International Papers

The Burden of Proof

After the U.S. press’s various leaks of Pentagon plans to invade Iraq, the rest of the world is demanding to see more evidence before it joins in the rumble. It isn’t surprising that Britain’s Independent should declare, “However brutal the regime, Britain must not support an invasion of Iraq”; or that Pakistan’s Dawn would claim, “President Bush seems to have made up his mind that Saddam, whether actually guilty of acquiring weapons of mass destruction or not, must be ousted regardless of the cost”; but when even the conservative London Times columnist Simon Jenkins says, “If we must go to war, for God’s sake tell us why,” the Bush administration had better get its foreign-policy PR campaign into high gear.

Jenkins slammed British Prime Minister Tony Blair for blindly supporting a potential U.S. attack on Baghdad when he “has no clue what America intends to do in Iraq. … Blair is like an East European leader in the Soviet era, forced to support anything Moscow does without knowing what it is.” The op-ed said one of the objections to a U.S.-led war on Iraq is that the “American military has a dreadful record in trying to topple declared enemies. In Cuba, Libya, Somalia, Serbia and now Afghanistan, a named individual was targeted and survived.” It concluded, “An American war is not always a sufficient condition for a British war.”

France’s Le Monde agreed that the Saddam regime is “a monstrous tyranny” that has mistreated “24 million inhabitants of a country, which, governed well, could be one of the richest and most advanced in the Middle East.” However, the editorial added that Bush has “not yet produced convincing evidence to justify a decision as serious as going to war with an Arab country.” The Japan Times concurred: “No convincing proof exists that Baghdad is developing weapons or will threaten its neighbors. Indeed, the unwillingness of many of Washington’s allies, and even some of Iraq’s neighbors, to support U.S. claims proves there is no proof.” Meanwhile, Dawn dismissed the case against Saddam Hussein as “a [U.S.] disinformation campaign … to soften up world opinion and prepare the ground for an attack.”

Writing in London’s Evening Standard, former commander of U.N. forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina Gen. Sir Michael Rose (described by Andrew Sullivan as “a central enabler of Serbian genocide”) characterized the prospect of war with Iraq as “madness.”  His preference? “A more successful strategy would be to strengthen economic sanctions, help create a viable political and military opposition to the regime within Iraq, obtain improved intelligence about his arsenal of weapons and whereabouts, and where necessary carry out limited airstrikes against associated targets.”

One of the few backers of an assault on Saddam was London’s Daily Telegraph, which declared:

Given Saddam’s record of internal oppression and external aggression, his removal from power alone is a great prize. But the impact of his fall would be much greater than that. It would fire a powerful shot across the bows of all states that sponsor terrorism. It would serve as a warning to would-be nuclear-armed powers such as Iran. It would remove an important prop to those Palestinians and their backers who would drive Israel into the sea.