February 14, 2003
World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
BUZZFLASH NOTE: Once again, these are the views and perspectives of the individual papers, not of BuzzFlash or Gloria. They offer BuzzFlash readers a way of reading what other nations are saying about the crisis, whether we like it or not. We repeat: This is not an endorsement of their viewpoints.
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1//The Independent, UK--MPs DEMAND VOTE ON ACTION (Fifty-seven MPs signed a Commons motion yesterday demanding a full vote on any military action before British troops are committed to war in the Middle East.)
2//The Toronto Star, Canada--MANY SUSPECT U.S. MOTIVES: PM (Much of the world doubts America's motives as it barrels towards war with Iraq - a war that could lead to Washington fatally undermining the United Nations, Jean Chrétien said today in a speech prepared for delivery to foreign policy experts…It marked the first time Canada expressed suspicion of the Bush administration's motives for resorting to war to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.)
3//Arab News, Saudi Arabia--EDITORIAL: MANIPULATING FEAR (Can anyone smell a rat behind these manic activities in London and Washington? Bush and Blair could easily have taken precautions without shouting about it from the rooftops. But they have not…The first casualty when war comes is truth, said American Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917. Times have changed. In this case truth has already been kicked out of the window even before the war starts.)
4//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong- IRAQ: THE MIDDLE EAST'S KALEIDOSCOPE
(When a post-Saddam Iraq is discussed in the US, generally not
enough thought is given to the ethnic, religious and other differences
of the constituents and their tortuous history that make the
country the delicate kaleidoscope that it is…This raises an interesting
question in the case of Iraq. If Western-style democracy with
full elections were to be introduced, would the Shi'ites, with
their vastly superior numbers, gain power? And would such an
occurrence be able to take place without violence and bloodshed?)
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Independent 14 February 2003
MPs DEMAND VOTE ON ACTION
Fifty-seven MPs signed a Commons motion yesterday demanding a full vote on any military action before British troops are committed to war in the Middle East.
Tony Wright, Labour chairman of the Commons Public Administration Committee - who put forward the motion - said: "We believe Parliament should vote on any military action against Iraq before any such action is embarked upon. Whether such action is supported or opposed, Parliament must have its say."
MANY SUSPECT U.S. MOTIVES: PM UN
CHICAGO (CP) - Much of the world doubts America's motives as it barrels towards war with Iraq - a war that could lead to Washington fatally undermining the United Nations, Jean Chrétien said today in a speech prepared for delivery to foreign policy experts.
"The price of being the world's only superpower is that its motives are sometimes questioned by others," the prime minister said in prepared remarks.
"Great strength is not always perceived by others as benign. Not everyone around the world is prepared to take the word of the United States on faith."
Chrétien couched his skepticism in praise for U.S. leadership in facing down the danger posed by Saddam. But his criticism of Bush's eagerness to bring down the Iraqi regime regardless of the opinion of the United Nations was unusually explicit.
Chrétien has always left enough doubt as to where Canada stood on the use of force to disarm Iraq that he confounded, if not confused, his critics and bought time with an administration in Washington that is desperately looking for allies.
But there was no mistaking his message to the Council on Foreign Relations, a respected foreign policy think-tank.
Administration officials have taken to comparing the UN to the failed League of Nations, which collapsed after its feeble efforts to head off the Second World War.
Chrétien took a decidedly different view.
"The world learned a terrible lesson when the League of Nations failed to act against aggression in the 1930's," the prime minister said. "But we must also remember that the League of Nations was mortally wounded because the United States was not a member."
Chrétien's address was a spirited defence of multilateralism, or a rejection of the notion that the destinies of the planet should be decided only in the White House and the Pentagon.
EDITORIAL: MANIPULATING FEAR
Has UK Prime Minister Tony Blair taken leave of his senses? The sight of tanks and armored patrol vehicles patrolling London's Heathrow airport suggests so. He has ordered 2,000 troops and extra police to Heathrow, including tanks armed with anti-tank guns, would you believe, because intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have reportedly warned there could be an attack by Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
It is right to take precautions but this is going over the top. What precisely does Blair envisage - an Al-Qaeda panzer division rolling up the M4 from Hounslow?
Washington appears equally paranoid. Batteries of anti-aircraft missiles have been set up around the city with fighter planes patrolling overhead, while Americans have been warned to stock up on water blankets and food. Hardware stores in and around the US capital have sold out of duct tape and plastic sheeting, following government recommendations that people protect their homes against chemical and biological attacks by terrorists. Not since the 1962 Cuba missile crisis have Americans been so hyped about a possible attack.
But how credible are the reports of impending attacks?
None of this really adds up. For a start, an attack at Eid does not fit in with the way Al-Qaeda operates. There was talk about one at the end of Ramadan. It did not happen because they strike when least expected. As to the CIA's warning about an attack here, Interior Minister Prince Naif has been quite categorical: there is no evidence that Al-Qaeda is planning an imminent assault.
Can anyone smell a rat behind these manic activities in London and Washington? Bush and Blair could easily have taken precautions without shouting about it from the rooftops. But they have not.
The first casualty when war comes is truth, said American Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917. Times have changed. In this case truth has already been kicked out of the window even before the war starts.
IRAQ: THE MIDDLE EAST'S KALEIDOSCOPE
(K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies.)
"Just you wait until we have democracy in Iraq, and I'll throw you in jail!" wrote one lifelong opponent of Saddam Hussein to another at last December's Iraqi opposition conference in London. Take it as a graphically verbal illustration of the difficulties that face the country even if a semblance of democracy is introduced following the (increasingly likely) exit of the Saddam regime.
Iraq is like a kaleidoscope, which must be handled (or better turned) carefully, but US war plans and the bombs that will rain on the country take no heed of such nuances.
When a post-Saddam Iraq is discussed in the US, generally not enough thought is given to the ethnic, religious and other differences of the constituents and their tortuous history that make the country the delicate kaleidoscope that it is.
Arabs form about 75 percent of the population, Kurds 15 to 20 percent, Turkman, Assyrian and others less than 5 percent. The majority religion is Shi'ite Muslim at 60 percent, then comes Sunni Muslim at 35 percent, Christians 5 percent, Jewish and Yezidi less than 1 percent. The major languages are Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian and Armenian.
Despite being in the minority, though, the Sunnis hold the reigns of power. This is an Ottoman legacy: when that empire collapsed and the Arabs took over Iraq, with British help, power was vested in Sunni hands, where it has remained. Such a situation is not unusual in the region. In Syria, another branch of Ba'athists - the secular nationalist Shia Alawites - account for 12 percent of the Syrian population, but constitute the ruling elite. They came into power in 1963. After independence in 1946, while the Syrian Sunni majority concentrated on trade, industry and politics, the downtrodden Alawites became foot soldiers, and slowly progressed through the ranks to become middle-level and senior military officers. Soon there were enough and, led by General Hafiz Assad, they took over Syria, which they continue to rule.
This raises an interesting question in the case of Iraq. If Western-style democracy with full elections were to be introduced, would the Shi'ites, with their vastly superior numbers, gain power? And would such an occurrence be able to take place without violence and bloodshed?
At the end of the Gulf War in 1991, when George Bush Sr asked Iraqis to overthrow their ruler, the Shi'ite clerics in southern Iraq declared an intifada, sparking a month-long insurrection which also spread into the Kurdish areas.
Iran, which had nervously watched Iraq being pounded into rubble, tried to turn the rebellion into an Islamic revolution by sending in the SAIRI, its own Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi soldiers based in Iran.
Some of these reports filtered down to Amman in Jordan, where this writer was then posted. Then followed reports of gory killings and revenge attacks as Iraq forces crushed the rebellion, using helicopters gunships, tanks and rocket launchers. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the fighting; many thousands died later in captivity.
Unforgivably, the US stood by and allowed this to happen. So what can Iraqi Shi'ites expect this time round? Another shattered kaleidoscope?
AFGHANISTAN OMITTED FROM US AID BUDGET
The United States Congress has stepped in to find nearly $300m in humanitarian and reconstruction funds for Afghanistan after the Bush administration failed to request any money in this latest budget.
One mantra from the Bush administration since it launched its military campaign in Afghanistan 16 months ago has been that the United States will not walk away from the Afghan people.
President Bush has even suggested a Marshall plan for the country, and the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, will visit Washington later this month.
But in its budget proposals for 2003, the White House did not explicitly ask for any money to aid humanitarian and reconstruction costs in the impoverished country.
The chairman of the committee that distributes foreign aid, Jim Kolbe, says that when he asked administration officials why they had not requested any funds, he was given no satisfactory explanation, but did get a pledge that it would not happen again.
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© 2003, Gloria R. Lalumia, email@example.com
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