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Western Press Review: Anti-Americanism, The Earth Summit, And Deconstructing Cheney On Iraq

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 28 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Several analyses in the Western press today discuss U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's speech on 26 August, in which he outlined some of the administration's reasons for considering military intervention in Iraq. Other items today include author Salman Rushdie discussing anti-Americanism, how oil dependency undermines democratic aims, the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development, and the new International Criminal Court at The Hague.


U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney spoke on 26 August at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Nashville, Tennessee, where he outlined the administration's reasons for considering military action in Iraq.

Cheney said there was "no doubt" that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is amassing weapons of mass destruction and is close to acquiring nuclear capability. But "The New York Times" says while Cheney was there "to make the case for war," he "failed to offer convincing answers" regarding the use of force against Iraq. The paper says the White House has yet to show "why Iraq's weapons programs [require] an American invasion."

The U.S. administration already seems prepared to bypass the United Nations Security Council and deny the U.S. Congress its constitutional mandate of formally declaring war before military action is launched. But the paper says circumventing these institutions would be "a terrible mistake." Seeking UN approval "would line up international support" for military action. It says Washington's reluctance to do so "is foolish and has needlessly isolated the United States from virtually all its European and Arab allies."

The U.S. administration also seems to believe that instead of consulting with Congress, it can rely on the 1991 congressional vote that authorized the first Gulf war. But the paper says, "A decade-old vote is no substitute for the role the [U.S.] Constitution grants to Congress in taking the nation to war."


Britain's "The Independent" daily calls the rhetoric used by the U.S. vice president in his 26 August speech "lavish, even by the war-mongering standards of contemporary U.S. political discourse."

But the paper adds, "It is understandable that, as the anniversary of September 11 approaches, America's never-spent anger will rise to a frenzy and its politicians will reflect that." But there was more to Cheney's mission than that, it says. For the past week, the hawks in the U.S. administration have appeared to be "in retreat." Big-name Republicans have expressed public misgivings about a U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, and President George W. Bush has rushed to assure the public that no military action is imminent.

"The Independent" says: "With such big guns ranged on the side of caution and Mr. Bush professing himself as yet undecided, the 'war party' had to mount a new offensive if it, and U.S. threats to Iraq, were to retain their credibility. That was Mr. Cheney's assignment, and he fulfilled it with characteristic aplomb."


Stefan Ulrich in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" deplores the U.S. demand for special treatment of its citizens by the newly created International Criminal Court, and describes the U.S. demands as "immoral." Seventy-eight states, including all European Union members, have agreed to commit the worst crimes to trial before a common court. They have pledged either to judge war criminals in their own countries or in the International Criminal Court.

But America is requesting bilateral agreements stipulating that U.S. citizens will not be handed over for trial in any event.

Ulrich says it "would be fatal" for the 78 states to concede to such a demand, since the whole project is founded on the concept that all are equal in the face of the law and that the mighty should also be held accountable, an idea being exercised right now, with American help, in the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague.

Ulrich says he realizes the challenge in opposing the U.S. on this issue and suggests that rather than an outright rejection of U.S. demands, the ICC should propose their thorough examination. The outcome should not be a direct refusal but a friendly reproof saying, "We would like to accept this immoral offer, but our alliance with the other legal states forbids us to do so."


A "Washington Post" editorial calls U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's speech outlining the administration's thinking on Iraq its "most extensive and forceful statement about the danger posed by the regime of Saddam Hussein and the reasons for taking preventive action against it."

Cheney "reviewed Saddam's violations of resolutions by the United Nations Security Council, recounted his evasions and deceptions of UN inspectors, and ticked off his history of aggression." In all, "The Washington Post" says Cheney "outlined a powerful case to support his conclusion that 'the risk of inaction' on Iraq is 'far greater than the risk of action.'"

Moreover, he indicated that the Bush administration will soon detail its case "before Congress, the American public and U.S. allies," a course of action the paper calls "both essential and overdue."

The paper says building a domestic and international consensus on Iraq is "the appropriate course." The administration must lay a "legal, political and diplomatic foundation" for the "ambitious" military intervention it is considering. Iraq's "pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ambitions for using them must be more fully and convincingly detailed," along with the "likely costs, in lives and resources," of toppling the current regime.


The "International Herald Tribune" carries an item by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, which was originally contributed to "The Washington Post."

Holbrooke writes: "The road to Baghdad runs through the United Nations Security Council. This simple truth must be recognized by the Bush administration if it wants the international support that is essential for success in Iraq."

A Security Council resolution is necessary, he says, and "would provide those nations -- Turkey, Britain -- that want to support an effort to remove Saddam [Hussein] with a legitimizing cover for action." It would also "put pressure on those -- Germany, France, Saudi Arabia -- that are wavering or opposed" to military action.

A campaign against the Iraqi regime "cannot be waged without allies, and from Britain to Turkey the governments the United States needs most are facing growing domestic opposition" on the issue.

Holbrooke says the U.S. administration has "rightly" called for a regime change in Iraq. Yet other states want to limit any intervention to the issue of weapons inspections and acquisition. This is, he says, less of a problem than it seems. "If military action against Baghdad begins, it will soon become evident that it is impossible to eliminate weapons of mass destruction without a change in regime."


The "Chicago Tribune" runs a commentary today by "The New York Times" syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman in which he says the dependency of the Arab world and Iran on oil revenues subverts democracy in the region more than any other factor. And as long as the United States remains dependent on Mideast petroleum reserves, its "ability to tell the truth [and] promote democracy" will be restricted. "Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers," he says.

Friedman observes that politics in countries dependent on oil revenue becomes totally focused on who controls the reserves, "rather than on how to improve the skills and education of both their men and women, how to build a rule of law and a legitimate [state], and how to build an honest economy that is open and attractive to investors."

"In short," he says, "countries with oil can flourish under repression.... Think of Saudi Arabia, Libya or Iraq. Countries without oil can flourish only if they drill their own people's minds and unlock their energies with the keys of freedom. Think of Japan, Taiwan or India."

He says that until the U.S. curbs its oil consumption and encourages alternative energies that will encourage repressive countries "to open up and adapt to modernity," the U.S. "can invade Iraq once a week and it's not going to unleash democracy in the Arab world."


A contribution to "The Washington Post" by author Salman Rushdie discusses the anti-American phenomenon in light of what he calls "a string of foreign policy miscalculations" made by the Bush administration.

After a "brief flirtation with consensus-building" ahead of the Afghan operation, America's "brazen return to unilateralism has angered even its natural allies," Rushdie says. Moreover, the "supposedly high-principled rhetoric of the 'war on terror' is being made to look like a smoke screen for a highly selective pursuit of American vendettas."

But it is in Iraq, says Rushdie, that President Bush "may be about to make his biggest mistake, and to unleash a generation-long plague of anti-Americanism."

Rushdie says the reasons for this lie in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until the U.S. persuades its ally Israel to "make a lasting settlement with the Palestinians, anti-American feeling will continue to rise," he says. But if, in the current "highly charged atmosphere," the U.S. does decide to attack Iraq, "the result may very well be the creation of that united Islamic force that was [Osama] bin Laden's dream."

Rushdie predicts that the "entire Arab world would be radicalized and destabilized. What a disastrous twist of fate it would be if the feared Islamic jihad were brought into being not by the Al-Qaeda gang but by the president of the United States and his close advisers."


University of Paris professor Olivier Pastre contributes a commentary today to France's daily "Liberation" that discusses the ongoing UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Pastre says every 10 years, the planet rouses itself from its "ecological torpor" and rediscovers that growth has an ecological cost. After some vague promises are made, the issue is ignored once again, and ecological concerns then only return to the agenda "if -- and only if -- they serve to consolidate some commercial advantage."

Pastre goes on to question why sustainable development should be limited to ecological concerns. Development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising those of future generations can go further, he says. Health and education can both contribute to development without sacrificing resources for the future. These two fundamental issues are absolutely necessary to reduce the global disparities in growth, he says, while ecological issues can do this in only unpredictable ways.

He suggests focusing the Johannesburg summit only on the environment is shortsighted. Sustainable development is a necessity, but some countries first need any sort of development at all. If the rich countries want to appear credible in Johannesburg, Pastre says it will be necessary to put promoting education and tackling global disparities in health care at the center of the summit's agenda.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)