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The dark times

By Jackson Murphy
web posted February 17, 2003

Last Friday was the absolute low point on the diplomacy front for the United States. Scarcely a week had passed since Colin Powell's riveting speech at the United Nations explaining the deception and lies of the Iraqi regime. What a Valentines Day it was.

Hans Blix speaking to the UN's Security Council on February 14
Hans Blix speaking to the UN's Security Council on February 14

Here is the play-by-play of last Friday: U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix appeared before the Security Council and said that Iraq is failing to comply, but he concluded, they should get an ‘A' for effort. In his report Blix said that Iraq possesses banned missiles, the rockets to fire them, the materials to construct even more, and is failing to account for large amounts of anthrax and other nefarious chemicals. Blix also appeared to move from a position of "objectivity" by challenging Powell and the Bush administration on the content of satellite photos.

The French Foreign Minister de Villepin wants more inspections since they are already showing "real progress." The French position is simple: "The use of force would be so fraught with risk for people, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisioned as a last resort." The cheap seats in the Security Council gave a welcoming applause-against protocol I might add. Colin Powell addressed the council again: "More inspections - I am sorry - are not the answer." No clapping. Russia wants more time too. More clapping. Spain is with the US: Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said," In a word, all the questions remain." Again, no clapping.

Then Saddam Hussein banned all weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Well I guess that it is settled isn't it.

The United Nations has made its intentions known. They do not want any war to disarm Iraq and the inspections and new resolutions were completely unserious. Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate wondered why Powell didn't respond to France this way: "Why did you sign Resolution 1441 in the first place if you never had any intention of carrying out its enforcement clause?"

Indeed, but saying that the United Nations has made its intentions known overstates the matter. It is really France and Germany that have made their intentions known. In fact it would seem that France's and Germany's treachery knows no bounds. The Associated Press reports: "In an unexpected move Thursday, 13 nations seeking to join the EU were excluded from a summit in Brussels on Monday to seek a common position on Iraq. The move came from Germany and France because the candidates mostly back the United States on Iraq, according to British diplomatic sources."

The end game is clear. France and Germany aren't really concerned with Iraq. (Obvious man says so anyway) They are concerned with America and its unchallenged power.

Summing up the events of Friday Andrew Sullivan wrote that it reminded him, "all too vividly of the 1930s - from the Pope warmly shaking the hands of an anti-Semitic dictatorial regime to the complete abdication of responsibility at the Security Council. It is a dark time; and it just got a little darker."

Charles Krauthammer imagines that this is part of larger struggle: "The question before us is very large and very simple: Can -- and will -- the civilized part of humanity disarm the barbarians who would use the ultimate knowledge for the ultimate destruction? Within months, we will have a good idea whether the answer is yes or no."

It appears that it depends on what you mean by the word ‘civilized'. On one hand there stands a group of nations that are deeply embedded to the United Nations as an idea, but refuse to enforce any of its resolutions. This civilization, let's call them Pre 9/11 World, has plenty of time for platitudes about international security but no time, or no will, to take action. France's Villepin has said that his nation is committed to building "a better world." Just so long as that doesn't mean enforcing previously agreed resolutions.

On the other hand there is a group of nations that refuses to retreat from this increasingly dark world. Led by the United States and Britain, this group of nations, let's call them Post 9/11 World, has proven that it is a growing cohesive and dynamic civilization. It is a civilization growing impatient by the grandstanding of nations in Pre 9/11 World who are impressed only by the sound of their own voices.

The two civilizations are competing to shape the world. These are dark times because part of the world is completely unserious in its reactions to world events. The Post 9/11 World might have to make a move without the rest of the world, without the increasingly ancient and inadequate United Nations, and forge new alliances leaving old ones in the dust heap of history.

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He is the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7. You can contact him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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