Powell fails to convince Japan as well
John de Boer (GLOCOM Platform)
Much media attention focused on Colin Powell's (US Secretary of State) speech at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) this past week. The presentation was supposed to convince the world that Saddam Hussein and his regime posed an immediate danger to international security and that US-led military action against Iraq was imperative. In the few days proceeding the event, media sources around the world (in particular CNN) drew parallels to Adlai Stevenson's historical moment in the UNSC showing photos of the ships carrying Soviet missiles to Cuba. With all due respect to Powell and the Bush administration, the event was a flop in comparison. Powell's colorful presentation failed to convince key Security Council veto holders France, Russia and China. Neither did it persuade Germany, which is also on the Council as part of its rotating non-permanent membership. In terms of Japan, Powell's performance did nothing to clear up the ambiguous position that Japanese leaders have been representing for months.
After the speech, Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, was quoted by Reuters as stating that the evidence "deepened doubts about the status of Iraq's weapons program", however, he stopped short of expressing support for a US led military attack on Iraq. When pressed as to whether he thought a second UN resolution was necessary in order to sanction war, Koizumi responded by stating that it was "desirable" (6 February). In his article, Kenji Hall, interpreted these remarks as confirmation that Japan demanded a second UN resolution before a US-led coalition attack on Iraq (6 February, AP).
As a country dependent on US cooperation for everything from the peaceful resolution of the North Korean crisis, national security, energy matters and trade, Japan will ultimately side with the US in any event. Nevertheless, the evidence presented by Powell proved to be such a disappointment that it served no purpose in convincing Japanese public opinion that Iraq had to be dealt with at the expense of concerted efforts in relation to North Korea.
Not only was Powell's presentation rather laughable, particularly when we were presented with the telephone conversation between two Iraqi officers saying, "yeah", "yeah", "yeah?", "yeah...", "Okay Buddy", "Consider it done, Sir", but it was also erroneous. As British journalist and expert in Middle East affairs Robert Fisk has pointed out, "while General Powell blathered on about 'decades'' of contact between Saddam and al-Qa'ida", we need to remember that, "al-Qa'ida only came into existence five years ago… 'decades' ago [Bin Laden] was working against the Russians for the CIA" (Counterpunch.com, 6 February).
Despite the Bush administration's attempt to prove the need to go to war, most key allies, including Japan, remain unconvinced. Considering the need to tackle more pressing security concerns (North Korea), there is no justification for the calling off of renewed UN weapons inspections in Iraq at this point. Furthermore, efforts must be made to incorporate the views of Arab countries that will be most affected by such a war. As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak admitted today, Arabs have no say whatsoever over their own fate. The Financial Times quoted him as stating that, "we would be kidding ourselves if we thought we could postpone a war. There is the [US] Congress and administration, a Security Council, a British parliament. They are the ones that can bring forward a war, wage war or postpone it" (10 February). That leaders of "sovereign" states in a "post-colonial world" have no say in matters of life-death-survival affecting their own region should be of serious concern to us. If left on their own to pursue war in Iraq, not only would the US and UK be defying majority world opinion but they would be exercising nothing short of colonial domination, which refuses to hear the will of the local population. As the Arab-Israeli conflict has taught us, this will lead to a disastrous outcome. Furthermore, after witnessing North Carolina Congressman, Rep. Howard Colbe (Chairman of the Judiciary Sub-Committee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security), justify the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII under the premise that America was "at war" (5 February, AP), one cannot but be concerned about the fate Arab-Americans when the US goes to war with Iraq.
- "Japan says US briefing deepens suspicions on Iraq", Reuters, 6 February 2003
- "N.C. Congressman OK with Internment Camps", The Associated Press, 5 February 2003
- Kenji Hall, "Koizumi says Japan wants UN resolution before possible US-led coalition attack on Iraq", The Associated Press, 6 February 2003
- Richard McGregor, "Beijing cool over Korea and Iraq", The Financial Times, 10 February 2003
- "Pessimism over Arab influence", The Financial Times, 10 February 2003
- Robert Fisk, "You Wanted to Believe Him: Colin Powell Does Sam Beckett", Counterpunch.com, 6 February 2003.