January 5, 2004
RETROSPECTIVE AND PROSPECTS FOR 2004
** To some, it's
"perfectly clear" toppling Saddam boosted world peace and security.
** Critics cite
"growing instability" and terrorism to claim "the U.S.-led war
in Iraq failed."
** Optimists see Iraqi
democracy forging ahead; skeptics predict a year of "blood and
The Iraq war 'casts a deep shadow' on 2003-- Global editorialists agreed that the Iraq war
was "the main event" of 2003 and "dominated" world
politics, leaving the world "much altered" but also "harder to
understand [and] less predictable."
Taking stock of a "turbulent year," Germany's centrist Der
Tagesspiegel judged that "the decisiveness of the U.S. left a lasting
mark" on the Mideast region.
Writers reflected on the "tremendous strains in international
relations" brought about by disputes over going to war and the proper role
of the UN, including "seismographic swings" in transatlantic
relations. A center-left German paper
observed that "Europe is in a state of political uncertainty" caused
by pre- and post-war tensions with the U.S.
A popular right-of-center French daily blamed Paris' "moralizing
and paternalistic attitude" on Iraq for opening hostilities that led to a
"cold war" with the U.S.
The 'balance sheet' of the war remains disputed-- Rightist outlets that backed the war contended
it is clear that "the coalition was right" to oust Hussein. Iraq today, "however hobbled...is a far
better place" than before, according to a Canadian author. Noting "one less" dictatorship in
the world and that "a person guilty of genocide" was now in custody,
Spain's independent El Mundo argued that Iraq "has in front of it
the best political and economical perspective of its history." Some anti-war analysts allowed that toppling
Saddam had "reaped several successes," including the
"spectacular and unexpected turnabout" by Iran and Libya on nuclear
and other arms. A majority, however,
asserted that Washington "seriously miscalculated" and that its
military victory "has fallen short of most of the officially stated
goals." Muslim commentators
denounced a "bloody and destructive war" and an occupation that
"totally contravenes international law."
'He who sows the wind reaps a tempest'-- Speaking for many, the Polish tabloid Fakt
held: "The upcoming year will be
crucial to the success" of the U.S. mission in Iraq. "If nothing changes for the better, the
whole world may be faced with a great political earthquake." With the Coalition's "bad start" at
post-war reconstruction over, optimists foresaw a "good year" ahead
for Iraqis; creating a new, democratic Iraq will be "easier now that
Saddam Hussein has been captured."
Skeptics countered that the U.S. is "bogged down" in a
"new Vietnam" that "has already revealed America’s weaknesses
and limits." Forecasting continued
"day-to-day violence," they predicted that the U.S.' "electoral
timetable" will prompt it to "start looking for exits," leaving
peace and reconstruction in Iraq "postponed indefinitely." Iraq "should be turned over" to the
UN, they said, to "improve security for Iraqis and American soldiers
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 72 reports from 37 countries, December 25, 2003-January 5,
2004. Editorial excerpts from each
country are listed from the most recent date.
The conservative Daily Mail declared (1/5): "Despite the pretense that he is there
to boost military morale, Mr. Blair is using Iraq to launch the campaign to
save his political reputation. With the
Hutton Report--expected to be highly critical of the Government--due out in
days, Mr. Blair is trying to reinvent the reasons for the war in Iraq.... However much Mr. Blair tries to distort the
debate, the reality is that there is still no satisfactory explanation as to
why this Government ever led us into war"
"Preparing For Combat"
The left-of-center Guardian editorialized
(1/5): "British troops in Iraq may
feel encouraged by the prime minister's lightening visit to Basra
yesterday. But perhaps it is Tony
Blair's morale that is more in need of a boost.... Mr. Blair, in a bid to pre-empt the
Hutton-related storm, has decided on a policy of not giving an inch, of
doggedly confusing the issues. It is
very odd that he fails to see how this damages his case. He is right that Saddam's fall is a great
boon for Iraqis. But anything beyond
that is a contentious stretch."
"Iraq Task Must Be Completed"
The conservative Edinburgh-based Scotsman
commented (1/5): "Mr. Blair made
clear yesterday that the troops are likely to stay for at least another two
years--long after elections in the country and the formal handover by the
United States, a process expected to start in the next few weeks. Not least of the tasks ahead will be ensuring
that the process of reconstruction proceeds in as relatively calm and stable a
manner as possible. Certainly, at this
stage, nothing looks assured. Mr.
Blair...told officials that the 13,000-strong British force in Iraq will stay
until at least July, when an Iraqi interim administration is due to take over. A withdrawal will then be phased over two
years, until such times as Iraq has its own functioning sovereign
government--with the insurgents defeated and a firm grip on law and order
imposed. Having started on this job,
Britain now has an obligation to see it through."
"Wanted: A Plan To Get
The tabloid Daily Mirror opined (Internet version,
1/2): "In a New Year spirit of
charity, let us congratulate Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon for honesty. But that's all. Festive goodwill can't be stretched to more
than that. Yesterday Mr. Hoon admitted
British forces will still be in Iraq in a year's time. He also confessed that the invasion by U.S.
and UK troops has led to many foreign terrorists moving in, too. The Defense Secretary's frankness confirms
what the Mirror has always believed--that the government has no intention or
plan to withdraw our forces and that the security situation has been made worse
by the war. Saddam Hussein has been
removed but in his place there is growing instability and deadly, random acts
of terrorism. There is only one sensible
way forward for the people of Iraq and that is for them to be allowed to govern
themselves, without interference. Though
the UN could help with peacekeeping forces.
The alternative, as Mr. Hoon admitted, is for the present situation to
go on and on--with British troops bogged down, facing an increasingly hostile
population. Our troops have served
magnificently, but if they will be there in a year, why not two years--or five
or 10? Without a withdrawal plan, there
is no time limit on the British presence in Iraq. Mr. Hoon's frankness is merely an admission
that the government has no acceptable policy."
Jonathan Freedland wrote in the left-of-center Guardian
(Internet version, 12/31): "On
January 1 this column made six reckless predictions for 2003. The first was that the U.S. and Britain would
take military action in Iraq.... The
American dilemmas persist. Should we
stay or should we go? Should we carry
this burden alone or allow others, including those in the coalition of the
unwilling who refused to back the war, a piece of the reconstruction action
too? And what should we do with
Saddam? Reckless prediction: day-to-day anti-occupation violence
continues, taking the shine off the Saddam capture--it proves he was not
directing the resistance from his spider hole after all. The Americans, mindful of their electoral
timetable, start looking for exits. Bush
family retainer and presidential special envoy James Baker negotiates a deal
with France and the other refuseniks:
they give international legitimacy to Iraqi elections in return for
lucrative reconstruction contracts. The
elections--run as local caucuses rather than under the traditional, but less
controllable, one-person, one-vote system--take place in August and are hailed
as proof that America's mission of liberation is accomplished. The troops start coming home: these pictures, unlike those of returning
coffins, are televised. To be on the
safe side, 'legal process' ensures Saddam gets nowhere near a dock--where he
might shoot his mouth off about past U.S. support for his regime--at least not
"We Are Still At War"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (Internet
version, 12/31): "Following
September 11, 2001, George W. Bush warned that the war on terrorists and their
sponsors would be long and of global reach.
Persistent pursuit of such a goal was always going to be hard to
maintain, whether because of the softer options offered the electorate by the
political opposition or through bureaucratic inertia. Sensing this, two neo-conservatives, David
Frum and Richard Perle, have issued a renewed wake-up call in a book to be
published tomorrow. 'We can feel the
will to win ebbing in Washington,' they write in An End to Evil. 'We sense the reversion to the bad old habits
of complacency and denial.' They remind
their readers that the likes of Osama bin Laden require another spectacular act
of mass murder to justify their propaganda, and conclude that there is no
middle way between victory and holocaust....
In the current political climate, An End to Evil can be seen as
something of a rearguard action. Iraq
seems unlikely to evolve into the stable secular democracy that the
neo-conservatives envisioned. While
remaining alert to the threats posed by North Korea and Iran, Mr. Bush appears
content to 'park' the first in the six-power forum hosted by China, and the
second with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Like Bill Clinton in 2000, the president is
not looking for a big new international fight as he enters an election
year. It is, perhaps, best to see the
Frum and Perle book as the opening shot in a bid to set the agenda for a second
Bush presidential term. The issues they
discuss will be as relevant then as they are now, and their bold solutions will
still deserve a reasoned response. For
both men have fully grasped the seismic change in world affairs that September
FRANCE: "Will The U.S.
Be Reconciled With France?"
Philippe Gelie wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro
(1/5): “The French ambassador to the
U.S. is probably the only one of his kind when he says that he is ‘very
optimistic about Franco-American relations'....
Such optimism means underestimating the deep reciprocal disenchantment
that needs to be overcome in 2004....
The French still have not forgiven President Bush for having declared a
war on the false pretext of WMD. And the
Americans reproach the French for having set the international community against
them and for rejoicing over America’s post-war difficulties. From the start France was convinced of being
right. America remains convinced of
having led a just war. Seen from
Washington, the false French ally would be more coherent if it practiced what
it preached instead of giving advice and not helping financially.... And so bitterness between the two nations
continues. The French suspected the
Americans of some obscure manipulation when some Air France flights had to be
canceled.... France’s law on the Muslim
scarf was interpreted by the U.S. media as a sign of religious
intolerance.... The U.S. has kept France
away from its negotiations with Libya and away from Iraqi reconstruction
contracts. The November presidential
election will not change much to the state of the quarrel."
"The American Year"
Right-of-center Les Echos editorialized (12/31): “The year that is ending started poorly for
the U.S., proving that even the most powerful nations are vulnerable. But the rest of the year developed under the
unforgiving complex of 9/11...which convinced the American people to go against
a new historical foe: ridding the world
of international terrorism.... While
this is a goal shared by the international community, the Rumsfeld line imposed
itself and America engaged in a strategy of unilateral force.... Washington’s strategy of force has reaped
several successes: Saddam’s capture and
Qadhafi’s falling in line among others....
The American year is full of successes.... But how long will these last? When has sheer power alone been able to
achieve lasting success? In Afghanistan
suspicious groups are hovering; in Iraq daily insecurity prevails while there
is no political solution in sight....
The Bible, so appreciated by the American people, also says: he who sows
the wind reaps a tempest.”
"The New Cold War"
Philippe Alexandre wrote in popular right-of-center France Soir
(12/29): “For lack of having provided an
explanation, dark doubts hover over the Christmas ban on flights from Paris to
LA.... Alongside these questions there
is an indisputable reality: for the past
nine months a Cold War has divided France and the U.S..... France opened the hostilities with its
moralizing and paternalistic attitude towards the U.S. over Iraq.... From then on the U.S. launched a campaign of
reprisal and boycott in every way possible....
France has realized that the U.S. will pick every possible pretext to
make Chirac pay for his threat to exercise Frances’ veto at the UN... The Cold War will go on for as long as the
Americans remain in Iraq. And the
Americans will not pass up any opportunity to torpedo France’s arrogance, thus
fueling Europe’s internal strife.”
Stefan Kornelius observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung
(12/31): “A few weeks ago, when the
Europeans were asked what the greatest threat for peace was, they named all the
crisis regions of this world. The USA
headed the hit list of the most dangerous countries because it has played a
prominent role in the war areas during this year of discord. Germans were especially united in their moral
verdict. It is astonishing that nobody
on this continent has realized the seismographic swings, which originated in
Europe.... Europe is in a state of
political uncertainty caused by the tension with the USA before and during the
Iraq war.... Old Europe became the ‘word
of the year 2003’. The creator of this
mockery, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, precisely touched upon
Europe’s identity crisis. There was just
one flaw in his reasoning. His idea of a
Europe of national countries watching each other is old and not modern. Old thinking is also what let the [EU]
constitution convention collapse and reversed the dynamics [of
integration]. It would be new if Europe
left this reflex behind once and for all.
Otherwise Europe’s separation will start with Europe’s enlargement.”
"Call For A Turnaround"
Wolfgang Muenchau commented in an editorial in Financial Times
Deutschland (12/30): "Germany’s
anti-American position during the Iraq war contributed substantially to the
division within Europe and was one of the reasons for the loss of confidence
within the EU.... The failure of German
foreign policy is closely connected with the revival of French-German
relations.... In the hands of
politicians like Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac this alliance has only
done wrong.... Under no circumstances
should the German government act like it would welcome a change of president in
the U.S. The chances for George Bush to
be reelected are not bad. And even if
Bush should lose, it would be naive to believe that the problems with the U.S.
would thereby be solved. The chance of a
change of course in German foreign policy is small. It is likely that German-French reconciliation
will be promoted for the sake of European integration.... Relations with the U.S. and Israel will
remain tense.... As long as there is
trust, many seemingly insoluble problems can be solved, but German foreign and
European policy has lost so much trust in the recent years that even simple
problems can barely be solved."
"War As Policy"
Clemens Wergin commented in an editorial in centrist Der
Tagesspiegel of Berling (12/27):
"The world like putty in the hands of the hyperpower. Those who had feared this can now breathe
easier. The problems the U.S. faces in
Iraq not only occupy the entire military capacity of the superpower, but
average Americans have no desire for further adventures. But the adversaries of war are also in a
dilemma. After all, the Brits and
Americans freed the Iraqis from one of the worst dictators in history. The decisiveness of the U.S. left a lasting
mark in the region. Otherwise the Brits,
French and Germans could not have persuaded Iran to allow inspections of its
nuclear program. And Qadhafi would have
hardly had the idea to stop his WMD programs.
Taking stock of the turbulent year, we can say that a military
controversy has become more unlikely."
ITALY: "The Slow Watch
Of Paris And Berlin"
Angelo Panebianco commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere
della Sera (12/29): "What sense
does it make for France and Germany to continue to refuse to participate in the
pacification of Iraq? If America is
defeated will Europe be more secure?
Aren't France and Germany real deserters at this point? And what sense does it make to continue to
moralistically lash out against--even after the fall of the Iraqi
dictatorship--the doctrine (and practice) of preventive war, without having succeeded
in coming up with the tiniest alternative proposal to face the asymmetric war
which was sparked by Islamic radicalism?"
RUSSIA: "Did Terrorist
Threat Exist At All?"
Shamsudin Mamayev contended in reformist weekly Ekspert
(12/31): "Even if Saddam Hussein
suddenly admits that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that he
personally was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, nothing will change in the
way the Muslim Street is feeling....
America can't reach its main strategic goal, which is to remove the
terrorist threat, simply because there is no evidence that it existed at
all. Iraq, at worst, was on the
periphery of terrorism, so all the United States has accomplished is that the
Arabs and Islamic radicals are even more enraged."
"War In Iraq Doesn't Change The World"
Igor Fedyukin commented in business-oriented Vedomosti
(12/30): "Toppling Saddam Hussein
neither contributed to building a liberal empire with the United States at the
head nor provoked World War III between the West and the Muslim world.... A new world order has not materialized. Building a democracy in Iraq is going to
take a long time, with no apparent end result.
The White House-backed plan for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement has
fallen through. The Middle East has
remained a private preserve for authoritarian regimes, with Islamic extremism
fermenting inside them.... The military
operation in Iraq was a great success.
It proves that the Pentagon, acting on its own, can accomplish any
strategic task in any part of the world.
The opponents of the war, trying to scare Americans with catastrophic
prognostications, have proved wrong, as Iraq has not become another Vietnam,
and the Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds are not about to fight a civil war. For all the obvious errors in war planning,
the United States is steadily gaining control of the situation. The casualties the Americans sustain in Iraq
as a result of terrorist attacks...are humiliating to the White House but not
enough to cause widespread antiwar sentiment at home.... The outrage of the Arab Street over the
invasion of Iraq has not destabilized moderate regimes in the Middle East or
brought about a wave of terrorist acts against the United States outside the
region. Nor has the war resulted in an
irrevocable split between America and 'Old Europe.'"
"War Falls Short Of Goals"
Aleksey Lyashchenko asserted in centrist army-run Krasnaya
Zvezda (12/30): "Clearly,
Washington has seriously miscalculated, and the 'brilliant war victory' has
fallen short of most of the officially stated goals.... Its biggest success in Iraq is probably the
capture of Saddam Hussein and the death of his two sons. But even live Hussein...is, basically,
useless to the United States.... As they
are carrying out an expansionist policy under the slogans of 'liberation' and
'democratization,' the Americans...are acting in the way the British did 150 to
200 years ago. According to observers,
there is not much difference between the war in Iraq and, say, the British-Zulu
war: foreigners invaded the land, seized the local leader, installed a colonial
administration, and started pumping mineral resources."
"Humiliating Saddam Splits Nation"
Vladimir Yordansky said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(12/26): "The guerrilla movement
has no single center and includes many organizations that are independent of
each other. That makes it a lot less
vulnerable to countermeasures by the Americans.
Two ideological forces, the nationalists and the clerics, are most
prominent. But they are at one,
demanding an end to occupation. The
feelings that the capture of Saddam has caused among Iraqis are as
contradictory as the personage of Saddam Hussein himself.... His humiliation will split the nation
further. Divisions can get so bad, they
can jeopardize the future of Iraq as a nation.
Besides, the hatred of the invaders, which is common, will
intensify.... Remarkably, this is a way
one freedom-loving and proud nation is treating another no less freedom-loving
and proud nation, hoping to find a sympathetic understanding."
AUSTRIA: "Bush Is
Foreign affairs writer Christoph Winder commented in liberal daily
Die Presse (12/29: “The White
House seems to be taking action against the steady flow of bad news from Iraq,
which might affect Bush’s re-election chances negatively: all of a sudden, plans are being made for
transferring responsibility into Iraqi hands as soon as possible. Even though the Bush administration used to
have ambitious plans for Iraq as a pilot project of a new political order in
the Middle East, when elections are looming, charity begins at home.”
BELGIUM: "The Year
2003 Ends Up On A Feeling Of Helplessness"
Chief editor Beatrice Delvaux wrote in left-of-center Le Soir
(12/31): “The year 2003 ends up on a
feeling of helplessness. America waged a
war and got rid of a dictator, but without making the world scene clearer,
without solving the conflicts that it hoped it would, and without containing
extremism, especially Islamic extremism.
Europe--or at least part of Europe, including Belgium--tried to oppose
this obsessive idea of waging war against Iraq, but to no avail.... The UN and NATO come out in pieces from this
period. Just like, on the commercial
front, the WTO, which also suffered a bitter failure.... Disagreements and helplessness: it is nevertheless with this balance sheet
that the world will need to start 2004, which will see many challenges, like
trying Saddam Hussein, solving the Middle east conflict, electing a U.S.
president, and enlarging Europe. For the
United States and Europe, it is absolutely necessary that, in this chaos, they
recover a common position in order to return to their primary mission, which is
to untiringly offer lasting and democratic solutions to dictatorships. Our future as free nations requires it.”
"Thank You, George"
Xavier Diskeuve scoffed in Catholic Vers L’Avenir
(12/31): “Dear George Bush Jr.: On Monday, you officially commended Belgium
for its efficient coordination of the rescue operations in the devastated
region of Bam in Iran. We still have
tears in our eyes. Thinking about all
the evil we sometimes thought and said about you, including in this newspaper,
we are flushed with shame. We, the
little Belgians, were probably blinded by the excitement of challenging a
powerful country. Perhaps we actually
felt the need to show you that we existed, in order to satisfy our ego.... Dear George, we sincerely regret that we
considered you a warmonger who was enslaved to his country’s industrial lobbies
and who disguised a greedy battle to control Iraqi oil into a war of good
against evil, whereas you are in fact a benevolent person who is able to
recognize other people’s merits, especially when they are Belgian. You have joined Julius Caesar, French Foreign
Minister Dominique de Villepin, and French sports daily L’Equipe in our
Pantheon of all those who more or less recently praised Belgium. We apologize for having made fun of that fake
turkey that you took for a stroll among your GIs in Baghdad and we wish you as
much success in 2004 as in 2003. You
also have, of course, all our wishes for your reelection.”
BULGARIA: "A Guerre
Comme A La Guerre"
Center-right, small-circulation Dnevnik held (12/29): "There is a real war being waged in Iraq
and anyone, serving in the peacekeeping forces, especially those who have
volunteered for the service, should realize that they are risking their
life.... Some political movements
already called for pulling out the troops from Iraq.... What is more important is the adequate and
correct reaction of the Bulgarian authorities.
The government and the president pointed out the essential point: yes, we are mourning, but will press on with
our participation in the anti-terrorist coalition."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "In
The Screws Of Sharia"
Viliam Buchert editorialized in the leading, centrist daily MF
Dnes (1/2): "Osama bin Laden,
Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and the terrorist regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan are
gone.... But it is still only being
decided what will happen in these two countries in the future.... These societies cannot imagine existing in a
future without the strong influence of Islam.... Freedom brings about not only the fall of
tyrants, but also the revival of Islam, which will even more strengthen its
influence regardless of what new governments will be elected."
Jiri Hanak commented in the center-left daily Pravo
(1/2): "The term 'collateral' is
mainly used with 'damage,' but [in the case of the war against Iraq] positive
collateral implications should be noted....
The first can be seen in the development of the Israeli-Palestinian
relationship. Even though the road
map...was rejected...it still has not disappeared altogether and a shift in the
relationship can be detected.... Saddam,
the great proponent of Palestinian terrorists, has disappeared.... The other welcome collateral implication of
the war against Saddam is the transformation of former terrorist Muammar
Qadhafi into a model member of international society.... Even the young Syrian Assad has decided to
cushion his martial talk, and Iran has opened its nuclear program to an
international audit. Are all these
recent developments collateral implications of the war against Saddam? Most probably yes. Will they continue? Let us hope so!"
Foreign news editor Gabor Stier observed in right-wing,
conservative Magyar Nemzet (12/31):
"If we agree that 9/11 was the end of an era in world history we
can be even more confident, as we witness the spectacularly unfolding American
strategy since 9/11, that an era ended once and for all and a new world order
is emerging. We can though establish
right away that the new world, where everybody is still seeking their own place
is not that wonderful. The new world has
not brought about the fulfillment of a big dream even for America, that tumbled
into the role of the world’s gendarmerie and, by launching a war against Iraq,
drove itself into a new Vietnam war quite confidently. The two-year-long intensive re-arranging
process of the Central and Middle East regions has already revealed America’s
weaknesses and limits. The grand concept
of extensively exporting Washington’s interests can easily backfire, which
could disperse America’s imperialistic dreams faster. The world, at the same time, is suffering
from America's lack of inhibitions and weakness. There is of course no security without the
Atlantic guarantees, and the more entangled the White House becomes in
executing its own grandiose dreams the weaker the said Atlantic guarantees
become. The most important consequence
is that the war, which was launched by a coarse move of putting the UN aside,
only added fuel to the fire. And the old
and untreated ‘wound’, the Middle East crisis, is causing only further
‘suppuration’, for which situation Washington bears a serious responsibility
too. The war in Iraq has awkwardly
enlarged not only the weakness of the United States but the internal split and
the cracks of NATO that hesitantly faces the new challenges."
IRELAND: "Highs And
Lows In Ireland 2003"
The center right, populist
Sunday Independent editorialized (12/28): "The U.S. war effort in Iraq...has cast
a deep shadow over the rest of 2003.
Undoubtedly, America's pre-war diplomacy was inept, but its war to
remove Saddam Hussein was justified, while its military campaign was executed
with great precision. The U.S., however,
has handled the postwar settlement in Iraq badly. It has misjudged the terrorist resistance to
its military occupation. It has also
underestimated the difficulties involved in setting up a new administration
before returning power to the Iraqi people.
The most significant developments in the Iraq conflict and the wider war
against international terrorism, took place in recent weeks. The first was the capture of Saddam Hussein,
which marks a psychological turning point in the U.S. engagement in the region. And the second was the decision by the Libyan
leader, Colonel Qadhafi, to stop developing weapons of mass destruction, and to
stop supporting international terrorism.
Ireland's shifting official position on the Iraq war throughout the year
says little for our consistency in the conduct of foreign affairs, and even
less for the credibility of what has become an increasingly discredited
neutrality policy. The Government agreed
to provide the U.S. military with landing facilities at Shannon airport. In doing so, it adopted a pragmatic
approach: neutrality on the side of the
U.S., which, somehow, did not amount to support for the American war effort, as
the [prime minister] recently claimed."
MALTA: "The Year
Editor Anthony Manduca noted in the independent, English-language
weekly Malta Independent (1/4):
"I have no doubt that the Americans and their allies will do all
they possibly can to stabilize the situation in Iraq and to transform the
country into a democracy. We can
therefore expect more terrorist attacks from al-Qaida and remnants of the Baath
regime who fear democracy and have no interest in seeing it introduced into the
country.... One thing the Americans
should do is to recall the soldiers and junior officers of the Iraqi army
(which they stupidly disbanded) in order to help stabilize the country."
NORWAY: "Questions For
A Difficult World"
Foreign affairs editor Nils Morten Udgaard commented in
newspaper-of-record Aftenposten (12/31):
“After a year of war and new terror we experience a Muammar Qadhafi who
in the last week of the year reconciles with the U.S. and opens up for UN
inspections. The world is not quite the
way it used to be, it is harder to understand, less predictable and not without
its bright spots.... Will the U.S. make
it in Iraq? Probably. What the U.S. is now trying is to create a
better society.... The hunt for weapons
of mass destruction is over (nothing found) and the Americans are undergoing a
steep learning curve following the disastrous opening for their civil
administration after the war.... George
W. Bush must prove that he’s in control in Iraq before the presidential
election next year. That’s going to be
easier now that Saddam Hussein is captured....
We see that the U.S. willingness to use power has had an effect, most
recently on Muammar Qadhafi in Libya....
Europe shares quite a few of the U.S. values, but wants to protect
itself from the overwhelming power of the U.S. ... Also Europe wants to fight terror, but does
not think it can be eradicated, whereas the U.S. thinks that terrorism can be
tracked down and fought down. What’s
left of the cooperation in NATO? Some,
because the governments in Europe want to nurture a good relationship with the
U.S., which is a ‘last resort’ for the security of the countries.... But NATO is in the process of being ‘washed
up.’ And it is critical that the U.S.
does not want to use NATO in, for example, the war on terror--not for political
consultation, only as a military toolkit.”
POLAND: "Tragedy Of
Dawid Warszawski contended in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza
(12/31): “Washington proved to be
surprisingly shortsighted [about claims of WMD in Iraq], because the truth was
bound to be disclosed pretty soon. This
might justify those who renamed Uncle Sam as Uncle Sheer Evil--were it not for
the fact that the Americans showed the same shortsightedness when planning
Iraq’s postwar future.... Even though
the war in Iraq demonstrated that the Americans are indeed able to decide about
the fate of the world by themselves, their thoughtlessness should disqualify
them from this role--were it not again for the fact that the very war was
carried out exactly as the Pentagon promised, and were it not for the
spectacular and unexpected turnabout in the nuclear policy of Tehran and
Tripoli. Putting both nuclear programs
under the control of international inspectors largely balances the
destabilizing effects of the war that enforced those changes.”
"Don’t Give In To Terrorists"
Editor-in-chief Grzegorz Jankowski wrote in tabloid Fakt
(12/29): “The upcoming year will be
crucial to the success of the American mission in Iraq. If nothing changes for the better, the whole
world may be faced with a great political earthquake. If the Americans’ task...were just to oust
and capture Saddam Hussein, we could have called it a success more than a week
ago. But the goals of the coalition are
more ambitious. At stake is the
reconstruction of Iraq--in the literal and political sense.... A failure in Iraq would mean a triumph by
al-Qaida-linked terrorists, not only in Iraq but also in the entire Middle
East, with consequences hard to imagine.
It would be like living in a besieged fortress, in permanent fear of
attacks. Therefore we cannot let go of
SPAIN: "2003, The Year
To Do Over Again"
Left-of-center El País held (12/31): "Bush's aspiration with the invasion of
Iraq...is to give back a global meaning, a paradigm, to the world. The U.S. is not only a superpower, it also
intends to exercise a permanent global surveillance, followed by a preventive
military therapy against everything that opposes its major interests."
"There Was No Apocalypse"
Independent El Mundo contended (12/29): "The war in Iraq was quick and
essentially well managed. The
dictatorship fell. It has been a great
year.... The destruction of Saddam's
dictatorship is not just one fact more.
It is the central mechanism for a viable reorganization of the chaotic
Middle East.... There is nothing strange
in that all of the efforts of the Islamist networks financed by Wahabbi
capital...are now being focused on the sabotage...of the political
normalization in Iraq. A regime
conventionally capitalist and tediously democratic in Baghdad could start...the
decline of the arbitrary oil regimes of the feudal despots that...finance
Islamic terrorism.... One dictatorship
less. A person guilty of genocide in
prison and at justice's disposal. A country
that has in front of it the best political and economic perspective of its
history.... Where is the Apocalypse?"
Hadi Uluengin asserted in mass-appeal Hurriyet
(12/31): "The year 2003 began with
Iraq, and now it has ended with Iraq as well.
The U.S. and the coalition forces undoubtedly won the Iraq battle, yet
the U.S. has actually lost the war. Even
though the capture of Saddam Hussein will probably be good enough for President
Bush to be reelected, the U.S. is still a loser from a long-term strategic
perspective.... This assessment is based
on three main indicators. First of all,
stability and order in Iraq have not been established. Instead, the casualties among American forces
are increasing. Second, the U.S.
administration continues to be blind to the importance of the Palestinian
issue. Washington insists on not seeing
the reality that the gist of the problems in the region stems from the
Palestinian issue. Third, U.S. relations
with its European allies are at a low point.
The Europeans remain distant from the U.S. side, and transatlantic
relations have never been worse in the post-World War II period."
"Prospects For 2004"
Haluk Ulman wrote in the economic-politic Dunya
(12/30): “The Iraq war became the main
event which marked the year 2003. 2003
was also significant in terms of U.S. policies for Iraq and its attempts to reshape
the order in the Middle East. Yet at the
end of this year, we still don’t have peace and security in Iraq. Instead, chaos and anarchy have prevailed.... The world is entering 2004 in the midst of a
series of uncertainties in the region that carry the potential for more
security threats. Turkey was not
involved in the Iraq war, but still got its share of al-Qaida terrorism. The year 2004 will be a tough one for the
region and for Turkey, bearing in mind the fact that both the terrorism threat
and the instability in Iraq will continue.”
WEST BANK: "Will
Saddam Hussein Be Put On Trial?"
Independent Al-Ayyam ran a commentary by Samih Shbeib under
the headline, (1/2): “The Americans have
a real dilemma about whether or not to have Saddam Hussein put on trial,
especially if Rumsfeld is thinking about hiding or killing him. On the other hand, as part of the legitimate
war against American occupation forces in Iraq, the issue of a trial is an
important one by any measure, for ethical justice is a human duty.... Advocating a public and open trial for Saddam
is a national Iraqi duty as well as an Arab and an international one.”
"A Year of Events, Changes and Challenges"
Ahmad Majdalani wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (12/31): “Iraq’s occupation by American forces has
imposed a new reality on the region, forcing some players to reconsider their
status and positions on numerous issues including association with terrorism,
possession of weapons of mass destruction or failing to apply American-demanded
measures concerning democracy and human rights.... The American occupation in Iraq has also
succeeded in achieving another strategic change, namely exposing the official
Arab regimes as a torn-apart system, lacking consistent positions and incapable
of rejecting or denouncing this aggression [against Iraq].... Sharon, on the other hand, has largely
managed to exploit such international and regional variables, while succeeding,
at the same time, in reading the internal Palestinian situation.… Such an accomplishment has given him the
ability to make the strategic decision to impose a unilateral solution on the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict.... This
strategic decision is no less catastrophic to the Palestinian people than that
BAHRAIN: "A Year Of
Disappointments And Sufferings"
The Bahrain Tribune editorialized
(Internet version, 1/2): "As we
welcome the new year, we can only hope that it will bring better deals for the
Arab nation which once more has just witnessed a year of disappointments and
sufferings.... In the Middle East, the
situation is inexorably deteriorating without any glimpse of hope despite the
massive changes. In Iraq, the U.S.
presence has thus failed to bring about the democracy the current U.S.
administration has been talking about and attempting to 'sell' to everyone who
was (or as not) ready to listen. Attacks
are still continuing at an alarming rate, targeting innocent people among
others. The so-called Iraqi opposition
has no visible program and we are all left wondering who is really behind the
attacks. If we listen to the U.S.
administration, we are one day told that it is al-Qaida, then it is the Ansar
al-Islam. On other days, it is Arab
fighters from Saudi Arabia, Syria and other places. The departure of Saddam Hussein was hailed
with fanfare, but a few months later, people are regretting the advent of
democracy and freedom if it meant that they could not have electricity, water,
or, most importantly, security. The
interim governing council has failed in its mission despite the high
claims. It has failed to establish a
rapport with the very people it is supposed to represent, protect and care
about. It has failed to win the true
support of the Arab nations, both at the official and popular levels. We only hope that the datelines set in 2004
will succeed to give the Iraqis the joy they so much need."
"Iraq, From One War To Another"
Semi-official Le Matin editorialized (12/31): "The new American policy doesn't follow
a rationale that is rooted in the economy, even if America will obviously be
able to profit economically from it.
Essentially, it is a question of a political-ideological choice by a
team dominated by the neo-conservatives who seized upon the September 11
attacks to impose this choice....
Furthermore, the war in Iraq starkly demonstrated once again the
inability of Europe and the UN to play a determining role on the international
stage and relaunched public debate on the future of the UN.... Despite everything, the United States will
pursue its bloody crusade in order to maintain its predominant position. The war in Iraq only marks a phase in the
spiral of war that capitalism is heavily engaged in and that will, in turn,
engender other murderous conflicts."
"Our Best Wishes"
Business oriented L'Economiste judged (12/31): "A tyrant has fallen in Baghdad but at
the price of the military occupation of Iraq, an occupation that totally
contravenes international law. It
dangerously fans the flames of the clash of civilizations and sends a clear
message to the world of a hyperpower's domination."
SYRIA: "Year Of
Muhammad Khayr al-Jammali opined in government-owned Al-Thawra
(1/1): "The war against Iraq was
the year's biggest disaster. It was
programmed through careful coordination between Israel and the right-wing trend
that controls politics and decision-making in the U.S. administration. Britain joined this effort for various
motives, not least because of its search for an international role, its attempt
to secure its ambitions vis-a-vis Iraqi oil, its common culture with the U.S.,
and its willingness to pressure Europe into remaining under the influence of
U.S. policy.... The Arab region was
selected as the first arena for the disasters of the policies of the
American-Zionist alliance. This region
is strategically important in terms of its geography, oil and economic wealth,
and because a disaster here would necessarily have disastrous repercussions
worldwide. The Arab region is a
sensitive center in which international interests converge. Controlling this region is the key to
controlling international economic and political decisions, which, in turn, is
the key to subjugating any force promising to restore the lost balance to the
current international order."
TUNISIA: "Roll On
Editor-in-chief, Noureddine Hlaoui commented in independent
French-language Le Temps (12/31):
"What do we remember from 2003 and do we expect from 2004?.... It is a shame to note that this year has been
rather negative on many levels. First it
was marked by a war launched by the U.S. and a handful of allies against Iraq
in order to find alleged WMD....
Finally, and after a very bloody and destructive war, these alleged WMD
have never been found and they may never be found.... On the other hand, the resistance for some
and the violence for others in Iraq continue escalating to the detriment of the
Iraqi people. Peace and the promised
reconstruction of Iraq have been postponed indefinitely."
UAE: "Happy New Year,
The English-language Gulf News observed
(Internet version, 1/1): "The new
year holds good news for Iraqis, who are set to see their country start
rebuilding. The trauma of the invasion
and as well as the coalition's bad start in running the newly freed Iraq, will
give way in 2004 to elections and the launch of an Iraqi government with a
popular mandate. Although the Americans
will certainly try to hold onto too much power, particularly in the areas of
security and control of spending, the beginnings of a freely elected Iraqi
government will give that troubled state an essential boost of
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "U.S. Must
Finish What It’s Begun"
An editorial in the business-oriented Australian Financial
Review read (1/5): “Now that it has
lifted the rock on the scorpion’s nest in Iraq, the U.S. administration needs
to finish what it has begun. There have
been disturbing signs that political expediency may be influencing decisions
over Iraq, such as the hasty transfer of sovereignty to an ill-defined
entity. This risks turning into another
mess. It will be an extraordinarily
challenging year for the U.S. both in Iraq and in its wider war against
terrorism, which is far from won.... The
world has a stake in the U.S. succeeding in Iraq, just as it has a direct
interest in Washington showing greater finesse than has thus far been the case
in North Korea, the other significant challenge to world peace and
stability.... It would be encouraging to
believe George Bush’s administration has learned from some of its
mistakes.... But evidence is fairly
scant that it is weaning itself from an ideologically driven foreign policy
which, on occasions, takes on the characteristics of a crusade. The world does not need crusades.... It needs wise leadership; it needs
consistency; it needs firmness; it also needs a doctrine and vision around
which like-minded allies can coalesce."
"Work Ahead To Meet Potential"
The liberal Canberra Times editorialized
(Internet version, 1/1): "Australia
and the world enter 2004 in slightly better shape than they entered 2003...and
though the prospects for peace and prosperity seem greater now, these will not
be realized unless we learn some of the lessons of how we made good fortune
from our circumstances.... Australia
became involved, for the first time, in aggressive war, if one against a bloody
tyrant.... The actual war, mercifully,
was quick...even if the reasons given for the intervention at the time were
justified, and even if Iraq is still in chaos.... But a certain nimbleness by our own prime
minister, John Howard, in withdrawing troops before occupation began, has left
Australia fairly unexposed to the consequences of its actions.... Britain and America, and the people of Iraq,
do not have that luxury. By year's end...America was plainly
rethinking its adventures with pre-emption and its flirtation with ignoring
world opinion, a shift which will be vitally necessary if there is to be any
progress in resolving fundamental conflicts in the Middle East, continuing
problems with Iran and Afghanistan, and with North Korea. Australia gave the U.S. uncritical support
for much of the year; in the year ahead it could give better assistance by
franker speaking, by more focus on our own interests and neighborhood, and by
developing a perceived independence which would allow us to act better as a
bridge between nations.... If there is a
risk that American foreign policy will be more and more affected by domestic
political considerations, there is the relief, at least, that this is unlikely
to involve more unilateralism. This
ought to be a year for a focus on renewed international cooperation, and some
shift in attention to intractable long-term threats to world peace, not least
the north-south gaps, the developing chasm between people of the West and of
the Third World, particularly in Islamic countries, and the urgent problems of
good governance and social justice within developing countries."
"Beat Terror By Rebuilding, Not Destroying"
Matthew Franklin wrote in Brisbane's Courier
Mail (Internet version, 12/31):
"The United States is missing the best chance it will ever have of
winning its war on terrorism. This might
be a left-field idea, but imagine if the U.S. pulled out a significant number
of troops from Iraq and sent them on a mercy mission to the Iranian city of
Bam.... It might sound trite, but
perhaps love can beat the terrorists where war has failed.... As the sun sets on 2003 it must be time to
admit that the U.S.-led war in Iraq failed, at least in terms of its stated
aims. The U.S. justified the war by
claiming that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and
said it would reduce terrorism by the al-Qaida network responsible for the
horrific World Trade Center attacks and the Bali bombing. As it stands there is no evidence that Saddam
had weapons of mass destruction or that his regime was linked in any way to
terrorism.... The grounds used to
justify the war have been exposed as being hollow. Saddam is in jail, but al-Qaida head Osama
bin Laden and his kooky friends are still out there bombing innocent
people. Isn't it time at least to
consider a new approach?"
"Good Riddance To A Bad, Sad Year"
John Spooner commented in the Melbourne's liberal Age
(Internet version, 12/29): "From
the political point of view, 2003 was dominated by the Anglo-American invasion
of Iraq, in which Australia was intimately involved. Almost everything about this invasion was
unsettling and strange. The Anglophone
democracies invaded Iraq on the legal basis of certain United Nations Security
Council resolutions, despite the fact that in regard to the invasion the
Security Council was unambiguously opposed.
The invasion was mounted in order to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass
destruction, which appeared not to exist.
When the weapons could not be found, the occupying powers began to argue
that their non-discovery was of no great consequence, as the real purpose of
the invasion had been to remove a monstrous tyrant from power. In 2002 the United States had revolutionized
international law by arguing that preventive wars could justly be waged against
'rogue states' possessing WMD. In 2003,
when a rogue state was invaded but no WMD were found, international law was
revolutionized a second time, with the claim that the U.S. and its allies had
the right to go to war, not in self-defense and as a last resort, but to rid
the world of tyrants and to introduce democracy.... While it proved relatively easy to remove
Saddam Hussein, to introduce even the foundations of democracy proved a
considerably more difficult task....
Largely because of robbery, rape and murder, 94 per cent of Iraqis
surveyed said they now felt less secure than they had under the gruesome regime
of Saddam.... No form of government is
more difficult to create than a federal system of democracy for a people
divided on religious and ethnic lines.
Impoverished and occupied Iraq is now expected to succeed in such an
impossible task. By the end of 2003,
what was always obvious to common sense became clear, namely that the plan to
create a model Western-style democracy in Iraq was little more than a fantasy
of the neo-conservative imagination.
Next year it seems likely that the U.S. will begin to withdraw troops
prematurely from Iraq, in order to help the re-election of President George
Bush. If the Iraqis are lucky, a
relatively benevolent dictatorship, most likely led by a Shia strongman, might
emerge. If they are unlucky, Iraq will
begin to descend into disorder of a fearsome kind."
"Freedom Silences Critics Of War"
Alexander Downer opined in the national
conservative Australian (Internet version, 12/31): "People of goodwill and fair mind who
opposed the liberation of Iraq would do well to end the year contemplating this
question: in what shape would the world
be starting 2004 if we had adopted their preferred option of acquiescing yet
again to Saddam Hussein? If the U.S. and
its allies had not taken action after Iraq had defied the UN Security Council
for the 17th time, Hussein's strength as a leading, rogue figure in the Middle
East would have been enhanced. The
international community's New Year gift to the world would have been an
emboldened Hussein, still sponsoring terrorism in the Middle East, still
running covert chemical and biological weapons programs, still harboring
nuclear ambitions and still threatening his neighbors. His mass graves would have remained
undiscovered and he would now be a lightning rod like never before for
anti-Western sentiment and action. The
power and influence of the U.S. and its Western allies would have been
seriously weakened. Our will to provide
a stable and secure international environment would have been tested and found
wanting. We would have turned our backs
on the people of Iraq, the future of the Middle East and global efforts to
prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.... Since the action taken in Iraq there have
been promising developments in anti-proliferation efforts around the
globe. North Korea has entered into
dialogue.... Iran has agreed to
additional inspections to guarantee its nuclear ambitions do not extend to
weapons. And most recently we have seen
Libya renounce its WMD programs.... It
is perfectly clear that these substantial steps towards international peace and
security would not have happened without the military overthrow of Hussein's
regime.... The post-war record shows the
coalition was right to take the action it did."
"Bush Envoy Asks China To Reduce Iraqi Debt"
Zhu Ji commented on the official Communist Party international
news publication Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (12/31): "China is considering 'a great reduction'
of Iraq's debts.... How to properly
solve the debt issue is the primary problem of Iraqi reconstruction and
directly influences Bush's future and the U.S. image. American media have pointed out that, except
for Russia and China, all the countries on Baker's debt reduction trip's agenda
are U.S. allies. Since anti-U.S.
sentiment has surged in the ROK, Baker canceled his visit to the ROK at the
last minute.... But he still came to
China on time. This proves China-U.S.
trust has improved. As U.S. Secretary of
State Powell said recently, China-U.S. relations are in their 'best period' in
the past 30 years.... Baker's debt
reduction trip has made certain achievements."
"Four Destabilizing Factors Influencing The Iraqi
Shao Jie and Li Jizhi commented on the official Xinhua Daily
Telegraph (Xinhua Meiri Dianxun) (12/29): "Saddam was arrested on December 13, but
the Iraq situation has not yet calmed.
Destabilizing factors exist.
Although the coalition's provisional authorities have reached an
agreement with the Iraqi provisional council that they would step up the
transfer of power, whether or not the transfer will proceed smoothly remains to
be seen.... Even if the transfer of
power is realized on time, it is still unknown whether or not the U.S.
military's situation will improve by that time.... [The situation's] development also depends on
regional and international factors. From
a regional perspective, the continuously deteriorating Iraq situation has
brought even more chaos to the Middle East....
From an international perspective, the U.S. will still continue to fight
with other big countries on the Iraq issue.
The U.S. has all along behaved hegemonically in regard to Iraq so that
it can continue to play a leading role in the Gulf region's affairs."
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):
"Deterrent Force Effective"
The independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal
had this to say (12/29): "In the
eyes of the U.S. conservatives, international relations are based on power
rather than law, which, one has to admit, has been proved true.... Bush's current unilateral foreign policy,
though effective for the time being, will in the long term harm the global
stability and security and increase the hostility towards the U.S. The next step the U.S. will take in Iraq is
to install the democratic system there, a long-lasting process that will cause
endless disputes between the West the Islamic world. Terrorist attacks aimed at Western interests
in the Middle East will only increase.
If the U.S. can take advantage of the current victory to increase
cooperation with other countries and win respect with moral force instead of
military force, the world security situation may improve."
JAPAN: "War On Terror
Vital For Global Peace"
Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri observed (1/5): "The Iraq war has signaled a new stage
in the path followed by the world community since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on
the U.S. The use of force against Iraq
by the U.S. and Britain represented a firm determination to prevent rogue
nations from proliferating WMD. It also
showed the two nations' commitment to playing central roles in the creation of
a new global order. Japan expressed its
support for the U.S. and British action against Iraq. Following the fall of the Hussein
dictatorship, Japan has joined 40 other 'coalition of willing' nations to help
rehabilitate the war-torn country....
The U.S. should end its occupation of Iraq and hand sovereignty back to
the Iraqis at an early date to prevent the further spread of anti-U.S.
sentiment among Islamic nations. Saddam
Hussein's fall was welcome news in Japan.
However, the nation remains concerned about the threat it faces from the
"Multilateral Cooperation Needed"
The business-oriented Nihon Keizai said (1/1): "Japan should actively seek multilateral
cooperation on Iraqi reconstruction by calling for the cooperation of key
nations, including France, Germany, Russia, China and Middle East
Not Secure Yet"
Surabaya-based independent Indopos commented (1/3): “The U.S. must be able to support early
elections. By conducting elections
earlier, efforts to form civil government in Iraq could be realized
sooner. But the U.S. is reluctant to
quicken the recovery of security and order in Iraq through general elections. Washington is in fact fully aware of
that. But it is difficult to follow it
Because President George W. Bush is afraid that the new government
coming out of the general elections will be anti-U.S. If this is so, security recovery in Iraq post-Saddam
will have no benefit to the U.S., as Washington will lose its control of
Iraq. In fact, the U.S. waged war to
topple Saddam and seize control in Iraq.”
SINGAPORE: "A Year
Defined By One War"
Gwyne Dyer observed in the pro-government Straits Times
(Internet version, 12/31): "2003
was a year defined by one war.... It was
a short, low-casualty war whose outcome was never in doubt, since the defense
budget of one side was 240 times bigger than that of the other side.... The war turned out to be even easier than
expected for the U.S. forces, who did not have to fight their way into Baghdad
after all, but the aftermath has been much harder. At year's end, despite the capture of the
fugitive Saddam Hussein this month, the armed resistance to the U.S. occupation
has become a serious political problem for the Bush administration. As a result, the outlook for the U.S.
adventure in global hegemony is growing significantly darker, and the prospects
for the survival of the multilateral system are improving."
THAILAND: "Stay The
Course In Iraq Mission"
The moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post
editorialized (Internet version, 12/29):
"The Thai troops are halfway through their six month assignment to
Iraq, and it is important they complete it....
Iraqis in Karbala obviously appreciate the reconstruction and military
aid performed by the Thai troops. Also
at stake is the country's word to accept and to complete an international
mission. It is unacceptable to undertake
such an assignment, only to quit in the face of an unpleasant enemy. "
"Soldiers’ Deaths Raise Question Of Why Are
We Really In Iraq"
The English-language Business Day
commented (Internet version, 12/29):
"Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra...is taking the same line as his
Bulgarian, Spanish and Turkish counterparts in keeping military forces as
'non-combat, humanitarian, rehabilitation or rescue' missions in a country
infested by civil and religious strife and anti-American sentiment. It is not known yet what the best way out for
these countries will be, nor when it will come.... However, the explanation that the Thai troops
are there only for humanitarian purposes seems to be too simplistic, whether or
not it is accepted and understood by the Iraqis themselves.... The Thaksin administration may feel it is
necessary to help the war-torn country, but a lot of people...have started
wondering what Thailand will ultimately get from the war’s aftermath. They will ask louder and louder whether the
presence of the Thai forces in Iraq was really for humanity’s sake and not for
U.S. interests--or for the Thaksin administration’s political gain."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "Why The World
Shook Last Year"
Columnist S. Nihal Singh opined in Hyderabad-based English-language
Deccan Chronicle (1/2): "The
year 2003 represents a watershed because it shook the world.... The United States sought to redefine the
world by its global reach with a new version of 19th century
imperialism.... The American
determination to invade Iraq finally rung the curtain on the end of the Cold
War, signaling the rupture of the Western compact forged after the end of World
War II. The Bush administration has sent
out a clear message to friend and foe alike that henceforth there cannot be
partners but only client states who will be rewarded for their services and
those unwilling to be subservient will be penalized.... Since West Asia has been chosen as the first
theater of America's new muscular policy, the Arab world in particular has felt
its full impact. The difficulties of
transforming Iraq and American fatalities have not thus far deterred President
George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisers from their imperial venture. A key American objective in West Asia is to
safeguard Israel's interests, at the expense of Palestinians. How far the president will succeed in his
objectives in the short term will be determined by the dictates of his
re-election compulsions.... One of
America's failures is to confuse the 19th century with the 21st. The world has moved on...the clock cannot be
set back.... The year 2004 promises
blood and tears as the Second Roman Empire seeks to establish itself against
the challenge of forces mightier than even a hyperpower can summon."
The centrist Pioneer commented (1/1): "The year ahead will be tough for the
U.S. and its allies...in Iraq where terrorist strikes against the coalition
forces and their supporters continue despite Saddam Hussein's capture.... Ties with the U.S. have improved
steadily...and held their course despite India's refusal to send troops to
"Loser Takes All"
Indrajit Hazra penned this analysis in the nationalist Hindustan
Times (12/30): "There's no
question that the United States-led war against Iraq was not only wrong but
tactically stupid. (That is, if securing
America from terrorist attacks, rather than notching up domestic brownie points
for next year's presidential elections, was the name of the game.)... The U.S. administration is clearly on the top
of any international dogpile. But what
earlier presidents did to underplay America's runaway status as a
muscle-flexing superpower, President Bush has not even bothered to try. Whatever sympathy the U.S. got after
September 11, 2001, turned into general contempt thereafter."
"Iraq's Anti-American Feelings Unlikely To Mellow"
V. D. Ranade wrote in the Mumbai edition of centrist Marathi daily
Navashakti (12/30): "The
arrest of Saddam Hussein does not guarantee a full stop to terrorist strikes
against American soldiers in Iraq....
The insurgents may hold back their attacks for a while, and even give
the impression that their resistance is over.
However, if that happens, it certainly would be a facade. These insurgents will most likely to continue
their offensives in the future. This is
because they apparently believe that their violent actions are not
inappropriate (for liberating their country from occupation)."
Pabitra Kumar Ghosh opined in pro-BJP Calcutta Bengali Bartaman
(12/25): "Head rolled in the
Islamic world. America's long hand has
gripped Saddam Hussein.... The entire
Islamic world is fuming in anger. Time
is now ripe for jihad uprising. Who can
say for certain that jihadists in Iraq would not defeat America? If that really happens, Islam's next war
would spread all over the globe.... The
Vietnamese did not extend their hands to America itself. But jihad activists will.... America does not know guerrilla warfare. But jihadists would fight in the guerrilla
technique and turn the entire world into a battleground. Bin Laden has employed a small part of his
energy in Iraq. He will exploit the
opportunity of America's engagement in Iraq elsewhere. The more jihadists would make America's
situation full of woe, the more America would be proceeding toward the path of
"America's Iraq War Casts An Ominous Shadow On The
Milind Gadgil penned this in the Mumbai edition of right-of-center
Marathi daily Tarun Bharat (12/28):
"America's pre-emptive strike against Iraq...has cast a long shadow
on the world. The U.S. president George
W. Bush's defiance of the UN during the invasion of Iraq was perceived as an
end to the supremacy of the international body.... However, the failure to restore peace in Iraq
forced America to take refuge in the UN.
It is another fact that the resultant lawlessness in Iraq has paved the
way for fundamentalist outfits like the al-Qaida. Similarly, the Taliban has regained its hold
in Afghanistan in the intervening months of insurgency. Therefore, the world seems on the brink of a
disaster.... Bush had declared a war
against terror in 2002 when he set foot in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the intent behind the war has
certainly not been translated into expected results."
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn
declared (1/4): "The occupation
authorities should thank heaven the angry worshippers confined their protest to
shouts. If they had not exercised
restraint, there would have been bloodshed, and that would have been a bad day
for the Americans in Iraq.... From a
broader perspective, the raid on the mosque represents the tip of the iceberg
as far as America's problems in Iraq are concerned. The resistance has shown no signs of abating,
and American casualties by year's end had reached 244 since Bush declared major
combat in Iraq over. If the Republican
administration does not want more body bags to reach home in an election year,
it should expedite a transfer of power and end the occupation."
KENYA: "Why America
Wallace Kantai stated in the independent pro-business Standard
(1/4): "The unfortunate thing, as
has now been established, if not acknowledged, is that the White House relied
on flawed intelligence, if not downright lies, to prove its casus belli against
Saddam Hussein. It was evident to anyone
who cared to look that there were merely the most tenuous links between Iraq
and al-Qaida. The next best thing was
weapons of mass destruction, which in and of themselves are enough for the U.S.
to deem as deadly to its interests....
This year may see the world reaping the whirlwind that the Bush
administration has sown. And the only
thing that we have learned to be certain of is uncertainty."
"Dark Year Ends With Brighter Skies"
The Edmonton Journal commented
(12/31): "A new year brings new
hope, something we desperately need as we bid not-so-fond farewell to
2003. It was a year of international
change so monumental it ranks among the most significant in recent
history.... The war in Iraq is, mercifully,
over and the year did end on a brief high note with the capture of Saddam
Hussein. The future of Iraq, however,
remains uncertain. And the lingering
animosity of the international community towards the United States and its
continued presence in Iraq remains a troubling starting point for the new
year. The damage done to international
comfort with America's sole-superpower status may well prove irreparable."
"The Vision Thing Stumbles"
David Malone, a former Canadian ambassador to
the United Nations, opined in the leading Globe and Mail (Internet
version, 12/31): "Twelve months
ago, the UN community heaved a collective sigh of relief as the major powers
appeared to reach a compromise on how to manage Iraq. But Washington's determination to act on its
own information--yet to be supported by findings on the ground--cut short the
role of UN weapons inspectors, and challenged the very notion that the UN has a
role to play in major issues of peace and security. Today, the international scene is much
altered. With the United States bogged
down militarily in Iraq, Washington is relying on multilateral processes to
address threats of nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran.... The Pentagon is on the defensive, seen as
having grossly mismanaged planning for post-war Iraq; what thought has gone
into the post-conflict reconstruction is laced with petty retaliations against
those who opposed the war. The capture
of Saddam Hussein...provides some respite, but foreign-policy coherence is
still missing in action in Washington.
The situation in Iraq, a product of a post 9/11 testosterone rush
aggravated by hubris, today offers no attractive short-term options. U.S. President George W. Bush's emphasis on
democracy as the answer to the multiple dissatisfactions underpinning support
for terrorism internationally is welcome, but democracy develops slowly, and in
the hitherto infertile soil of the Arab Middle East, will require more than
words of encouragement from Washington.
It is not yet clear that Washington or other Western capitals are
prepared economically and otherwise for the Arab regime changes that would be
the natural corollary of the new Bush doctrine..... The war on terrorism is much too narrowly
gauged. To be at war against a tactic,
with no other arrows in one's quiver, makes no sense. A strategy undermining support for terrorism
by addressing sources of discontent is a necessary complement to actions aimed
at taking terrorists themselves off streets....
The past year has produced tremendous strains in international
relations. It also reminds us that
checks and balances operate internationally as well as in the domestic politics
of nations. Washington, having stubbed
its toe in Iraq, is having to digest unanticipated costs and risks. No one should take satisfaction from U.S.
difficulties. A Canadian government
eager to 'punch above its weight' will find much to do. But in order to matter much internationally,
Canada will need to burnish its credibility in, and relevance to, Washington,
while remaining true to the values that kept Canadian forces out of Iraq--a
tall order but a worthy challenge."
"Saddam Was Iraq's WMD"
Rosie DiManno remarked in the liberal Toronto Star
(12/28): "Iraq today, however
hobbled and harsh, is a far better place than it was on April 8, or in the
three preceding decades, the homicidal, genocidal era of Saddam Hussein, for
too long a friend and strategic ally of the West, most unforgivably of the
United States.... It seems an oxymoron
to assert now that Washington finally delivered justice at the end of a gun or
the arc of a Tomahawk missile. But that
is the clumsy truth. Operation Iraqi
Freedom was about liberation, long before it became a corrosive
occupation.... In time, if the Americans
get this right...it is liberation that will endure as the dangers and
deprivations of transitional Iraq begin to recede. But time is the issue, impatience the
enemy.... Saddam Hussein was the weapon
of mass destruction. Most Iraqis--for
all their displeasure with the U.S. occupation...--are in no way nostalgic for
the Saddam era.... The present is
fragile and the future perilous.
But...the U.S., with its Operation Iraqi Freedom allies, was midwife to
this rebirth of a nation, in the cradle of civilization. The oldest society and the youngest
democratic republic in the world."
"Bush Is Author Of Dark Chapter For America"
Editorial page editor emeritus Haroon Siddiqui commented in the
liberal Toronto Star (12/28):
"As the year of the war on Iraq draws to a close, the larger
perspective that emerges is clear:
George W. Bush, a small man in a big job, has dragged America into one
of its darkest chapters. He commands
unprecedented military power, but his word carries little or no weight in much
of the world.... Bush's next declared
mission, that of toppling Yasser Arafat, only reinforces the image of the
president as a king who knows not the boundaries of his kingdom, nor the limits
of his power. Or, as a captive of
pro-Israeli hawks hell-bent on remaking the Middle East to Likud designs. While the president struts and smirks for the
cameras in contrived situations...terrorism has increased under his
watch.... Bush's use of fear as a key tool
of governing has turned the world's most powerful nation into its most paranoid,
despite two invasions and an expenditure of nearly $200 billion. The Administration, invoking 9/11 and the
murder of 2,900 innocents as its license to wage unilateral wars, has so far
killed about 10,000 innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq.... Bush promised to avoid a clash of
civilizations, but that's what he is widely perceived as presiding over. The anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic
discourse--often unapologetically racist--is supplied by Christian fundamentalists
and pro-Israeli neo-conservatives, two key constituencies Bush dares not
alienate.... Iraq should be turned over
to the United Nations.... That would
help improve security for Iraqis and American soldiers alike. It would attract international help,
especially from those, like France, Germany, Turkey, Pakistan and India, who do
not want to be caught dead cavorting with Bush.
Iraqi sovereignty belongs to Iraqis.
They need to write their own constitution, elect their own leaders and
make their own mistakes. They could not
possibly do any worse than their occupiers, who have been lurching from crisis
to crisis for the last eight months in a haze of incompetence and
Resistance Fronts Without A Nation"
Claudio Uriarte, international analyst of left-of-center Pagina
12 opined (12/28): "Can the
U.S.-UK led occupation of Iraq manage the miracle of consolidating a united
Iraqi nation through anti-colonial opposition and resistance? So far, nothing suggests this can happen and
there are, in fact, strong indicators of the opposite. Iraq is not a nation but an arbitrary
post-colonial conglomerate. The illusion
of a nation was precisely maintained through the bloody dictatorship of Saddam
Hussein.... As of the removal of Saddam,
if Americans do not manage an at least respectable result, the clear danger is
that of a war among all, even the disintegration of the country.... By removing the big dictator, the U.S. and UK
may have liberated forces that they might not be able to contain."
BRAZIL: "A New
Philosophy professor Denis Rosenfield wrote in liberal Folha de
S. Paulo (12/27): "Politics is
practiced through symbols and Saddam Hussein was, definitely, a symbol for
Iraqis and many who are anti-American....
The outbursts of shots and joy displayed by Shiites and Kurds are a
manifestation of the belief that another world, however uncertain its design at
present, is possible.... The problems
along the way are still many; but an era has ended."
"Defeat In Victory"
Researcher Demétrio Magnoli commented in liberal Folha de S.
Paulo (12/27): "The strategy of
the Bush administration is to keep the country occupied until a stable
government, subordinate to Washington, is installed.... Saddam's detainment will not decrease
military resistance to the occupation, but it may add an explosive factor of
instability to the Iraqi scenario--the latent rebellion of the Shiites.... The U.S. was militarily prepared to win the
war. It is not politically prepared to
sustain a long occupation and much less to build a new Iraq."
MEXICO: "In The
Juan E. Pardinas commented in independent Reforma
(12/29): "It is naïve to believe
that in the span of a year Iraq would turn into a democratic nation. But this naiveté is not based on U.S.
innocence, but on political opportunism.
Iowa and California are not the main stages of the U.S. presidential
campaign, but Tikrit and Baghdad.... To
build a modern society in Iraq might take over a generation, and Bush is ready
to pack and leave.... Let's remember
that in the last years of the Cold War, Nicaragua was the core of the U.S.
international agenda. But after the
Sandinistas left power, the Central
American nation fell into oblivion. Iraq
was the main U.S. priority in 2003, will it continue to be so? If Washington were to leave Iraq, the plans
for the first democracy in the Middle East will simply be a seed planted in the
PARAGUAY: "A Banana
Paraguay's second-largest, left-of-center Ultima Hora
observed (12/31): "Nevertheless,
the most significant [event] of this year has been the insignificant war in
Iraq and the even more insignificant capture of the ex-dictator Saddam Hussein. It was insignificant because it was a war
with false justification...and some real causes...that have nothing to do with
American interests...but only those of the Bush family.... The real war began when they 'declared the
peace'--just as unilaterally and without justification as when they declared
the war. But this insignificant war has
been made the most significant fact of the year. It defined the foreign policy of the United
States as imperialistic and unilateral....
I don't know if the United States is an important producer of bananas,
but if a banana republic is one that has a government of arguable electoral
legitimacy, and that governs in the interests of [certain] sectors and not in
the national interest, then this year it has become a banana empire."