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[casi] from today's papers: 11-07-02

A. We need to talk about the war on Iraq before it begins, Guardian, 11 July
[comment piece]
B. Bush plan to invade Iraq challenged by senators, Independent, 11 July
C. Jordan rejects US invasion plan, Daily Telegraph, 11 July


Letter writers: please remember to include your address and telephone

A. We need to talk about the war on Iraq before it begins
If the debate is delayed until the eve of action, it will influence nothing

Hugo Young
Thursday July 11, 2002
The Guardian

The fiercest debates about war usually take place after the slaughter has
begun, and sometimes only when it's over. Vietnam crept up on Kennedy, and
then Johnson, and even in 1965 when their private deliberations concluded
with American military intervention, the public argument was nugatory. The
mainstream media gave it near-total support. Somewhat later, opinion turned,
and war fury both ways dominated the whole of politics. By then it was too
late to save anyone from catastrophe.

The case of modern Iraq is different. We can see war coming. A better
analogy is the second world war, which was preceded by epic argument between
appeasers and warriors here, and then by pro- and anti-war debates in
America both before and after Pearl Harbor. More telling still is George
Bush I's Gulf war against Saddam Hussein in 1991. This too had a long
build-up. In the course of it, the American debate was troubled. Despite the
obvious pretext supplied by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, the Senate approved
military force by only 52 votes to 47. Among those who voted against
Operation Desert Storm was Senator Sam Nunn, the hard-nosed chairman of the
armed services committee.

George Bush II's Iraq war is being prepared in different circumstances. The
political build-up is intense and almost unchallenged. There are virtually
no naysayers in mainstream Washington, though they have plenty of
opportunity to speak. Last week the US seized on Iraq's rejection of a new
team of UN weapons inspectors, and with electric speed cast aside Kofi
Annan's offer of mediation. A detailed battle plan was leaked to the New
York Times, evidently by someone who thought it wasn't good enough. The
momentum towards war is palpable, and to anyone who read Bush's speeches
since he became a national politician it should not be surprising.

The absence of challenge can also be seen in Europe. The other day Jon Snow
pressed Tony Blair on this point, and extracted an extraordinary response.
Could you foresee yourself committing British troops to a ground war in
Iraq, Snow asked. "I suggest we have that discussion when the decisions are
actually about to be taken," Blair replied. In other words, when the
discussion can influence nothing. Blair's suggested timing is precisely
wrong. Any serious debate taking place after Washington has decided where
it's about to go can only be destructive to the alliance. The time when a
European argument might be useful is now, before the stone is set.

For a start, it would put salutary pressure on the Europeans. European
nations need to formulate some positions or, ideally, one position. What do
they propose to do about Saddam? How do they think about his weapons of mass
destruction? What is their view on the balance between terror and freedom?
How do they propose to counter the virulent American voices which remark
that Europe is simply failing to address the threats it faces from
terrorist-harbouring states? Europe slinks silent in the shadows of this
crucial discussion.

But in the absence of any real discussion in America, a more public European
debate could perform an urgent service to the world. Major European leaders
should be asking these questions in public places, even if one makes the
charitable assumption that none of the issues are lost on the American
actors. They fall into two categories. Might war work? And is it right?

There's more to hear, for example, about some of the working premises of the
warriors. Are they banking on Saddam caving in fast, and his armies
disintegrating? Since Washington is signalling scepticism about either an
internal coup or an effective local military force of dissidents, the more
likely plan envisages some 250,000 US troops, with Britain and few others
possibly alongside. Have they worked out the scale of the collateral damage
likely in such a big war? "No one can say whether a war will last five days,
five weeks or five months," the sceptical Nunn said in 1991. With a smaller
alliance to depend on, and a more tenuous casus belli , the question is more
urgently worth asking today.

What, then, of the region? Is it the case that Washington, after paying
lip-service to a Middle East peace process, will use the failure of its own
one-sided approach as justification for the real agenda of the Pentagon
hawks, who've been thirsting to devour Saddam ever since Bush I failed to do
so? If Saddam is dethroned but not destroyed, what then? How deeply have the
consequences of any failure in this enterprise been considered? Are such
questions inappropriate for mainstream European politicians to ask or,
instead, an essential contribution from allies who will be expected to go
along with anything that eventually happens?

Just as pressing are the issues of justice and proportionality. Even if one
accepts the contested claim that Saddam has deliverable weapons of mass
destruction (WMD), how valid are the scenarios that predicate their use? If
he can reach Israel, why would he dare to try if he knew the entire world
would then respond in kind? Some say the most convincing explanation of his
WMD is, as Tariq Aziz once confided, to prepare for revenge against Iran. It
seems at least possible that the only scenario in which these weapons become
a threat to America and her allies is in some last-ditch act of desperation
as the Iraqi tyrant faces the build-up of an invasion army. Is it not time
such perversity broke through the wall of acquiescent silence, and was
coolly evaluated by informed public people in the public realm?

More largely, how will the envisaged campaign fit into the frame of
international law? How stale is the thread of old UN resolutions that
America - and Britain - seem determined not to try to refresh? Where might
the unfolding of a long and bloody campaign fit into the doctrines of
morality? That question could be as inflammatory as it was at Suez, among
both officers and men. John Major, in his autobiography, recalls summoning
his Anglican archbishop and Catholic cardinal to secure their approval for
the Gulf war. They "gave me their public and private support", he writes,
"and in so doing their reassurance that this would be a just war". The same
blessing will be far harder to buy in 2003, even if the issues have been
properly explored beforehand.

Germany is precluded from such discussion until and perhaps after the
September election. France, on anything to do with the Middle East, has no
credence in Washington. But Britain has a position and a special voice, and
now is the time to make use of them, before these severe anxieties are
buried under the juggernaut of a son's revenge for what happened to his
father. To say that they're only worth discussing "when the decisions are
actually about to be taken" is to say that everything must be left to the
leaders. If these then suffer the fate of Lyndon B Johnson, booted out of
politics for a war the people decided they didn't want, they will deserve

B. Bush plan to invade Iraq challenged by senators
By Andrew Buncombe

11 July 2002

President George Bush's plans to oust Saddam Hussein are to be queried by
the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee.

The chairman, Senator Joseph Biden, said he planned to ask Mr Bush's
advisers to explain how removing the dictator would be accomplished and who
would replace him.

"I want them to refine their objectives," he said. "I want to know what
scenarios there are for eliminating the biological weapons that Iraq might
use if we attack. I'd like to know how important our allies are in this."

Concern at Mr Bush's plans has grown for months. Last week The New York
Times reported that Pentagon planners were proposing to invade Iraq with up
to 250,000 troops, probably early next year, using American bases in a
number of countries in the region.

Mr Biden said the issue of an Iraqi successor was vital and was one reason
that allied forces did not push on to Baghdad in the Gulf War. He said Mr
Bush had asked him why he didn't agree with his methods. Mr Biden explained:
"I always kid him and say, 'Mr President, there is a reason why your father
stopped and didn't go to Baghdad  he didn't want to stay for five years'."

C. Jordan rejects US invasion plan
By Toby Harnden in Washington

Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 11/07/2002)

Jordan yesterday rejected American suggestions that it could be used as a
base for an invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Mohammad Affash Adwan, the information minister, said: "We will not allow
our land and our skies to be used as a launching pad for any foreign troops
to mount an attack on Iraq.

"Jordan rejects the principle of interfering in the internal affairs of any
brotherly Arab country under any justification. We are against any strike
against Iraq and we believe that the Iraqi problem can only be resolved
through dialogue between Iraq and the United Nations."

However, the Bush administration remained confident that Jordan could be
persuaded to participate.

The use of Jordan, where the population is mainly Palestinian, could be
crucial in protecting Israel against missile attack from Iraq. King Abdullah
of Jordan is to meet President George W Bush in Washington this month.

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