Joy to the world [Archives:2004/778/Opinion]

October 4 2004

By Jane Novak*
With great glee, Kofi Annan's personal assessment that the Iraq War was illegal was received as vindication by many around the world who opposed the war. It was received with jubilation by those who would support nearly anyone who could humiliate the hated US. As a practical matter, it surely empowered the ideology of the bombers, the beheaders and the kidnappers in Iraq.
Cutting open old wounds, Annan said: “From our point of view and from the Charter point of view, it was illegal.” He was referring to the US decision nearly two years ago to enforce the numerous UN resolutions against Iraq. Not surprisingly, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth took an opposing view, saying that it would have “undercut the rule of law” to have allowed Saddam to continue to defy UN resolutions. The British attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, had found Britain was acted within the law citing three U.N. resolutions that justified the use of force against Saddam Hussein's regime. Australian and US legal advisors had reached the same conclusion, as had the advisors and parliaments of 32 other nations in the early part of 2003.
Within a day of Annan's pronouncement, howls of “war monger” and “war criminal” were directed at President Bush, and calls to support the “courageous Iraqi resistance” surfaced in various media. The “courageous Iraqi resistance” must be the same Iraqi patriots who last week executed nearly 100 people, mostly civilians, in bombing Iraqi security personnel. They – now kidnapping journalists and professors – were very “courageous”, according to this logic, in perpetuating the al-Shurra massacre. Rooting against those working to bring about an Iraqi democracy, is the goal of international hostility toward a democratic Iraq the formation of a new Taliban or a new Ba'athist regime? Or does it matter as long as America fails?
Those who feared to lead, those too proud to follow, those who ran away, and those whose main agenda is a multipolar world now have a champion now that Kofi Annan expressed his bias. And all their efforts can be directed in unison in destroying Iraq to prove the point: the Americans were wrong. No grownups here concerned for the Iraqis themselves, just vindictive children, quick to label the Iraqis as the new Palestinians, although the Iraqis themselves have grasped the opportunity for democracy.
Burdened by the mantle of terrorist appeaser, Spain jumped at the chance to pretend their accommodating response to 3/11 was in fact logical: “We're not surprised by Annan's comments. That's what Spain said and that's why we pulled out the troops,” government spokesman Javier Valenzuela said. No mention was made of how Spain's withdrawal emboldened the enemies of the Iraqi people and indeed the world at large.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier opined: “You well know that what explains our country's disagreement with the way the war was carried out was that it clearly did not at that time abide by international law and there was not a clear request from the United States to start that action,” he said at a news conference. The French spokesman gave no indication that France's huge financial stake in the continuance of Saddam's regime may have been a factor in their strong support for the dictator. Of course, the vouchers uncovered in the Oil for Food Scandal showing millions of barrels of oil allocated to French nationals have been hotly denied as false.
Having undermined the legitimacy of heroic Iraqis, Annan went further in saying that elections should not be held on schedule because of the security situation, and little help will be forthcoming from the UN, as if any serious effort had been undertaken so far. Throwing one obstacle after another at the Iraqis, who already face a substantial mess from American mistakes, Annan has little confidence that the alliance of Iraq with the US, the Brits, the Australians, and the Poles will produced a positive outcome. But it wouldn't surprise the Iraqis, a determined people if there ever was one.
The Iraqis don't share the pessimism of Annan, the anti-Americans and the terrorists regarding their country. A recent poll shows that 58% of Iraqis believe that democracy in Iraq is likely to succeed, Prime Minister Allawi has a 66% approval rating, and 87% of Iraqis plan to vote in the January elections, with 75% believing the outcome of the elections would reflect the will of the Iraqi people. Currently unnoticed, municipal elections are being held throughout southern Iraq. Iraqis are registering and voting for their representatives in local municipalities.
Dr. Burhum Ahmad Salih, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, denounced the Iraqi resistance: “We held from the beginning that these terrorists, who are not necessarily in accord among themselves as to their goals, are a danger both to Iraq and to humanity, and all should adopt a united moral stance against them.” President Bush affirmed on Saturday that the United States and other nations are committed “standing with the liberated peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan as they move toward democracy.” The President made no mention of those on the sidelines throwing rocks, like Kofi Annan.
Annan, more comfortable with those who flaunt the UN than with those who enforce its resolutions, has taken a step into partisan politics with his statement that the Iraq War was “illegal”. And illegal is such a righteous word, except when it comes from the mouth of a man incompetent in his post during more than one genocide as the international advocate of civilian interests. Illegal is such a morally indignant word for the international community to be shouting over the cries of nearly two million people starving in the deserts of the Sudan.
Unlike the 17 resolutions on Iraq, perhaps this week's resolution on Sudan will have a meaning that translates into food for starving children and security for young girls. More likely it will be just empty words of no consequence as this slow motion Rwanda unfolds. If only this genocide could be blamed on the US instead of the Janjaweed, then perhaps international will could be finally mustered to rescue a dying population. Australian Prime Minister John Howard identified the problem aptly when he called the United Nations a “paralyzed” body. The description is apt in both Iraq and in the Sudan.

* Jane Novak is a New Jersey based writer, and a frequent columnist in the US and the Middle East. She can be reached on [email protected].