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From the October 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 10)

The United States and Saddam Hussein

Viewpoints: Washington Weighs War with Iraq

Views from Nairobi, Christchurch, Sydney, Bridgetown, Singapore, Cairo, Mexico City, Stockholm, Sofia, Beijing, Colombo, Karachi, Paris, Manama, Lagos, and São Paulo

Saddam Hussein Iraq
Iraqi men walk by a mural of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 6, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
Nairobi East African Standard (liberal), Aug. 4: It is rather obvious that Saddam Hussein is no saint....However, although the United States appears resolute in her decision to attack Iraq, the reasons she adduces for wanting to launch such an attack are quite feeble....If anything, there are many other countries—with the United States in the lead—with weapons of mass destruction ....So why all this obsession with Iraq?...Before launching an attack on Iraq, the United States has the moral mandate to provide to the world a convincing assessment of Iraq’s smallpox and nuclear threats and proof that an attack [on Iraq] is imperative...The last time another Bush fought a war against Saddam, he ended it short of deposing the dictator. His son should better be advised to deal with the despot carefully lest it becomes the jinx of both father and son.

Christchurch The Press (conservative), Aug. 6: Support [for an American attack on Iraq] would increase if President Bush was able to show that terror weapons exist there—something he has been unable or unwilling to do so far. Such evidence would also put more pressure on nations like New Zealand to commit to an attack. Until such cataclysmic evidence is publicly available, New Zealand would be wise to keep quietly on the sidelines. Public opinion here would not support the commitment of personnel to a war that was not clearly justified.

Sydney The Australian (centrist), July 22: The United States has talked up Iraq to such a degree that the United States has little room to back down.... Any hesitation will only embolden Saddam....If diplomacy fails and Saddam doesn’t blink, then Australia should side with the United States in the interest of preserving our national security and the international order....War is always best averted. But as Sept. 11 reminded us so brutally, the world cannot afford to wait for an attack to materialize before it takes action.

Bridgetown Barbados Daily Nation (privately owned, independent), Aug. 8: The question being asked around the world is: What gives the United States the right to decide who rules a country and to threaten to kill its leader?...No nation, even one as powerful as the United States, should interfere in the internal affairs of another country every time it disapproves of the way it treats its citizens....The United States should put greater emphasis on diplomacy in this region of the world and make every effort to bring Saddam to the negotiating table.

Singapore The Straits Times (pro-government), Aug. 8: A war against Iraq is easy to start, but how will it end to America’s advantage?...An air war against Mr. Hussein will not be effective, and Mr. Bush will have to commit hundreds of thousands of American troops to topple the regime. In the best-case scenario, it may be a short campaign but, for sure, the consequences of Mr. Hussein’s defeat will not end there. Post-Saddam Iraq could become unstable and thus even more unpredictable, given its fractious politics. It could become a new breeding ground to spawn terrorists. Let it not be the hubris of the world’s sole superpower that sets America on the warpath with Iraq. Removing Mr. Hussein’s repressive regime may make the world a safer place, but Mr. Bush will have to make a stronger case for it.

Cairo Al-Alam al-Yom (financial), Aug. 9: The allies of the United States are against its policy toward Iraq, not because they are on good terms with the Iraqi regime, but because they are not confident about America’s calculations....Political repercussions of a war will further complicate matters in the already volatile Middle East region, particularly with the Israeli military escalation against the Palestinians....The question is: Why is President Bush... ignoring the advice of the well-versed leaders in Europe and the Middle East?
—Mohamed al-Tohami

Mexico City Reforma (independent), Aug. 7: Even supposing the United States obtains a quick victory over Saddam, has it thought seriously about who would govern Iraq? Who would pacify Iraq? Who would ensure Iraq’s integrity?...I fear the Baghdad war will indeed take place, with disastrous consequences for the world and with a deplorable reason at the core: to elect Republican congressional representatives and to strengthen Bush domestically in the legislative elections in November 2002. 
—Carlos Fuentes

Stockholm Expressen (liberal), July 31: There are three errors [in the decision to invade Iraq]: One is that an attack against Iraq in the current situation does not fall within the U.S.’s right to self-defense. Saddam would gladly like to appear as a threat to a superpower. But he isn’t one. Not today, not tomorrow. Another error is that Bush thinks he’s striking against terrorism. In actuality, a wave of anger would sweep over the Arab world, awakening a lust for revenge in millions of people, creating more terrorism. Another error is that the situation in the Middle East will not be improved, but rather worsened. Several moderate Arab leaders would be forced by the ethnic and religious outrage to take a negative position in relation to the United States and Israel.

Sofia Sega (independent, left-leaning), Aug. 8: The magic word “war” is just what [President] Bush needs in order to get out of the problems he got mired in recently. A strike against Iraq would show Americans that “the war against terrorism” is not over and they shouldn’t get distracted by minor things like the financial scandals in which the names of both the president and his vice president were involved. The U.S. economy is showing signs of stagnation. The dollar slumped to humiliating levels—even dipping below the euro for a while. And there is no stronger dope than war to boost the national currency. The military-industrial complex, which needs constant conflicts in order to sustain itself, may once again play engine to the slipping economy.
—Svetoslav Terziev

Beijing Outlook Weekly (Communist Party weekly), Aug. 5: In order to divert the domestic crisis, to prepare for the next election, to fulfill Bush the senior’s aspiration for defeating Saddam, and to please weapons manufacturers, the Bush administration is determined to attack Iraq and overthrow Saddam. But the kind of war plan and when to unleash it have not yet been decided. In addition, the administration needs time for the United States to get domestic and overseas support for starting the war against Iraq. The possibility of making use of the rebels inside the Iraqi army does not exist at all. So U.S. congressional leaders have to seek the best way to win the war with the least cost.
—Liu Shun

Colombo Daily Mirror (independent), July 12: Iraq is not Afghanistan and certainly Saddam Hussein is not Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar. But the Bush administration does not seem to agree. It sees a terror link when it justifies a plan to oust the Iraqi regime....Iraq is like Afghanistan, but not in the way the United States is projecting it to be. The parallel is drawn in terms of the oil agenda....The attack on Afghanistan is largely seen as a part of a plan to build a pipeline from Central Asian and Caspian oil fields across the war-ravaged country to the Arabian Sea. Now the Bush administration apparently wants to seize control of Iraq’s oil fields and turn the country into an American protectorate.
—Ameen Izzadeen

Karachi The News (left-wing), Aug. 7: [Jordan’s] King Abdullah’s worry about a “can of worms” centers on the possibility of Iraq splitting up. After all, Iraq is not a single ethnic unit; its current boundaries were arbitrarily [drawn] by the British in 1919. Since the oil business needs stable conditions, Iraq’s sectarian problem has been kept dormant by suppression....An upheaval in Iraq could rekindle ancient conflicts that may unwittingly produce more unpredictable consequences.

Paris Le Monde (liberal), Aug. 2: No one contests that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a monstrous tyranny....But does that justify declaring war on Iraq? Going to bomb one of the most ancient capitals of the region? Invading, given the present climate in the Middle East, a country of this size? All this without having the least idea of the regime that will come after Saddam Hussein’s and betting—in an extremely risky gamble—on the ability to deal with a divided country: on the one hand, the Sunni and Shiite Arabs (the latter, who are more prevalent, having a very hard time under the political domination of the former), and on the other, a large Kurdish minority that seeks to emancipate itself from the Arabs.

Manama, Bahrain Akhbar al-Khaleej (pro-government), July 16: All indications show that the American strike on Iraq is inevitable and that it is just a matter of time. We all know that this is true and we know that the Gulf countries have no control over the situation. In fact, they will have no other alternative but to provide all the facilities for an American attack on Iraq....The worst situation that the Gulf countries may face would be the division of Iraq into three entities. While Gulf Arabs watch helplessly, part of Iraq could fall under America’s control and Iran would take the rest. This would certainly threaten the unity of the Gulf countries.

Lagos Post Express (independent), Aug. 8: President George W. Bush’s resolve to topple the government of Saddam Hussein of Iraq cannot but worry those who think that the respect of the sovereignty of nations should be sacrosanct. The Iraqi leader may not be the best leader, but for an external force to remove him from office would amount to a rape of the sovereignty of Iraq and, indeed, interference in the internal affairs of the country. For America to come out openly to declare its plot to unseat the Iraqi leader is in itself an insult to the collective integrity of the Iraqi people, who are capable of determining their destiny. It is a tactical error.

São Paulo Fôlha de S. Paulo (liberal), July 31: The White House continues to send signs that it may launch a military campaign against Iraq to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. It is a reckless venture that the world must reject. No one doubts that Saddam Hussein is one of the world’s worst tyrants....[But] the Gulf War ended 11 years ago...and nothing serious has emerged to justify a resumption of the war....An attack against Iraq now would only have disastrous effects. The main victim would be the Iraqi people....The war would also provoke Muslim nations’ wrath against the United States. The governments of moderate Arab nations supporting Bush might face problems....A war against Iraq is the last thing the world—already in recession—needs....Only political myopia could explain a move against Iraq now.

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