NEW DELHI - On the seventeenth day of the Iraqi war, the US army is knocking on the doors of Baghdad, marking a decisive stage in the conflict. The US army is said to be in occupation of the Saddam international airport and poised for a final assault on Baghdad.
Iraq has threatened to use ``non-conventional’’ methods to destroy the occupation army now at the airport whose name has been changed from Saddam Hussain International Airport to Baghdad International Airport. Coalition forces and the UN are rushing food and other essential items to the people of Iraq faced with water and other shortages.
Meanwhile discussions are on among Western powers such as , members of the European Union and NATO and Russia on postwar reconstruction and administration of Iraq. The US has promised to give international agencies a role in post-war Iraq. Other nations are keen that the United Nations should have the prominent role. The US, however, is likely to insist that those who fought the battle must play the leading role.
The world public opinion is turning increasingly against the war and the third world countries are particularly keen to see that it comes to an end at the earliest. They are already apprehensive about oil prices shooting up imposing a drain on their foreign exchange reserves.
As an Indian journalist wrote recently, this is history’s most unpopular war. Wars are never liked by ordinary humans and the United States itself had stated at the outset that`` it is entering the war very reluctantly.’’ It is only too well aware of the groundswell of world public opinion against the war. Television screens all over the world have shown huge demonstrations by anti-war demonstrations in major capitals, with some of them turning violent.
Morally, politically and economically, the United States will be paying a heavy price for this war. Its usual allies, France and Germany, had opted to oppose the war in the initial stages along with Russia. The war has pitted the United States against the European Union with which it is already having differences. However there are signs that France and Soviet Union are softening their opposition to the US. The Russian Prime Minister’s statement that it supports the US endeavour to check terrorism is a pointer in this direction.
The Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, in his recent interview with the BBC perhaps provided a very plausible answer to questions why his country was involved in the war with Iraq. He said international terrorism posed a threat even to the Arab nations and the U S action deserved to be supported. He also referred to the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre and the possession of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of irresponsible men or terrorists would pose an even greater threat to the whole human race.
The United States claims it is being supported by 35 countries. Some Arab countries are playing a double game trying to court the US while pretending to be opposed to the war in Iraq. Some observers believe that once the US achieves its objectives in Iraq, it may turn its attention to political changes in the whole region by promoting democracy.
The US action in bypassing the UN while deciding to attack Iraq is widely regarded as a step weakening the international forum. . This unilateralism might provoke other nations to ignore the authority of the international body, it is argued. The League of Nations suffered and became ineffective because of defiance by certain nations. Some observers read a similar possibility in the US action. The result could be instability in the world order.
In press briefings, several US spokesmen had replied to critics of its ``unilateralism’’ pointing out that the United Nations alone would be powerless to act against international terrorism. It must be said many nations suffering the consequences of terrorism lacked the courage to act decisively, the US took the initiative and at great cost and risk had dispatched its forces to accomplish the task. It is a moot point whether it was right on its part to subject the whole population of a state to great suffering in its effort to punish a dictator or a few fanatics. The fact that it has promised to allot billions of dollars for rebuilding Iraq after destroying its infrastructure in continued bombing appears very grotesque and a great waste.
In the above context, it must be clear that the United Nations as an international body lacks teeth to implement unpleasant decisions. But it would have been more desirable if only the US action had been backed by the UN. It must be admitted that features like the veto power make the body ineffective. It lacks power to act decisively against breakers of international law or norms..
``We are coming with a mighty force to free your country. We are coming with food and medicine and a better life ,’’ President Bush had told Iraqis while addressing U S army cadres. It was expected that the common people would be glad to be ``liberated’’ from the dictatorship of Saddam and that they would welcome the invading US army with open arms. This had not happened. The destruction and loss of lives in the wake of the war and the constant bombardment will not endear Iraqis to the US, however despicable might have been the rule of Saddam. Further the water and medicine shortages would only provoke more anger in the local residents against the invaders. Their battle to win the hearts and minds of the people does not seem to succeed. The spirit of nationalism of the Iraqi people is seen as another reason why the Shias did not also rise in rebellion against the Saddam regime this time. In the Basra region, British army had distributed millions of handbills promising ``freedom from fear’’ for the inhabitants.
Possession of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons by the Iraqi regime and its alleged assistance to terrorist groups had been cited by the US as reasons for it decision to attack that country. So far the US troops had not been able to lay hands on any conclusive evidence regarding weapons of mass destruction. Another aim of the US is to effect a regime change in Iraq. This would be in violation of the sovereignty of Iraq and amount to interference in the affairs of another nation. Regime change is an internal matter and is best left to the Iraqi people.
The antagonists of the United States who had opposed force in the beginning are now seem to be softening their stand. Russian Prime Minister had said it did not want United States to be defeated in the conflict. Likewise Germany had expressed the hope that the regime in Iraq would collapse soon bringing the war to an early end and prevention of loss of innocent lives. France, while making conciliatory statements, would like the UN to play the prominent role in postwar reconstruction.
Even within the United States, there are strong anti-war groups very critical of the decision to attack Iraq. While a recent survey showed that 70 per cent of the Americans is said to support Bush, a prolonged war and casualties within US and British units could erode such support in future. Prominent voices in the West continue to denounce the war. Michael Moore, American film maker, at the Oscar night 2003, held in Washington for example railed against a ``fictitious president sending us to war for fictitious reasons’’ in ``fictitious times.’’
The Pope and the Christian community all over the globe must all be praying for peace and a quick end to the hostilities. Many among them point to the futility of meeting the terrorist threat through a war. There are widespread fears that the war will sow more seeds of hatred within Arab nations. Iraq’s attempt to depict the US as invading Islam may have met with some measure of success.
By MPK Kutty, Editor of ChristianTodayIndia.com