Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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5.4 International critics of US power

Many influential politicians outside the US also thought the invasion of Iraq unwise and a misuse of US military power. Major voices from this position are presented here: Jacques Chirac (the President of France), Joschka Fischer (German Minister for Foreign Affairs) and Robin Cook (British Foreign Secretary 1997–2001 and Leader of the House of Commons until his resignation in March 2003). They all point to a number of weaknesses in the strategy developed by the US.

President Chirac expressed the view that:

... True to the spirit of the United Nations Charter, which is our common law, France considers that recourse to force is the last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.

France’s position is shared by the great majority of the international community. The most recent debates have clearly shown that the Security Council was not prepared, under present circumstances, to approve a precipitate march to war.

The United States has just issued an ultimatum to Iraq. Whether, I repeat, it’s a matter of the necessary disarmament of Iraq or of the desirable change of regime in that country, there is no justification for a unilateral decision to resort to war.

Regardless of the forthcoming developments, this ultimatum is calling into question our idea of international relations. It affects the future of a people, the future of a region, world stability.

(Chirac, 2003)

Joschka Fischer’s views ran on similar lines.

The inspectors have thus been able to score some successes. Already their presence on the ground has substantially diminished the danger emanating from Iraq. The need now is to gain experience with the new measures in place and evaluate them in the light of our common goal of ensuring Iraq’s complete disarmament. Why should we now turn away from this path? Why should we now halt the inspections? On the contrary, the inspectors must be given the time they need to successfully complete their mission.

... All possible options for resolving the Iraq crisis by peaceful means must be thoroughly explored. Whatever decisions need to be made must be taken by the Security Council alone. It remains the only body internationally authorized to do so.

Military action against Iraq would – in addition to the terrible humanitarian consequences – above all endanger the stability of a tense and troubled region. The consequences for the Near and Middle East could be catastrophic.

There should be no automatism leading us to the use of military force. All possible alternatives need to be exhaustively explored. ... Diplomacy has not yet reached the end of the road.

(Fischer, 2003)

Robin Cook resigned as Leader of the House of Commons for similar reasons.

... Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition. The US can afford to go it alone, but Britain is not a superpower. Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules. Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate. Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired.

(Cook, 2004)

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