Papers around the world welcomed the fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad’s Firdos Square Wednesday—described by Canada’s National Post as “as inspiring as anything we’ve seen since the demise of the Soviet bloc”—and the rout of the regime that it represented, but several also worried about the consequences of America’s imposing display of military might. Toronto’s Globe and Mail expressed both the joy and the uneasiness:
It is impossible not to rejoice at the liberation of Iraq’s 24 million citizens from one of the worst despots of the modern age. … Even those who passionately oppose the war did so knowing that Iraqis deserve a new birth of freedom. But they wonder about Washington’s goals and about the impact on global governance if the world’s sole superpower becomes all too willing to eschew the structures of multilateralism in favour of gunboat diplomacy.
Israel’s Yediot Ahronot was upbeat. Citing the example of Japan after World War II, the paper’s editorial predicted a democratic domino effect: “The establishment of democracy in Iraq, by Iraqis and for Iraqis, will take time but will cause an earthquake throughout the Middle East. … At last, the truth will be revealed: It is the authoritarian, dictatorial, and non-democratic regimes—not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—that are the problem of the Arab and Islamic worlds. … Getting rid of one such regime is likely to cause a chain reaction and—one by one—eliminate the dictatorships in Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.” For the Jerusalem Post, April 9 represented one of the “few moments in history when something so undeniably, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly good happens. … These are moments when great risks have been taken with great courage and achieved great results.” The editorial also saw the toppling of Saddam Hussein as a source of great optimism for the entire region:
Terror and tyranny are infectious, but so is freedom. As Israelis, we celebrate the hope of Arab freedom. We want you to share what we have. We believe that ultimately the forces that hate us and America are those who keep you living in tyranny and poverty. This is a day of hope not only for Arabs, but for Israelis. It is a day of victory not only for freedom, but for peace.
La Nación of Argentina declared, “A despised tyrant has fallen, a man who dimmed the life of millions of people, used violent and savage means to maintain his grip on power, and practiced an irrational cult of personality. … The consequences of his personal ambition are clearly visible: a destroyed nation, a decimated population, a future full of uncertainty.” Lebanon’s Daily Star observed that it took almost three weeks for the promised “shock and awe” to arrive in Iraq, “and the feeling came not from the technological wizardry of American defense contractors but from the heartfelt actions and emotions of Iraqis celebrating the downfall of Saddam Hussein. … Like those of so many other dictators, Saddam’s cult of personality proved surprisingly fragile once it was no longer backed up by fear.” Still, the Star cautioned the U.S. liberators not to “confuse happiness at the tyrant’s fall with a willingness to accept occupation.”
France’s Libération celebrated the end of Saddam’s regime but warned, “This lightning victory hasn’t dispelled doubts about the motives for the ‘liberation of Iraq’: We’re still waiting for the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that was invoked to justify the conflict.” Spain’s El Mundo echoed that sentiment when, in an editorial headlined “How the Steamroller Flattened the Paper Tiger,” it said, “The victorious army now has a moral duty to find those weapons of mass destruction and show them to the world.” What’s more, “they must be verified by U.N. experts; otherwise lingering doubts will remain about the veracity of the evidence.” Britain’s Daily Mirror went further: Without WMD, “the reason given for starting this war will be bogus.”
El País of Madrid, a staunch opponent of the war, concluded: “The world is better without this dictator, but the conflict will contribute to the weakening of an already fragile international order. … There will be few Arabs who will weep for the disappearance of Saddam, but it is likely that many will feel humiliated. And it would be as well to remember that that the German humiliation of [the 1919 Treaty of] Versailles emerged as Nazism a decade later.” In a similar vein, the Jordan Times said the Iraqis’ relief doesn’t justify U.S. aggression:
Iraqis might be happy that Saddam’s regime is disintegrating. It does not mean that they would be happy for that regime to be replaced by another imposed from the outside. It does not mean that the breach of international legitimacy and UN Charter by the so-called “coalition” was justified. It does not mean, most of all, that all the suffering and death brought about by this war was “for a good cause.”