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Arab Press Reaction to U.S. Plans to Attack Iraq

Extended excerpts from Arab newspapers in Algiers, Amman, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, and London

Baghdad, Iraq
A Baghdad resident listens to news that Iraq has offered to allow U.N. weapons inspectors unconditional access into Iraq, Sept. 17, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
Algiers | Amman | Baghdad | Cairo | Damascus | Jerusalem | London

Keen Insights in Bush’s Speech
Uthman Mayrghuni, Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Saudi-owned), London, England, Sept. 18, 2002.

U.S. President George Bush focused a great deal on the importance of respecting the resolutions of the United Nations in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Bush used this argument  to urge an attack against Iraq meant to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In order to summon the world to his aid, he argued that fulfilling the terms of U.N. resolutions would bolster respect for the international organization. To fail to implement U.N. resolutions would be to deal a blow to the United Nations' esteem and, ultimately, its raison d’être.

Bush’s language concentrated on logical definitions of justice. From an observer’s vantage point, it seems that the American president is absolutely correct, both with regard to the importance of respecting U.N. resolutions and the necessity of implementing them. This is because the very crux of the importance of the United Nations lies in these points: whether we are to have global stability or chaos, whether we are to validate the actions of the United Nations as the “Parliament of the World” or whether it will continue as a marginalized and stymied body during a time when it seems that the world is in dire need of cooperation to confront the rising challenges of the day.

The problem with all this, though, is that Bush’s speech induced many of his listeners to bitterly ask: Why hasn’t the American administration seen fit to apply these fine principles before? Why hasn't the United States insisted on the implementation of U.N. resolutions whenever they deal with matters pertaining to Israel? If Iraq has indeed violated U.N. resolutions 14 times, as Bush says, it is even more evident that Israel has not implemented U.N. resolutions dozens of times. It has openly flouted them, often supported by successive American administrations that thwarted a number of resolutions based on international consensus through the use of the U.S. veto in the Security Council.

The Bush administration would only further its goals and engender greater global support... if it were to employ one consistent set of principles to guide its dealings with both Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a similar way, it would reap immense support if it were to move on its own initiative to implement international resolutions on the two respective crises, or at the very least, stir from its stupor on the Palestinian issue and pressure Israel to move toward peace….

But if the voices of the hawks in the Bush administration pushing for war at any cost win out and apply inconsistent interpretations, then Washington's policies will stir up such problems and unrest in the region and beyond that it will find that Washington itself will strike the fatal blow to the international coalition that it formed to fight terrorism.

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The Attack is Coming
Muhammad Abd al-Fattah Muhsin, Al-Ahram (semi-official), Cairo, Egypt, Sept 23, 2002.

The coming attack on Iraq will be an attack on the whole Arab region, and will completely reshape its history. This is because embedded deep inside this war are dangerous variables that will afflict the region and rock Arab society in its entirety, with broad repercussions for the international community.

Since the United States became the primary and only power in the world after the fall of the Soviet Union, its government has been dominated by the ideas of some of its foreign policy planners who hope to implement imperialistic dreams. They see a world in which the United States is always at the helm, with the world ultimately compliant to the whims and needs of American interests.

These planners have been able to take from the events of Sept. 11 the pretext they need to finally establish American domination over the world under the pretext of “fighting terrorism,” while reaping all the strategic and political benefits this label conveys.

Furthermore, the American administration does not see the dangers of these policies, and continues to express its doubts about a lot of world thinkers—some of whom happen to be in the West—who express misgivings about this. This is because American policy-makers view the events of Sept. 11 as having opened the gates and removed any barriers to their desire to arrange political affairs in the world, especially in the Middle East. Under the rubric of engaging in preventative or pre-emptive wars and using the propaganda and slogans of the "war on terrorism," they see this as the supreme opportunity to act for what is believed to be in the best interests of Israel and the United States. Ultimately, the goal they are striving for is to change the very shape of the political map of the Arab world—and it is coming on down the pike.

These wars, which the United States is exhorting the world to join, are not for the sake of principles, but are instead wars of national interests far removed from the rules of morality.

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What Came to Light in Bush’s Reaction to Iraq’s Acceptance of the Return of Inspectors
Isa Ismail Al-Ibadi, Al-Thawra (organ of the ruling Baath Party), Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 23, 2002.

The modern international order is based on the cooperation of the family of 190 nations that form the United Nations. Embodied in its charter are the principles of multilateralism, collective agreements, mutual recognition, and effective and valid laws. Furthermore, this international order makes it incumbent on the United Nations to not allow... any one nation, or a handful of nations, to threaten the security, sovereignty, or independence of another nation or nations through the threat of force or actual aggression. What's more, the United Nations clearly stands in opposition to those nations that hope to intervene in another’s internal affairs or use force to solve a crisis.

But successive U.S. administrations, and the present administration in particular, have been working toward the demolition of the international order and the rule of law. The United States has proved that it doesn’t respect the institutions of the United Nations and is not afraid of general global opinion or international law. This is because the Bush administration is blinded by its own tyranny and haughtiness; it has become headstrong in using the brute force of America. It has given free rein to its interests as well as venting threats and classifying the nations of the world in line with its whims. It has fundamentally ignored that there already is an international organization, called the United Nations, with a mandate, embodied in its charter and institutions, to be the principle authority in settling disputes between nations.

This American overstepping of the United Nations, and the withdrawal of Washington from the most fundamental principles for settling matters between nations, leads many to see the United States as becoming isolated in the global arena. It was to quell this view that Bush’s advisors counseled him to go the U.N. General Assembly to present his speech. The main intent of this speech was to mislead the international community into believing that the American administration actually respects the United Nations and international will!

The truth is that the United States, as evidenced by its history since what is called the “withdrawal of the United States from its isolationism after World War II,” has acted in accordance with the strength of its vicious imperial interests. And so it only resorts to using the forum of the United Nations whenever it wants to act freely in its foreign affairs, to pass off a new plan under the cover of international validity.

Often it finds that the United Nations will not comply with American desires on a certain issue; successive American administrations have been unsuccessful in their attempts to convince the world to support its policies. The basic reason for this is that many in the international community consider the United States an imperialist nation with imperial ambitions, which aims to achieve these ambitions at the expense of the independent nations of the world and their citizens.

Regarding the matter at hand, we find that Bush, in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly, demonstrated his preference for brute force, injustice, and arrogance. Indeed, Bush tried to deceive international public opinion by pretending to resort to the authority of the United Nations—and perhaps there were some people who assumed that was why Bush was speaking at the United Nations! But the truth quickly became apparent when Iraq announced that it would permit the return of the weapons inspectors. When it found that Bush’s plan had backfired, the American administration flew into a rage and began to increase the feverish pitch of anti-Iraq announcements to such an extent that everyone and his brother was bombarded with propaganda. It seems that Bush was beset by personal torment and for this reason he tried to cast doubt on the honesty and sincerity of Iraq’s agreement to let inspectors back into the country.

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The New American Dilemma
Ahmad Dawa, Al-Thawra (government-controlled), Damascus, Syria, Sept. 24, 2002.

It isn’t a secret to anyone that the United States is waiting to waylay any positive plan formulated by the United Nations and its Security Council regarding the issues of the Iraqi case before it. Whenever this international organization is in a position to reach a solution to an impasse in this matter, which, it should be noted, is American in origin, the American administration contrives another prickly dilemma with the goal of foiling U.N. efforts to resolve the Iraqi situation. As it engages in such shenanigans, the United States simultaneously communicates to the world that it is not fit to properly handle important matters such as the Iraqi case.

This is why the United States has not accepted Iraq’s acceptance of the unconditional return of international inspectors, which would put Iraq in full compliance with the demands made by the United Nations. Furthermore, the United States and Britain are engaging in a campaign that both refutes Iraq’s efforts at compliance and promotes American allegations and concerns about Iraq’s attempts to develop, or its current possession of, weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the United States—which rejects any Iraqi attempts to comply as mere deception—is contriving a new dilemma by asking the Security Council to issue a new resolution containing further American stipulations about inspections in Iraq. The patent utility of these new stipulations is clear—they are to be a technical loophole for Washington and London in order to allow them to proceed with the military attack on Iraq and to enable the United States to use them as convenient pretexts so they can point to “examples” of Iraqi noncooperation with the inspectors.

The dangerous problem with the new dilemma the Americans have presented (which won’t be the last), is this: If the Security Council agrees to issue a new resolution, with more stipulations, pressing for the return of the inspectors, which seems to be the compliant French view on the matter, this will conceal the actual sponsors of such ideas—the members of the American administration. Likewise, to issue such a new resolution will put the United Nations and its Security Council in the position of both accepting the need to pass a new Security Council resolution—which would urge the return of inspectors and include new requirements and conditions—as well as validitating the use of military force against Iraq if it doesn’t seem to cooperate fully with the inspectors commission. And this is exactly what Washington wants and needs.

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Iraq: A Done Deal? (Is There Nothing to Be Done?)
Sultan al-Hatab, Al-Ra’i (pro-government), Amman, Jordan, Sept. 13, 2002.

Will it really be a war on Iraq alone? Or will it be a massive war on the region itself with more than one means and with more than one goal in mind? And is it true that Iraq had a hand in the attacks of Sept. 11—which just passed their anniversary—or is it that the events of that day have been utilized to implement former American strategies, using 9/11 as a fertile symbol to justify many goals that advance U.S. interests?

In reality, the fundamental character of the war on terrorism—which wasn’t defined or circumscribed in any manner—is a war which proceeds by its own interpretation in many different forms. The ambiguous nature of the war on terrorism accrues immeasurable benefits to those governments able to ride the crests of its waves. The Israeli government was the first and most able to reap the benefits of political cover from this "war on terrorism," and has subsequently ridden its waves like a pro. As an ally of the United States, it has used the timing of the "war on terrorism" to free itself from signed international agreements (the Oslo Accords), forgoing any restrictions on its behavior and reoccupying all of Palestine from river to sea. In this wartime environment, it has ceased to recognize the Palestinian National Authority, while a complacent world doesn’t budge, even to send its most prominent representatives who were involved in drafting the various agreements. The world has also been too paralyzed to stop and realize the gravity of what has been happening, in particular what is being done to the Palestinian Authority now and all of its officials, who are virtual prisoners under the thumb of Sharon and are reduced to being merely persons intended for arrest, assassination, and exile.

These developments are the stages of the liquidation of the Palestinian issue amid a vast sea of activities around the world subsumed under the rubric of “war on terrorism.” And now, at the top of the list, is the United States with its strike on Iraq. Sharon’s previous steps in quashing the Oslo agreements are probably the most prominent indication of the imminent approach of the hour of the attack on Iraq. This is because operating under the cover of the "war on terrorism" will make it feasible for him to conduct himself as he sees fit against the Palestinian people and their rights…which, by the way, have been stipulated and drawn up by the United Nations in its previous resolutions.

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The Return of the Weapon Inspectors Is an Arab Demand, Too
Fahad al-Fanak, Al-Ra’i (pro-government), Amman, Jordan, Sept. 13, 2002.

The return of weapons inspectors to Iraq has become an Arab demand. On a daily basis those wishing well for Iraq have repeated this demand in hopes of staving off war. Meanwhile, those who are the enemies of Iraq and favor regime change by military action actually pretend to ignore the fact that this is the position of Arab governments. It is well known that the resumption of the international inspectors' work in Iraq's sensitive facilities has always taken the form of an assault on the sovereignty of an independent Arab nation. In addition, Iraq has always stood its ground in an unequivocal and public manner and insisted that the inspectors were intelligence agents who exchanged information with Israel.

Thus, there isn’t a great love among Arabs in general for the work of these inspectors. But their presence is the lesser of two evils. Either we accept the bitter fact of the inspectors as a means of preventing war, or we will face a war of destruction and human and material devastation in Iraq.

The important thing to question, though, is this: If the inspectors do return, will the United States continue in its threats of war or will their return predicate a cessation of the threats and the ongoing whipping up of public opinion by the U.S. government in support of war as it mobilizes its forces and armaments in the region? If Iraq cooperates with the inspectors, positive results must follow, including the eventual end of sanctions against it, if the United Nations really is to prove itself an independent body.

Ultimately, if Iraq is certified as having no weapons of mass destruction, then the American pretense for the necessity to go to war becomes as weak as a spider’s web. It would likewise become evident that the issue hasn’t been Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or Iraq’s threat to its neighbors, but that it has always been the twin issues of Israel's unrestricted security and America's complete hegemony over oil—not to mention the active role of a personal vendetta in this crisis.

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The United States Is Not the United Nations
Al-Quds (pro-Palestinian Authority), Jerusalem, Sept. 13, 2002.

Yesterday, U.S. President George Bush stood at the podium of the United Nations to speak to representatives about the Iraqi issue. But he didn’t stand there in his capacity as the president of a single member nation—perhaps an important one because of its size and the extent of its power, but just one nation from among a body of 190 nations, equal to any other member state in respect, sovereignty, and national honor. Instead, President Bush spoke in a very forceful and demanding manner. It was as if the role of the United States had swelled up to become equal to the role of the United Nations itself, and he actually threatened Iraq and the Iraqi government with calamity, ruin, and destruction of its sovereignty. He then seemed to assume for himself the very prerogatives for which the United Nations had been founded. This he did in order to set a trap for Iraq and push it into a corner; Bush formulated his speech in such a manner that it would make it easy for the United States to issue resolutions from the U.N. Security Council granting it spurious legality in its upcoming aggression against Iraq.

In actuality, what is being orchestrated is an effort that will not serve American interests, but rather will increase the number of its entanglements in the region and throw its political positions in disarray. Furthermore, it threatens the very political security of the current governments in the Middle East, benefiting no one except Israel. With this in mind, it is ironic that when president Bush called for the implementation of U.N. resolutions, he specifically focused on Iraq. But he ignored the fact that there are long-standing resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories, resolutions that Israel hasn’t given a hoot about.

What is shaping up is that the entire world is on one side, and the United States, Israel, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are on the other. The world—the Arab states, Europe, Japan, Australia, Asia, Africa, Central and South America, even North America (leaving out the United States)—calls for a solution to the Iraqi crisis (if there really is a “crisis”) by diplomatic means. There are even voices in the U.S. Congress demanding caution and prudent methods. They are skeptical about the motives, justifications, and evidence supporting the validity of an attack on Iraq. Even if there proves to be no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the hawkish members of the American administration are determined to act rashly and shove the United States and the Middle East into war, chaos, and political collapse(s) with unkown consequences.

These hawks in the U.S. administration forget that it is not for any one nation—even if it is the United States—to assume the mantle of the U.N. enterprise and change it into a rubber stamp to simply bestow validity to aggression against any nation it considers inimical to its interests... including the ruling authority in any nation. The result of such an arrogant unilateral display will turn the once even playing field of the world into a jungle where might makes right.... It is precisely this scenario that the United Nations was founded to prevent. Its founders wished to prevent the world from sinking to this level of depravity and the lowest expressions of power and authority, to prevent the powerful from ruling through chaos and to check the aggression of the strong against the weak.

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Bush’s War
Mahmoud Belhaymer, Al-Khabar (independent), Algiers, Algeria, Sept. 13, 2002.

The first commemoration of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 was an occasion for President Bush to renew his assurance that he will win his war against terrorism. This war has proceeded now for almost a year and has gathered around the United States all of its friends. Despite its good points, its actual accomplishments have been modest. It is with this in mind and to remind the world that the war began with that black Tuesday a year ago, that he came to explain his position at the United Nations.

Sadly, his language betrayed an attempt to claim that the United States can monopolize all the affairs on Earth in a manner which seems to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

But it is right for the United States to be stirred up in defense of the blood of its citizens. It is right for it to defend those who faced destruction. It is right for it to reestablish the prominence of its interests and culture. Yet what is certain is that this tragedy has unfortunately become a blank check to pay for the whitewashing of U.S. interests and the U.S. goal of acting unilaterally as the sole superpower. The United States sees the creation of a new government in Iraq and of a new geostrategic map in the Middle East as being in its interests.

So it is not strange that our opinion of the United States' goals is that they are changing from a struggle of righteous defense into something entirely different, that the idea of toppling a government that has refused to kowtow [Iraq] is being milked from the global cow because of Sept. 11…. America's goals are alarming in the short and the long term. Its plans for Iraq and the Middle East, and the scope of these plans, have reached such an extent that even its European partners... are in opposition. They have expressed their opposition in such a manner that they seem to have begun defending Arab interests more than the Arabs themselves. With great clarity, they have demanded more proof, and further rationale for the attack on Iraq.

In conclusion, with all certainty, the global "war against terrorism" is an American war and it has been in accordance with American interests. As for terrorism, which affects all of us, and which we all struggle to overcome... we all need to cooperate to overcome terrorism. We, as lesser powers in the world, do not have the power to appoint ourselves as leaders in the "war on terrorism." And so while we are still threatened by the methods and weapons at the terrorists’ disposal, we are also in no position to gain from the war as the United States is.

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What They Got and What We Got
Salama Ni‘mat, Al-Hayat (pan-Arab), London, England, Aug. 26, 2002.

Currently, there is no no indication that the United States has fundamentally changed in its decision to go to Baghdad. Still, debates rage in the United States whenever the hour seems to be close at hand. And while experts in Washington describe the extent of the nation's unity and the widespread support for the administration, these percentages could drastically change when the war actually breaks out, a situation often repeated throughout U.S. history.

All the while, the United States is completely engrossed in the “discussion” over the Iraqi issue and its different angles, and participating in that discussion—at least at some peripheral level—are the nations of the European Union, Canada, and Japan…and half the globe.

In the Middle East, including those countries surrounding Iraq—which stand to suffer the greatest impact from any war in Iraq—the topic has virtually fallen off the map... It's as if the war will occur on another planet! Not that there is anything unusual in that… because the issue of Iraq, like so many other “sensitive” manners that touch the lives of the Arab people, are receiving "special" government treatment, as usual. After all, does there need to be a demonstration of opinion from every Tom, Dick, and Harry every time we want to discuss sensitive matters?

The majority of Arabs live in nations without knowing where their governments truly stand [on the Iraq issue]—this in a place where an important matter like regional war is business as usual. But on the other hand, they don’t even know the social positions people would take on some unbroached topics because of the absence of any effective means to measure public opinion, as well as the means to communicate in freedom and independence. Some governments present themselves to the people as if they were the all-knowing “Big Brother.” Some governments deal with public opinion as the Mafia would, which sees public knowledge as a threat to be prevented.
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