Casualties of War
John de Boer (GLOCOM Platform)
On 16 March, from an isolated Island in the Atlantic ocean, the US President Bush announced that the 17 March would be a "moment of truth for the world". Bush and his two European allies, Spain and Britain, gave 24 hours for peace before plunging the world into war. The bellicose ultimatum was not only directed at Saddam Hussein but also to the United Nations, countries opposed to the use of force in Iraq (particularly France) and to world public opinion. However, Bush, Blair and Aznar may also become casualties of war.
In news reports that followed the summit, the press could not help but recognize the failure of US diplomacy. The New York Times headlined with, "Bush and two allies seem ready for war". The Spanish daily El Mundo did the same outlining that, "the international press emphasizes the isolation of Bush and his allies". Mainichi Shimbun's article said that the meeting "symbolized the isolation of the US, Britain and Spain".
David E. Sanger of the New York Times described the "hurried" meeting between "the previously convinced" on "an island free of protesters" as "evidence that Bush failed". The BBC questioned why the meeting was even convened. Paul Reynolds bluntly stated that the Azores summit was about "selling the war". Recognizing that a decision to attack had already been made he claimed that there was no need "for the three participants to travel all the way to a mid-Atlantic airbase for an hour's worth of talks".
In addition to being a moment of truth for the world, Iraq (in particular Saddam Hussein), the press is certain that the Azores meeting and the subsequent war will also determine the political futures of Bush, Blair and Aznar. David E. Sanger wrote that this was "easily the most momentous decision of Mr. Bush's 26 months in office, one bound to define both his presidency and his political future along with the future of his closest ally, Mr. Blair". Michael White and Nicholas Watt of the Guardian (UK) highlighted the summit as "the lowest point of Mr. Blair's premiership". In a separate article Nicholas Watt noted Blair's nervous look and broken voice by explaining that "the Azores will mark the greatest gamble of Blair's career". In Japan, the Asahi Shimbun and Reuters highlighted Prime Minister Koizumi's plummeting public approval ratings as a result of his support for a war in Iraq. While Koizumi attempted to argue that no new UN Security Council resolution was needed to go to war, Kyodo news reported that 4/5 Japanese voters opposed a US-led attack on Iraq.
While the world will certainly rejoice in the removal of Saddam Hussein and will no doubt recover from the potential demise of President Bush and/or Prime Ministers Blair, Aznar and Koizumi, it will have a hard time rebuilding the authority of the United Nations. This global institution established to preserve world peace and security has been ruled irrelevant and untrustworthy by the United States an its two allies. Bush, Blair and Aznar have called the organization a useless eternal debating society and have ruled it incapable of dealing with issues of peace and security (Koizumi has gone along). International public opinion and most governments have been pushing for a UN based solution that will not only disarm Saddam, but firmly establish the UN as an important institution where conflicts are resolved. However, unless a last hour miracle happens, the United States and its few allies will succeed in destroying the authority of the United Nations. In the end, the most difficult task may not be reconstructing Iraq, but reviving the UN.
- "Japan backs US stance on Iraq deadline", Reuters, 17 March 2003
- David E. Sanger and Warren Hoge, "Bush and two allies seem ready for war", The New York Times, 17 March 2003
- David E. Sanger, "A decision made and its consequences", The New York Times, 17 March 2003
- "Iraqu Mondai: 3 Shunou Kaidan Kokusai Shakai heno Saigo Tsuukoku", Mainichi Shimbun, 17 March 2003
- Michael White and Nicholas Watt, "Iraq: the final 24 hours", Guardian, 17 March 2003
- Nicholas Watt, "Wake-up call to UN or deadline approaches", Guardian 17 March 2003