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Another great article about US, Iraq and Europe



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IPI_Marker

The road to Baghdad
(Filed: 26/02/2002) 


THE rebuke of Tony Blair by the ruling German Social Democrats suggests
that he is doing something right. The Prime Minister had offended, it
seems, by moving the Government towards greater support for action
against Iraq. To the extent that there is such a thing as a common
European foreign policy - which is, thank goodness, not very much - its
cornerstone appears to be the protection of Saddam Hussein. Nations
that were prepared, though in some cases reluctantly, to back America's
war in Afghanistan, nevertheless see any move against Iraq as beyond
the pale. The idea puts people like Chris Patten, Hubert Vedrine and
Joschka Fischer in a great taking.

It is hard to see a good reason why. There is room, of course, for
legitimate disagreement among the allies about how best to deal with
Iraq, but there should not be much dissension over the fact that Saddam
is a tyrant and an aggressor who has murdered large numbers of his own
and other people, invaded Kuwait and has used and is preparing weapons
of mass destruction. His departure is devoutly to be wished. When
President Bush marked out Iraq as one of the three members of his "axis
of evil" in his State of the Union address, even those who disliked the
phrase should surely have acknowledged that, in any list of nasty
regimes that the West would benefit from changing, Iraq comes at or
near the top. The fact that so many European countries refuse to accept
this suggests either that they have rather seedy interests in Iraq, or
that they are reflexively opposed to American policy (or both).

This ought not to be a problem for Mr Blair. Britain fought the Gulf
war, and since then has continued to support sanctions and help
maintain the no-fly zone. It has invested a good deal of treasure and
some blood in opposing Saddam. Why not follow the logic of the policy?
It becomes ever clearer that the United States is meditating some sort
of military action. In his interview which appeared in yesterday's
Telegraph, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that Iraq
was not in a position to change without "some external event".
Everything that Mr Blair said in his eloquent speech to his party's
conference last October would justify a British contribution to such an
event. But that justification has to be publicly made. Attention should
be drawn to the suffering of the Iraqi people. Iraqi exiles and their
organisations, such as the Iraqi National Congress, should be given
friendly prominence by the Government. Saddam's weapons programmes
should be publicly explained and condemned. The idea that his regime is
in any sense a contributor to stability in the Middle East should be
scotched. Mr Blair is as good at showing a bleeding heart in public as
the most lurid Christian statuary: he should show us all how it bleeds
for the people of Iraq.

Behind European objections to the "axis of evil" doctrine is a belief
that America will "over-react" with "simplistic" solutions because
Americans are "cowboys" with a goodies-and-baddies view of life. Yet it
is difficult truthfully to describe Saddam as anything other than a
baddy, and it is wrong to mistake American determination for American
rashness. Oddly, it was the more "moderate" Bill Clinton who tended to
fire off ill-considered missiles and launch sudden raids. The more
"hawkish" Mr Bush is actually very careful. First, he prepares the
rhetorical and political ground; then he works out the military
options. Unlike most of the European countries, he has real
responsibility for the lives of millions, and so he does not act before
he is confident that he can win. He will go after Iraq in some way, and
he will win. We should go with him.



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