Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush Request for U.N. Assistance in Iraq Called a "Humiliating Climb-Down"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush Request for U.N. Assistance in Iraq Called a "Humiliating Climb-Down"

Article excerpt

President George W. Bush called upon the United Nations Sept. 10 to authorize a multinational force in Iraq. The U.S. request for help followed the bombings of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and of a mosque in the Shi'i holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq, in which over a hundred people perished. It also came as Iraqis grew increasingly frustrated at the coalition's lack of progress on reconstruction and as American soldiers serving in Iraq were being killed almost daily.

"A humiliating diplomatic climb-down," is how Britain's Guardian newspaper on Sept. 4 described Mr. Bush's volte-face. The London Times on the same day declared it "an about- turn."

Germany and France continued to refuse to participate in any Iraqi mission, Germany's Der Tagesspiegel pointed out Sept 8. "It would progress if at least the European members of the Security Council were to speak with one voice," the newspaper said, noting that this is unlikely because both countries say the latest U.N. resolution did not go far enough in devolving power to the Iraqi people. The paper suggested implementation of what it called the "Afghan model," with the U.S. and Britain in charge of fighting Saddam Hussain's supporters, while the U.N. and NATO would be used for peacekeeping tasks. "[German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder and [French President Jacques] Chirac would then be able to make concessions over Iraq without suffering too much political damage domestically," the newspaper said.

But, wrote Austria's Der Standard on Sept. 5, the countries opposed to the war "are unlikely to accept the usual vague allusions to a 'vital U.N. role' while at the same time granting the U.S. a dominant one."

In any case, Bush is in a weak position, pointed out Norway's Aftenposten of Sept. 8, as he no longer can tell the world he has saved it from Saddam Hussain's weapons of mass destruction.

As for Spain, which already has troops in Iraq, the Madrid government "cannot be bothered" to discuss the post-war U.S. role "more than is strictly necessary," El Mundo wrote Sept. 5.

World "More Unstable" since Sept. 11, says Spain's El Mundo

The second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States saw a wave of reflection in the European press on America's current place in the world. "The number of victims, the methods used and the symbols targeted, unleashed a wave of solidarity with America for which there is no historical precedent," wrote France's Le Monde on the anniversary of the attacks. Two years later, however, "the United States' standing is at an all-time low" and "compassion has given way to the fear that ill-thought action will only worsen the problems," the newspaper continued. "The U.S.," the paper argued, "must listen to its allies, be mindful of the different situations in which it intervenes, and respect the international rules which America itself helped to draw up."

Madrid's El Mundo wrote the same day that, immediately after the attacks, Bush "held in his hands...a blank check given to him by millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic." But two years on, it said, the international situation "is more unstable with every passing day," because of what the paper described as Bush's decision "to cast the world into the abyss of the new order, under the pretext of the war on terrorism."

Since the attacks, Germans have become more critical of the U.S., Der Tagesspiegel said Sept. 11. Chancellor Schroeder's anti- war stance on Iraq is seen as having played a part in this shift. While two years ago the Germans merely had reservations about Bush, now, as the paper put it, most of them "despise" him. "Germany has become more European, more anti-American, more Gaullist," since the attacks, the newspaper concluded.

Russia's Moskovskiy Komsomolets of Sept. 11 noted "a tendency to turn Sept. 11 into an indulgence, a reason, a propaganda symbol, an advertising tag, a source of permission for everything. …

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