The Stranded Giant
By Jacques Julliard
Le Nouvel Observateur
Tuesday 28 October 2003
Surprising Dozy-Doe! Up until the end of the war in Iraq (May 1, according to George Bush), United States diplomacy was worthless, while its army demonstrated its effectiveness. Since then, the reverse obtains: the army piles up failures, while diplomacy scores points: a revenge of the State Department on the Pentagon, of Colin Powell on Donald Rumsfeld, and also of George Bush on Jacques Chirac.
On the ground, the situation worsens daily. If water and electricity supply improve a little bit, insecurity grows. The number of attacks presently oscillates between 25 and 35 a day: it s a real guerilla war. In the course of the two days, October 27 and 28 alone, seven major attacks took place in Baghdad, targeting Americans, Iraqi police stations, but also the Red Cross: in total, 43 dead and more than 300 wounded. Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon number 2, but the Number 1 hawk, barely missed becoming the most illustrious victim of his war. It is staggering all the same that a tyrant as odious as Saddam remains undetectable, and that his partisans, whose artisanal action is now relayed by the all Middle East s finest Jihadists, continue to operate like fish in the water between the Tigris and the Euphrates, while the most powerful army in the world has become a target.
This army s inaptitude for all tasks related to maintaining order is flagrant. The Conservatives, always ready to find the inspiration for their neo-imperialism in the examples of antiquity, should persuade themselves that a Roman style Imperium demands more than military superiority: there needs to be understanding of situations, quality intelligence about and a minimum of sympathy for populations: all elements that they hugely lack. Bush s ridiculous triumphalism is contradicted by the doubts expressed by Rumsfeld himself. So here is America, stranded in the desert sands of Iraq after having been stuck in the mud of Vietnamese rice paddies: as soon as public opinion revives in a country anesthetized by September 11 and media brainwashing, domestic political consequences will be felt.
During this period, American diplomacy has carried off two successes which, although not stunning, interrupt the prior setbacks. On October 16, the U.S. got the U.N. Security Council to vote on Resolution 1511, which legitimizes the occupation of Iraq and the consignment of international reinforcements. France had exhausted its capacity for resistance with the battle of last winter and had in any case expected to let the American resolution pass, but Russia s defection, which broke the ranks of the rejection front and favored direct negotiation with Washington, accelerated France s adhesion. A Paris-Berlin-Moscow front is not about to happen any time soon. Nevertheless, the unanimity obtained was merely lip-service; France, Germany, Russia, and Pakistan will take good care not to send their soldiers to a war that is not theirs.
One could say as much for the Charity Gala for Iraqi reconstruction that took place in Madrid at the end of last week: 33 billion dollars were promised, of which 20 from the United States and about 8 from the World Bank and the IMF: i.e. at the moment of the offering, the faithful parishioners satisfied themselves by giving their pants buttons. In effect, no one cares to enrich the Halliburton company (former CEO: Dick Cheney) which continues to monopolize contracts. Tangled up in its war, paralyzed in its ulterior plans, impotent in Israel and Palestine, the Bush administration has lost none of its cynicism nor its arrogance.
George Bush reveals himself daily as a stubborn man, dead to the lessons of experience. At this rate, he won t hesitate to squander all the credit and capital of sympathy his predecessors garnered for the United States. That s why the necessity for an autonomous European policy is supported by the facts and will progressively come to be recognized by hearts and minds. By stating his adhesion to a structure of European Military Command outside NATO, alongside Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair seems to have learned a lesson from the Iraqi misadventure: unconditional support for the United States doesn t pay. The question of the relations between Europe and the United States within the Atlantic Alliance will no doubt dominate the next decade; in the immediate future and the year to come, the American voter has the final word.
Jacques Julliard is the Nouvel Observateur s Editorial Director
Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher
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