administration will respect it or not. Will the US continue with its so-called 'cowboy' policy - the first to shoot controls 'world city'-? The debate remains on hold. In the meantime, signatures on petitions, demonstrations, passive poses..."Get up, stand up" (Bob Marley) or "On est jeune et con" (We are young and stupid) (Saez). Make your choice ladies and gentlemen, "So much trouble in the world" (Marley again).

Blue Gold, Oil and the Stabilisation of the Middle East

Oil is the most obvious reason for intervention by the US in Iraq because the Americans have their big cars, their immense motorways and, as a result, they get through a lot of oil. Their consumption increased by 10.4% in four years, against 3.6% in Europe over the same period. It is difficult to imagine sustainable development in these conditions! (2)

Nevertheless, up to that point Iraq's situation is nothing but pleasing to the US. The US receives more than 75% of the Iraqi oil exchanged on the global market since the 'food for oil' programme initiated by the Clinton administration. The petrol lobbies were the first to acknowledge it. But, on September 11th the 'deal' changed. Saudi Arabia, the first OPEC producer, with 25% of global reserves and having been blithely supplying the US, was revealed to be not such a dependable ally after all, having as it does links with the enemy. From that moment controlling Iraq has appeared to be a solution to the American policy of acquiring oil independence from Saudi Arabia and of maintaining a 'missionary' and warrior-like 'policy' across the world.

This solution also has certain advantages for the political stabilisation of the region. The Israeli-Palestinian question being currently at an impasse, a pro-Western Iraq, possibly under an American mandate, would reinforce their margins of operation. But does the US have the means to assert itself as the saviour of the Iraqi people? The disasters caused by the international embargo have had a greater effect on the Iraqi people than the army or the executives who surround Saddam. The American standpoint, up to now, has been perceived in the countryside more as a policy of famine than liberation...(3)

Iraq is also a blue gold deposit: water. Situated at the junction of the Tigris and the Euphrates, Iraq is an important water reserve in the Middle East. This is not an insignificant point in a world where one in three people lack drinking water, and it will become the crucial question in the region according to projections for 2025 (4). Moreover, is it not the water coming from Iraq that irrigates the regions in the north of Saudi Arabia?

The 'dictator' in 'Arabian Nights' country

American newspapers, following the moderation advocated notably by France (5), denounce the blindness of the present French regime. Saddam is disparaged by the press as being "another Hitler", and the French are "scared to death" in the face of the possibility of war. Have they forgotten the 5,000 French troops who were sent to Kosovo? (6)

It is clear that Saddam Hussein is a dictator, that he uses his people as a human shield and employs chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds. But giving in to comparisons is simplistic. Indeed, otherwise, how do you explain the support given and the arms supplied by the same Americans in the 1980s when Iran was the enemy (the first Gulf war?)? Let's not forget that the Americans, who had the opportunity to overturn the regime during the second Gulf war, having called for the rebellion, stepped back from the brink when the time came to give weapons to the rebels. These people had taken control of the majority of the territory, but they were Kurds and Shiites. This was followed, let us not forget, by a massacre of 100,000 rebels.

War, a surmise that we must not dismiss, must, moreover, be moderate. It is a difficult question! It is not enough just to put aside overnight a policy that has been in place since 1962. Nuclear intervention - and yes, it is also a question of that - is certainly not the solution as Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Senator, declared (8). Moreover, what are the justifications? An axis of evil? An international threat? Pakistan and the CIA are more of a problem according to Ron Paul, Republican representative in Congress (ref: questions posed to Bush on September 10th 2002).

As for war, the humiliation that it necessitates can have a resonance that we are far from being able to measure. It is here that 'Arabian nights' plays a part. The imagination of the people - as Benedict Anderson, an American academic, shows elsewhere - is an essential issue. Baghdad, let us not forget, is a mythical city, a symbol of past splendour from the time when Harun Al Rachid made the Arab civilisation and culture shine as far as the West, similar to Charlemagne. It is also the country of the Shiites' Mecca. Indeed, I am amazed how little importance this is given, and the lack of Iraqi monuments that are inscribed to the global heritage of Humanism (9). Shelling Baghdad will have a symbolic effect. That does not mean that we should not do it, but that we should do it when it is justified if we don't want to inflame the conflict.

Hope: the departure of Saddam Hussein.

If war is avoided, it could be thanks to the departure of Saddam. The stakes of such a surmise are evident. We must not put off the Iraqi question until some time in the future. International pressure must not weaken; the UN must reinforce the presence of its inspectors, States must play their role, and public opinion must mobilise against Saddam.

Nevertheless, we cannot impose democracy. That would be a grave mistake, especially in Iraq. It was through a step taken by the League of Nations and in virtue of the 'right of people to look after themselves' that the English obtained a mandate in Iraq in 1920. This while the ayatollahs called on the Shiite population to fight against the English, preferring a Muslim state - even a Sunni, that is to say Ottoman, one - to a Western state. It would be misunderstood today in 2003 if the UN committed a similar mistake by taking steps towards war against the people (who would be, yet again, the victims of the bombing) that would have as its final consequence the installation of some puppet or other instead of Saddam. Alternatives can only come from within, even if exogenous factors have a role to play.

Disorder in 'Old' Europe: mistakes in moulding and minority votes sufficient to block a motion

Europe has shown its division over war. This has made clear its weakness but also the richness of debate that it nourishes. Beyond the divisions, a complex Europe has come into being; a Europe that wants to open up to the East, but that is sometimes slave to a fanciful calendar. Are we more European before or after the promises have been made and the treaties signed? Links between people are not imposed, they are brought to life, they are sustained by one another. For all that, can we say that the negotiated enlargement has come from a mistake in the moulding? Possibly, on some levels.

It is due, on the one hand, to a Europe that has not proved the compatibility of both economic prosperity and security at the heart of the EU. Today only the economic factor is taken into account by the EU. The countries from the Vilnius group (the 15 candidate countries) do not expect any security from Europe and turn to the US and NATO for that. The CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy), if it were more developed, could have avoided such discord within Europe.

It is also due to the 'future entrants'. With Russia still being perceived as the former Soviet Union, they have conserved the reflexes of the Cold war by turning towards America. But, such an attitude only shows an incapability to think of security within the framework of the 'new deal' of the 21st century. Security today means the giving of respect and the supplying of one's uses in a reciprocal relationship. By turning towards the US, these former Eastern countries create their own Russian menace because they present Russia as an enemy. Creating a European relationship and maintaining dialogue with Russia is the only way for them to establish true security; that is to say, security based on mutual trust by the people and sparing several generations the debt (the result of membership to NATO), which will create a threat within these countries.

We risk seeing Europe blocked in the future by only building superficial links, that is to say purely juridical techniques. To avoid this, the solution is the creation of a relationship based on trust in an open and self-aware Europe (10).

(1) The title is taken from a Manu Chao album.

(3) See No.15 of International Alternatives.

(6) Article from Ramses 2003 on France and its foreign policy.

(7) International Alternatives again.

(10) For an approach of this type on security, see Bui Xuan Quang, the Third Indochinese war, Harmattan, 2000

Translated from Proxima estación : Esperanza ?