International Papers

Africa vs. the War

While presuming that the coalition forces will prevail in Iraq, the African papers are anxious about the broader consequences of the war. The Mail & Guardian of Johannesburg said, “When Bush and the hard men of the Pentagon proclaim victory over Saddam, they must know it is a hollow victory because they will have made enemies of all the world’s decent people.” Opponents of the invasion “should continue to agitate against the war, but the debate about the post-war world order should start now.”

The Post, the independent daily of Lusaka, Zambia, echoed a sentiment of many African papers that global security has been permanently shaken by the Iraq war. The world is bound to see a stepped-up arms race, the paper said, as so-called rogue nations brace for their turn for a pre-emptive U.S. attack. “There is a real danger, a greater one than ever before,” stemming from the United States’ “blind, mystical, fanatical faith in its strength … [and] in its ability to impose its will on any nation.” Nigeria’s independent Guardian, calling the U.S.-British attack “history’s most costly coup,” cautioned, “One of the greatest mistakes America can make is to install an American as a regent when Saddam is eventually ousted. Then, the resentment in the Arab and Muslim world will simply boil over.” The Ghanaian Chronicle said, “If we allow our hatred of one man to blind us to the danger of the arrogant show of power and the flouting of international law, it could be our turn.”

The papers also fear the Iraq war could have dire consequences for their continent. An op-ed in Uganda’s government-owned New Vision warned of the probable fallout from the new precedent set by the U.S.-British attack on Iraq. Africa could become an international battleground, much as during the Cold War, the paper said. The continent’s advances in recent years “will be negatively affected as our reluctant democrats and dictators line up to support the U.S. and the U.S. itself opportunistically recruits states behind its dubious global misadventures. It is a license for arbitrariness and a new lease of life for the strong-man type politics that has wreaked havoc on the peoples of this continent.” Ghana’s Accra Mail said, “Now Iraq is the focus of the whole world: how to destroy it and who to rebuild it,” and Africa’s conflicts have been all but forgotten. “African leaders should not allow themselves to get sucked into the megabucks politics of the bombing of Iraq but should re-focus on Africa’s own homegrown problems.”

Johannesburg’s Business Day saidin an editorial, “[A]ny ‘clash of civilisations’ between the US and Islamist forces should not take place on African soil.” South Africa recently rejecteda worldwide U.S. call to oust all Iraqi envoys.

Many African papers this week noted how the coalition forces ran up against apparently unexpected resistance, as defiant Iraqis rallied to protect their land from “foreign invaders.” An op-ed in the conservative Sunday Times of Johannesburg noted that while Pentagon officials were insisting the war was going as planned,

it appeared that the Iraqi people were not being as compliant as expected. Some of them were actually shooting back, the ungrateful buggers. That might be because they are Saddam supporters, but an equally plausible explanation is that they resent complete strangers coming onto their soil telling them how to run their affairs. Surely the citizens of any country would do the same?

American and British media coverage of the war hasn’t escaped African papers’ criticism. The Mail & Guardian said the United States has used “Hollywood” techniques to sanitize its attack on Iraq “with the help of nauseatingly pliant media.” Kenya’s Nation said most major British papers are “dancing to the drums of war,” adding, “Media barons have declared clear support for the war, while media houses have taken the cue from their bosses to toe the line.” The Accra Mail said the major media networks coverage “is blatantly slanted to suit their countries’ war efforts. We cannot deny them that right, but by the same token, we cannot also deny ourselves the right to refuse to be misinformed.”

The anti-war outcry has hit the streets, as well. The Namibian reportedthis week that over 1,500 protesters marched on the British High Commission, the American Embassy, and U.N. offices in Windhoek. They called for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to step down for having “betrayed the trust of the peace-loving people throughout the world,” and said the United Nations should declare Bush and Blair “war criminals of the millennium.” The Accra Mail reported that demonstrators—including student organizations, trade unions, and religious groups—took to the streets of the Ghanaian capital, some calling for a break in military and intelligence relations with the United States.

Gambia’s Independent ran an interview with the country’s leading Imam, who blasted the United Nations for standing by and watching the United States and Britain attack Iraq. According to the paper, the Imam told a congregation recently that the United Nations is a “weak and dormant body which lacks the strength and will to prevent America’s naked aggression on Iraq where the on-going war is taking its toll on innocent civilian lives.” The Imam called any Muslim countries supporting the allied forces hypocrites and cursed their “evil endeavor.”

An op-ed in the Accra Mail laid blame on both sides, cautioning, “In this ensuing carnage, both the Coalition of the Willing and Iraqis have a lot to answer to the children of our planet. … Iraqis for their intransigence, the U.S.A. and U.K. for their blatant arrogance.”