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[casi] from today's papers: 14-03-02

A. Bush tells foes to beware nuclear response, Guardian, 14 March
B. Implications of US-led attack on Iraq, Letters to the Editor, The Times,
14 March
C. America is becoming its own worst enemy, The Times, 14 March [opinion
piece by Anatole Kaletsky]
D. Attack on Iraq would backfire, says Mowlam, Independent, 14 March

The Times:

Not much in today's papers. It's possible that we may now be entering a lull
in coverage until the Blair-Bush meeting in April. In A, George Bush
continues to threaten the world with his weapons of mass destruction. B
contains three letters in today's Times, one of which makes the usual
(nonsensical) equivalence between Iraq in 2002 and Hitler's Germany in 1939.
There were also some letters about Iraq in today's Independent, including
one from former Labour (now Liberal Democrat) MP Paul Marsden. Marsden
doesn't like the idea of military action (at present) but is in favour of UN
Security Council Resolution 1284 and the continued linkage of disarmament
and sanctions.

C. is an opinion piece in The Times, from a chap who thinks the 'every bit
as misguided as were the anxieties about Afghanistan last year.'

Best wishes,


A. Bush tells foes to beware nuclear response
by Oliver Burkeman in New York, and agencies

Thursday March 14, 2002
The Guardian

President Bush upped the ante in America's "war on terrorism" yesterday,
when he refused to rule out the possibility of launching nuclear strikes in
the event of an attack on the country.
He said the US government would keep "all options on the table" - including
those floated in a controversial Pentagon report released last weekend which
proposed lowering the threshold for using so-called "mini-nukes" against
hostile nations, whether or not they possessed nuclear weapons themselves.

"The reason one has a nuclear arsenal is to serve as a deterrence," the
president told a news conference at the White House. "We've got all the
options on the table, because we want to make it very clear to nations that
you will not threaten the United States or use weapons of mass destruction
against us or our allies or friends."

Although he stuck to the administration's official line that a decision to
take military action against Iraq has not yet been made, Mr Bush ratcheted
up the pressure against Saddam Hussein, telling reporters: "We are going to
deal with him."

"I am deeply concerned about Iraq. This is a nation run by a man who is
willing to kill his own people by using chemical weapons, a man who won't
let inspectors into the country, a man who's obviously got something to
hide," he said. "But the first stage is to consult with our allies and
friends, and that is exactly what we are doing."

The Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review, completed in January but made public
days ago, named seven nations - Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and
North Korea - as potential threats, causing panic among some leaders and
forcing the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to reassure Russia that it
was not in danger of becoming a target of an American nuclear attack. Iran's
president, Mohammad Khatami, speaking before the president's comments,
called the plans "evil". "Now you may judge who is talking about war and who
is talking about peace," he said during a visit to Athens.

In a further note of conciliation towards Moscow, however, Mr Bush used the
same news conference to express his hope that Russia and America might reach
agreement on deep cuts in both countries' nuclear arsenals by the time he
visits President Vladimir Putin in May.

Mr Bush said he hoped to sign, together with Mr Putin, "a document that
outlives both of us" to set out big cuts in US and Russian nuclear weapons.

He also said that his administration was willing to discuss Russian concerns
about US plans to store, rather than destroy, thousands of the nuclear
warheads that are destined to be removed from the active force.

The White House has stressed its belief that because Russia is no longer an
adversary of the US, there should be no need to codify arms reductions. Mr
Putin, however, has pushed for a formal agreement, possibly in the form of a
bilateral treaty.

At the news conference, Mr Bush appeared less concerned than ever about the
importance of capturing Osama bin Laden - a stance intended to bolster his
administration's ongoing efforts to shift the focus of the American campaign
away from its initial aims.

He called the terrorist leader "marginalised" and insisted that "I just
don't spend that much time" wondering where he is.

"Deep in my heart I know the man's on the run, if he's alive at all," he
said. "Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not? We haven't heard from
him in a long time. The idea of focusing on one person really indicates to
me that people don't understand the scope of the mission."

B. Letters to the Editor
March 14, 2002

Implications of US-led attack on Iraq
>From Mr Alasdair Black

Sir, The prospect of a war with Iraq (reports and leading article, March 12)
to finish off the job and get rid of Saddam Hussein is a deeply worrying

America is insisting that Iraq complies with UN resolutions to let the arms
inspectors back in on the one hand, while continuing to condone Israel’s
violations of UN resolutions on the other. It appears that many Arab states
in the region would also like to be rid of Saddam Hussein but that they do
not wish his removal to be carried out in a way which primarily suits
America and Israel. They would rather it were done, if it has to be done, by
the UN.

The central problem is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If we all
concentrated on properly understanding and obtaining a just solution to that
problem, I cannot help feeling that the problem of Iraq would recede or even
disappear; whereas if we try to deal with Iraq as a separate problem, which
it clearly is not, we will make matters much worse.

Yours faithfully,

>From Mr Richard Tilbrook

Sir, The Americans are absolutely right in making their next objective the
destruction of Saddam Hussein. Since September 11 we have all become
dangerously complacent, but the threat of some fanatical group obtaining
mass-destruction weapons gets greater all the time.

The way ahead is very perilous but our entire civilisation is under threat.
There are clear parallels with the 1930s and Hitler. Thank God for the
Americans. They should have our full backing.

Yours sincerely,

>From Mr Alex Kirby

Sir, In the “war against terrorism”, President Bush says “inaction is not an
option” (report, March 12). I hope he will also recognise that partial
action is no option either.

In 1987-98 as a BBC news correspondent I reported from ten Middle Eastern
countries and lived in two of them (Algeria and Egypt) for longish periods.
Arabs lend themselves to generalisation no more than Europeans (or
Americans). But I did find widespread revulsion towards Saddam Hussein, and
equally widespread admiration — affection, often — for the United States.

If Mr Bush wants to act now against Iraq, he will alienate a generation of
Arabs from the Gulf to the Atlantic if he does not act as resolutely to
achieve justice for the Palestinians, and to end the terror to which they
are being subjected now. And the Middle East will not understand why it is
proper for the US and its allies to have weapons of mass destruction, and to
plan how to use them, while it is forbidden to countries defined by Mr Bush
as “evil”.

Yours faithfully,
Alex Kirkby

C. America is becoming its own worst enemy
by Anatole Kaletsky

The Times
March 14, 2002

As Dick Cheney tours the world drumming up support for US foreign policy, I
find myself strongly disagreeing, for the second time in six months, with
the British media’s conventional wisdom. In the immediate aftermath of
September 11, the consensus in Britain and most of Europe could be described
as morally sympathetic but pragmatically hostile. Publicly, European
politicians and commentators were adamant in their emotional support for
America in its hour of need. But speaking privately, European leaders
whispered about the enormous military losses and global diplomatic turmoil
that President Bush would be risking if he attacked the Taleban.

Today, the reaction to Vice-President Cheney’s anti-Iraq mission is the
mirror image of last year’s view about Afghanistan. The world is emotionally
hostile to President Bush’s belligerent and overweening rhetoric. Even
Washington’s best friends abroad resent American arrogance and are forced to
acknowledge publicly, as Jack Straw did last month, that Mr Bush’s “axis of
evil” campaign is motivated as much by domestic political calculations as by
legitimate security concerns. Yet despite the emotional hostility and the
public expressions of distaste, politicians all over the world are quietly
offering Mr Bush practical reassurance:

“We understand what you want to do in Iraq and why you want to do it. You
can’t expect us to approve of it publicly, but as long as you do the job
properly, you can count on our private support, or at least acquiescence.”

This combination of moral hostility and pragmatic sympathy can be observed
not only in Britain and Europe, but in capitals across the world. Even the
Russian and Saudi Governments, which have publicly condemned the axis of
evil policy and an all-out attack against Iraq, are privately telling
Washington that they would be perfectly content with American action to
force a regime change in Baghdad.

Unfortunately for America and the world, the tacit support for US policy on
Iraq today may prove every bit as misguided as were the anxieties about
Afghanistan last year.

To see why, it is worth thinking back to September, when it was widely
believed that attacking Afghanistan would prove disastrous, even though it
was morally and legally justifiable. I held exactly the opposite view. I
believed that a US attack on Afghanistan would quickly succeed in
overthrowing the Taleban, would strengthen respect for America and
international law and would help to stabilise the Islamic world. Today,
everyone seems to believe that a US attack on Iraq would quickly succeed and
would end up stabilising the Middle East. To me, the opposite seems more
probable: US bombing would probably be ineffective while an American
invasion would produce a military quagmire. In either case, the United
States would be weakened and the world gravely destabilised.

To explain why this might be so, let me hark back to some of the reasons I
proposed last autumn in support of the US attack on Afghanistan. First, the
operation was legally legitimate as the Taleban regime was clearly connected
to al-Qaeda, and an attack on the Taleban was a proportionate retaliation
for the attack on New York. Secondly, America had done well to pick a weak
enemy — a regime hated by its people and militarily weak. It seemed likely
that the Taleban could be defeated with minimal losses among US soldiers and
Afghan civilians.

These conditions will not apply in Iraq. Iraq is likely to prove a far
tougher enemy than the Taleban. Not only is Iraq quite a big country, with
some fairly modern military forces but, more importantly, Saddam Hussein’s
dictatorship — evil as it certainly is — has been deeply entrenched in Iraqi
society for decades. Saddam and his Republican Guards will not just head for
the hills like Mullah Omar and the Taleban. In saying this, I do not dispute
for a moment that the US could defeat Iraq and overthrow Saddam if it were
really determined to do so.

What I question, however, is whether the US would really commit the military
and moral resources required by this battle. The war in Afghanistan involved
a small number of US casualties and resulted in fewer civilian deaths than
the terrorist attack on New York. But a ground invasion of Iraq might
involve hundreds or even thousands of US casualties, while tens of thousands
of Iraqi civilians would certainly have to die before there was any chance
of breaking Saddam’s will through bombing alone.

Could America take such losses? In principle, of course, it could. Although
the ease with which Afghanistan was defeated may have the ironic effect of
making the public even less tolerant of body-bags in future wars, Americans
are at least as brave and as tough as any other nation. Given its huge
economy, superior technology and nuclear arsenal, the US could defeat any
nation if it was determined to do so. But to summon up the necessary
determination and ruthlessness to kill tens of thousands of people, a
democratic nation must have a cause in which it believes. This brings us to
the real problem of US policy in Iraq.

Given that Iraq has not been convincingly tied to September 11 or any other
recent anti-American terrorist outrage, it is hard to see why the US public
should welcome the death of thousands of Iraqi civilians, never mind
American soldiers, to settle an old score with Saddam.

Some deeper reflection might even convince Americans that pre-emptive
attacks against regimes judged by the White House to be hostile would
probably make the world a more dangerous place. By breaking the link between
al-Qaeda terrorism and US retaliation, an attack on Iraq would also
undermine the salutary lesson conveyed by the overthrow of the Taleban: that
any government which supports an attack on American soil or the slaughter of
US civilians is signing its own death warrant. An attack on Iraq would send
exactly the opposite message: that the US reserves the right to overthrow
any regime it dislikes, regardless of whether it has actually attacked or
even threatened the US. Moreover, an attack on Iraq would distract attention
from Islamic fundamentalism as the root cause of anti-American terrorism in
the Middle East. No wonder Saudi Arabia, whose relationship with America
seemed on the verge of collapse after September 11, was quietly delighted
when Mr Bush suddenly changed the subject from fundamentalist terrorism to
the new axis of evil.

Even worse would be the impact on other nations that possess, or are close
to developing, weapons of mass destruction. As Jessica Mathews, president of
the Carnegie Endowment, pointed out in The Washington Post last week, the
most immediate effect of a US attack on Iraq would be to justify the
possession of nuclear weapons to other countries around the world as a
deterrent against future unprovoked attacks from America. Iran would
certainly accelerate its nuclear programme and all factions in that divided
country would doubtless unite around a patriotic attempt to acquire the atom

In saying all this, I realise that Mr Bush’s “axis if evil” speech was
surprisingly successful in creating a subliminal association between
al-Qaeda terrorism, evil regimes and weapons of mass destruction.
Surprisingly few American commentators have reminded the public that
September 11 involved nothing more sophisticated than craft knives – or that
terrorists seeking nuclear weapons are less likely to find them in Baghdad
than in the lawless outposts of the former Soviet Union or Pakistan. Even
fewer have pointed out the contradictions between the Bush Administration’s
new moralistic doctrine of “international evil” and its contempt for
“state-building” in Africa, its lukewarm support for the UN, its uncritical
backing of Israel’s Sharon Government, and its rejection of international
initiatives to solve global problems, ranging from the Kyoto treaty and
world trade rules to the International Criminal Court and the convention on
biological warfare.

If a war against Iraq ever caused serious casualties, however, the internal
contradictions of the “axis of evil” doctrine would soon become
embarrassingly obvious – above all to Americans themselves. In trying to
understand the “axis of evil” doctrine, forget “the evil empire” and the
1980s. Think instead about Cuba, the 1960s and, finally, the domino theory
and Vietnam.

D. Attack on Iraq would backfire, says Mowlam
By Andrew Grice Political Editor

14 March 2002

The former cabinet minister Mo Mowlam has warned George Bush and Tony Blair
that their plans to launch military action against Iraq will backfire badly.

Writing in The Independent today, Ms Mowlam says it would be deeply
counter-productive to bomb Iraq, and criticises the US President for calling
Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil".

Ms Mowlam, who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 1997 to
1999, says the response to the growing crisis in the Middle East should be
to address the question of Iran and Iraq – but not to label them part of an
"axis of evil" and to bomb them. "Such actions would only result in more
deaths and increased support for violent action by more people – the exact
reverse of the stated policy of those who would be carrying out the
actions," she warns.

She admits it is difficult to see what can be done about Iraq, suggesting it
might be "a case of waiting for Saddam to die". In contrast, she says, the
West should forge closer links with the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami,
and support his efforts to modernise the country.

Ms Mowlam says that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "very different"
from the sectarian divide in Ulster. She explains that all the countries
taking an interest in Northern Ireland are committed to the same outcome,
while in the Middle East the interested countries want peace but view the
conflict differently. "The US has always been a strong supporter of the
Israeli state. We in the past were seen as pro-Arab, but we are now wavering
between the two. Western Europe as a whole has always been more
pro-Palestine. And the surrounding Middle East countries to varying degrees
have been pro-Palestine," she writes.

Based on her experience in Northern Ireland, Ms Mowlam believes the answer
to this "very complicated and exceedingly messy conflict" is to secure
Israel's recognition that a Palestinian state would be part of any final
agreement. "If the outlines of a final settlement can be agreed upon, the
rationale for the intifada becomes less clear and the violence by the
Israelis more difficult to defend," she says.

Ms Mowlam's views on Iraq echo the concern among Labour MPs, 87 of whom have
signed a Commons motion expressing their "deep unease". Further disquiet
about Mr Blair's handling of the issue surfaced yesterday at the weekly
meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

In the Commons, Nick Palmer, the Labour MP for Broxtowe, told Mr Blair that
the United Nations should be the "first port of call" for tackling President
Saddam's weapons of mass destruction "so we can get the broadest possible
coalition to counter this threat".

The Prime Minister said: "It is to the United Nations that we have gone
constantly because of the problems of Iraq acquiring weapons of mass
destruction. It is for that reason that there are many, many UN Security
Council resolutions calling on Iraq to destroy those weapons and to let the
inspectors back into their country to make sure they are destroyed."

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