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Friday, March 19, 2004

One Year Anniversary: US Friends Still Angry

The US started its latest war against Iraq one year ago today. In this morning's Global and Mail, which bills itself as "Canada's national newspaper," former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Paul Heinbecker has an op-ed piece explaining his country's opposition to the war.

Heinbecker stepped down as UN Ambassador January 2004, so his perspective is truly first hand. He led a last ditch effort to find a compromise between the US and most of the rest of the world at the United Nations. The Canadian proposal would have set some specific tests and deadlines for Iraq to meet. He failed to convince the US to go along.

In any event, Heinbecker argued that Canada's refusal to join the war effort has been "quickly and thoroughly vindicated." Actually, he says a lot of stuff that fairly implicitly supports John Kerry's recent claim that much of the world would like to see him beat George W. Bush in November. Here are some highlights:
No weapons of mass destruction have been found, despite the best efforts of more than a thousand American weapons inspectors with free rein. No connection to al-Qaeda has been established. No persuasive argument endures about the urgency of the U.S. need to act.

Most, including me, disbelieved the allegations emanating from the White House about Iraqi nuclear weapons. Few were persuaded by the "intelligence" presented to the UN Security Council and to the world by the U.S. Secretary of State and the director of the CIA.

The most obvious consequence is that the United States and its posse are caught in a morass. They cannot end the occupation precipitously without triggering a civil war and undoing the good they have done in removing Saddam Hussein. They cannot stay in Iraq without losing more soldiers and more money. Echoes of Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Iraqi toll also rises. As one Arab ambassador at the United Nations put it, the Americans have swallowed a razor and nothing they do now will be painless or cost-free.
Heinbecker references the recent Pew Research Center study on the rise of anti-Americanism around the world -- especially in the Arab/Muslim countries -- as well as a report by the US Advisory Group on on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World.

Two-third of Canadians believe that President Bush "knowlingly lied to the world" about Iraq, according to a Global and Mail/CTV News poll!

At the end of the piece, Heinbecker describes some lessons for Canadian foreign policy. The third is perhaps the most interesting:
the Iraq war demonstrates the limits of intelligence. The U.S. administration and others made intelligence pivotal to their decision-making. The Canadian government used it as one input among many. One government is embarrassed and the other is not. Time, and enquiries, will tell whether the intelligence in the United States and Britain was just catastrophically bad, politically manipulated or both. The Canadian analysis was better.
Some of the neocons similarly argue that intelligence information should not carry the day because of the "big picture" issues.

Of course, absent threats confirmed by intelligence, wars become matters of choice and the US public (and Congress) probably would not have supported the Iraq war.

Keep this in mind next time some Bush official says that had the US listened to the rest of the world, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Absent the urgency, pro-war neocon chickenhawks supported war to topple Hussein in 1991, in 1998, in 2002, and on most dates in between. What did the US lose by waiting? What has it gained by attacking?

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