OFFERING HIS generally sensible and balanced Canadian perspective on America,
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham says this of American plans to start a war
in the Middle East:
"Iraq under Saddam Hussein is clearly always a threat but we have no evidence
he is in possession of weapons of mass destruction or that he would intend to
use them at this time. I do consider it dangerous if Iraq agrees to accept inspectors
and if that is rejected out of hand."
Let's see who else is with Canada.
Russia and China, of course. And the Arab world, dreading a new war while
one has been going on between Israelis and Palestinians. More surprising is the
European swing away from America.
"The Middle East needs peace, not new war," says German Chancellor Gerhard
"Under my leadership, this country is not available for adventure" in Iraq,
which would wreck the international front against terrorism, undermine a weak
world economy and spark a "reorganization" of the region.
American media are portraying this as his election ploy. It is. But they should
be concerned, rather than being dismissive. Whipping up voters with war talk is
the electoral norm, not campaigning on a pacifist platform. That a Western leader
is doing so is extraordinary.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, chief apologist for American presidents
and their sole partner in the bombing of Iraq over the years, is increasingly
on the defensive.
Rowan Williams, incoming Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of 70 million
Anglicans worldwide, has joined 3,000 signatories condemning U.S. plans as "immoral
one has substantiated the allegations that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction
or is attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. That's the reason we
have been given for going to war against Iraq ... Until they provide hard facts,
there is no case for war.
Former U.N. weapons inspector
"It is deplorable that the world's most powerful nations continue to regard war
and the threat of war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy," said the
petition organized by the Catholic group Pax Christi.
"A war on Iraq is like throwing a lighted match into a petrol can," said the
Anglican bishop of Coventry, Colin Bennetts.
Labour backbenchers are calling on Blair to recall parliament before making
any war commitments.
Other Bush allies — Spanish and Italian prime ministers Jose Maria Aznar and
Silvio Berlusconi — are silent. Italy's defense minister says Rome might join
military action only if shown clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction in
French President Jacques Chirac is insisting on a fresh United Nations mandate
for attacking Iraq.
Turkey, whose bases America needs for Gulf War II, is refusing to go along.
"Certainly not," says Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel.
Yet the Bush circle remains tone deaf. Beating the drums of war, they are
scoffing at the Iraqi offer to let United Nations weapons inspectors in after
a four-year absence, even though the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has cautioned
against dismissing the development. It is "something new and positive, which should
He is using the opening to negotiate airtight rules to get what the world
needs to stop Saddam's games: unhindered access to the Iraqi nuclear, chemical,
biological and ballistic weapons programs.
Yet Congressional leaders have spurned an Iraqi invitation to go there with
as many inspectors of their choice as they want. "It's time for Iraq to stop playing
games," thundered Senator Tom Daschle.
But wouldn't taking up Saddam's offer be the best way to call his bluff? Not
unless America does not want to be robbed of its excuse.
Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector known for his anti-Iraq belligerence,
now thinks that's precisely what America is doing.
"No one has substantiated the allegations that Iraq possesses weapons of mass
destruction or is attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction," Ritter said.
``That's the reason we have been given for going to war against Iraq. It has
been nothing but rhetorically laced speculation, not hard facts that have been
presented ... Until they provide hard facts, there is no case for war."
What is happening here is that most of the world wants America to help end
the war between Israelis and Palestinians. But the Republican administration,
backed by noisy neo-cons in America and Israel, would rather divert attention
This policy is worse than the decade-long economic sanctions which, by inflicting
untold misery on millions of innocent Iraqi civilians, have managed to make America
a bigger enemy than Saddam. An American-led war on Iraq risks making a hero of
him, besides sowing the seeds of militancy.
"If you think Saddam is a hard man to deal with, just wait for the next generation
of Iraqi leaders," the British newspaper The Independent on Sunday quoted Arab
author Said Aburish as saying.
If that seems extreme, listen to Morton Halperin, senior fellow at the American
Council on Foreign Relations.
Appearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Iraq
last week, he said: "If there is no progress on the Palestinian issue, it is likely
that an American military conquest of Iraq will lead many more people in the Arab
and Muslim world to choose the path of terror."
Haroon Siddiqui is The Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column
appears Thursday and Sunday.
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