Friday 11 July 2003
The tone has changed. It is no longer the triumphant and triumphalist tone of the Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces strapped into an air force fighter pilot outfit, landing in a combat jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier of the Pacific Fleet to celebrate the end of combat in Iraq. Thursday July 10 President George W. Bush soberly acknowledged: "We have a security problem in Iraq, without any doubt." Since the end of the war three months ago not a day has gone by that American forces have not been the object of several daily attacks: more than 70 soldiers have been killed, thirty or so of them in ambushes. According to a CBS poll the same Thursday, less than half of Americans believe the situation in Iraq is under control...
Donald Rumsfeld's tone has also changed. Testifying in the beginning of the week before a Senate commission, the Secretary of Defense didn't display his customary arrogance. He admitted that the post war was proving to be twice as expensive as expected- 3.9 billion dollars per month-, that American troops deployed in Iraq- 146 000 soldiers - could not be repatriated as quickly as foreseen, finally that the United States was soliciting 20,000 more troops for October from the countries which had agreed to help on the ground.
The post war does not in any way resemble what was promised in certain neo-conservative circles: an enthusiastic communion between the Iraqis and their liberators; a path of roses towards democracy and a market economy on the banks of the Euphrates. The post war is a test- and a test for which the United States was poorly prepared. Three months after the end of combat, core services - such as water, electricity, sewage - are still not functional again in Iraq. Security is not assured there.
Iraqi opinion, massively relieved by the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, could quickly turn against the Americans. American opinion begins to question itself. In the background there is the suspicion, which every day seems to have a firmer basis, about the manipulations Washington and London engaged in to present Iraq as an "imminent danger" given an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction of which no trace has yet been found.
And doubt begins to sharpen about the United States' post- September 11 2001 diplomatic approach, composed of unilateral decisions, defiance with regard to the UN, and relative indifference in the approach to its allies. The Senate calls on Mr. Bush to urgently solicit the UN and NATO's help in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld has just conceded that he wouldn't refuse a hand from the Germans and the French (unlikely). Some ask: wouldn't the post war have been easier to manage politically if the coalition forces had clearly been under the UN standard? In the unsafe and poorly lit suburbs of Baghdad, the need for multilateralism is being reborn.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.