FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Warning on Iraq from France

Reading the papers from both sides of the Atlantic, I sometimes wonder whether the impending war is not between France and the United States. I would like to strongly reaffirm what, in the heart of the French people, is a longstanding reality: the friendship between France and America began in the early days of your fight for independence and has endured throughout the centuries.

America rescued my country twice in the last century–something we will never forget. Today we stand side by side in many parts of the world, including Afghanistan. France is the largest contributor of troops to NATO operations. Our friendship is a treasure, and it must be maintained, protected, enhanced.

However, the polls are clear: 78 percent of French people oppose a military intervention in Iraq. Polls are similar in most other countries, including in Eastern Europe. European governments may be divided over the use of force in Iraq, but public opinion is united.

There are, in my view, three reasons the mood is so cautious. The first relates to our assessment of what is far and away the biggest threat to world peace and stability: Al Qaeda.

French intelligence is clear that not since the Algerian war 40 years ago has my country been under such an immediate threat. Last May, 11 French citizens were killed in a suicide bombing in Karachi, Pakistan. In the fall a French tanker was attacked by Al Qaeda off Yemen. And in December, near Paris, we arrested several suspects who were suspected of close links to Al Qaeda and of planning terrorist attacks in France.

Terrorist suspects have also been arrested elsewhere in Europe–in Britain, Spain and Italy–belonging to groups connected with networks active in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Algeria and Bosnia. Yet we haven’t seen any evidence of a direct link between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda.

A second reason for the reluctance of the French people is that Iraq is not viewed as an immediate threat. Thanks to the determination of President Bush and the international community–and to the inspections that destroyed more armaments between 1991 and 1998 than did the Persian Gulf war itself, and which have now been reinforced with stronger means and bigger teams–Saddam Hussein is in a box. And the box has been closed with the inspectors in it.

Europeans consider North Korea a greater threat. Imagine what a sense of security we all would feel if, as in Iraq, 100 inspectors were proceeding with unimpeded inspections throughout North Korea, including the president’s palaces.

A third reason for the cautious mood relates to the consequences of a war in Iraq. We see Iraq as a very complex country, with many different ethnic groups, a tradition of violence and no experience of democracy. You can’t create democracy with bombs–in Iraq, it would require time, a strong presence and a strong committment.

We also worry about the region–considering that no peace process is at work for the moment in the Middle East, that none of the great powers seem able to foster one, and that a war in Iraq could result in more frustration and bitterness in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

People in France and more broadly in Europe fear that a military intervention could fuel extremism and encourage Qaeda recruitment. A war could weaken the indispensable international coalition against terrorism and worsen the threat of Islamic terrorism.

The inspections should be pursued and strengthened, and Saddam Hussein must be made to cooperate actively. War must remain the very last option.

Jean-David Levitte is French ambassador to the United States.

 

More articles by:

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail