The US outlined three objectives for the pre-emptive strike against Iraq. One was finding weapons of mass destruction, the second was dismantling the terrorist network and the third was establishment of democracy.
While no chemical or biological weapons have yet been found, the only sign of the Iraqi connection with terrorism has been the arrest of a retired Palestinian militant. As for democracy, the initial venture hasn't been a conspicuous success… One of the notable absentees was the Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, who is better known than most among the Iraqi exiles.
The other was a prominent Shia group based in Iran. …
As the protestors near the meeting place said, the Iraqis are against both Saddam Hussein and George Bush. The death of 10 people in Mosul after the Americans fired on a crowd protesting against a pro-US speaker and also reportedly fired on the US troops shows how volatile the situation is.
In their determination to play a 'dominating' role in Iraq… the Americans are tending to ignore the anger and dismay which the Iraqis evidently feel at the overt signs of a quasi-colonial rule. Things might have been different if the UN had been asked to play a genuinely 'vital role', as Mr Bush and Tony Blair promised that it would, to introduce democracy in Iraq. But the thinking in the American establishment is currently so much against the UN that it is inconceivable for Washington to stand aside and let the world body in. The expectation in the US capital is that the American 'viceroy', Jay Garner, a retired general, will be able to preside over the transfer of power to Iraqis. It is obvious, however, that he will need a considerable American military presence to establish his authority. Yet, the longer the Americans stay in Iraq, the more unpopular they will become.
-- Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 17, 2003
… The ransacking of the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad, and countless museums in other Iraqi cities, is being compared to the destruction of the library of Alexandria in the fifth century.
But as reports filter in… that comparison could prove weak. Early estimates suggest 170,000 artefacts have been lost in the pillaging of museums that followed the fall of Baghdad… it is a loss we all share. And it is a loss the coalition armies must be held to account for… American scholars and British archaeologists had repeatedly lobbied their governments to prepare contingency plans to protect the museums in case of anarchy. In days past, their triumphant footsoldiers did absolutely nothing to prevent the rape of Iraq’s museums.
… Iraq is truly the cradle of civilisation. Writing, city-building, irrigation systems, science and astronomy — thousands of years ago, it all began in ancient Mesopotamia on the banks on the Tigris and Euphrates. Relics from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and so many other civilisations provide critical links in piecing together the story of human progress. They figure among the hundreds of thousands of exhibits feared missing.
Among them, for instance, is the alabaster Uruk Vase — 5,000 years old and carrying the oldest known rendition of a ritual — and gold artifacts from Assyrian burial tombs. Not missing but known to be damaged in the chaos are stone tablets with cuneiform writing in Baghdad, and ancient manuscripts in Mosul.
Many of these items are bound to appear on the shadowy antique market. It is thus disturbing that American art dealers are making a case to the Pentagon that Iraq’s antiquities be exempt from prohibitions on resale in the West, arguing that they’d be safer there than in Iraq.
The inability, or refusal, of American soldiers to stop the pillage is incriminating enough — but any hint of condoning the smuggling of Iraq’s heritage would be certified as a war crime. Action on locating missing exhibits must begin forthwith
Editorial, Indian Express, New Delhi, April 15, 2003
The looting and destruction of the national museum at Baghdad recalls what happened a century earlier when the Western armies ‘‘liberated’’ Peking. That was wanton pillage ‘legitimised’ by Kaiser’s instructions to the German troops to behave like the Huns.
This time it was a case of sheer callousness.... Obviously, those who planned meticulously for military operations for regime change in Iraq did not bother to assess the enormous civil dislocation, humanitarian suffering consequent on breakdown of infrastructure and the massive looting and mayhem that would inevitably follow. The Geneva Convention makes it clear that the responsibility for the safety and security of a population coming under military occupation is entirely that of the occupying force. Those who undertake regime change cannot plead that their responsibility does not extend to policing duties.
…[O]ne US tank commander or just five marines could have prevented the looting and pillage of Iraq’s millennia old heritage. Obviously the troops were not sensitised to prevent what was clearly an enormous crime being perpetrated before their eyes. After this, how are the Iraqis to be persuaded that US forces are ‘‘liberators’’ and not occupiers and connivers of cultural pillage. Occupation of a city without an orderly surrender by the defeated side is bound to result in total breakdown of law and order and release of criminal and anti-social elements into the city. Those US officials who exulted at the ‘‘liberation’’ of Iraqis after decades of tyranny, and decried media reports about the sufferings of a people subjected to lawlessness and anarchy, must know the responsibilities that go with ‘‘liberation’’. Indeed, liberation is the easy part. What is not easy is to demonstrate the will to stay on, and see a difficult task right to its end. And that includes showing sensitivity to a land long considered the cradle of human civilisation.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April 15, 2003
With a regime changed in Baghdad, it was an ancient civilisation’s turn to be a war victim… a seamless transition from despotic rule to dependable democracy was supposed to have been on the cards.
Instead, there has been mindless anarchy. Once the juggernaut of war starts rolling, even those behind the wheel lose control over the brakes of law and order. The American forces… watched and helped… Iraqis ransacking Iraq.
The most devastating display… has been the looting of priceless artefacts... This has to rank with the blowing up of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban… The job of the American forces was to defeat the ‘enemy’ — not to police a lawless State... It’s clear that the possibility of such a scenario never crossed the minds of the ‘We’re-against-Saddam’s-regime-not-against-Iraqis’ brigade in Washington… it is unlikely that the Americans would be having sleepless nights over Iraqis pillaging ‘their own’ city and history.
… It is one thing to be grateful to a force that has overthrown a despotic rule, and quite another to helplessly watch it play the fiddle while Baghdad burns. The artificial stability of Iraq has been undone because of the frightening political vacuum there. It is the US’s job… to see to it that the nation does not enter a downward spiral of chaos. Shia-Sunni animosities have already raised their ugly head, driven home most chillingly in the murder of Shia leader Abdul Majid al-Khoei by an armed mob in Najaf. Reprisals, communal attacks and general crime are already being bred in post-war Iraq. Saddam Hussein once told American officials: "You treat the Third World the way an Iraqi peasant treats his new bride. Three days of honeymoon, and then it is off to the fields." One hopes, for the sake of both the Iraqis and the Americans, that the dictator is proved wrong.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 15, 2003
The relief and elation felt by the US-led coalition forces over the relatively easy ‘conquest’ of Baghdad must have been diminished by the eruption of what the UN has described as ‘anarchy’.
… The evident solution is the establishment of civic authority, but that points to the heart of the problem. Whatever authority there was in Iraq all these years is associated with the despised ousted regime. There is no credible infrastructure, therefore, on which the coalition forces can fall back. Yet, they can neither allow the situation to deteriorate nor undertake policing duties…
Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, therefore, has to be built from scratch. But even this task will be complicated by the ambitions of the Iraqi exiles who will now be expected to flood the place. Besides, it is unclear how the local people will react to these new arrivals who might be regarded as American puppets. It may be to remove any such perception that Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress has said that Iraq must be run by Iraqis. Yet, a day earlier, he was wondering what Jay Garner, the retired US general expected to assume charge as the ‘viceroy’ of Baghdad, was doing in Kuwait City when all hell was breaking loose in Iraq. Among the countries which may feel a little relieved by the anarchic conditions in Iraq is Syria, which has already been identified by the US as the next on its ‘hit list’. But until Iraq ‘settles down’, Syria can breathe easy.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 12, 2003
Having all but "liberated" Baghdad… the "allies" are faced with a thorny conundrum. Just when do they declare the war over and claim victory?
The question, ironically, has arisen not because the war is going badly but because it has gone a little too well. The old regime has collapsed... While Iraq’s ambassador to the UN has publicly acknowledged that "the game is over", his minor status as well as lack of proximity from the scene of action means that he cannot discharge that role. Adding to the uncertainty is the mystery about Saddam’s fate… the avowed object of the war was the removal of Saddam, it’s difficult to proclaim victory in the absence of any definite information about his status. Perhaps the best the Americans can hope to achieve at this moment is to persuade… information minister Mohammed Saeed al Sahaf, to appear on state television and call a truce...
Freed from the task of securing the city, the invading troops can then hopefully turn their attention to controlling the anarchy and chaos that have descended on the streets of Baghdad. Away from the situation on the battleground, there are other questions. Sooner rather than later, New Delhi has to decide on what to do with the local Iraqi diplomatic staff. Representatives of a fallen regime, they can no longer realistically expect to retain their privileged status. But many will ask for political sanctuary, given the near-certainty that they’ll face reprisals back home. This situation can become stickier if Washington were to demand the deportation of some on charges of their links with the old order. Then there is the tricky issue of the nature of our relationship with General Jay Garner and his all-American military administration.
Clearly, the MEA has an important diplomatic tightrope to walk in the coming days. One can only hope that it is not found as flat-footed as it has been in the past.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April 12, 2003
The collapse of Baghdad… signifies that the primary objective of this American war of aggression has for all purposes been achieved… the occupying nation has the task of winning the peace and returning the country to Iraqi civil rule in the shortest possible time. Besides, it has the duty to the international community of finding those weapons of mass destruction, the presumed presence of which in Iraq was the prime reason… to justify the launch of this illegitimate war. It will be time soon for the U.S. to produce proof… The U.S Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has repeatedly promised to find and eliminate these WMDs and their delivery systems and to work back up the chain of proliferation to find their sources outside the country. Invading American and British soldiers have discovered very little evidence of chemical or biological weapons… Failure to find these weapons will be interpreted by most nations to mean an intolerable deceit of the world.
The U.S must also get the issue of post-war reconstruction in all its aspects back to the U.N., giving it the lead role… The "vital role" Mr. Bush was ready to concede would reduce the U.N. to an aid distributor. It is vital to ensure that humanitarian relief reaches the people without loss of time. But equally vital for the future of the country and the region are the composition and powers of the interim political administration… Giving the lead role to the [UN] world… first, pull international relations back from the abnormality… secondly, heal the trans-Atlantic wound and, thirdly, silence Arab and other critics who suspect that Washington's ultimate objective in waging this war is to gain control over the oil wealth of Iraq. The Bush administration unfortunately seems determined to go its way and install a team of lackeys in Baghdad…
The reaction of the Arabs has so far remained muted… The manner in which Fortress Baghdad has crumbled, defiance melting into disappearance, has drawn a parallel to the collapse of the Berlin Wall... The poor of Baghdad had other preoccupations, like stripping Saddam Hussein's offices and the capital's stores of their contents... As for the top leaders themselves, including Saddam Hussein… they have perhaps retreated to their strongholds… Perhaps not… The only certainty is that neither Iraq nor the Middle East, or … the world, will be the same again.
Editorial, Hindu, Chennai, April 11, 2003
It wasn’t quite a ‘cakewalk’, as a former US bureaucrat had predicted about the war in Iraq, but it wasn’t too much of a difficult job either.
… Iraq was no match for the hyperpower. Nor did it seem to have the dreaded weapons which provided the excuse for the invasion…
… Whatever the reason for the brief (and continuing) show of resistance, the regime’s virtual capitulation suggests that it could have been brought to heel by less coercive methods routed through the UN. But now it may sound sacrilegious to say that the weapons inspectors could have been given more time and intrusive authority.
But that wouldn’t have suited the American objective based on new, post- Cold War foreign policy formations. These are that, after 9/11, the US will not wait to be attacked, but will take the attack even to a potential enemy, however weakened, as Iraq has been, through prolonged sanctions and deprivation of authority over large parts of the country.
… In the end, Iraq has proved to be a pathetic Third World entity — disorganised, without sustaining power and now descending into anarchy because it probably never had an adequate bureaucratic structure. So, the Americans had really taken a sledgehammer to swat a fly. But their ‘victory’ has served its primary purpose of warning other ‘rogue’ states in the region like Syria and Iran and perhaps even Saudi Arabia that Big Brother is watching.
The only flaw in this scenario, so far as the US is concerned, is that the ordinary Arabs have found a voice via their new TV channels which even a hyperpower will find difficult to ignore.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April. 11, 2003
There comes a moment in the history of nations when their history and future hangs in balance. Iraq, at present, seems to be poised precisely at such a point of transition…
…The change itself is premised on the reality that it is being brought about by the use of military power of a foreign country which would take quite some time to exercise effective control over the situation. The fighting has not ended as yet. But it is also clear that regardless of the viciousness of future battles, having virtually lost the war, the old regime can only lose more lives even if any punishing resistance was to emerge in the short term.
The first challenge for the Anglo-American forces in this twilight zone between war and peace is to usher in a visibly more attractive alternative in terms of governance for the Iraqis. This requires security and humanitarian assistance to a suffering nation which has survived a quarter century of wars and economic sanctions.
If western reports about the continuing humanitarian problems in the small port town of Umm Qasr are correct, the task of restoring normalcy, leave alone bringing succour to the suffering people in a country of 23 million people, is going to be enormous. For the victors of the war, this could rapidly translate into a whole set of new challenges which could undermine their efforts to establish the new order. The ability of Anglo-American forces to enforce law and order in cities like Baghdad and Basra, now coming under their control, would become a touchstone of their role in shaping Iraq’s political structure.
Meanwhile there are other challenges to deal with. The Anglo-American summit declaration at Belfast specifying a ‘‘vital’’ role for the UN would be welcome across the world, even if it appears to have come too late to deal with the basic problem.
In any case, any polarisation of the international community is unlikely to contribute to a more peaceful world, leave alone one that can deal with major global challenges like global terrorism. Washington would need to work hard to win the ‘‘hearts and minds’’ of the international community, especially of developing countries, many of which suddenly feel more vulnerable, if it wishes to lead them through difficult times. Much, therefore, is at stake for the sole superpower in building — and winning — the peace, once this war is over.
Editorial, Indian Express, New Delhi, April 11, 2003
An American tank fires on a Baghdad hotel killing three journalists and what’s the response from the US military? Sorry, but tough luck. In another… three Al-Jazeera journalists were killed. The spokesperson in Washington regretted the casualties and added… : "Baghdad was a war zone and safeguards could not be given"… American arrogance and determination to wrap up the war quickly have taken care of all that.
Tuesday’s ‘casualties’ were by no means a part of ‘collateral damage’… The commander of the division which ordered the tank to fire on the hotel later explained that it had reacted to "small arms fire from the hotel"… this is simply not true… In the case of the Al-Jazeera strike, the Americans insisted that they had issued a warning 48 hours earlier to vacate the office building. Again, not true, say the journalists. No warning was issued.
… Quite clearly, the US has much to gain if it manages to stop embarrassing or downright ‘bad’ press. The management of the information war has become a higher priority than ever before... George W. Bush had famously parroted US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ Cold War line: "Either you’re with us or against us." The non-embedded journalists who died on Tuesday were standing in a dangerous no-man’s land that was neither ‘with us nor with them’. The American action against them — inadvertently or otherwise — may spell the death of ‘independent witnessing of war’.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April. 10, 2003
… The US versus the UN... As the war of words over the likely shape of post-invasion Iraq intensifies, one might legitimately wonder if such proposals ought not to have been finalised before America fired its first precision-guided missile over Baghdad… [The US has] absolute clarity on the most crucial point. Having waged the war against Saddam Hussein almost, it is the US that will determine the destiny of Baghdad for the foreseeable future.
[After ma meeting with] … Mr Blai… the US president was willing to concede… a "vital role" for the UN in post-war Iraq, but it was just as well that he was not questioned too closely on the exact nature of this role.
The fact is that Washington has no plans to include the UN, in anything other than a subordinate capacity…. The "vital role" … is restricted purely to humanitarian relief and civil reconstruction… While the UN and other international NGOs have said that this is not just unacceptable in principle but also unworkable in practice, the US is determined not to grant them any operational autonomy. On the political front, the real issue is not so much what role America will play but which arm of the US government — between the Pentagon and the state department — will play it. In other words, who would control the interim administration headed by retired American general, Jay Garner? Current indications suggest that it would be the Pentagon rather than the state department. As for the post-transition phase, Mr Bush's stirring promise of a "democratic" Iraq, running "its own affairs", is perhaps too far-fetched to bear serious scrutiny. For now, Washington has already got its own man — Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi — to head a civilian administration as and when General Garner decides to leave. Democracy may eventually come to the Arab world, but for a long while it will be one directed from Washington.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April. 10, 2003
Casualties, they say, are a truth of war…
It is, however, the frequent attacks specifically on hotels and offices housing journalists in Iraq that is worrisome. On Tuesday, two cameramen were killed when American forces fired on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel—a landmark familiar to TV viewers since most foreign journalists have been reporting from there.
Incidents such as these raise two concerns: That independent reporters are being chastened into subservience and that targets are being finalised with little thought to the possibility of civilians being put in harm’s way. Before coalition tanks rolled into the desert last month, war planners neatly divided reporters into two categories: embedded (those travelling with military formations, and thus privy to real-time action but under oath not to divulge classified information) and unilaterals (those hitting their own, flexible itineraries). This war, from the very beginning, was expected to be as much of a psy-op as a military operation.
The war is as much to conquer minds as it is to mop up territory. The targetting areas of operation of unilaterals—especially of Arabic language reporters—is bound to fuel suspicion that some trigger-happy military planners cannot countenance reportage with an anti-US spin. Al Jazeera, for instance, is reported to have given the Pentagon all its global position system coordinates. Truth, it is thus feared, is once again a casualty.
More importantly, daily briefings in Washington and in Doha keep underlining that the Second Gulf War is really a bid for Iraqi hearts. It is being cast as a tussle between a caring coalition and a cruel regime. By speeding forth toward victory—never mind the accidental bombs on a convoy of Kurds and journalists, never mind the pounding of media bases or urban hubs—the coalition seems to losing the battle for Iraqi hearts.
Editorial, Indian Express, New Delhi, April 10, 2003
From a strictly military standpoint, the speed and effectiveness with which the U.S. forces have tightened their grip on Baghdad have been extremely striking. The larger issue, however, is the extraordinary human cost of this aggressive push…. Not surprisingly, the tremendous aggression… has met with widespread criticism. Disapproval of the ruthless tactics was aired even by sections of the British media…. The assault on Baghdad clearly reveals that the U.S. strategy is dictated by the overweening consideration of bringing the battle to a quick end…
The cost of a quick and aggressive occupation of a capital such as Baghdad is exactly what it was feared to be — considerable collateral damage... Iraq claims that the occupying forces have already killed almost 1,300 civilians. The U.S. counters that this is grossly exaggerated… available evidence does suggest that these are already high… questions remain about the degree and extent of resistance the Republican Guard and troops… will stage. If there are strong pockets of resistance, the chances are that the U.S. may inflict more civilian casualties than in any other recent war it has engaged in. The Iraq conflict has shown that while precision munitions may work well in open country, their use in densely-populated urban areas cannot but kill innocent people… To make matters worse, the U.S. has demonstrated that it is not averse to liberally using far less accurate heavy artillery in urban areas.
In Baghdad, two journalists already paid for this with their lives and others were injured when U.S. tanks fired… Washington's claim that the hotel was targeted in response to sniper fire has evoked sceptical reactions… Besides, on the same day the office of the television station al-Jazeera was hit, killing a cameraman; so was the office of Abu Dhabi TV. Twelve journalists have been killed in the conflict so far, raising serious questions not only about the safety of the press but also about issues relating to the management of news and the possible disregard for those who have chosen, as opposed to the embedded journalists, to witness and report on the war independently. The strategy employed to capture Baghdad and incapacitate the Saddam Hussein regime so quickly may provide a lot for military historians and strategists to pore or gloat over. But what will weigh heavily on the minds of most people are the cost at which this was achieved and the basis it provides for constructing an edifice for peace — something which is going to be a much lengthier and a much more significant battle.
Editorial, Hindu, Chennai, April 10, 2003
For all George Bush's attempts to fight Saddam Hussein in the name of God, few among the faithful seem willing to buy the presidential line… there is a conscious move among the believers not to project the US-led aggression against Iraq as a conflict between Christianity and Islam… surprising are Mr Bush's evangelical speeches, which have come under fire from a range of European politicians… Some commentators have gone as far as dubbing this "Christian fundamentalism'', and a few have even compared them to the Islamic fundamentalism of Osama bin Laden… [The] Gulf War II has failed to fit Huntington's 'Clash of Civilisations' theory … thanks to the church speaking out against the war…
At the very outset, Pope John Paul II took a stand against the war.... Earlier, the Vatican did not protest against the depredations of Mussolini... This time around, not just the Pope but the Anglican church too has been explicit in its opposition to the war. The Archbishop of Canterbury shared a platform with his Catholic counterpart in England to take a joint stand against the war and the Scottish Church has also denounced the war. In Germany, home of Protestantism, the government itself is opposed to the war as are the Nordic countries where the majority are Lutherans.
Christianity's oldest shrine, the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Christ, has also struck a blow for peace by barring president Bush and Tony Blair from ever entering the place. These are indeed heartening developments, at least in so far as they prevent conflicts between states from turning into a clash between cultures and peoples.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April 9, 2003
The stab wounds inflicted on Baghdad by American battle tanks signal the end of the beginning of the war on Iraq. In the weeks ahead lie some crucial questions and critical tests for the international community relating to reconstruction of not just Iraq but the global order… The immediate question relates to the role of the United Nations in a post-conflict Iraq and how U.N. members can simultaneously ensure that a war waged without Security Council sanction does not secure legitimacy through the backdoor. In the longer term is the vital question of the measures that the global community needs to take to counter the emergence of a new imperial order based on George Bush's strategic doctrine of pre-emption... From the anger and warning over the telecast of video clippings of American prisoners of war… to the sabre-rattling against Syria and Iran which lie on either side of Iraq, Washington's impatience and intolerance were on full display…
[Now] attention focusses on the perils ahead if Washington persists with its self-serving unilateralism. If the remarks of American officials are a sign of things to come, it is unlikely that the U.N. will be given any major role in the economic and political reconstruction of Iraq… Clearly, whatever marginal role the U.N. is allowed to play, it will be American rule in Iraq for at least the next six months by men handpicked by the Pentagon and its tough-talking patron saint, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary.
The remarkable successes in the war… is a perfect recipe for disaster in the Middle East at this juncture… reconstruction and rehabilitation… will have little support or little chance of acceptance in the region if it lacks the endorsement and leadership of the U.N. On the eve of the summit, Mr. Blair appealed to Mr. Bush to combine America's quest for its own security with the wider needs of international justice. Mr. Blair and his Foreign Secretary have publicly called for making the U.N. the umbrella organisation in post-conflict Iraq, with Jack Straw declaring that it will not be foreign nationals, meaning American or British, running the Iraqi Government. The "Iraq for Iraqis" call conceals concerns that Washington might allow opportunistic, friendly, returning exiles to take political charge of their country. There is little chance that Mr. Blair will persuade his American guest. In which case, the world will continue to hear more of the logic of the colonial era from the Bush Presidency in the coming weeks.
Editorial, Hindu, Chennai, April 9, 2003
The world oil market has declared an end to Gulf War II and proclaimed the oil consumer winner…
Neither has there been as much damage as anticipated to Iraq’s oil fields…
At the same time, [the] Venezuelan production registering pre-strike output levels of more than two million barrels per day… Moreover, though the Nigerian political and ethnic unrest… is still not showing signs of easing, there are some indications that striking workers may resume operations shortly.
In fact, today the international oil market’s concerns seem to be focussed on preventing a crude price crash… leading to the Organisation of Oil Producing Countries… calling for an emergency meeting of the cartel on April 24 to see if supplies—and hence prices—can be manipulated to preferred levels.
All this should spell good news for Indian consumers…
However, despite prices having dropped by almost $10 a barrel since the war began, the petroleum ministry is still waiting to adjust domestic fuel prices... With the end of the Administered Price Mechanism regime a year ago, there is no justification for the ministry’s continued policy of the arbitrary pricing of selected petroleum products, particularly if the country has to move towards parity with the international market.
Editorial, Indian Express, New Delhi, April. 9, 2003
… For two whole days Parliament was held hostage to legislators’ budding and blurry aspirations to shape foreign policy.
A discussion on Iraq, a discussion deemed so very urgent that all other business, all other engagements, be suspended.
… All work in the two Houses of Parliament came to a standstill as sundry MPs sought to dictate a unanimous resolution on Iraq.
Having agreed to the Hindi text, disagreement broke out once again on how ninda was to be translated into English. Should Parliament ‘‘condemn’’ or ‘‘deplore’’ the America-led military intervention? So began a political standoff on semantics…
What’s happening here? Is this the Central Hall School of Government? Or has the ministry of external affairs sought to downsize and delegate its responsibilities…
No wonder they only have Iraq and the "UNO" on their minds — sleeplessness appears to have rendered them disoriented about their role as parliamentarians and amnesiac about India’s depressing experience with the UN Security Council resolutions they are so naively seeking to uphold.
… For MPs to attempt to usurp the functions of South Block, for them to cast in stone India’s response to a fast changing scenario, betrays complete dissonance with the national interest.
Not one of the national leaders in Iraq’s neighbourhood has committed himself unambiguously to a position on the war — not even Yasir Arafat! Our elected representatives would be well advised to focus on issues of governance, and leave matters of state to the government.
Editorial, Indian Express, New Delhi, April. 9, 2003
War has finally come to Baghdad…. But it can prove to be decisive in more senses than one...
Hospitals in the city are said to be under pressure from the huge number of the casualties, both military and civilian, which are flooding the wards. It is obvious that if the US intended to win any hearts and minds in Baghdad, its task has become doubly difficult. In contrast…
Arguably, the British could afford to play a waiting game [in Basra] because they were sure that once the Iraqi resistance could be effectively countered, it would be easier to reach out to Basra’s Shi’te population... The Americans, however, could not follow similar tactics in Baghdad. For one thing, a long wait outside the city gates would have only enabled the Iraqis to consolidate their position... such a delay might have sent the wrong message about American prowess.
As it is, the Iraqis have fought quite fiercely wherever they could. Considering their vastly inferior firepower — and the fact that they have no air support at all — they have managed to wage fairly prolonged battles against an overwhelmingly powerful adversary. The end result has been that Baghdad has borne the brunt of the war in a devastating manner unlike any other town — big and small — whether it is Basra or Nasiriyah or Karbala. What impact the awesome might of the Americans will have on the ordinary citizens is open to question. It doesn’t seem likely, however, that, at least in the near future, they will regard the Americans as ‘liberators’, as the US troops would like them to.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April. 9, 2003
Ever since the American adoption of pre-emptive strikes as a legitimate method of 'self-defence' against perceived enemies, the idea has been embraced by several countries.
Russia was one of the first, warning of a strike against Chechen rebels. India, too, has occasionally voiced similar feelings although, in its case, the concept predates that of the Americans… Washington seriously believes that what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander...
It is this specific sentiment which a US State Department spokesman articulated recently... The comment followed observations by India's External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha to the effect that India had a case for a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan for the latter's sponsorship of terrorism in South Asia. …
So, the point is not about Indian intentions, which have always been above board. But that doesn't take away anything from the fatuity of the US observation about "parallels". If any parallel does exist, it is in this region where Pakistan has been amassing weapons of mass destruction in secret nuclear collaboration with China and North Korea and has been described as a "platform for terrorism" by none other than the US ambassador in Islamabad. Therefore, it isn't that India does not have a case, but that India is more respectful of international law than the US.
-- Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 8, 2003
What next after the war in Iraq? From the look of things, another battle is coming up:For the control of post-war Iraq…
The American stand is unambiguous: Having conceived, scripted and directed the war practically on its own, the US will not grant anyone else, least of all those who opposed the war, the right to decide the contours of Iraq's future — whether in respect of government formation or in allotting contracts for reconstruction.
… the leading role in post-Saddam Iraq will be played by the US and not the UN… Iraq would be run by an office headed by a retired US general, who, in turn, would be answerable to the Pentagon. There have been other signals, including most importantly, a supplementary amendment passed by the US Congress excluding France, Germany, Russia and Syria from participating in US-funded reconstruction bids.
Earlier, Colin Powell had hinted at a severely curtailed role for the UN… in a US-run interim administration. It goes without saying that none of this can be to the liking of the rest of the world… As for Tony Blair, who overrode both popular opinion at home and strong opposition from his own party to fight on the side of America, it must embarrass him no end that after all he has done, he finds himself left out of the post-war planning. And the embarrassment will be all the more considering he, of his own accord, had promised the full involvement of the UN in the humanitarian and reconstruction aspects in Iraq. Mr Blair had also projected an "Iraq for Iraqis" vision.
Clearly, having used Mr Blair's services to strengthen its case for war, the US has no further need for him. What does this presage for the future? First, anyone who opposes the US can face what amounts to economic sanctions. Second, even a trusted ally must eventually be prepared to be cast out into the cold.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April 7, 2003
Though it is hard to be too certain about a war… the balance of probabilities might suggest that the American forces are now knocking at the gates of Baghdad.
It is difficult to know if a new phase of the conflict is about to be joined and, indeed, urban warfare about to commence… The unanswered questions are: will the Saddam Hussein regime collapse like a house of cards, or will the nightmare scenario (from the coalition standpoint) of prolonged street-by- street and house-to-house fighting be enacted?
A good deal of the politics that surrounds the invasion is likely to be influenced by the answer to these questions. A quick rout of the Iraqi dictatorship will probably give the US enormous leverage in determining what follows... On the other hand, if the American forces get bogged down, domestic support for President George W. Bush… may just as quickly evaporate. In such an eventuality, international clamour may be expected to rise for the withdrawal of the coalition armies from Iraq and for direct UN intervention to put a devastated country back on its feet.
The … appearance of President Hussein [in]… Baghdad… had two effects: it awed the world and electrified the Arab street. There is a political value that attaches to both. But there is a third possible consideration as well. Should the fighting get stretched out much further, the very presence of Mr Hussein in the highly charged and confusing situation could become a political factor of some substance. In nearly three weeks in Iraq the Anglo-American armies have not turned up an iota of evidence that the Saddam regime was harbouring weapons of mass destruction. This is an issue that may be expected to dog future debates on the standing of those who launched the invasion and on what to do with war-ravaged Iraq.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 7, 2003
"The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought..." So affirmed … US supreme court judge Anthony M Kennedy …
Yet, this was hardly a revolutionary new idea. The American Bill of Rights implicitly recognised as much in the year 179…. Not surprisingly, in the eyes of the world, America and freedom became two ideas that were, in fact, one and the same. Be it the mass defections from the communist bloc or the migration of the upwardly mobile from other places, the one ideal that ultimately drove people to leave their homelands for distant America was freedom — freedom to pursue their own goals unfettered by governmental interference. So vital was individual liberty to the framework of America that the First Amendment went far beyond other constitutions to explicitly guarantee the freedoms of religion, speech, press and the right to peaceable assembly. However, today's America would seem light years away from the values that went into the making of that country.
From clamping down on humorists and rounding up anti-war protestors to finger-printing entire communities and pressuring TV channels to take a partisan view, America under George W Bush would seem to be doing all it can to curb domestic civil rights... Take the sacking of NBC correspondent Peter Arnett who criticised the US war strategy on Iraqi TV. Arnett said nothing that has not been said by many security experts. But because he said it on Iraqi TV, he has been judged to be unpatriotic. Indeed, this is at the centre of America's dilemma, post-9/11. For a citizen, which is a greater value — freedom or patriotism? Yet, the debate itself is flawed, as flawed as the earlier one around bread and freedom. Peter Arnett does not become anti-national for publicly criticising his government's war strategy. Nor, for that matter, do the thousands of Americans who have taken to the streets in protest. Far from it, they owe it to the founding fathers of America's constitution to be true to the document — both in letter and spirit. And this means disapproving the war in Iraq and questioning the curbs on freedoms within the US. And this also means exposing the double standards of those US civil rights groups which speak of repression in Kashmir, but not of repression at
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April 3, 2003
Human rights are a difficult concept to express — let alone measure. Yet, if liberal freedoms are to have any meaning, the world must come together to protect the human rights of all men and women, no matter which country they live in.
Thus, liberals in third world countries have learnt to respect such western NGOs as Amnesty International even if we sometimes feel that they make judgments without adequately understanding contexts or backgrounds.
There is, however, a huge problem when the US State Department decides that it has the right to sit around and judge the human rights record of other countries… does America… really have any business passing judgments on other countries?
… given the kind of things that George W. Bush has said… doesn’t Washington recognise that the battle against terrorism often requires us to suspend the normal rules? … if the US is so keen on democracy and human rights, then why is it so often on the side of the tyrants, the dictators and the fingernail-pullers?
These questions are the obvious ones. And Washington must be prepared to answer them if it is going to claim that Indian security forces "used excessive force" while fighting terrorism in Kashmir. What kind of force is excessive in this context? How about the bombing of Afghanistan?
How about the use of daisy-cutter bombs in that campaign? How about innocent civilians who died in US bombing raids? America can’t have it both ways. If it wants to launch wars against the wishes of the rest of the world then it has no business sitting in judgment on the global community.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 3, 2003
A few stark truths have emerged as the war on Iraq nears the end of its second week... First, the likelihood of getting rid of Saddam Hussein and concluding the battle on a quick and relatively tidy note has considerably diminished. Second, the push for the Iraqi Capital is going to entail even higher casualties of soldiers and innocent civilians. Finally, the battle for Baghdad is unlikely to be won without messy street fighting and the so-called coalition forces may have to contend with a difficult mix of guerrilla warfare and suicide bomb attack… the questions are… by what means and at what cost? After Iraq has been blitzed by thousands of precision-guided munitions and hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles, the questions have assumed an even greater urgency.
… If a major ground attack against the Capital has not commenced yet, it is probably because the final assault on it will be carried out after the fourth infantry division reaches the city's northern borders. … this division's movement southwards has been delayed, thus allowing Saddam Hussein the luxury of not splitting his defences and letting him focus on the threat from the southern flank. The U.S. strongly denies there has been an "operational pause" … but the repeated assertion that everything is on schedule is now beginning to wear a little thin. Continuing Iraqi resistance and the fear of suffering casualties have resulted in a situation where the final push for Baghdad will commence probably only some days from now …
… Saddam Hussein's strategy has been to take up defensive positions around Baghdad and induce the enemy into close-quarter battles that inflict the maximum amount of damage … and delay the victory for as long as possible... The single suicide attack, which was carried out by an Iraqi non-commissioned officer and which killed four members of the third infantry division… has raised fears of Baghdad pressing soldiers into suicide missions… with the Najaf attack the threat of using suicide attacks to thwart the invaders cannot be discounted.
That the coalition forces are already unsettled by the threat of unconventional warfare is evident from the recent incident when tense and edgy U.S. soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of a van, killing seven women and children, when the vehicle reportedly failed to heed warning shots to stop. The U.S. and Britain have repeatedly accused the Iraqi regime of using civilians as a shield but what such accusations really reflect is an enormous dilemma for the coalition forces. In the existing circumstances, bringing the war to a quick end may require an even more brutal and unfeeling approach; minimising collateral damage could mean delaying victory. As the troops mass around Baghdad and as the Iraqis offer unexpected resistance, the fate of thousands of innocent civilians depend on how Messrs Bush and Blair resolve this dilemma of their own making.
Editorial, Hindu, Chennai, April 2, 2003
As politicians and generals on both sides of the war on Iraq plot, a terrible humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region seems to have gone largely unnoticed.
Even before this war began, the 10-year war with Iran had enervated the Iraqi economy. The subsequent dozen years of post-Gulf War I economic sanctions proved lethal, leaving over 60 per cent of the 27-million strong Iraqi populace dependent on government rations. With not much more than highfalutin political propaganda to feed on, a quarter of children under five were malnourished and a quarter of the Iraqi population had no access to clean drinking water. Conditions can only worsen now if this war drags on, since international aid agencies will not be too keen on deploying their staff inside Iraq.
The UN’s World Food Programme says that an estimated $ 1.5 billion will be needed to feed the country’s population in the next six months alone. This indicates that the majority of Iraqis would probably run out of their existing food supplies by May. That is, if there are many left to run out of food. For, apart from the bombing taking its toll (smart bombs aren’t really all that smart to distinguish between toddler and soldier), thousands of refugees may flee their cities to the borders.
In fact, the UN fears an exodus of over 600,000 people from the country, half of whom would be heading for Iran with the other half going to Turkey, Syria or Jordan. This would be a logistical nightmare for both aid agencies as well as whoever is in charge of Baghdad at the time. So whenever, and however, the military operations end, one thing is certain: all those glowing communiques will be appended by tales of woe and human misery — acknowledgement that the war was nothing but a tragedy, and not just an awesome military operation.
Editorial, Hundustan Times, New Delhi, April 2, 2003
… Operation Iraqi Freedom is fast becoming the fountainhead of popular culture…
War has spawned a new language too …There are even reports of a new range of Rageh Omaar T-shirts as the Somalia-born journalist becomes… the pin-up boy of many TV-addicted ladies.
Fast-talking television anchors now speak of "MOAB" (Mass Ordnance Air Blast) and "BDA" (Bomb Damage Assessment)… it may not be difficult to imagine a certain Shock and Awe fashion trend emerging in the future, inspired by the cut of combat trousers.
The most ironic popular icons of the Vietnam war, for example, are the Vietnamese toy tanks made out of Coca Cola cans available on the streets of Ho Chi Minh city.
An American literary critic has recently written on the intimate links that have always existed between the Pentagon and Hollywood. Decades after the Vietnam war, many Viet veterans put up posters on their cars saying, "Vietnam was a war not a movie".
They were protesting against the manner in which Hollywood rampaged over the Vietnam war, transforming grisly realities into slick cinematic sequences. And films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now have been fiercely criticised by many Vietnamese for its unabashed stereotyping.
In the TV coverage of Shock and Awe, it is impossible to miss the Lawrence of Arabia style shots of the Iraqi desert or indeed the hoisting of the American flag at Umm Qasar in the style of the World War II battle of Iwo Jima, shots that are perhaps not surprising given that the TV networks dispensing news worldwide such as ABC and CNN are also media companies that produce mass entertainment. The sombre solemnity of war is in danger of being overthrown by the T-shirts and tamashas of war as showbiz
-- Editorial, Indian Express, New Delhi, April 1, 2003
The Iraq war continues to pose a challenge to the Indian government, and more so as the latter comes under different kinds of pressures — from the opposition, the BJP and, lately, the RSS.
… the pressures are only a reflection of the many ideological layers that together represent Iraq today… Iraq finds itself placed against a superpower… To not support Iraq would mean to endorse the principle of pre-emption, which is a thought that must strike terror in all sovereign republics.
To support it would mean to stand in opposition to the United State …The RSS obviously can view Iraq only from its Hindutva prism...
The RSS goes on to defend the lack of a UN mandate for the war on the plea that India could hardly be expected to get the world body's sanction for a similar strike on Pakistan. The BJP, on the other hand, apparently wants a harsher line taken against the US to protest its double standards vis-a-vis Kashmir... the government… has been walking the tightrope on Iraq in the best traditions of a democracy that fears for its sovereign rights and yet would like nothing better than to dine on the high table with the United States. Which must explain the mismatch between Atalji's unequivocal condemnation of American unilateralism and official India's uneasy attempts to shift the blame for the war to the UN, and indeed, to unconvincingly cite Kashmir as the reason for its ambivalence towards the US. Politics may be war by other means, but war is what it is: A brutal demonstration of what the victor can do to the vanquished. Champions of India's self-interest would do well to understand this bitter truth.
-- Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April 1, 2003
"Bush and Blair apologise for the bombing of Baghdad. They promise to fly down with the members of their administration to the Iraqi capital and to mop up the debris with new infra-red brooms that sweep clean."
… Unfortunately, any promise by Bush & Blair to stop destroying Baghdad would have to be made today, April 1 — All Fools' Day.
Maybe the day was called thus to acknowledge the fact that the wisest man in the court of any ruler was the jester. …
Contemporary western civilisation has split the atom and put a man on the moon but left the jester out of the corridors of power. In the endangered present, even the past is not immune. The bombs and missiles dropped on Iraq by the US and British forces are, says UNESCO's assistant director-general Mounir Bouchenaki, threatening some of humanity's oldest and most precious monuments like the Great Mosque at Samarra and the remains of Babylon, including what is left of Nebuchadnezzar's palace and the Tower of Babel.
-- Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, April 1, 2003
The Iraqi admission that thousands of would-be suicide bombers are waiting to be unleashed … ought not to be surprising to anyone apart from the Pentagon general...
War historians might some day admire the resilience of the Iraqis, just as they might wonder how the best-laid plans of the world’s most powerful armed forces got bogged down in the desert...
… a Palestinian suicide bomber wounded 30 people outside a packed café in northern Israel. The Islamic Jihad dubbed the attack "Palestine’s gift to the Iraqis". The militant group also claimed that a Palestinian death squad was already in Baghdad, ready to kill US and British soldiers in suicide missions. This apparent departure from the extremist group’s pledges not to get involved in other conflicts could now encourage other militant organisations in the region to follow suit. It’s probably as a direct result of these guerrilla tactics that the military juggernaut of the US-led coalition has ground to a virtual halt.
… it’s obvious that the Pentagon is having a serious rethink on the irregular Iraqi forces snapping at the heels of coalition supply lines, and worse, having to fend off what increasingly looks like the routine use of suicide bombing by the Iraqis. If there is a bigger fear in Washington and London, it would be the likelihood of such strikes increasingly occurring in post-war Iraq.
-- Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 1, 2003
The unanimity that the U.N. Security Council displayed on Friday [March 28] while authorising the resumption of the oil-for-food programme for Iraq must be reassuring to the international community after grave doubts [arose] about a role for the global organisation... An estimated 60 per cent of the 22 million Iraqi population depended on the programme for daily supplies. Today, with the havoc being caused by the bombing campaign, the dependence must be total ...
The passage of the resolution and grant of control over the programme, even if for a brief period, gives the United Nations a foot in the door after being sidelined... France and Russia and other opponents of the war in the Council underlined that their support for the resumption of the humanitarian programme should not be taken in any manner as legitimising the U.S. action, widely considered as illegal in international law without the sanction of the U.N. Russia and Syria also opposed using the oil-for-food programme as a channel for emergency war relief, which under Geneva conventions is the ultimate responsibility of the "occupying power".
As the war nears the end of the second week, it is clear that the United Nations needs to be involved and engaged more. The world body should remain with the people of Iraq… While it must be absurd to talk of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, considering the surprisingly fierce resistance being put up by his forces, it is crucial for the Security Council to give early and active consideration to the long-term needs of that country which has faced four disastrous wars and continuing sanctions in two decades. "Obviously, if the U.N. is going to be on the ground, we will have to determine the relationships between the U.N., occupied Iraq and the occupying power," said Kofi Annan, the beleaguered and bitter Secretary-General, during the weekend. The Council is discussing what role the U.N. would play "down the line" in Iraq, Mr. Annan said. The unanimity on the Council vote may not presage a new phase of international cooperation but there should be no doubt that the U.N. must be at the centre of the effort to assist with the economic, social and political reconstruction of Iraq, notwithstanding the hostile signals coming from Washington. For his part, Mr. Annan can rest assured that in his effort to put the world body back in the picture and bring multilateralism to centre stage again he has many allies, including perhaps the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of New Labour just now in the camp waging war.
Editorial, The Hindu, Chennai, March 31, 2003
While the war in Iraq may be hogging the headlines for now, many are already looking ahead… to… the lucrative business opportunities that will be thrown up by the rebuilding of Iraq.
Indeed, some commentators have flatly stated that the Indian government should back the Bush regime's actions, in the hope of getting a juicy share of the Iraq pie. Unfortunately, it may not work out quite that way, if American media reports are to be believed. In a recent article, The New York Times put the estimated cost of rebuilding Iraq at between $25 billion and $100 billion... Only American corporations have been invited to bid for these contracts. Companies in the fray include Kellogg Brown & Root, the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton — where US vice-president Dick Cheney served as CEO from 1995 to 2000. Incidentally, the company also handled the high-speed construction of the infamous Guantanamo prison compound. However, some of its accounting procedures are now under scrutiny by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Similarly, an article in the Wall Street Journal stated that deals worth $900 million would be farmed out through USAID to American companies. In short, the reconstruction of Iraq looks like being an American-only bash, with nobody else invited to the party. Of course, there are always sub-contracts. But before Indian companies get their hopes up, they might want to consider that the Americans would certainly want to reward their allies… So expect British, Spanish and Polish firms to get first preference. Remember, Afghanistan was also supposed to be a potential gold mine for Indian companies. At last count, about 80 per cent of the reconstruction money in Afghanistan was estimated to be going to American companies and NGOs. After all the hype, Indian industry seems to have finally been relegated to way down the queue, jostling for a few crumbs.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, March 31, 2003
The famous Bush doctrine 'if you're not with us, you're against us' is alive and well in both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Both have barred Arab television channel Al Jazeera from covering trading on their floors on the grounds that it does not engage in responsible reporting.
A critique all the more intriguing as it comes from organisations not known for the ability critically to evaluate journalistic standards. The bar comes despite the fact that Al Jazeera has millions of viewers who either trade on these exchanges or have interests in companies who do. A similar intolerance of Al Jazeera was displayed by the press and political establishment in Washington's most uncritical ally, Britain. ("Indecent beyond boundaries and tasteless") footage of dead British soldiers and British PoWs was decried, though it is another matter that American and British television channels are triumphantly broadcasting images of the ancient cities of Basra and Baghdad going up in flames, and of Iraqis being subjected to humiliating body searches by marines. One picture showing an Iraqi soldier being fed water at gun point was severely objected to by the Red Cross. Al Jazeera has hit back claiming it will reveal the truth howsoever uncomfortable it may be.
'Operation Iraqi Freedom' was meant to be a visual delight featuring smart precision bombs, noble marines and wildly cheering Iraqis welcoming their 'liberators' with open arms and flowers. Journalists were embedded in key military units from where they would report without 'jeopardising' the operation. Faced with growing public dissent, the last thing the Americans and the British want is pictures of fallen coalition soldiers or dead and wounded Iraqi civilians. Al Jazeera may be in bad odour now, but interestingly, it was not so long ago that the channel's footage of Osama bin Laden uttering his chilling threats was taken as gospel truth by the Bush administration and used as an excuse to go into Afghanistan. Later, Washington once again cited an Al Jazeera tape showing bin Laden criticising US plans to attack Iraq as proof of links between Al-Qaida and Iraq. Today, like it or not, Al Jazeera is the most popular channel in the Muslim world. It represents a different point of view from the western media. By shutting it out, the so-called dispensers of democracy cannot hope to understand the aspirations of the millions of people whom it hopes to engage with in the future.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, March 31, 2003
If the US-led military assault on Iraq is not going the way it was planned, only a part of the reason may lie with the decisions made by America’s military leaders.
The other part of the explanation — which appears to be greatly interesting Washington as the war threatens to drag out — is said to concern the fascination US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is noted to have developed for the new military doctrine encapsulated by the rubric ‘shock and awe’. In military circles, the doctrine is also known as ‘effects-based campaign’. It relies on technologically highly sophisticated munitions to take out the enemy’s command and control structures with precision and without too much disturbing civilian areas to awe the enemy into quick submission. Speed and mobility are of the essence.
This is why Mr Rumsfeld opted not to place a heavy enough force on the ground, a strategy now being criticised at home since the enemy has found it easier to counter-attack a relatively light force. But the point that concerns his critics is that the defence secretary’s preference may have sprung from his own associations with segments of the defence industry whose equipment is deployed in the war. A military issue thus looks like acquiring a political life. The Bush administration’s dilemma can be gauged from the fact that the president has now had to assert that the campaign has made significant progress, although before the start of the controversy he had stated publicly that it may "take a while" before the enemy is defeated.
The media reporting the conflict live is also now having to reassess its coverage. The ‘public affairs’ component of the ‘effects-based campaign’ strategy had counted on a synergy of aims between the military and the media. This may not have worked to the desired degree partly on account of the presence of an Arabic station like Al Jazeera which claims to cover ‘both sides of the war’. But, with controversy sprouting, elements of the western media are also now raising professional questions. For instance, BBC news chiefs have met recently to discuss the increasing problem of ‘misinformation coming out of Iraq’, and underlined that their correspondents should clearly attribute information to the military in the interest of balanced coverage.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, March 31, 2003
One way of tracking the coalition force’s progress in the current Gulf war is by observing the gyrations in crude oil prices. Within hours of US President George W. Bush’s 48-hour ultimatum to the Iraqi regime, the global oil market responded with a 10 per cent drop in the $35-plus per barrel price that had been ruling for months.
Once the war began, crude prices plunged by almost 25 per cent on the belief that it would be swift and painless—for the Americans. Now… oil prices have begun nudging up once again to approach the $30 per barrel mark, aided and abetted to some extent by the upheaval in the Nigerian oil sector.
And if the war indeed goes beyond a month and the damage to the allied troops more extensive than anticipated, the pre-war concerns of prices hitting the upper forties or even fifties per barrel may yet be borne out.
With the news of Iraqi oil being set ablaze by their troops, the major oil importing countries, who had begun to breathe a little easier once prices began dipping, are back to calculating the impact of high oil import bills on their economies. Though the eventual outcome of the war is not in any doubt, the duration and intensity of the conflict will have a bearing on the market.
If Iraq’s oil sector, affected by a decade of sanctions, suffers further damage, it will take years of rebuilding, even on a war footing, before it can be brought back to its pre-1991 levels of production.
Part of Washington’s interest in Iraqi oil is the wish to see OPEC’s wings clipped. With the prospect of a 20 per cent hike in its oil import bill from last fiscal’s Rs 67,000 crore, and every $1 per barrel adding a further Rs 3,000 crore, it would be in India’s interest if the cartel could be made to act more responsibly. One way of doing this is to ensure that a post-war Iraq is kept out of OPEC and its 112 billion barrels of reserves made available to usher in an era of cheap oil.
Editorial, Indian Express, Delhi, March 29, 2003
In war, expect the unexpected. …
While the civilian casualties of the war are as yet limited, the general suffering is not. And the hopes of a quick end to the conflict have all but evaporated. The belief that the invasion will be met by wildly cheering Iraqis… too has been belied… entagon's "shock and awe" tactics might have left the ordinary Iraqi numbed and cowering, but their military objective… has not been realised. The Iraqi leadership continues to be defiant and, one has to admit, remarkably composed. Saddam’s command and control system remains largely in tact and so does… the morale of his men...
Questions have also arisen about why the Iraqi dictator, despite being relentlessly targeted, has not as yet unleashed his doomsday arsenal. Nor have the Americans produced any concrete proof that one exists. Given that weapons of mass destruction formed the core of America's justification for the war… it is a PR embarrassment too. But the most surprising of all has been the level of resistance encountered by the invading forces... Despite the decision to skirt major cities and not get sucked into urban guerilla warfare, however, the forces are facing the prospect of a hand-to-hand combat in built-up space. The mood in the coalition camp has understandably turned sombre, with many commanders openly admitting that they hadn't expected the enemy to fight so hard. The frenetic scramble to reach Baghdad has meanwhile left the troops upfront with a long supply line, vulnerable to hit-and-run Iraqi attacks. All in all, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is faced with more uncertainty at the end of week one, than when it began.
Editorial, Times of India, Delhi, March 29, 2003
Even as the Bush-led coalition gains grudging ground in Iraq, is it losing it in the Republican-majority US Senate? … In a dramatic snub to the president… the Senate voted 51 to 48 to limit the relief to just $350 billion... Clearly, worry about how much the war will cost the US in the long run played on the senators' minds... What happens next? The US House of Representatives has already cleared the entire $726 billion in tax cuts. A Senate-House committee will now try to work out their differences. The chances are, Mr Bush may finally get the figure he asked for. Still, this is a clear sign that there is growing unease within the US political establishment… about the economic consequences of the Iraq conflict.
There is still no clear consensus on what the cost of attacking, occupying and rebuilding Iraq will eventually add up to. Economist William Nordhaus estimates that the final figure could go up to $1 trillion over the next decade… International Monetary Fund's managing director Horst Koehler has become the latest voice of gloom, warning that a global recession cannot be ruled out if a long war pushes up oil prices.
But whether it's the IMF or the Federal Reserve, everybody is hedging their predictions with lots of riders. Sandstorms may have been raging in Iraq, but obscured clarity of vision appears to have become a worldwide phenomenon.
Editorial, Times of India, Delhi, March 29, 2003
Now that it is being admitted that the war in Iraq may continue well beyond what was anticipated earlier in Washing-ton and London, the implications of the prolonged conflict are no doubt being assessed in the two capitals.
One of these is the possibility of more casualties — on both sides… What makes the issue more complex is the reason for the war …Where Iraq is concerned, protests … are already being made in the US and Europe because of the belief that the US wasn’t really interested in the UN’s peace efforts.
There is little doubt that if the war continues for any length of time, the necessity for the shedding of blood will be increasingly questioned... It isn’t only the losses suffered by the coalition forces that can have an adverse impact on the public perception. The Iraqi casualties, especially involving the civilians, will also influence world opinion.
There is another problem with a prolonged conflict. Already, the resistance offered by the Iraqi forces have impressed even their battlefield opponents, who have confessed that they had not expected such a determined response. If the war drags on, even those who dislike the Baghdad regime will not be able to hide their admiration, not least because the Iraqis are very much the military underdogs for whom there may be an element of automatic sympathy. What is clear, therefore, is that when the war began, the US was deluded by its military might into believing that it would be short. That was a serious ‘misunderestimation’, to use a Bushism, of the Iraqi resolve.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, March 29, 2003
As American military commanders and president Bush himself make claims of a quick victory in Iraq, they will surely ponder over the biggest contradiction of this war: How can a country alleged to possess nuclear and other deadly weapons be so swiftly vanquished?
… Indeed, Iraq has hardly a hope against the combined war might of the superpower and its allies. And yet, what the Iraqis lack in military strength, they seem to have made up aplenty in sheer grit and will power…
In the past week, Iraqi forces have used insignificant weapons, like small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, to force down helicopters, capture 'enemy' soldiers and resist the march of the invading ground troops.
So much so, at the end of the first round of battle, war zone military officials reported at least 20 American soldiers missing and another 50 wounded… all this might well be much sound and fury before the inevitable surrender… If the Iraqis are excited at the prospect of deliverance courtesy the visitors, they aren't exactly showing it. If anything, the Iraqi dislike of Saddam would appear to be only matched by their distrust of the US.
Perhaps, the Iraqis remember the many past promises of liberation that were betrayed. The Americans are also discovering… that defiance is a double-edged weapon. What better proof of this than the ironic invocation of the Geneva conventions by a country that defied world opinion and the United Nations to go to war? … In the same league is another American charge — that Russia assisted Iraq in contravention of the UN sanctions on that country. Whatever the final outcome, this is a war that history will judge as one fought by breaking every rule.
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, March 26, 2003
The war in Iraq is entering its most critical phase. The fortunes of the two sides have now come to depend on what happens during the battle for Baghdad.
As is the case with any invading force, the outcome of the conflict will depend on the capture of the capital city… Given the importance of Baghdad, the original US plan envisaged a two-pronged attack on it from Turkey in the north and Kuwait in the south. The idea was evidently to achieve a quick and decisive victory. The Americans had also expected a great deal of Kurdish support in the northern areas on the road to Baghdad.
After the plan had to be abandoned because of Ankara’s refusal to allow the US to use Turkey as a base, the coalition forces are having to depend almost wholly on approaching Baghdad from the south. It is possible that this change of plan persuaded the US to carry out what has been called a decapitation strike aimed at Saddam Hussein… the US has resorted to the massive bombing campaigns with which it was originally expected to start the war.
But while these attacks may ‘shock and awe’ the local people, Baghdad may not ‘fall’ as a result. To achieve this objective, the coalition forces are advancing towards the city mainly from the south. The problem with this approach is that the troops will pass through long stretches of hostile territory where they will face guerrilla-style attacks from the Iraqis. As it is, the stiff resistance offered by the Iraqis in these areas has underlined the difficulties of safeguarding supply lines. These problems will be compounded if the resistance in and around Baghdad proves to be even more determined.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, March 26, 2003
The usual American cowboy brashness, an exaggerated faith in high technology and excessive optimism about the low morale of the Iraqi army made many believe that Gulf War II would be concluded over the weekend… the military campaign… is taking more time than most anticipated. However, merely because it is taking more time does not mean its negative economic impact on the world economy, or the Indian economy, is likely to be larger than anticipated…
Any long term disruption of oil supplies could hurt the world economy. However, as of now there is no reason to believe that such a situation will come to pass. While the loyalty of Iraqi soldiers to the Saddam regime seems to be standing the test of sustained bombing for the moment, there is as yet no reason to doubt the final conclusion of this battle…. In the medium term oil prices will stabilise at reasonably low levels. There will be a huge post-war reconstruction boom and it should be back to business.
… Make no mistake, the United States is not in this game to call it quits at the first sight of market nervousness... The fact that Indians in the region are not rushing home suggests that they have a good measure of the fact that much of the negative fallout of the war will remain confined to Iraqi territory and is unlikely to spill to other countries in the region where Indians are based. The joker in the pack would be a desperate attempt by the present Iraqi regime to blow up oil fields. That would be catastrophic for the oil economy and must be prevented at all costs.
Editorial, Indian Express, March 26, 2003
With the siege of Baghdad only hours away, another brutal battle comes to mind. Antony Beevor… has drawn a parallel between Stalingrad and ‘Baghdadograd’. After all, the avowed hero of Saddam Hussein is none other than Josef Stalin… Beevor recently pointed out that there are many similarities between Saddam and Stalin. Like Stalin, Saddam too uses fear, a centralised party structure and loyal commissars to maintain his absolute grip on Iraq. Saddam’s Republican Guard is like the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs), which was Stalin’s chosen instrument of terror… At the height of Stalin’s dictatorship, 190 million lived in abject terror of a single man, just as in Iraq no one dares to question, how in the recent plebiscite, Saddam received 100 per cent of the popular vote.
Now it remains to be seen if the battle for Baghdad will be similar to the battle for Stalingrad, a crucial battle in 1942-43... Today, with the most technologically advanced army in history at the gates of a decaying city, with no possibility of a Russian winter, the battle of Baghdad is unlikely to follow the exact pattern of the battle of Stalingrad, however striking the parallels between the two dictators.
Editorial, Indian Express, March 26, 2003
The United States and its main ally, the U.K., appear to have come face to face with the harsh realities of the war much sooner than … would have anticipated. … they have enough cause to revise their much proclaimed notion… that this war will be easy and cost free. There have been far too many reverses and negative consequences for the complacency to remain. In fact, Americans … must be in deep shock seeing the images that have been coming home from the battlefields in the last few days. … Public opinion … was unprepared for the inevitable consequences of the ground invasion of Iraq. Compounding the shock of these images of prisoners of war have been the reports, filed by handpicked "embedded" correspondents, of the surprising degree of resistance being put up by Iraq's beleaguered armed forces. If these are a reflection of Saddam Hussein's popularity… [the US] military top brass may be forced to rethink some of the dates on their calendar for Iraq.
The most startling of the series of developments during the weekend was perhaps the lethal fight inside an American military camp in Kuwait when an American soldier hurled grenades into an officer's tent… misidentification of targets in the heat of the battle … had raised a public outcry in Britain and promises were made by both sides to ensure against a recurrence. The weekend accident is a measure of the dangers of excessive reliance on technology, best exemplified by the blitzkrieg warfare of "shock and awe".
With … Turkey displaying a readiness to safeguard its own national interests if they came in conflict with American objectives, the picture is far from encouraging for the planners in Washington and their proxies in London. Turkey's decision not to allow American ground troops to pass through its territory… raised the worrying possibility that the U.S. may not have enough forces and armoury on the ground... At this hour of action, there are also nagging doubts about the role that Turkey itself may play in trying to consolidate its position along the nebulous border with Iraq. Against the background … there are genuine apprehensions that the U.S. may be unable to exercise any control over the actions of the Turks, whose anxiety about the rising influence of the Kurds in the region may force them into actions running counter to Washington's interests. Not the most optimistic of scenarios for George Bush and his allies as they complete a week of warfare.
- Editorial, The Hindu, Chennai, March 25, 2003
With Iraq holding centrestage for obvious reasons, most people might have missed noticing the despatch of US-led troops to … Afghanistan…
But neither the missing Osama nor the changed goal would stop the cheerleaders from proclaiming victory. Team Bush and its worldwide supporters trumpeted the fall of the Taliban and installation of the Karzai regime as an end in itself, even as the dreaded Al-Qaida struck terror around the world, led no doubt by its still unconquered leader. Worse, since then Afghanistan itself might have sunk into a deeper quagmire, as evident from the re-emergence of warring tribal chiefs and resumed terrorist activity on its border with Pakistan.
Today, with global attention focused on Baghdad, a fresh US-led operation, codenamed 'Valiant Strike', is underway in southern Afghanistan avowedly to flush out extremists linked to the Al-Qaida.
Significantly, 'Valiant Strike' is only the latest in a series of such missions … the US military launched 'Operation Mongoose' in a cave complex in the Adi Ghar mountains … [It] was followed last month by operations 'Eagle Fury' and 'Viper'... The best case scenario for Washington would, of course, be the simultaneous conquest of Osama and Saddam. But to bet on the former could be risky, given Osama's elusive track record. Saddam, on the other hand, seems destined to fall.
And yet, that doesn't necessarily answer the question: What after Saddam? According to current estimates, Baghdad will remain under the control of an American general for at least one year, which means the promised democracy is still far away. Meanwhile, the Turks are marching their troops into Kurdistan, the outcome of which could well be another vicious battle of the kind that torments Afghanistan. The world could not prevent this war. The best it can hope for now is that another mess does not follow the triumph of the US military.
Editorial, Times of India, March 24, 2003
In the closing minutes of the first wave of America’s "shock and awe" bombardment of Baghdad, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer found his press briefing drifting into difficult terrain… Almost simultaneously, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld countered suggestions that the A-Day raid on Baghdad invited parallels with the World War II levelling of Dresden.
As coalition forces roll into Basra and Umm Qasr on the road to Baghdad, as their B-52s target Iraqi installations in Mosul and Kirkuk, a key battle is being fought on the airwaves. As raw footage of precision bombing and despatches of embedded journalists are transmitted to TV screens real-time… fact and fabrication appear to be the most potent weapons … in the Second Gulf War the media itself has become a key coordinate in military planning. It goes beyond Saddam Hussein’s regular appearances on state television, in an attempt to prove he is alive and well up to the challenge ahead. It goes beyond the suddenly rampant clarifications from the few western journalists left in Baghdad and embedded reporters that their information is keenly monitored. And it certainly goes beyond the growing suspicion among mediapersons that they were encouraged to broadcast Pentagon’s plan for a "shock and awe" beginning to the war only to hoodwink Saddam’s think-tank…
… There is an apocryphal story about a harassed aide asking his general what he should tell the journalists. "We’ll tell them nothing until it’s over and then we’ll tell them who won," said the good general. Intense media scrutiny of the theatre of war has completely transformed the criteria for adjudging the winner. The generals and their political bosses may be tempted to manoeuvre information, but those still cameras transmitting live pictures will keep them honest.
Editorial, Indian Express, March 24, 2003
… the first signs of what complications may follow the conflict have emerged after the Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. It isn’t only France and Germany which broke ranks with the US … Turkey, too, hasn’t been willing to follow the American line.
It must have come as something of a shock (if not awe) [that] Turkey—a longstanding ally— refused to allow the US to launch its ground offensive into northern Iraq from Turkey. …
For a time, there were doubts whether Turkey would allow the US to use the air bases …Ankara has now permitted American planes to do so. But there is a sting in the tail. As commentators have noted, the Turkish permission has ‘coincided’ with the entry of Turkish troops into ‘Kurdistan’, the self-governing territory of Kurds in northern Iraq. The uneasy relations between the Turks and Kurds are not unknown… Ankara is evidently afraid of … the coming together of the Kurdish groups in Turkey, Iraq and elsewhere in support of a demand for an independent Kurdish state. It is to forestall such a move that Turkey has ‘invaded’ northern Iraq...
Kurds are a nation without a country. They live in areas ranging from Turkey through Iraq and Syria to Iran. All these countries have denied them the right to a homeland. [The] Kurds [hope] that the fall of Saddam Hussein will enable them to fulfil a part of their dream. … the US doesn’t want the present war to lead to a break-up of Iraq. At the same time, it doesn’t want to alienate the Kurds. The provocative Turkish move, however, may frustrate this delicate American balancing game.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, March 24, 2003
When America’s war in the Gulf is done, the UN Security Council will be expected to take stock of the role of the world body.
… George W. Bush’s decision has left the international scene deeply divided on basic issues such as when to make war in order to make the world a safer place, and under whose direction. Without doubt, any assessment will be guided by how quickly the fighting in Iraq will end, and whether the operation has major spillover effects, causing turbulence in the international terrain.
The UN … was meant to keep the world from blowing up, to prevent conflict and to stop conflict from spreading. These objectives remain valid... If it leads to unpredictable twists, the principal players in the system will need to put their heads together once again, regardless of their respective positions before the outbreak of the fighting. certainly, the power balance that existed between the two superpowers of the Cold War years had [helped to keep peace].
With that lost a decade ago, …the remaining superpower tends too often to overstep the line... Some cite this as the UN’s frailty, even proof of its uselessness. The US hawks, on the other hand, see the UN as being an unnecessary bother. But counsels of despair or of thoughtless bravado, if heeded, can leave nations without codes of international conduct. Such a state will leave the weaker or poorer nations without protection. But if the UN survives (although as one that is better structured and better regulated), there will at least be a table to gather around in a crisis. Admitting countries that respect democracy and have a stake in the world system to its higher decision-making processes are a better safeguard for the UN and the world.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, March 22, 2003
The international community's fears of a superpower on the rampage untramelled by collective control may be coming true. If no credible initiatives are taken in the next few days to restore to the United Nations and its policy-making body, the Security Council, their primary role as the only source of legitimacy for international action, and to halt the American war of aggression against Iraq, unilateralism will have scored a dangerous victory… The embarrassment of India's muted, ambivalent response during the runup to the crisis has been mitigated to some extent by the official statement describing the American action as unjustified. The international community, whose opposition to the war is being demonstrated in the streets around the world, most visibly in the United States itself, waits to see if these words are followed up with action to get the issue back to where it belongs: the United Nations.
… Iraq has charged that the U.S. acted as a terrorist state by attempting to assassinate its leadership. A war waged without a clear mandate from the U.N. Council, according to the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, would constitute a flagrant violation of the prohibition of the use of force, a rule enshrined in the U.N. Charter precisely with the aim of preventing states from using force as they pleased… The U.S. on Thursday gave its official reasons for invading Iraq, saying Baghdad had broken a ceasefire resolution adopted after the 1991 Gulf War... Here is a clear case for the Security Council to act to immediately halt the horrendous tragedy from causing further damage. The geopolitical reality, however, is that none of the Security Council members plans to support a formal condemnation or even criticism of the U.S., with most of them following the lead of the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan...
That is the measure of the tragedy of this crisis. It is about … multilateralism… symbolised by the United Nations. It is a context in which the near paralysis of action by Governments in the wake of the American aggression must be a cause of concern. It signals perhaps in the clearest possible way so far in the post-Cold War era the dangers ahead if the international community allows the erosion of the authority of the U.N. Some analysts have described Thursday's pre-emptive assault on Baghdad as a turning point. It indeed is, in more ways than one. The U.S. President may have struck a lethal blow to visions of world government by going to war leading a "coalition of the willing" and ignoring the U.N., the long established mainstay of global peace and order.
Editorial, The Hindu, Chennai, March 22, 2003
The United Nations may have been given the heave-ho by the only superpower, but solace has come to the world body in the unlikely form of Saddam Hussein…
A war fought not just against the will of the people but fought in the face of opposition from every single international body... Indeed, till today no security expert has satisfactorily explained why the US wasn’t able to muster even the nine minimum votes required to put its pro-war resolution to vote … practitioners of realpolitik have been quick to dismiss the developments in the UN as an aberration that would soon correct itself…
And yet, to assume all this might be to assume wrong, and assume too early. Today, even as strategists draw up war plans, and experts expound on national self-interest, another battle rages on the streets — the battle between realpolitik and real politics…
On Thursday, the first cruise missiles hit Iraq to angry reactions from France, Russia and China. Tens of thousands of demonstrators brought cities around the world to a standstill… Some call them the superpeople, people who have collectively forced ministers to resign and governments to oppose war...
Even the usually supportive American media has begun to exhibit some anxiety, especially about the cost of the war, which, according to some estimates, could be in the region of $100 billion for combat operations alone…
Editorial, Times of India, New Delhi, March 22, 2003
The opening salvo… has gone depressingly according to script. The succession of cruise missiles, fired into Baghdad … had at least two military objectives. The limited assault… was partly in the nature of a surgical strike against the Iraqi leadership... It was also very much a part of… creating "shock and awe", a strategy that Washington believes may `persuade' many Iraqi soldiers to surrender or, better still, to rebel... the first wave of strikes against Baghdad has failed in at least the first objective... As for forcing surrenders through fear, reports from Kuwait have it that over a dozen Iraqi soldiers gave themselves up to U.S.-led forces... However, exactly how successful this tactic will be in inducing mass surrenders is something that will be known in the days to come.
The real military campaign against Iraq will follow shortly, largely in the form of massive, simultaneous and debilitating air strikes that clear the way for the entry of the infantry into Iraq… [T]he early indications are that the Iraqi strategy… would be to mount pockets of strong resistance... such a strategy has already been set into motion… whether Mr. Hussein will retaliate by widening the theatre of conflict and fire Scud missiles into Israel... the possibility [is] slim...
[On] The … possible use of chemical and biological weapons… one view… is that Mr. Hussein will not risk using them for fear of losing the propaganda advantage over a war that… has no legal sanction and no moral basis…. the U.S.-led forces are unlikely to face much resistance in sweeping across large portions of Iraq. The difficulties could arise when … if the Iraqi resistance is still intact, will have to be won through difficult and messy close-quarter fighting on the streets. The number of innocent human lives that will be lost in an encounter of this kind is only one of the many unanswered questions…. The long-term fallout of the war on Iraq… take on an immensely worrying character as President Bush's Tomahawk cruise missiles begin pounding Iraq.
- Editorial, The Hindu, Chennai, March 21, 2003.
… Hopefully, the war will be short and swift, and it will soon be business as usual again. It's a fond hope, but it may not be a realistic one.
Contrary to the Bush administration's belief, Saddam Hussein may not turn out to be a pushover. Even if he is easily deposed, Washington still faces the challenge of installing a new government in Baghdad that is capable of ensuring stability in this strategically crucial, notoriously volatile region. Its recent efforts in Afghanistan, unfortunately, inspire little confidence on this score. What will be the fallout of this war on relations between the European Union and America, indeed within the EU itself? It was one thing for the euro to be perceived as a friendly rival to the dollar, with the eurozone offering economic competition but political cooperation. But the situation could get a lot more strained now, especially after the vilification unleashed by senior American officials on 'old Europe' — especially France, and to a lesser extent Germany. And what would be the impact on the global economy if terrorist activity escalates and consumer confidence goes into a tailspin? At this stage, there are just too many uncomfortable questions left unanswered. The markets may have cheered the beginning of the war — but tomorrow is another day.
Editorial, Times of India, Delhi, March 21, 2003
As the American missiles rained down on Baghdad … the world entered a new and uncertain phase… the concept of pre-emption which is guiding the US administration.
… It is also being waged without the UN’s approval. True, there have been other conflicts which did not have the world body’s … But these were not regarded in the ‘clash of civilisations’ terms, as the present one, which has inflamed public opinion virtually all over the Muslim world.
… What can seem odd is that there was really no difference between the US and Britain on one side and the ‘pacifists’ on the other. All of them were agreed on the need for a ‘regime change’ in Iraq. The only difference was the belief that the weapons inspectors should be given more time. This was also the contention of the millions of protesters who took to the streets in Europe, the US and Asia.
This rupture may have become wider because of the perception that the US isn’t telling the whole truth when it says that it merely wants to remove a cruel dictator. Instead, the belief is that the US has acquired imperial ambitions and wants to reorder the world according to its own likes and dislikes. Ironically, this conviction has gained ground under a president who assumed office with the promise of being humble in the conduct of US foreign policy.
Editorial, Hindustan Times, Delhi, March 21, 2003
… It is… incumbent on both sides in the Second Gulf War to ensure that it ends quickly, with minimum casualties, and with the least possible pain to the innocents...
… the civilian to military casualty ratios in the wars of the 20th century had reversed with the passage of time…
The termination of the war at the earliest possible moment, therefore, must now assume the greatest importance. The international community needs to address the issue with urgency…
On the face of it, this may appear to be an impossible task in the midst of what is likely to be a vicious combat. But that is exactly the challenge that the international community, especially the UN Security Council, must not shy away from…what is certain is that the UN Security Council remaining comatose in the face of the challenges of this war would push the august body toward obsolescence.
The linked issue is the reconstruction of Iraq, as and when the war ends. Many political issues would need to be resolved in a country whose population and institutions have been victims of nearly a quarter century of wars, conflict and deprivation…
The US, as the sole superpower, continues to carry the responsibility for initiating measures that would put reconstruction and normalisation on the fast track...
- Editorial, Indian Express, Delhi, March 21, 2003.
… The decision of the Indian government to oppose unilateral US action... is not warranted purely by either economic concerns or the political consequences of the collapse of the post-Second World War security framework.
While the India government must have a strategy for managing the fallout of war, the constitution of a "crisis management" group should not give the impression that India is likely to find itself in a "crisis" when real action begins.
… if the US succeeds in securing a quick military solution… economic normalcy should be restored sooner rather than later, even if the political ripples of the event will be felt far and wide and for a long time to come.
There is also no need to exaggerate the scale and cost of a feared massive airlifting of Indian nationals...
As for the Indian economy, apart from the short-term nervousness of markets, an early end to conflict will help bring oil prices down, after an initial spurt. The Indian economy is capable of absorbing the immediate shocks.
… the impact of the drain on foreign exchange reserves would [be] much less on the economy if the domestic management of economic policy [is] on the right lines…
If the government pursues sensible economic policies … the dent created by war can be ironed out in the medium term. If, however, domestic economic management is faulty, external factors will only aggravate a bad situation.
[Therefore] one must not exaggerate the economic concerns about war, whatever else may shape public and diplomatic opinion in New Delhi.
- Editorial, Indian Express, Delhi, March 20, 2003.
As an unnecessary and unjust war… is about to be unleashed … it is essential that the Governments and the people who have opposed it not lose their moral authority and continue to warn against this disastrous course. The aggression … is being launched on blatantly false premises, in contravention of all international norms, for perceptible ulterior motives... It will shred the principle of the sovereignty of nations… it will so churn an already turbulent region that the rage seething therein will spill far and wide... Iraq's armed forces will probably not be able to withstand the assault for long but the invasion will almost certainly involve combat in built-up urban centres and, thereby, a high rate of civilian casualties... What is more likely to happen, once the armed power of the U.S. has smashed a regime that has thus far held an extremely fractious Iraq together, is the outbreak of ferocious strife within the country exacerbated by the ambitions of covetous neighbours.
… France, Russia, Germany and China… The leaderships of these countries have laid out, in extenso, their arguments against a war on Iraq at this juncture … they must emphasise the principles they have delineated in the process so that the ground norms of multilateralism can be re-established on firmer basis.… the global community must take the positivist view that its opposition to the war… did have the effect of delaying the conflict and therefore the more coordinated efforts that can be mounted in the future could be more effective. The four countries … have the weight … to form the core of a… counter-weight to the hyper-power.
[It] is all the more necessary at a juncture when the war against Iraq could easily assume the nature of a conflict between civilisations … the destruction of Iraq by the forces of the West would be regarded foremost as a civilisational assault once his regime is no longer on the scene. The sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in the 13th Century still remains as an epochal event in the historiography of the Islamic world... An attack on Iraq, at a time when the Islamic world believes it has gone through a very rough period, could revive the memories of past glories and a fervent reaffirmation of the ideology that made it possible.
Editorial, The Hindu, Chennai, March 20, 2003
The countdown to the war in Iraq has commenced. Like all wars, this one — even before it begins — shows signs of some major changes taking place. The most notable among these is the new fracture in the transatlantic alliance and relations…
What we may be witnessing is the emergence of a world that is less aligned in military-political terms…
On the face of it, the war might indicate the triumph of the military solution over the diplomatic one. But it would be premature to write an obituary of the UN simply because the US was not certain of getting a Security Council resolution to sanction war and decided to launch it on its own.
The UN… is not an instrument for collective security … but one for preventive diplomacy. And preventive diplomacy has its limits…
it is possible that many regimes would draw lessons — right and wrong — from the apparent contradiction between the options of war [against] …Iraq… and the near kid-glove handling of a North Korea that has virtually declared possession of nuclear weapons derived through clandestine proliferation...
Traditional arms control measures and non-proliferation regime have either lost their relevance, or are falling into disuse. Limits of denial regimes have been known for a long time.
But a new paradigm has yet to emerge. Whether this would be… self-defined, unilateralist, pre-emptive use of force, or … co-operative security remains a central challenge to effectively deal with the type of threats posed by … Iraq or …North Korea.
- Editorial, Indian Express, Delhi, March 19, 2003.
… the outbreak of war in West Asia is imminent… Justifying his decision to use force Bush has stated that Iraq… posed a threat to the national security of the U.S., that the U.S. Congress had overwhelmingly endorsed such a course of action and that pre-existing United Nations resolutions provided sufficient legal basis for the initiation of such action. None of these justifications stands up to scrutiny but the manner in which the U.S. President has been economical with the truth in respect of the relevant U.N. resolutions symbolises the weakest part of the case he sought to make… In by-passing the U.N. to threaten war against Iraq, the U.S. is on the verge of destroying the hopes of a future in which the global community will be governed by institutions and rules drawn up through multilateral agreement and not by the imprimatur of the hyper-power.
… Bush conveniently overlooked the fact that Washington's charge, that Iraq posed a clear and present danger to the U.S. or others, has not carried conviction… Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction… though it probably does have stocks of biological and chemical munitions. Neither has Washington made a persuasive case that the Iraqi regime has such ties to the global network of terror that there exists a potent threat that these munitions will be handed over to the handymen of this clandestine menace… the [US] military strategy … is based on the premise that Mr. Hussein is weak … [while] the pre-emptive action is being justified on the basis that he is a serious threat.
… With the planned military strikes bound to involve the use of explosive power of a magnitude hitherto unknown outside the non-conventional dimension, the casualty rate is likely to be horrendous even among civilians …reports from [Iraq] tell of people having embarked on an arms buying spree in preparation for the internecine strife between ethnic groups, sects and tribes which they believe will be the more likely outcome. A war that can produce such horrific results can never be justified especially at a time when an attempt to disarm Iraq in a peaceful manner had just begun to work.
Editorial, The Hindu, Chennai, March 19, 2003
… the countdown to war has been sounded
In India, we are casting our ballot in an election no one’s yet invited us to! ... The situation may be fluid in the Gulf, but India’s response, it seems, must be etched in stone… Defence Minister George Fernandes ruled out refuelling facilities…
in Parliament, MPs… sought to spur Prime Minister Vajpayee not only to condemn a possible invasion of Iraq, but also to distance itself from post-war reconstruction… government and opposition leaders alike sprinkle rhetoric with an array of demands: a call for India to take the lead in non-alignment, an insistence that the UN stamp alone shall determine the legitimacy of any military action.
This rush to pass judgement betrays the anxiety of a nation worried that its concerns will be passed over. They do not behove the political leadership of a country convinced of its prominent role in the emerging world order, a country confident that its considered view will be heeded by the rich and powerful. To return to Bush’s poker analogy, there is much merit in cannily, quietly assessing the hand before going for the pot.
- Editorial, Indian Express, Delhi, March 18, 2003.
The impending war… raises the issue of the safety and security of the 3.8 million Indian population in the… the Persian Gulf…
But it is important to make an objective assessment of the risks involve...
[The] would be fought inside Iraqi territory. [It] … has virtually no missile capability to hit anything outside its borders.
Its air force has been decimated... It might be able to get some aircraft airborne, but they would be quickly shot down by the overwhelming US air power.
… locals or Indian expatriates are likely to be affected … by acts of terrorism. These may well be initiated by sources other than Iraqi, possibly by the same organisation(s) that have prosecuted a terror war against India for two decades, with the same goals.
People… would have to be more vigilant. But the risks are no more than at home in India.
Elementary prudence demands that, in spite of the absence of any direct threat to the security and safety of Indians in Gulf region, we are prepared for even the unpredictable contingencies.
It is in this context that prior arrangements for such eventualities must be seen... We evacuated 117,000 people by air, besides the tens of thousands by sea in 1990-91. At that time, Kuwait and Iraq were the theatre of war… Today we have less than 100 Indians in Iraq, and while 300,000 people are in Kuwait, they are not under any risk of the war this time.
- Editorial, Indian Express, Delhi, March 15, 2003.
The pusillanimity displayed by New Delhi in its refusal to stake out a position against a war on Iraq is inexcusable. Atal Behari Vajpayee… advocated that India follow "a middle path... Such an approach to global affairs… not only represents a total abandonment of principle but also indicates a lack of the sense of purpose and will that add weight to a country's status within the international community. … New Delhi appears to imply that it does discern some justification for a U.S.-led military strike against Iraq. What is at the forefront of global events … is the seemingly unstoppable slide towards hostilities… With a peaceful solution having become viable, it is all the more necessary that a stand be taken against a war that is ostensibly meant to achieve the same purpose… the campaign against war has picked up such momentum as to cause an upheaval in many parts of the world... With a multitude of countries taking a stand, Mr. Vajpayee ought to have acceded to the Opposition's demand and taken a position...
The U.S. is desperately trying to convince the rest of the global community that the removal from power of Iraq's President, Saddam Hussein, is necessary not only because he threatens the world outside his country but also because he represses his own people. This policy… directly contravenes a principle of international politics which India has always treated as a matter of faith — that of non-intervention in the internal affairs of any country. [If] The change of a country's regime … comes to be accepted in principle it could spin off other doctrines that advocate external intervention at different levels, for different reasons and on different scales. Confronted as it is by multiple challenges in trying to integrate a multitude of disparate groups into the national mainstream, and displaying many lacunae on the score of good governance as it does, India has to be extremely wary of doctrines that promote external intervention in domestic affairs. The principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of any country has to be given sustenance, and should not be allowed to erode, at a juncture when the sovereign space of many countries is already being invaded by the forces of economic globalisation.
With so many aspects of India's national interest likely to be challenged by these developments, and with its world view likely to be buffeted by the new doctrines, Mr. Vajpayee and his colleagues should have invited a wide-ranging and in-depth discussion on the issues…
Editorial, The Hindu, Chennai, March 12, 2003
The UN inspectors’ report… lends support to the position adopted by France, Germany, Russia and China. The International Atomic Energy Agency has categorically reaffirmed that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme and that the aluminium tubes it imported are not meant for enrichment of uranium to make nuclear bombs… Hans Blix has also clearly told the Security Council that Iraq has been co-operating and given some months… Iraq would be rid of any doubt about chemical and biological weapons … there is little evidence to justify recourse to war.
On the one hand, the position of France, Germany, and Russia, inevitably, has stiffened by these conclusions. The US position, on the other hand, has also hardened... Disarmament continues to be the mantra, but "regime change" for total disarmament remains the central US goal…
What has complicated matters is the nature of the evolving relations between the great powers. The increasing polarisation among them…seeking the UN as the source of legitimacy for dealing the problem, and the world’s solitary super power and the UK on the other, who had decided for a variety of reasons to place its faith in unilateralism, needs careful understanding. Of greater concern is the question of the consequences for the innocent Iraqi.
For us in India, the challenge is that the principles that we have traditionally upheld have come into some tension with our key interests. It is necessary to reassert these principles, like the importance of peaceful resolution of the Iraqi situation, and the critical need for UN legitimacy of any action. But we also must weigh the implications… but of the nature of great power relations that would continue to affect us in the coming years.
- Editorial, Indian Express, Delhi, March 10, 2003.