Irak: Avec Assad, on voit bien ce qui arrive quand on laisse un dictateur en place (Blair: The problems don’t go away)

15 juin, 2014
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L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. NYT (2005)
More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression (sanction) imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children.  (…) The latest and the greatest of these aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (ALLAH’S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places -the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka’ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims- by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies.   (…) there is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land. Osama Bin Laden (1996)
Le peuple comprend maintenant les discours des oulémas dans les mosquées, selon lesquels notre pays est devenu une colonie de l’empire américain. Il agit avec détermination pour chasser les Américains d’Arabie saoudite. [...] La solution à cette crise est le retrait des troupes américaines. Leur présence militaire est une insulte au peuple saoudien. Ben Laden
Tuer les Américains et leurs alliés, qu’ils soient civils ou militaires, est un devoir qui s’impose à tout musulman qui le pourra, dans tout pays où il se trouvera. Ben Laden (février 1998)
27 août 1992 : les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne et la France mettent en place une autre zone d’exclusion aérienne, au sud du 32eme parallèle, avec l’objectif d’observer les violations de droits de l’homme à l’encontre de la population chiite.
3 septembre 1996 : en représailles à un déploiement de troupes irakiennes dans la zone nord, les Etats-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne ripostent militairement dans le sud et étendent la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud, qui passe du 32eme au 33eme parallèle. La France refuse cette extension, mais continue à effectuer des missions de surveillance aérienne au sud du 32ème parallèle..
27 décembre 1996 : Jacques Chirac décide de retirer la France du contrôle de la zone d’exclusion aérienne nord. Il justifie cette décision par le fait que le dispositif a changé de nature avec les bombardements de septembre, et que le volet humanitaire initialement prévu n’y est plus inclus. La France proteste par ailleurs contre la décision unilatérale des Etats-Unis et de la Turquie (avec l’acceptation de la Grande-Bretagne) d’augmenter la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud.
Michel Wéry
Les Etats-Unis n’ont pas envahi l’Irak mais sont intervenus dans un conflit déjà en cours.  Kiron Skinner (conseillère à la sécurité du président Bush)
Since a wounded Saddam could not be left unattended and an oil-rich Saudi Arabia could not be left unprotected, U.S. troops took up long-term residence in the Saudi kingdom, a fateful decision that started the clock ticking toward 9/11. As bin Laden himself explained in his oft-quoted 1996 fatwa, his central aim was “to expel the occupying enemy from the country of the two Holy places.”… Put another way, bin Laden’s casus belli was an unintended and unforeseen byproduct of what Saddam Hussein had done in 1990. The presence of U.S. troops in the land of Mecca and Medina had galvanized al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which triggered America’s global war on terror, which inevitably led back to Iraq, which is where America finds itself today. In a sense, occupation was inevitable after Desert Storm; perhaps the United States ended up occupying the wrong country. … If the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia sparked bin Laden’s global guerrilla war, America’s low threshold for casualties would serve as the fuel to keep it raging. … From bin Laden’s vantage point, America’s retreats from Beirut in the 1980s, Mogadishu in the 1990s and Yemen in 2000 were evidence of weakness. “When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you,” he recalled. “The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the heart of every Muslim and a remedy to the chests of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut, Aden and Mogadishu.” … Hence, quitting Iraq could have dramatic and disastrous consequences – something like the fall of Saigon, Desert One, and the Beirut and Mogadishu pullouts all rolled into one giant propaganda victory for the enemy. Not only would it leave a nascent democracy unprotected from bin Laden’s henchmen, it would serve to confirm their perception that America is a paper tiger lacking the will to fight or to stand with those who are willing to fight. Who would count on America the next time? For that matter, on whom would America be able to count as the wars of 9/11 continue? … Finally, retreat also would re-energize the enemy and pave the way toward his ultimate goal. Imagine Iraq spawning a Balkan-style ethno-religious war while serving as a Taliban-style springboard for terror. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s top terrorist in Iraq, already has said, “We fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the land of the two Holy Places, and after there the West.” Alan W. Dowd
De même que les progressistes européens et américains doutaient des menaces de Hitler et de Staline, les Occidentaux éclairés sont aujourd’hui en danger de manquer l’urgence des idéologies violentes issues du monde musulman. Les socialistes français des années 30 (…) ont voulu éviter un retour de la première guerre mondiale; ils ont refusé de croire que les millions de personnes en Allemagne avaient perdu la tête et avaient soutenu le mouvement nazi. Ils n’ont pas voulu croire qu’un mouvement pathologique de masse avait pris le pouvoir en Allemagne, ils ont voulu rester ouverts à ce que les Allemands disaient et aux revendiquations allemandes de la première guerre mondiale. Et les socialistes français, dans leur effort pour être ouverts et chaleureux afin d’éviter à tout prix le retour d’une guerre comme la première guerre mondiale, ont fait tout leur possible pour essayer de trouver ce qui était raisonnable et plausible dans les arguments d’Hitler. Ils ont vraiment fini par croire que le plus grand danger pour la paix du monde n’était pas posé par Hitler mais par les faucons de leur propre société, en France. Ces gesn-là étaient les socialistes pacifistes de la France, c’était des gens biens. Pourtant, de fil en aiguille, ils se sont opposés à l’armée française contre Hitler, et bon nombre d’entre eux ont fini par soutenir le régime de Vichy et elles ont fini comme fascistes! Ils ont même dérapé vers l’anti-sémitisme pur, et personne ne peut douter qu’une partie de cela s’est reproduit récemment dans le mouvement pacifiste aux Etats-Unis et surtout en Europe. Un des scandales est que nous avons eu des millions de personnes dans la rue protestant contre la guerre en Irak, mais pas pour réclamer la liberté en Irak. Personne n’a marché dans les rues au nom des libertés kurdes. Les intérêts des dissidents libéraux de l’Irak et les démocrates kurdes sont en fait également nos intérêts. Plus ces personnes prospèrent, plus grande sera notre sécurité. C’est un moment où ce qui devrait être nos idéaux — les idéaux de la démocratie libérale et de la solidarité sociale — sont également objectivement notre intérêt. Bush n’a pas réussi à l’expliquer clairement, et une grande partie de la gauche ne l’a même pas perçu. Paul Berman
Ce n’est pas parce qu’une équipe de juniors porte le maillot des Lakers que cela en fait des Kobe Bryant. Je pense qu’il y a une différence entre les moyens et la portée d’un Ben Laden, d’un réseau qui planifie activement des attaques terroristes de grande envergure contre notre territoire, et ceux de jihadistes impliqués dans des luttes de pouvoir locales, souvent de nature ethnique. Barack Obama (janvier 2014)
Who Lost Iraq? You know who. (…) The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances. The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. (…) The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem, and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise. Charles Krauthammer
The prospect of Iraq’s disintegration is already being spun by the Administration and its media friends as the fault of George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki. So it’s worth understanding how we got here. Iraq was largely at peace when Mr. Obama came to office in 2009. Reporters who had known Baghdad during the worst days of the insurgency in 2006 marveled at how peaceful the city had become thanks to the U.S. military surge and counterinsurgency. In 2012 Anthony Blinken, then Mr. Biden’s top security adviser, boasted that, "What’s beyond debate" is that "Iraq today is less violent, more democratic, and more prosperous. And the United States is more deeply engaged there than at any time in recent history." Mr. Obama employed the same breezy confidence in a speech last year at the National Defense University, saying that "the core of al Qaeda" was on a "path to defeat," and that the "future of terrorism" came from "less capable" terrorist groups that mainly threatened "diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad." Mr. Obama concluded his remarks by calling on Congress to repeal its 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al Qaeda. If the war on terror was over, ISIS didn’t get the message. The group, known as Tawhid al-Jihad when it was led a decade ago by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was all but defeated by 2009 but revived as U.S. troops withdrew and especially after the uprising in Syria spiraled into chaos. It now controls territory from the outskirts of Aleppo in northwestern Syria to Fallujah in central Iraq. The possibility that a long civil war in Syria would become an incubator for terrorism and destabilize the region was predictable, and we predicted it. "Now the jihadists have descended by the thousands on Syria," we noted last May. "They are also moving men and weapons to and from Iraq, which is increasingly sinking back into Sunni-Shiite civil war. . . . If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki feels threatened by al Qaeda and a Sunni rebellion, he will increasingly look to Iran to help him stay in power." We don’t quote ourselves to boast of prescience but to wonder why the Administration did nothing to avert the clearly looming disaster. Contrary to what Mr. Blinken claimed in 2012, the "diplomatic surge" the Administration promised for Iraq never arrived, nor did U.S. weapons. "The Americans have really deeply disappointed us by not supplying the Iraqi army with the weapons and support it needs to fight terrorism," the Journal quoted one Iraqi general based in Kirkuk. That might strike some readers as rich coming from the commander of a collapsing army, but it’s a reminder of the price Iraqis and Americans are now paying for Mr. Obama’s failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad that would have maintained a meaningful U.S. military presence. A squadron of Apache attack helicopters, Predator drones and A-10 attack planes based in Iraq might be able to turn back ISIS’s march on Baghdad. WSJ
The president is in fact implementing the policy he promised. It was retrenchment by one word, retreat by another.[Obama’s policy is also what the American public showed in polls that it wants right now] ”It wants it, at least until it gets queasy by looking at the pictures they’ve been seeing tonight. George Will
 Affirmer, au bout de onze ans, que ce à quoi on assiste actuellement est le résultat de ce qui s’est produit à l’époque est aussi simpliste qu’insultant. Dans ce qui s’assimile à une perspective néocolonialiste postmoderne, ceci revient à suggérer que les Irakiens ne sont toujours pas en mesure d’assumer la responsabilité de leur propre pays. Abstraction faite de toutes les autres conséquences, l’invasion de 2003 n’en a pas moins donné aux Irakiens une possibilité d’autodétermination démocratique qu’ils n’auraient jamais eue sous Saddam Hussein. C’est cette démocratie imparfaite qui est menacée ; il faut à présent la conserver et l’améliorer. The Observer
Mosul’s fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn’t a bunch of bug-eyed "Mad Max" guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army. The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons. An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, "al-Naba," published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization’s annual report for 2013. It even includes "metrics," detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria. One might ask: Didn’t U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 "Threat Assessment" by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: "AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah." AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment "since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011." But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won’t listen. In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan. Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s memoir, "Duty." It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. "As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his," Mr. Gates wrote. "For him, it’s all about getting out." Daniel Henninger
Avec Assad, on voit justement ce qui arrive quand on laisse un dictateur en place. Les problèmes ne disparaissent pas tout seuls. Tony Blair
L’un des arguments des adversaires de l’intervention de 2003 est de dire que, puisque Saddam Hussein ne possédait aucune arme de destruction massive, l’invasion de l’Irak était injustifiée. D’après les rapports des inspecteurs internationaux, nous savons que, même si Saddam s’était débarrassé de ses armes chimiques, il avait conservé l’expertise et les capacités d’en produire. En 2011, si nous avions laissé Saddam au pouvoir, l’Irak aurait été lui aussi emporté par la vague des révolutions arabes. En tant que sunnite, Saddam aurait tout fait pour préserver son régime face à la révolte de la majorité chiite du pays. Pendant ce temps, de l’autre côté de la frontière, en Syrie, une minorité bénéficiant de l’appui des chiites s’accrocherait au pouvoir et tenterait de résister à la révolte de la majorité sunnite. Le risque aurait donc été grand de voir la région sombrer dans une conflagration confessionnelle généralisée dans laquelle les Etats ne se seraient pas affrontés par procuration, mais directement, avec leurs armées nationales. Tout le Moyen-Orient est en réalité engagé dans une longue et douloureuse transition. Nous devons nous débarrasser de l’idée que " nous " avons provoqué cette situation. Ce n’est pas vrai. (…) Nous avons aujourd’hui trois exemples de politique occidentale en matière de changement de régime dans la région. En Irak, nous avons appelé à un changement de régime, renversé la dictature et déployé des troupes pour aider à la reconstruction du pays. Mais l’intervention s’est révélée extrêmement ardue, et aujourd’hui le pays est à nouveau en danger. En Libye, nous avons appelé au changement de régime, chassé Kadhafi grâce à des frappes aériennes mais refusé d’envoyer des troupes au sol. Aujourd’hui, la Libye, ravagée par la violence, a exporté le désordre et de vastes quantités d’armes à travers l’Afrique du Nord et jusqu’en Afrique subsaharienne. En Syrie, nous avons appelé au changement de régime mais n’avons rien fait, et c’est le pays qui se trouve dans la situation la pire. (…) Il n’est pas raisonnable pour l’Occident d’adopter une politique d’indifférence. Car il s’agit, que nous le voulions ou pas, d’un problème qui nous concerne. Les agences de sécurité européennes estiment que la principale menace pour l’avenir proviendra des combattants revenant de Syrie. Le danger est réel de voir le pays devenir pour les terroristes un sanctuaire plus redoutable encore que ne l’était l’Afghanistan dans les années 1990. Mais n’oublions pas non plus les risques que fait peser la guerre civile syrienne sur le Liban et la Jordanie. Il était impossible que cet embrasement reste confiné à l’intérieur des frontières syriennes .Je comprends les raisons pour lesquelles, après l’Afghanistan et l’Irak, l’opinion publique est si hostile à une intervention militaire. Mais une intervention en Syrie n’était pas et n’est pas nécessairement obligée de prendre les formes qu’elle a prises dans ces deux pays. Et, chaque fois que nous renonçons à agir, les mesures que nous serons fatalement amenés à prendre par la suite devront être plus violente. (…) Nous devons prendre conscience que le défi s’étend bien au-delà du Moyen-Orient. L’Afrique, comme le montrent les tragiques événements au Nigeria, y est elle aussi confrontée. L’Extrême-Orient et l’Asie centrale également.L’Irak n’est qu’une facette d’une situation plus générale. Tous les choix qui s’offrent à nous sont inquiétants. Mais, depuis trois ans, nous regardons la Syrie s’enfoncer dans l’abîme et, pendant qu’elle sombre, elle nous enserre lentement et sûrement dans ses rets et nous entraîne avec elle. C’est pourquoi nous devons oublier les différends du passé et agir maintenant pour préserver l’avenir. Tony Blair

Attention: une débâcle peut en cacher une autre !

A l’heure où, suite au refus du premier ministre Maliki de tenir ses engagements pour l’intégration des Sunnites à la gestion du pays comme à la précipitation du président Obama d’évacuer les troupes américaines,  l’Irak est sur le point de rebasculer dans la plus violente des guerres civiles voire de passer sous la coupe de djihadistes qui, pour plus de 400 millions de dollars, viennent de se faire les banques de la deuxième ville du pays …

Et où, dans la logique de racisme caché qui leur est habituelle (certains peuples, on le sait, n’ont pas droit à la démocratie), nos belles âmes et stratèges en fauteuil ont bien sûr pour l’occasion ressorti leurs arguments contre l’option changement de régime qu’avaient il y a 11 ans choisie le président Bush et ses alliés britanniques ainsi qu’une coalition d’une  quarantaine de pays …

Pendant que de l’Afghanistan à l’Iran et à l’Ukraine, le Munichois en chef de la Maison Blanche multiplie les gestes d’apaisement …

Et que les différents pays occidentaux commencent à recevoir les premières fournées de diplômés du bourbier syrien

Remise des pendules à l’heure avec Tony Blair …

Qui rappelant à juste titre tant l’impéritie irakienne qu’américaine …

Mais ni la situation irakienne d’avant 2003 (les mêmes Alliés contraints d’assurer seuls de leurs bases en Arabie saoudite un embargo que personne, France comprise, ne respectait et fournissant de ce fait le prétexte aux attentats du 11/9) …

Ni hélas, de la Syrie au Nigéria ou ailleurs, les efforts habituels en coulisse de nos amis qataris ou syriens dans le financement des djihadistes …

A le mérite de mettre le doigt sur le noeud du problème …

A savoir, outre l’évident raté libyen, la Syrie qui justement avec Assad montre parfaitement ce qui arrive quand on laisse un dictateur en place …

 

Iraq, Syria and the Middle East
Tony Blair
Office of Tony Blair
Jun 14, 2014

The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole of the Middle East is under threat.

We will have to re-think our strategy towards Syria; support the Iraqi Government in beating back the insurgency; whilst making it clear that Iraq’s politics will have to change for any resolution of the current crisis to be sustained. Then we need a comprehensive plan for the Middle East that correctly learns the lessons of the past decade. In doing so, we should listen to and work closely with our allies across the region, whose understanding of these issues is crucial and who are prepared to work with us in fighting the root causes of this extremism which goes far beyond the crisis in Iraq or Syria.

It is inevitable that events in Mosul have led to a re-run of the arguments over the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003. The key question obviously is what to do now. But because some of the commentary has gone immediately to claim that but for that decision, Iraq would not be facing this challenge; or even more extraordinary, implying that but for the decision, the Middle East would be at peace right now; it is necessary that certain points are made forcefully before putting forward a solution to what is happening now.

3/4 years ago Al Qaida in Iraq was a beaten force. The country had massive challenges but had a prospect, at least, of overcoming them. It did not pose a threat to its neighbours. Indeed, since the removal of Saddam, and despite the bloodshed, Iraq had contained its own instability mostly within its own borders.

Though the challenge of terrorism was and is very real, the sectarianism of the Maliki Government snuffed out what was a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq. This, combined with the failure to use the oil money to re-build the country, and the inadequacy of the Iraqi forces have led to the alienation of the Sunni community and the inability of the Iraqi army to repulse the attack on Mosul and the earlier loss of Fallujah. And there will be debate about whether the withdrawal of US forces happened too soon.

However there is also no doubt that a major proximate cause of the takeover of Mosul by ISIS is the situation in Syria. To argue otherwise is wilful. The operation in Mosul was planned and organised from Raqqa across the Syria border. The fighters were trained and battle-hardened in the Syrian war. It is true that they originate in Iraq and have shifted focus to Iraq over the past months. But, Islamist extremism in all its different manifestations as a group, rebuilt refinanced and re-armed mainly as a result of its ability to grow and gain experience through the war in Syria.

As for how these events reflect on the original decision to remove Saddam, if we want to have this debate, we have to do something that is rarely done: put the counterfactual i.e. suppose in 2003, Saddam had been left running Iraq. Now take each of the arguments against the decision in turn.

The first is there was no WMD risk from Saddam and therefore the casus belli was wrong. What we now know from Syria is that Assad, without any detection from the West, was manufacturing chemical weapons. We only discovered this when he used them. We also know, from the final weapons inspectors reports, that though it is true that Saddam got rid of the physical weapons, he retained the expertise and capability to manufacture them. Is it likely that, knowing what we now know about Assad, Saddam, who had used chemical weapons against both the Iranians in the 1980s war that resulted in over 1m casualties and against his own people, would have refrained from returning to his old ways? Surely it is at least as likely that he would have gone back to them.

The second argument is that but for the invasion of 2003, Iraq would be a stable country today. Leave aside the treatment Saddam meted out to the majority of his people whether Kurds, Shia or marsh Arabs, whose position of ‘stability’ was that of appalling oppression. Consider the post 2011 Arab uprisings. Put into the equation the counterfactual – that Saddam and his two sons would be running Iraq in 2011 when the uprisings began. Is it seriously being said that the revolution sweeping the Arab world would have hit Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, to say nothing of the smaller upheavals all over the region, but miraculously Iraq, under the most brutal and tyrannical of all the regimes, would have been an oasis of calm?

Easily the most likely scenario is that Iraq would have been engulfed by precisely the same convulsion. Take the hypothesis further. The most likely response of Saddam would have been to fight to stay in power. Here we would have a Sunni leader trying to retain power in the face of a Shia revolt. Imagine the consequences. Next door in Syria a Shia backed minority would be clinging to power trying to stop a Sunni majority insurgency. In Iraq the opposite would be the case. The risk would have been of a full blown sectarian war across the region, with States not fighting by proxy, but with national armies.

So it is a bizarre reading of the cauldron that is the Middle East today, to claim that but for the removal of Saddam, we would not have a crisis.

And it is here that if we want the right policy for the future, we have to learn properly the lessons not just of Iraq in 2003 but of the Arab uprisings from 2011 onwards.

The reality is that the whole of the Middle East and beyond is going through a huge, agonising and protracted transition. We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this. We haven’t. We can argue as to whether our policies at points have helped or not; and whether action or inaction is the best policy and there is a lot to be said on both sides. But the fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region not outside it.

The problems of the Middle East are the product of bad systems of politics mixed with a bad abuse of religion going back over a long time. Poor governance, weak institutions, oppressive rule and a failure within parts of Islam to work out a sensible relationship between religion and Government have combined to create countries which are simply unprepared for the modern world. Put into that mix, young populations with no effective job opportunities and education systems that do not correspond to the requirements of the future economy, and you have a toxic, inherently unstable matrix of factors that was always – repeat always – going to lead to a revolution.

But because of the way these factors interrelate, the revolution was never going to be straightforward. This is the true lesson of Iraq. But it is also the lesson from the whole of the so-called Arab Spring. The fact is that as a result of the way these societies have developed and because Islamism of various descriptions became the focal point of opposition to oppression, the removal of the dictatorship is only the beginning not the end of the challenge. Once the regime changes, then out come pouring all the tensions – tribal, ethnic and of course above all religious; and the rebuilding of the country, with functioning institutions and systems of Government, becomes incredibly hard. The extremism de-stabilises the country, hinders the attempts at development, the sectarian divisions become even more acute and the result is the mess we see all over the region. And beyond it. Look at Pakistan or Afghanistan and the same elements are present.

Understanding this and analysing properly what has happened, is absolutely vital to the severe challenge of working out what we can do about it. So rather than continuing to re-run the debate over Iraq from over 11 years ago, realise that whatever we had done or not done, we would be facing a big challenge today.

Indeed we now have three examples of Western policy towards regime change in the region. In Iraq, we called for the regime to change, removed it and put in troops to try to rebuild the country. But intervention proved very tough and today the country is at risk again. In Libya, we called for the regime to change, we removed it by airpower, but refused to put in troops and now Libya is racked by instability, violence and has exported vast amounts of trouble and weapons across North Africa and down into sub- Saharan Africa. In Syria we called for the regime to change, took no action and it is in the worst state of all.

And when we do act, it is often difficult to discern the governing principles of action. Gaddafi, who in 2003 had given up his WMD and cooperated with us in the fight against terrorism, is removed by us on the basis he threatens to kill his people but Assad, who actually kills his people on a vast scale including with chemical weapons, is left in power.

So what does all this mean? How do we make sense of it? I speak with humility on this issue because I went through the post 9/11 world and know how tough the decisions are in respect of it. But I have also, since leaving office, spent a great deal of time in the region and have studied its dynamics carefully.

The beginning of understanding is to appreciate that resolving this situation is immensely complex. This is a generation long struggle. It is not a ‘war’ which you win or lose in some clear and clean-cut way. There is no easy or painless solution. Intervention is hard. Partial intervention is hard. Non-intervention is hard.

Ok, so if it is that hard, why not stay out of it all, the current default position of the West? The answer is because the outcome of this long transition impacts us profoundly. At its simplest, the jihadist groups are never going to leave us alone. 9/11 happened for a reason. That reason and the ideology behind it have not disappeared.

However more than that, in this struggle will be decided many things: the fate of individual countries, the future of the Middle East, and the direction of the relationship between politics and the religion of Islam. This last point will affect us in a large number of ways. It will affect the radicalism within our own societies which now have significant Muslim populations. And it will affect how Islam develops across the world. If the extremism is defeated in the Middle East it will eventually be defeated the world over, because this region is its spiritual home and from this region has been spread the extremist message.

There is no sensible policy for the West based on indifference. This is, in part, our struggle, whether we like it or not.

Already the security agencies of Europe believe our biggest future threat will come from returning fighters from Syria. There is a real risk that Syria becomes a haven for terrorism worse than Afghanistan in the 1990s. But think also of the effect that Syria is having on the Lebanon and Jordan. There is no way this conflagration was ever going to stay confined to Syria. I understand all the reasons following Afghanistan and Iraq why public opinion was so hostile to involvement. Action in Syria did not and need not be as in those military engagements. But every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will ultimately be greater.

On the immediate challenge President Obama is right to put all options on the table in respect of Iraq, including military strikes on the extremists; and right also to insist on a change in the way the Iraqi Government takes responsibility for the politics of the country.

The moderate and sensible elements of the Syria Opposition should be given the support they need; Assad should know he cannot win an outright victory; and the extremist groups, whether in Syria or Iraq, should be targeted, in coordination and with the agreement of the Arab countries. However unpalatable this may seem, the alternative is worse.

But acting in Syria alone or Iraq, will not solve the challenge across the region or the wider world. We need a plan for the Middle East and for dealing with the extremism world-wide that comes out of it.

The starting point is to identify the nature of the battle. It is against Islamist extremism. That is the fight. People shy away from the starkness of that statement. But it is because we are constantly looking for ways of avoiding facing up to this issue, that we can’t make progress in the battle.

Of course in every case, there are reasons of history and tribe and territory which add layers of complexity. Of course, too, as I said at the outset, bad governance has played a baleful role in exacerbating the challenges. But all those problems become infinitely tougher to resolve, when religious extremism overlays everything. Then unity in a nation is impossible. Stability is impossible. Therefore progress is impossible. Government ceases to build for the future and manages each day as it can. Division tears apart cohesion. Hatred replaces hope.

We have to unite with those in the Muslim world, who agree with this analysis to fight the extremism. Parts of the Western media are missing a critical new element in the Middle East today. There are people – many of them – in the region who now understand this is the battle and are prepared to wage it. We have to stand with them.

Repressive systems of Government have played their part in the breeding of the extremism. A return to the past for the Middle East is neither right nor feasible. On the contrary there has to be change and there will be. However, we have to have a more graduated approach, which tries to help change happen without the chaos.

We were naïve about the Arab uprisings which began in 2011. Evolution is preferable to revolution. I said this at the time, precisely because of what we learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sometimes evolution is not possible. But where we can, we should be helping countries make steady progress towards change. We should be actively trying to encourage and help the reform process and using the full weight of the international community to do so.

Where there has been revolution, we have to be clear we will not support systems or Governments based on sectarian religious politics.

Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. This does not mean Western troops as in Iraq. There are masses of responses we can make short of that. But they need to know that wherever they’re engaged in terror, we will be hitting them.

Longer term, we have to make a concerted effort to reform the education systems, formal and informal which are giving rise to the extremism. It should be part of our dialogue and partnership with all nations that we expect education to be open-minded and respectful of difference whether of faith culture or race. We should make sure our systems reflect these values; they should do the same. This is the very reason why, after I left office I established a Foundation now active in the education systems of over 20 different countries, including in the Middle East, promoting a programme of religious and cultural co-existence.

We should make this a focal point of cooperation between East and West. China, Russia, Europe and the USA all have the same challenge of extremism. For the avoidance of doubt, I am neither minimising our differences especially over issues like Ukraine, nor suggesting a weakening of our position there; simply that on this issue of extremism, we can and should work together.

We should acknowledge that the challenge goes far further afield than the Middle East. Africa faces it as the ghastly events in Nigeria show. The Far East faces it. Central Asia too.

The point is that we won’t win the fight until we accept the nature of it.

Iraq is part of a much bigger picture. By all means argue about the wisdom of earlier decisions. But it is the decisions now that will matter. The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true. But for 3 years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us pulling us down with it. We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future.

 Voir aussi:

Tony Blair: ‘We didn’t cause Iraq crisis’

The 2003 invasion of Iraq is not to blame for the violent insurgency now gripping the country, former UK prime minister Tony Blair has said.
BBC
15 June 2014

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he said there would still be a "major problem" in the country even without the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Mr Blair said the current crisis was a "regional" issue that "affects us all".

And he warned against believing that if we "wash our hands of it and walk away, then the problems will be solved".

"Even if you’d left Saddam in place in 2003, then when 2011 happened – and you had the Arab revolutions going through Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Egypt and Syria – you would have still had a major problem in Iraq," Mr Blair said.

"Indeed, you can see what happens when you leave the dictator in place, as has happened with Assad now. The problems don’t go away.

"So, one of the things I’m trying to say is – you know, we can rerun the debates about 2003 – and there are perfectly legitimate points on either side – but where we are now in 2014, we have to understand this is a regional problem, but it’s a problem that will affect us."

Syria is three years into a civil war in which tens of thousands of people have died and millions more have been displaced.

In August last year, a chemical attack near the capital Damascus killed hundreds of people.

In August, UK MPs rejected the idea of air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to deter the use of chemical weapons.

Writing on his website, the former prime minister warned that every time the UK puts off action, "the action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater".
‘Hitting them’

He said the current violence in Iraq was the "predictable and malign effect" of inaction in Syria.

"We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this," he wrote. "We haven’t."

He said the takeover of Mosul by Sunni insurgents was planned across the Syrian border.

"Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force," Mr Blair said.

The Sunni insurgents, from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), regard Iraq’s Shia majority as "infidels".

After taking Mosul late on Monday, and then Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, the Sunni militants have pressed south into the ethnically divided Diyala province.

On Friday, they battled against Shia fighters near Muqdadiya – just 50 miles (80km) from Baghdad’s city limits.

Reinforcements from both the Iraqi army and Shia militias have arrived in the city of Samarra, where fighters loyal to ISIS are trying to enter from the north.

US deploys warship amid Iraq crisis

Mr Blair also told the BBC that the UK and its allies had to "engage" and try to "shape" the situation in Iraq and Syria.

"If you talk to security services in France and Germany and the UK, they will tell you their single biggest worry today are returning Jihadist fighters, our own citizens, by the way, from Syria," he said.

"So, we have to look at Syria and Iraq and the region in context. We have to understand what’s going on there and we have to engage".
‘Battle-hardened’

Civil war in Syria was "having its predictable and malign effect" and there was "no doubt that a major proximate cause of the takeover of Mosul by ISIS" was the situation in the country, Mr Blair said.

He said the operation in Mosul was planned and organised from Raqqa across the Syria border.

"The fighters were trained and battle-hardened in the Syrian war," he said.
Members of Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters take part in an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Diyala province June 13, 2014. Thousands of Shias are reported to have volunteered to help halt the advance of ISIS
Iraqi policemen stand guard at a railway station in the capital Baghdad on June 14, 2014 The capital Baghdad is a tense place following the reverses for Iraqi government forces

The 2003 invasion of Iraq by British and US forces, on the basis that it had "weapons of mass destruction", has come back into focus as a result of the insurgency in the country.

The Iraq War has been the subject of several inquiries, including the Chilcot inquiry – which began in 2009 – into the UK’s participation in military action against Saddam Hussein and its aftermath.

Last month, the inquiry said details of the "gist" of talks between Tony Blair and former US president George Bush before the Iraq war are to be published.

Mr Blair has said he wants the Chilcot report to be published and he "resented" claims he was to blame for its slow progress.

Voir également:

Blair: Don’t blame me for meltdown in Iraq: Astonishing ‘essay’ by ex-PM: he says Obama quit too soon… and the UK should launch attacks
Former PM claims bungling Iraqi government has allowed Al Qaeda return
Blair said the alternative to not intervening in Iraq was a far worse option
Blair said West was wrong to topple Gadaffi instead of Bashar al-Assad
Mail On Sunday Reporter
14 June 2014

Tony Blair last night attacked ‘bizarre’ claims that his decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003 caused the current wave of violence in the country – and blamed everyone but himself for the crisis.

The former Prime Minister insisted he was right to topple Saddam Hussein with the US and said things would have been worse if the dictator had not been ousted from power a decade ago.

Mr Blair ended a week-long silence after mounting claims by diplomats and Labour MPs that his and Mr Bush’s handling of the Iraq War sowed the seeds of the attempt by the Al Qaeda-backed ISIS terror group to conquer Iraq. In a 2,800-word ‘essay’ on the new Middle East conflagration, Mr Blair refused to apologise and argued:

Barack Obama ordered US troops to leave Iraq too soon.
Britain and America must launch renewed military attacks in Iraq and Syria.
Al Qaeda was ‘beaten’ in Iraq thanks to the Blair-Bush war, but the bungling Iraqi government let them back in.

‘But every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will ultimately be greater. Instead of re-running the debate over Iraq from 11 years ago, we have to realise that whatever we had done or not done, we would be facing a big challenge today.

‘It is bizarre to claim that, but for the removal of Saddam, we would not have a crisis. We have to re-think our strategy towards Syria and support the Iraqi government in beating back the insurgency.

‘Extremist groups, whether in Syria or Iraq, should be targeted. However unpalatable this may seem, the alternative is worse.’

Mr Blair hit back at critics who say false claims that Saddam had deadly chemical weapons fatally undermined the Blair-Bush justification for the Iraq War. Turning the argument on its head, he said it was essential to picture Iraq with Saddam still in power: he had used chemical weapons before and would have done so again.

And, confronted by the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, Saddam would have provoked ‘a full-blown sectarian war across the region with national armies’. ‘We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that “we” have caused this – we haven’t,’ said Mr Blair.

And he pointed the finger of blame at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – and more pointedly at Mr Obama – for leaving Iraq defenceless.

‘Three or four years ago, Al Qaeda in Iraq was a beaten force. The sectarianism of the Maliki government snuffed out a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq. And there will be debate about whether the withdrawal of US forces happened too soon.’

Mr Blair poured scorned on the West’s decision to topple Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi who ‘gave up WMDs and co-operated in the fight against terrorism’ while letting Syria’s President Assad, who ‘kills his people on a vast scale including with chemical weapons’, off the hook.

‘There is no easy or painless solution. The Jihadist groups are never going to leave us alone. 9/11 happened for a reason.

‘This is, in part, our struggle, whether we like it or not.’

Obama was ‘right to put all options on the table in Iraq, including military strikes. The choices are all pretty ugly, but Syria is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it. We have to act now to save the future.’

Reg Keys, whose ‘Red Cap’ soldier son Tom was killed in the Iraq War, told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘I wondered when Blair would surface to try to justify himself. Before he and Bush kicked down the door on Iraq, Sunnis and Shias lived side by side. Now there is a power vacuum, which allows terrorists to walk into the country.

‘Saddam may have been an evil dictator, but Iraq needs a strong leader to keep the tensions in check. Blair installed a weak puppet government. When Tom was killed, the Iraqi police meant to be protecting the Red Caps’ position dropped their guns and ran. That is what the Iraqi forces did this week.’

Mr Keys added: ‘It is lamentable that Blair is still banging the WMD drum. He and Bush must take ultimate responsibility.’

Voir encore:

No Mr Blair. Your naive war WAS a trigger for this savage violence, writes CHRISTOPHER MEYER, Ambassador to the US during Iraq War

Christopher Meyer, Former British Ambassador To Washington
14 June 2014

Last year, on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by American and British forces, Tony Blair sought to justify his decision to go to war by arguing that Iraq was a far better place for the removal of Saddam Hussein. ‘Think,’ he said ‘of the consequences of leaving that regime in power.’

In an echo of his former master’s voice, Alastair Campbell added for good measure: ‘Britain… should be really proud of the role we played in changing Iraq from what it was to what it is becoming.’

Today, neither Mr Blair nor Mr Campbell could utter such things without arousing the world’s bemusement and incredulity. Iraq is descending into such violence and disorder that its very existence as a sovereign country is under threat.

A savage, battle-hardened group of Sunni fundamentalists called ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have seized great swathes of territory in northern and central Iraq and are threatening Baghdad itself. By the time you read this, they may be inside the city walls. They have driven through the Iraqi army – trained and equipped by the US at vast expense – like a knife through butter.

At Friday prayers last week, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq issued a call to arms. The scene is therefore set for outright civil war. Meanwhile, the Kurdish people of the north have exploited the chaos to seize the oil-producing city of Kirkuk and take another step forward in their ambition to become an independent nation.

There are many reasons for this disastrous state of affairs. Perhaps the most significant is the decision taken more than ten years ago by President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to unseat Saddam Hussein without thinking through the consequences for Iraq of the dictator’s removal.

Like the entire Islamic world, Iraq is divided between two historic branches of the Muslim faith, the Sunni and the Shia. Though there have been periods of relative harmony, today the two denominations are in brutal competition with each other around the world, especially in the neighbouring Syria, where civil war has been raging for the past three years. The Syrian dictator, Bashar Al Assad, is Shia. The Syrian rebels are Sunni. In Iraq the government is Shia-dominated.

Underwriting the violence in both countries is the intense struggle for advantage between the two Middle Eastern superpowers, Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia).

The situation is not unlike the violent rivalry of the 17th Century between Catholics and Protestants, which led to the ravaging of central Europe in the bloody 30 Years’ War.

ISIS have emerged from the cauldron of civil war in Syria where they control much of the east of the country. Their declared aim is to create from this territory and the neighbouring Sunni areas of northern and central Iraq a single fundamentalist state or ‘caliphate’, lying athwart the frontier between Iraq and Syria.

ISIS have proved so violent that they have been disowned even by Al Qaeda, the Sunni terrorist group from which they have sprung. But it is not through fanaticism and violence alone that they have been able to scatter the Iraqi army with such ease. ISIS have been operating in fertile territory.

For years, the Sunni provinces of Iraq have become increasingly disaffected from the Shia-controlled central government in Baghdad. The authoritarian Prime Minister al-Maliki has trampled on Sunni sensitivities and denied them the spoils of government. This has gone down very badly, given that under Saddam and the old Ottoman empire it was the Sunni who were on top.

Without the world really noticing, ISIS and its Sunni allies had already seized the town of Fallujah (scene of epic battles between the US Marines and insurgents ten years ago).

ISIS have benefited also from something that takes us back to the earliest days of the US/UK occupation – and to one of its greatest blunders. It appears that ISIS are fighting alongside, or even partly comprise, former members of Saddam Hussein’s army.

In the summer of 2003, the American Paul Bremer, who ran Iraq as President Bush’s representative and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, issued two orders: The first sacked 50,000 members of Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party from their jobs as civil servants, teachers and administrators.

This made Iraq well-nigh ungovernable since it had been impossible under Saddam to hold a job of any responsibility without being a member of the Ba’ath party. Bremer’s order went further than de-Nazification in Germany after World War II.

The second order disbanded the Iraqi army, throwing 400,000 angry men on to the streets with their weapons. The order directly fuelled the eight-year insurgency against American and allied troops.

Some of the former Iraqi soldiers were recruited by the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda, have been fighting in Syria and have now returned to Iraq with ISIS.

As the ISIS army marches south towards Baghdad, young men from the city scramble aboard a military truck to enlist in the army to help defend their homes

So, we are reaping what we sowed in 2003. This is not hindsight. We knew in the run-up to war that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would seriously destabilise Iraq after 24 years of his iron rule.

For all his evil, he kept a lid on sectarian violence. Bush and Blair were repeatedly warned by their advisers and diplomats to make dispositions accordingly.

But, as we now know, very little was done until the last minute; and what was done, as in the case of Bremer’s edicts, simply made things far worse.

The White House and Downing Street were suffused with the naïve view that the introduction of parliamentary democracy would solve all Iraq’s problems. But you can’t introduce democracy like a fast-growing shrub. It takes generations to embed. Because political parties in Iraq have tended to form along ethnic and religious lines, democracy has, if anything, deepened the sectarianism.

The situation is full of ironies. The UK went along with the neocon claim after 9/11 that Saddam and Al Qaeda were collaborating, though there was not a shred of proof. Now an offshoot of Al Qaeda controls perhaps a third of the country and may yet enter Baghdad.

The unintended consequence of our invasion was to give Iran, a member of Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’, dominant influence in Baghdad. Yet, on the principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, we in the West should welcome any efforts by Iran to halt the advance of ISIS.

None of this is nostalgia for Saddam Hussein (though women and religious minorities like Christians might take a different view). But, if the past 13 years have taught us anything, it is that we mess in other countries’ internal affairs at our peril.

Even with meticulous preparation, deep local knowledge and proper articulation between political goals and military means – all absent in Iraq and Afghanistan – military intervention will usually make things worse and create hatreds which are then played out in our own streets.

In 1999, in a speech in Chicago, Blair proclaimed his doctrine of intervention abroad in the name of liberal values. It became the philosophical underpinning for Britain’s invasion of Iraq.

The time has surely come to consign the Blair doctrine to the dustbin of history.

Voir de plus:

Iraq: Isis can be beaten and democracy restored
The Maliki government must win back the trust of its Sunni population to see off the threat of Islamic militants
The Observer
15 June 2014

The security situation in the northern half of Iraq is grave and worrying, but its wider dangers should not be exaggerated. Last week’s rapid advance of Sunni Muslim fighters of the hardline Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) jihadist militia took Iraq’s army, politicians and western governments by surprise. In this fragile neighbourhood, surprises are always unnerving. The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, undoubtedly dealt a body blow to the authority of the Baghdad government. The ensuing humanitarian problems are alarming, as are UN reports of atrocities committed by the Islamists. US weapons supplied to the Iraqi army have been seized by the militants, more cities and towns closer to the capital are under threat, and Kurdish forces are exploiting the turmoil to extend their territorial control around Kirkuk. The spectre of renewed sectarian warfare has been raised as Iraq’s majority Shia Muslim population is urged to take up arms. Beyond Iraq’s borders, national leaders from Tehran to Washington have begun to talk of direct military intervention, spurred by fears that Iraq may disintegrate – and by a sharp rise in the international oil price.

All serious stuff, for sure. Yet this is a moment to pause and think, not rush blindly in. On the ground, the Isis forces have made significant gains. But in total they are said to number no more than 7,000 men. They have no heavy weapons, no fighter aircraft, no attack helicopters. The further south they advance, the stiffer the resistance and the more stretched their lines of supply. They do not enjoy unanimous support among Sunnis, let alone Iraq’s other minorities. The city of Samarra, well to the north of Baghdad and a holy place for Shia Muslims, has become a first rallying point for government forces and volunteers. Iraq’s army, humiliated last week, nevertheless numbers more than 250,000 active service personnel. Once they recover from their Mosul funk, they should be more than a match for Isis. Despite what Isis says, Iraq is not Syria. With determination and the right kind of leadership, its always delicate balance of power may be restored in time.

In terms of the bigger picture, the suggestion that Iraq is about to implode as a unified nation state appears similarly overcooked. After the usual 48-hour delay while America caught up with events, Barack Obama signalled strong, albeit conditional, support for embattled Baghdad. So, too, did Iran, briefly raising the quixotic fantasy of a Tehran-Washington axis. Iran has its own interests to protect, of course, including its close alliance with the Shia-led government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. But like the US, it views the prospect of an unchecked Sunni insurgency raging through Iraq and Syria with alarm. China, often absent from the stage during international crises, also swiftly voiced its backing. As the biggest investor in Iraq’s oil industry, Beijing knows instability is bad for business. Even Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival and foremost supporter of Syria’s armed Sunni opposition, could not abide the chaos that would follow an Iraqi implosion.

All these powers have a stake in holding Iraq together. In all probability, they will succeed. Efforts to keep events in Iraq in perspective have been further handicapped by overheated attempts in newsdesks far removed from the frontlines of Samarra and Tikrit to settle old scores. With barely disguised glee, some who opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq now claim to see in the Isis phenomenon the final, cast-iron proof that George W Bush and Tony Blair were both reckless and wrong. Many who supported the war at the time have since changed their minds about the wisdom of that decision, including this newspaper.

But to claim, 11 years on, that what is happening now can be attributed to what was done then is both facile and insulting. It suggests, in a sort of inverted, postmodern neo-colonialism, that Iraqis remain incapable of assuming responsibility for their own country. The invasion, whatever else it did, gave Iraq the chance of democratic self-governance that it would never have experienced under Saddam Hussein. It is this imperfect democracy that is now under threat – and which must now be improved, even as it is preserved.

Iraq faces three immediate challenges. The first is how to win back the trust of Iraq’s Sunni population, largely alienated by the divisive, sectarian politics of the Maliki government. Isis did not succeed in Mosul and elsewhere by military superiority alone. It succeeded because it had the approval, or at least the temporary acquiescence, of Sunni tribal leaders and communities marginalised by Baghdad. In many cases, these are the same people who switched sides in 2007 to help the US defeat al-Qaida in Anbar province, during General David Petraeus’s "surge". Now they have switched back. But generally speaking, they do not support the extreme forms of Islamist rule advocated by Isis. To beat the jihadists, Baghdad’s Shia bosses must regain the Sunnis’ confidence.

A second challenge is to prevent Iraq’s Kurds discarding the post-Saddam agreements that facilitated the creation of the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government in the north. Their bloodless takeover of Kirkuk, a city and oil-rich territory disputed through the ages by various ethnic and religious groups, represents a giant if unpremeditated step towards full independence for Kurdistan. That may or may not be a desirable long-term goal. But the way to achieve it is through negotiation and the ballot box, not via backdoor landgrabs. Third, as Obama made brutally clear, Iraq’s government can no longer rely upon an American or western security umbrella. Help may be forthcoming but, first, Iraq’s political leaders must help themselves.

A traumatic week has thus presented Iraq with an opportunity. It must defuse the time-bomb Isis has placed under the Iraqi state. This wholly attainable task should be undertaken primarily by Iraq’s armed forces. International security assistance should be offered, as well as humanitarian help – but immediate, direct western military intervention would be unwise. Iraq is also entitled to demand support from its regional neighbours, including improved co-operation in tackling the terrorist threat they all face. Most of all, however, Iraqis must seize this opportunity to renew, strengthen and broaden the country’s political leadership in order to end further destructive sectarian schisms. In this process, Maliki, as prime minister, has a key role to play. If he cannot do so, he should stand aside.

Voir par ailleurs:

Who’s to blame for Iraq crisis
Derek Harvey and Michael Pregent
CNN
June 12, 2014

Editor’s note: Derek Harvey is a former senior intelligence official who worked on Iraq from 2003-2009, including numerous assignments in Baghdad. Michael Pregent is a former U.S. Army officer and former senior intelligence analyst who worked on Iraq from 2003-2011, including in Mosul 2005-2006 and Baghdad in 2007-2010. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

(CNN) — Observers around the world are stunned by the speed and scope of this week’s assaults on every major city in the upper Tigris River Valley — including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city — by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. But they shouldn’t be. The collapse of the Iraqi government’s troops in Mosul and other northern cities in the face of Sunni militant resistance has been the predictable culmination of a long deterioration, brought on by the government’s politicization of its security forces.

The politicization of the Iraqi military

For more than five years, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his ministers have presided over the packing of the Iraqi military and police with Shiite loyalists — in both the general officer ranks and the rank and file — while sidelining many effective commanders who led Iraqi troops in the battlefield gains of 2007-2010, a period during which al Qaeda in Iraq (the forerunner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) was brought to the brink of extinction.

Al-Maliki’s "Shiafication" of the Iraqi security forces has been less about the security of Iraq than the security of Baghdad and his regime. Even before the end of the U.S.-led "surge" in 2008, al-Maliki began a concerted effort to replace effective Sunni and Kurdish commanders and intelligence officers in the key mixed-sect areas of Baghdad, Diyala and Salaheddin provinces to ensure that Iraqi units focused on fighting Sunni insurgents while leaving loyal Shiite militias alone — and to alleviate al-Maliki’s irrational fears of a military coup against his government.

In 2008, al-Maliki began replacing effective Kurdish commanders and soldiers in Mosul and Tal Afar with Shiite loyalists from Baghdad and the Prime Minister’s Dawa Party, and even Shiite militia members from the south. A number of nonloyalist commanders were forced to resign in the face of trumped up charges or reassigned to desk jobs and replaced with al-Maliki loyalists. The moves were made to marginalize Sunnis and Kurds in the north and entrench al-Maliki’s regime and the Dawa Party ahead of provincial and national elections in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

The dismantling of the ‘Awakening’

It’s no accident that there exists today virtually no Sunni popular resistance to ISIS, but rather the result of a conscious al-Maliki government policy to marginalize the Sunni tribal "Awakening" that deployed more than 90,000 Sunni fighters against al Qaeda in 2007-2008.

These 90,000 "Sons of Iraq" made a significant contribution to the reported 90% drop in sectarian violence in 2007-2008, assisting the Iraqi security forces and the United States in securing territory from Mosul to the Sunni enclaves of Baghdad and the surrounding Baghdad "belts." As the situation stabilized, the Iraqi government agreed to a plan to integrate vetted Sunni members of the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi army and police to make those forces more representative of the overall Iraqi population.

But this integration never happened. Al-Maliki was comfortable touting his support for the Sons of Iraq in non-Shiite areas such as Anbar and Nineveh provinces, but he refused to absorb Sunnis into the ranks of the security forces along Shiite-Sunni fault lines in central Iraq.

In areas with (or near) Shiite populations, al-Maliki saw the U.S.-backed Sons of Iraq as a threat, and he systematically set out to dismantle the program over the next four years. As this process played out, we saw its effects firsthand in our interactions with Iraqi government officials and tribal leaders in Baghdad, where it was clear the Sons of Iraq were under increasing pressure from both the government and al Qaeda. By 2013, the Sons of Iraq were virtually nonexistent, with thousands of their sidelined former members either neutral or aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in its war against the Iraqi government.

The disappearance of the Sons of Iraq meant that few Sunnis in western and northern Iraq had a stake in the defense of their own communities. The vast system of security forces and Sunni tribal auxiliaries that had made the Sunni provinces of Iraq hostile territory for al Qaeda was dismantled.

The militant gains in Mosul and other cities of the north and Anbar are the direct result of the removal of the Iraqi security forces commanders and local Sons of Iraq leaders who had turned the tide against al Qaeda in 2007-2008. Those commanders who had a reason to secure and hold territory in the north were replaced with al-Maliki loyalists from Baghdad who, when the bullets began to fly, had no interest in dying for Sunni and Kurdish territory. And when the commanders left the battlefield this week, their troops melted away as well.

What can be done?

The problem will only get worse in the coming months. Now that the Iraqi government’s weakness in Sunni territories has been exposed, other Sunni extremist groups are joining forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to exploit the opening. The Baathist-affiliated Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist Ansar al-Sunna Army are reportedly taking part in the offensive as well, and they are drawing support from a Sunni population that believes itself persecuted and disenfranchised by al-Maliki’s government and threatened by Shiite militias that are his political allies.

For six months, Shiite militants have been allowed or encouraged by the government to conduct sectarian cleansing in mixed areas around Baghdad, particularly in Diyala province between Baghdad and the Iranian border. These events contributed to the motivation of Sunnis who have taken up arms or acquiesced in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s offensive.

Even as the ISIS tide rolls southward down the Tigris, there is probably little danger of Baghdad and other Shiite areas falling into Sunni insurgent hands. The Shiite troops unwilling to fight to hold onto Mosul will be far more motivated to fight to protect Shiite territories in central and southern Iraq and to defend the sectarian fault line. This is their home territory, where they have the advantage of local knowledge, and where they have successfully fought the Sunni insurgency for years.

In the north, however, al-Maliki now has two military options. He can reconsolidate his shattered forces along sectarian fault lines to defend Shiite territories in central Iraq, ceding Sunni areas to the insurgency, or he can regroup his security forces at their bases north of Baghdad and mount expeditions to conduct "cordon and search" operations in Sunni areas lost to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

If al-Maliki chooses to regroup and move on Sunni population centers controlled by the ISIS, we are likely to see Shiite troops unfamiliar with Sunni neighborhoods employing heavy-handed tactics, bluntly targeting Sunni military-age males (12-60) not affiliated with the insurgency and further inflaming sectarian tensions as they do so — reminiscent of the situation in many parts of Iraq in 2005-2006.

The problem at its core is not just a matter of security, but politics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its allies would not have had the opportunity to seize ground in the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of Salaheddin, Nineveh and Anbar if there had been more inclusive and sincere political outreach to the mainstream Sunni Arab community.

In the end, the solution to the ISIS threat is a fundamental change in Iraq’s political discourse, which has become dominated by one sect and one man, and the inclusion of mainstream Sunni Arabs and Kurds as full partners in the state.

If al-Maliki truly wishes to restore government control to the Sunni provinces, he must reach out to Sunni and Kurdish leaders and ask for their help, and he must re-enlist former Sons of Iraq leaders, purged military commanders and Kurdish Peshmerga to help regain the territory they once helped the Iraqi government defend.

But these are steps a-Maliki has shown himself unwilling and unlikely to take. At this point, al-Maliki does not have what it takes to address Iraq’s problem — because he is the problem.

Voir encore:

While Obama Fiddles
The fall of Mosul is as big as Russia’s seizure of Crimea.
Daniel Henninger
WSJ

June 11, 2014

The fall of Mosul, Iraq, to al Qaeda terrorists this week is as big in its implications as Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But from the Obama presidency, barely a peep.

Barack Obama is fiddling while the world burns. Iraq, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Kenya, Syria. These foreign wildfires, with more surely to come, will burn unabated for two years until the United States has a new president. The one we’ve got can barely notice or doesn’t care.

Last month this is what Barack Obama said to the 1,064 graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy: "Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated."

That let-the-sunshine-in line must have come back to the cadets, when news came Sunday that the Pakistani Taliban, who operate in that border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, had carried out a deadly assault on the main airport in Karachi, population 9.4 million. To clarify, the five Taliban Mr. Obama exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are Afghan Taliban who operate on the other side of the border.

Within 24 hours of the Taliban attack in Pakistan, Boko Haram’s terrorists in Nigeria kidnapped 20 more girls, adding to the 270 still-missing—"our girls," as they were once known.

Then Mosul fell. The al Qaeda affiliate known as ISIS stormed and occupied the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, population 1.8 million and not far from Turkey, Syria and Iran. It took control of the airport, government buildings, and reportedly looted some $430 million from Mosul’s banks. ISIS owns Mosul.

Iraq’s army in tatters, ISIS rolled south Wednesday and took the city of Tikrit. It is plausible that this Islamic wave will next take Samarra and then move on to Baghdad, about 125 miles south of Tikrit. They will surely stop outside Baghdad, but that would be enough. Iraq will be lost.

Now if you want to vent about " George Bush’s war," be my guest. But George Bush isn’t president anymore. Barack Obama is because he wanted the job and the responsibilities that come with the American presidency. Up to now, burying those responsibilities in the sand has never been in the job description.

Mosul’s fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn’t a bunch of bug-eyed "Mad Max" guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army.

The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons.

An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, "al-Naba," published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization’s annual report for 2013. It even includes "metrics," detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria.

One might ask: Didn’t U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 "Threat Assessment" by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: "AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah." AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment "since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011." But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won’t listen.

In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan.

Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s memoir, "Duty." It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. "As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his," Mr. Gates wrote. "For him, it’s all about getting out."

The big Obama bet is that Americans’ opinion-polled "fatigue" with the world (if not his leadership) frees him to create a progressive domestic legacy. This Friday Mr. Obama is giving a speech to the Sioux Indians in Cannon Ball, N.D., about "jobs and education."

Meanwhile, Iraq may be transforming into (a) a second Syria or (b) a restored caliphate. Past some point, the world’s wildfires are going to consume the Obama legacy. And leave his successor a nightmare.

Voir enfin:

Iraq: Fall of Mosul Spells Disaster for U.S. Counterterrorism Policy

James Phillips

The Daily signal

June 11, 2014

James Phillips is the senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He has written extensively on Middle Eastern issues and international terrorism since 1978.

The sudden rout of Iraqi security forces in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is a humiliating defeat for the Iraqi government, a severe blow to U.S. policy in Iraq, and a strategic disaster that will amplify the threat posed by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists to the United States and its allies.

The swift victory of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, demonstrates the growing threat posed by Islamist militants in the region and the risks inherent in the Obama Administration’s failure to maintain a residual U.S. military training and counterterrorism presence after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

Iraqi security forces collapsed and retreated from Mosul in the face of ISIS militants recruited from Iraq, Syria, and foreign Sunni extremist movements. The defeat underscored the weakness of Iraq’s armed forces, which was apparent long before the U.S. withdrawal.

The insurgents not only captured significant amounts of arms and equipment abandoned by the demoralized security forces; they also seized about 500 billion Iraqi dinars (approximately $429 million) from Mosul’s central bank. This will make ISIS the richest terrorist group ever and enable it to further expand its power by buying the support of Sunni Iraqis disenchanted with the sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated government.

Although the resurgence of ISIS has been enabled by Maliki’s heavy-handed rule and the spillover of the increasingly sectarian civil war in Syria, the Obama Administration also played a counterproductive role in downplaying the prospects for an al-Qaeda comeback in Iraq.

The Administration early on made it clear to Iraqis that it was more interested in “ending” rather than winning the war against al-Qaeda in Iraq. As Heritage Foundation analysts repeatedly warned, the abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 deprived the Iraqi government of important counterterrorism, intelligence, and training capabilities that were needed to keep the pressure on al-Qaeda and allowed it to regain strength in a much more permissive environment.

Now ISIS, whose leader in 2012 threatened to attack the “heart” of America, poses a rising threat to U.S. security. The bottom line is that the Obama Administration’s rush to “end” the war in Iraq has helped create the conditions for losing the war against al-Qaeda.


Irak: Ah, le bon vieux temps de Saddam! (Bagdad worst: Guess who’s got the curse of Google auto-complete this year ?)

23 mars, 2014
http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/images/saddam_baathist_propaganda.jpghttp://planetgroupentertainment.squarespace.com/storage/SaddamHussein.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1296254428690Je pense (qu’il s’agit d’une guerre civile, ndlr), étant donné le niveau de violence, de meurtres, d’amertume, et la façon dont les forces se dressent les unes contres les autres. Il y a quelques années, lorsqu’il y avait une lutte au Liban ou ailleurs, on appelait cela une guerre civile. C’est bien pire. Ils avaient un dictateur brutal, mais ils avaient leurs rues, ils pouvaient sortir, leurs enfants pouvaient aller à l’école et en revenir sans que leurs parents ne se demandent ‘Vais-je revoir mon enfant ?’ (…) Les choses n’ont pas marché comme ils (les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés, ndlr) l’espéraient et il est essentiel d’avoir un regard critique  (…)  le gouvernement irakien n’a pas été capable de mettre la violence sous contrôle. (…) En tant que secrétaire général, j’ai fais tout ce que j’ai pu. Kofi Annan
Si du temps de Saddam Hussein, le chômage sévissait déjà et l’eau et d’électricité manquaient, les problèmes étaient d’une moindre ampleur et mieux gérés. La sécurité, elle, s’est totalement détériorée depuis l’invasion de l’Irak, menée en 2003 par une coalition conduite par les Etats-Unis. Pourtant, Bagdad a une histoire glorieuse. Construite en 762 sur les rives du Tigre par le calife abbasside Abou Jaafar al-Mansour, la ville a depuis joué un rôle central dans le monde arabo-musulman. Au 20e siècle, Bagdad était le brillant exemple d’une ville arabe moderne avec certaines des meilleurs universités et musées de la région, une élite bien formée, un centre culturel dynamique et un système de santé haut de gamme. Son aéroport international était un modèle pour la région et la ville a connu la naissance de l’Opep, le cartel des pays exportateurs de pétrole. La ville abritait en outre une population de différentes confessions: musulmans, chrétiens, juifs et autres. "Bagdad représentait le centre économique de l’Etat abbasside", souligne Issam al-Faili, professeur d’histoire politique à l’université Moustansiriyah, un établissement vieux de huit siècles. Il rappelle qu’elle a "servi de base à la conquête de régions voisines pour élargir l’influence de l’islam"."Elle était une capitale du monde", dit, avec fierté, l’universitaire, qui admet qu'"aujourd’hui, elle est devenue l’une des villes les plus misérables de la planète". AFP
Every expat I know here is mystified by that data. I’d be hard-pressed to find an expat (not a lot of them around admittedly) who believes that’s the case, apart from the prisoners of the Green Zone — the embassy people, U.N. staff and others who can’t actually get out into the city. Jane Arraf (freelance journalist)
The Iraqi capital has beaten out 222 other locations to be named the city with the lowest quality of life for expats in the entire world. Baghdad is so bad, according to Mercer, that companies should pay people a considerable amount extra to live there. As Hannibal explained to me, companies would likely have to pay an employee an extra 35-40 percent on top of their base salary as compensation for the poor quality of life in Iraq – that some companies might go as high as 50 percent in cash or other services. Worse still, Baghdad is a persistent worst offender in Mercer’s data, gradually falling down the rankings since 2001 and ranking last since 2004. It’s even acquired the curse of Google Auto-complete: Type "Baghdad Worst" into the search engine, and "Baghdad worst place to live" and "Baghdad worst city" appear. The Washington Post
Political instability, high crime levels, and elevated air pollution are a few factors that can be detrimental to the daily lives of expatriate employees their families and local residents. To ensure that compensation packages reflect the local environment appropriately, employers need a clear picture of the quality of living in the cities where they operate. In a world economy that is becoming more globalised, cities beyond the traditional financial and business centres are working to improve their quality of living so they can attract more foreign companies. This year’s survey recognises so-called ‘second tier’ or ‘emerging’ cites and points to a few examples from around the world These cities have been investing massively in their infrastructure and attracting foreign direct investments by providing incentives such as tax, housing, or entry facilities. Emerging cities will become major players that traditional financial centres and capital cities will have to compete with. European cities enjoy a high overall quality of living compared to those in other regions. Healthcare, infrastructure, and recreational facilities are generally of a very high standard. Political stability and relatively low crime levels enable expatriates to feel safe and secure in most locations. The region has seen few changes in living standards over the last year. Several cities in Central and South America are still attractive to expatriates due to their relatively stable political environments, improving infrastructure, and pleasant climate. But many locations remain challenging due to natural disasters, such as hurricanes often hitting the region, as well as local economic inequality and high crime rates. Companies placing their workers on expatriate assignments in these locations must ensure that hardship allowances reflect the lower levels of quality of living. The Middle East and especially Africa remain one of the most challenging regions for multinational organisations and expatriates. Regional instability and disruptive political events, including civil unrest, lack of infrastructure and natural disasters such as flooding, keep the quality of living from improving in many of its cities. However, some cities that might not have been very attractive to foreign companies are making efforts to attract them. Slagin Parakatil (Senior Researcher at Mercer)
The abysmal Iraq results forecast what could happen in Afghanistan, where U.S. taxpayers have so far spent $90 billion in reconstruction projects during a 12-year military campaign that is slated to end, for the most part, in 2014. Shortly after the March 2003 invasion, Congress set up a $2.4 billion fund to help ease the sting of war for Iraqis. It aimed to rebuild Iraq’s water and electricity systems; provide food, health care and governance for its people; and take care of those who were forced from their homes in the fighting. Less than six months later, President George W. Bush asked for $20 billion more to further stabilize Iraq and help turn it into an ally that could gain economic independence and reap global investments. To date, the U.S. has spent more than $60 billion in reconstruction grants to help Iraq get back on its feet after the country was broken by more than two decades of war, sanctions and dictatorship. That works out to about $15 million a day. And yet Iraq’s government is rife with corruption and infighting. Baghdad’s streets are still cowed by near-daily deadly bombings. A quarter of the country’s 31 million population lives in poverty, and few have reliable electricity and clean water. Overall, including all military and diplomatic costs and other aid, the U.S. has spent at least $767 billion since the American-led invasion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. National Priorities Project, a U.S. research group that analyzes federal data, estimated the cost at $811 billion, noting that some funds are still being spent on ongoing projects. Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate committee that oversees U.S. funding, said the Bush administration should have agreed to give the reconstruction money to Iraq as a loan in 2003 instead as an outright gift. "It’s been an extraordinarily disappointing effort and, largely, a failed program," Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview Tuesday. "I believe, had the money been structured as a loan in the first place, that we would have seen a far more responsible approach to how the money was used, and lower levels of corruption in far fewer ways." (…) Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, who was the top U.S. military commander in Iraq from 2008 to 2010, said, "It would have been better to hold off spending large sums of money" until the country stabilized. About a third of the $60 billion was spent to train and equip Iraqi security forces, which had to be rebuilt after the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbanded Saddam’s army in 2003. Today, Iraqi forces have varying successes in safekeeping the public and only limited ability to secure their land, air and sea borders. The report also cites Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as saying that the 2011 withdrawal of American troops from Iraq weakened U.S. influence in Baghdad. Panetta has since left office: Former Sen. Chuck Hagel took over the defense job last week. Washington is eyeing a similar military drawdown next year in Afghanistan, where U.S. taxpayers have spent $90 billion so far on rebuilding projects. The Afghanistan effort risks falling into the same problems that mired Iraq if oversight isn’t coordinated better. In Iraq, officials were too eager to build in the middle of a civil war, and too often raced ahead without solid plans or back-up plans, the report concluded. CBS news

Oubliez Damas ! Oubliez Grozny ! (sans parler de Tbilisi ou bientôt Kiev ?)

A l’heure où, après les dérives catastrophiques des années Bush, une Russie reconnaissante se réjouit du retour au bercail de sa province perdue de Crimée …

Et où sort le classement mondial des villes pour la qualité de vie par le leader mondial du conseil en ressources humaines Mercer Consulting Group …

(Vienne,  Vancouver, Pointe-à-Pitre, Singapour, Auckland, Port-Louis et Dubai contre Tbilisi, Mexico, Port-au-Prince, Dushanbe, Bangui et Bagdad) …

Comment, avec l’agence de presse nationale française AFP, ne pas être scandalisé de ce que le cowboy Bush a fait de la cité arabe modèle de Saddam

Qui, entre sa guerre et ses milliards (60 milliards de dollars de reconstruction, 800 avec la guerre !), se retrouve onze ans après… pire ville du monde ?

Jadis cité arabe modèle, Bagdad devient la pire ville au monde

Le Nouvel Observateur

AFPPar Salam FARAJ | AFP

21 mars 2014

Cité modèle dans le monde arabe jusqu’aux années 1970, Bagdad est devenue, après des décennies de conflits, la pire ville au monde en matière de qualité de vie.

La capitale irakienne -édifiée sur les rives du Tigre il y a 1.250 ans et jadis un centre intellectuel, économique et politique de renommée mondiale- est arrivée en 223e et dernière position du classement 2014 sur la qualité de vie, établi par le leader mondial du conseil en ressources humaines Mercer Consulting Group.

Ce classement tient compte de l’environnement social, politique et économique de la ville, qui compte 8,5 millions d’habitants, ainsi que des critères relatifs à la santé et l’éducation.

Et à Bagdad, les habitants doivent faire face à une multitude de problèmes: attentats quasi-quotidiens, pénurie d’électricité et d’eau potable, mauvais système d?égouts, embouteillages réguliers et taux de chômage élevé.

Si du temps de Saddam Hussein, le chômage sévissait déjà et l’eau et d’électricité manquaient, les problèmes étaient d’une moindre ampleur et mieux gérés.

La sécurité, elle, s’est totalement détériorée depuis l’invasion de l’Irak, menée en 2003 par une coalition conduite par les Etats-Unis.

"Nous vivons dans des casernes", se plaint Hamid al-Daraji, un vendeur, en évoquant les nombreux points de contrôle, les murs en béton anti-explosion et le déploiement massif des forces de sécurité.

"Riches et pauvres partagent la même souffrance", ajoute-t-il. "Le riche peut être à tout moment la cible d’une attaque à l’explosif, d’un rapt ou d’un assassinat, tout comme le pauvre".

Pourtant, Bagdad a une histoire glorieuse.

Construite en 762 sur les rives du Tigre par le calife abbasside Abou Jaafar al-Mansour, la ville a depuis joué un rôle central dans le monde arabo-musulman.

Au 20e siècle, Bagdad était le brillant exemple d’une ville arabe moderne avec certaines des meilleurs universités et musées de la région, une élite bien formée, un centre culturel dynamique et un système de santé haut de gamme.

Son aéroport international était un modèle pour la région et la ville a connu la naissance de l’Opep, le cartel des pays exportateurs de pétrole.

La ville abritait en outre une population de différentes confessions: musulmans, chrétiens, juifs et autres.

"Bagdad représentait le centre économique de l’Etat abbasside", souligne Issam al-Faili, professeur d’histoire politique à l’université Moustansiriyah, un établissement vieux de huit siècles.

Il rappelle qu’elle a "servi de base à la conquête de régions voisines pour élargir l’influence de l’islam".

- ‘Bagdad, la belle, en ruines’ -

"Elle était une capitale du monde", dit, avec fierté, l’universitaire, qui admet qu'"aujourd’hui, elle est devenue l’une des villes les plus misérables de la planète".

L’Irak connaît depuis un an une recrudescence des violences, alimentées par le ressentiment de la minorité sunnite face au gouvernement dominé par les chiites, et par le conflit en Syrie voisine. Depuis le début 2014, plus de 1.900 personnes ont été tuées.

Face aux violences, les forces de sécurité installent de nouveaux points de contrôle, qui pullulent déjà à Bagdad, et imposent des restrictions au trafic routier. Des murs massifs en béton, conçus pour résister à l’impact des explosions, divisent des quartiers confessionnellement mixtes.

Certains tentent de nettoyer et d’embellir la ville mais reconnaissent la difficulté de la mission.

"Les gouvernements successifs n’ont pas travaillé pour développer Bagdad", regrette Amir al-Chalabi, chef d’une ONG, la Humanitarian Construction Organisation, qui mène campagne pour améliorer les services de base dans la ville.

"La nuit, elle se transforme en une ville fantôme car elle manque d’éclairage", note-t-il.

Des câbles électriques pendent dans les rues où des particuliers gérant de générateurs fournissent, contre rémunération, du courant électrique, compensant ainsi les défaillances du réseau public. Et en raison du réseau limité des égouts, les rues de la capitale sont inondées dès les premières pluies.

Et malgré une économie en forte croissance grâce au pétrole, en pleine reprise, ce secteur n’est pas générateur d’emplois pour enrayer le taux de chômage dans le pays, y compris dans la capitale.

"Les problèmes de Bagdad sont innombrables. Bagdad la belle est aujourd’hui en ruines", se lamente Hamid al-Daraji.

Voir aussi:

Why do people choose to live in the ‘worst city in the world?’

Adam Taylor

The Washington Post

February 26 2014

Human resources consulting firm Mercer recently crunched the numbers on dozens of factors about life for an expatriate. The aim? To calculate exactly how much extra international firms should be willing to pay their employees when asking them to move to undesirable locations.(While Mercer wouldn’t release the precise data, Ed Hannibal, a global mobility leader at the company, said that factors involved included such concerns as security, infrastructure and the availability of international goods).

While the data has its practical uses, it has another, more viral, function too: Ranking the "best" and "worst" cities for quality of life in the entire world.

For example, it turns out that expats asked to move to Austria are pretty lucky: Vienna ranked top of the list for expats, followed by Zurich, Auckland, Munich and Vancouver. For all of these cities, Hannibal told me, quality of life was so good that companies were recommended to not pay employees there any hardship costs at all.

But down at the other end of the scale, it’s a different story. According to Mercer, companies should be willing to pay top dollar for some cities, and none more so than Baghdad.

Yes, the Iraqi capital has beaten out 222 other locations to be named the city with the lowest quality of life for expats in the entire world.

Baghdad is so bad, according to Mercer, that companies should pay people a considerable amount extra to live there. As Hannibal explained to me, companies would likely have to pay an employee an extra 35-40 percent on top of their base salary as compensation for the poor quality of life in Iraq – that some companies might go as high as 50 percent in cash or other services. Worse still, Baghdad is a persistent worst offender in Mercer’s data, gradually falling down the rankings since 2001 and ranking last since 2004. It’s even acquired the curse of Google Auto-complete: Type "Baghdad Worst" into the search engine, and "Baghdad worst place to live" and "Baghdad worst city" appear.

Could a bustling city of 6 million people really be the worst city in the world? To get a better perspective on it, I reached out to a few Baghdad expats, people who, unlike most Iraqis, made a choice to live in Iraq. Surprisingly, most seemed to be aware that they were apparently living in the worst place they could live.

"I know exactly which survey you mean," said one person who has lived in Baghdad for five years and asked not to be named. "I have often thought of that survey when I take the direct Austrian air flight from Baghdad to Vienna, thereby going from the worst city to the best city in the world in a matter of a few hours."

Others, however, were quick to argue that the poll didn’t reflect the Baghdad they knew. "Every expat I know here is mystified by that data," said Jane Arraf, a freelance journalist who has spent many years in the city. "I’d be hard-pressed to find an expat (not a lot of them around admittedly) who believes that’s the case, apart from the prisoners of the Green Zone — the embassy people, U.N. staff and others who can’t actually get out into the city."

It seems obvious, of course, that Baghdad is a more dangerous place than Vienna: More than 1,000 people were killed in attacks last month, for example. And surely luxury goods would be easier to find in a Western city (when I asked one Baghdad resident about the availability of international goods, they e-mailed back: "hahahahahahahaha").

"In a sense, almost anything an Iraqi could want can be obtained," Raoul Henri Alcala, a private businessman who has lived in the city for 10 years explains, "although often at a high price that also often includes payments to facilitators that can best be described as blatant corruption."

Alcala, who once worked for the Iraqi government and now runs his own consulting firm, lives in the "Green Zone" and says that while his choice of location is safer than the outside city (the "Red Zone"), his location provides its own difficulties. "Shops do exist in the Zone selling food, beverages, pharmaceuticals and minor comfort items," Alcala says. "Everything else has to be purchased outside, and can be brought into the Zone only after a laborious written authorization is requested and received." Popular restaurants, markets and liquor stores outside the Green Zone have become targets for terror attacks, according to Alcala.

Alcala says that he has never lived in a city with a comparable "level of uncertainty and difficulty." There do appear to be rivals, however, for Baghdad’s "worst city" crown. In the Mercer data, it narrowly beats out Bangui in the Central African Republic, Port-Au-Prince in Haiti, N’Djamena in Chad and Sana’a in Yemen. Plus, there are more than 223 cities on Earth. It’s plausible that one of these unlisted locations is "worse" than Baghdad (and, for what it’s worth, rival data from the Economist Intelligence Unit states that Damascus was the worst place in the world to live).

Baghdad’s place at the bottom of the list is a little more depressing when you consider that much of the lack of infrastructure and chaotic security situation can at least partially be blamed on eight years of U.S.-led war (the U.S. government has spent $60 billion in civilian reconstruction to be fair, though much of it is thought to have been wasted). That weight must affect some expats in Baghdad: One told me that she "felt a sense of responsibility to clean up the mess that George Bush made." On the other hand, others explained that the potential for personal remuneration was likely a serious motive for many expats.

Ultimately, people who choose to live in a place like Baghdad probably do so for a complicated set of reasons. As Arraf puts it, there are two types of people in the world: The "you couldn’t pay me enough to do this" types, and the "I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this" types. The latter should probably ignore Mercer’s data.

Voir enfin:

Baghdad Now World’s Worst City

AlJazeerah.net

3-3-4

Baghdad has been rated the world’s worst city to live in.

A new study by a UK research company puts the occupied Iraqi capital last of 215 cities it profiled throughout the world.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting based its overall quality of life survey on political, social, economic and environmental factors, as well as personal safety, health, education, transport and other public services.

It was compiled to help governments and major companies to place employees on international assignments.

The study, released on Monday, said Baghdad is now the world’s least attractive city for expatriates.

Top Swiss cities

Placed 213th out of 215 cities last year, Baghdad’s rating has dropped due to ongoing concerns over security and the city’s precarious infrastructure.

The survey revealed that Zurich and Geneva are the world’s top-rated urban centres.

The rating takes into account the cities’ schools, where standards of education are now considered among the best in the world.

Cities in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia continue to dominate the top of the rankings.

Vienna shares third place with Vancouver, while Auckland, Bern, Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Sydney are joint fifth.

US cities slide

However, US cities have slipped in the rankings this year as tighter restrictions have been imposed on entry to the country.

Several US cities now also have to deal with increased security checks as a result of the "war on terror".

Meanwhile, other poor-scoring cities for overall quality of life include Bangui in the Central African Republic, and Brazzaville and Pointe Noire in Congo.

Mercer senior researcher Slagin Parakatil said: "The threat of terrorism in the Middle East and the political and economic turmoil in African countries has increased the disparity between cities at the top and the bottom end of the rankings."

Voir encore:

Much of $60B from U.S. to rebuild Iraq wasted, special auditor’s final report to Congress shows

CBS news

APMarch 6, 2013

WASHINGTON Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.

In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen’s conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.

The reconstruction effort "grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated," Bowen told The Associated Press in a preview of his last audit of U.S. funds spent in Iraq, to be released Wednesday. "Not enough was accomplished for the size of the funds expended."

In interviews with Bowen, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the U.S. funding "could have brought great change in Iraq" but fell short too often. "There was misspending of money," said al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim whose sect makes up about 60 percent of Iraq’s population.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the country’s top Sunni Muslim official, told auditors that the rebuilding efforts "had unfavorable outcomes in general."

"You think if you throw money at a problem, you can fix it," Kurdish government official Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, told auditors. "It was just not strategic thinking."

The abysmal Iraq results forecast what could happen in Afghanistan, where U.S. taxpayers have so far spent $90 billion in reconstruction projects during a 12-year military campaign that is slated to end, for the most part, in 2014.

Shortly after the March 2003 invasion, Congress set up a $2.4 billion fund to help ease the sting of war for Iraqis. It aimed to rebuild Iraq’s water and electricity systems; provide food, health care and governance for its people; and take care of those who were forced from their homes in the fighting. Less than six months later, President George W. Bush asked for $20 billion more to further stabilize Iraq and help turn it into an ally that could gain economic independence and reap global investments.

To date, the U.S. has spent more than $60 billion in reconstruction grants to help Iraq get back on its feet after the country was broken by more than two decades of war, sanctions and dictatorship. That works out to about $15 million a day.

And yet Iraq’s government is rife with corruption and infighting. Baghdad’s streets are still cowed by near-daily deadly bombings. A quarter of the country’s 31 million population lives in poverty, and few have reliable electricity and clean water.

Overall, including all military and diplomatic costs and other aid, the U.S. has spent at least $767 billion since the American-led invasion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. National Priorities Project, a U.S. research group that analyzes federal data, estimated the cost at $811 billion, noting that some funds are still being spent on ongoing projects.

Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate committee that oversees U.S. funding, said the Bush administration should have agreed to give the reconstruction money to Iraq as a loan in 2003 instead as an outright gift.

"It’s been an extraordinarily disappointing effort and, largely, a failed program," Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview Tuesday. "I believe, had the money been structured as a loan in the first place, that we would have seen a far more responsible approach to how the money was used, and lower levels of corruption in far fewer ways."

In numerous interviews with Iraqi and U.S. officials, and though multiple examples of thwarted or defrauded projects, Bowen’s report laid bare a trail of waste, including:

–In Iraq’s eastern Diyala province, a crossroads for Shiite militias, Sunni insurgents and Kurdish squatters, the U.S. began building a 3,600-bed prison in 2004 but abandoned the project after three years to flee a surge in violence. The half-completed Khan Bani Sa’ad Correctional Facility cost American taxpayers $40 million but sits in rubble, and Iraqi Justice Ministry officials say they have no plans to ever finish or use it.

–Subcontractors for Anham LLC, based in Vienna, Va., overcharged the U.S. government thousands of dollars for supplies, including $900 for a control switch valued at $7.05 and $80 for a piece of pipe that costs $1.41. Anham was hired to maintain and operate warehouses and supply centers near Baghdad’s international airport and the Persian Gulf port at Umm Qasr.

–A $108 million wastewater treatment center in the city of Fallujah, a former al Qaeda stronghold in western Iraq, will have taken eight years longer to build than planned when it is completed in 2014 and will only service 9,000 homes. Iraqi officials must provide an additional $87 million to hook up most of the rest of the city, or 25,000 additional homes.

–After blowing up the al-Fatah bridge in north-central Iraq during the invasion and severing a crucial oil and gas pipeline, U.S. officials decided to try to rebuild the pipeline under the Tigris River, at a cost of $75 million. A geological study predicted the project might fail, and it did: Eventually, the bridge and pipelines were repaired at an additional cost of $29 million.

–A widespread ring of fraud led by a former U.S. Army officer resulted in tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks and the criminal convictions of 22 people connected to government contracts for bottled water and other supplies at the Iraqi reconstruction program’s headquarters at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

In too many cases, Bowen concluded, U.S. officials did not consult with Iraqis closely or deeply enough to determine what reconstruction projects were really needed or, in some cases, wanted. As a result, Iraqis took limited interest in the work, often walking away from half-finished programs, refusing to pay their share, or failing to maintain completed projects once they were handed over.

Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, described the projects as well intentioned, but poorly prepared and inadequately supervised.

The missed opportunities were not lost on at least 15 senior State and Defense department officials interviewed in the report, including ambassadors and generals, who were directly involved in rebuilding Iraq.

One key lesson learned in Iraq, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns told auditors, is that the U.S. cannot expect to "do it all and do it our way. We must share the burden better multilaterally and engage the host country constantly on what is truly needed."

Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, who was the top U.S. military commander in Iraq from 2008 to 2010, said, "It would have been better to hold off spending large sums of money" until the country stabilized.

About a third of the $60 billion was spent to train and equip Iraqi security forces, which had to be rebuilt after the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbanded Saddam’s army in 2003. Today, Iraqi forces have varying successes in safekeeping the public and only limited ability to secure their land, air and sea borders.

The report also cites Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as saying that the 2011 withdrawal of American troops from Iraq weakened U.S. influence in Baghdad. Panetta has since left office: Former Sen. Chuck Hagel took over the defense job last week. Washington is eyeing a similar military drawdown next year in Afghanistan, where U.S. taxpayers have spent $90 billion so far on rebuilding projects.

The Afghanistan effort risks falling into the same problems that mired Iraq if oversight isn’t coordinated better. In Iraq, officials were too eager to build in the middle of a civil war, and too often raced ahead without solid plans or back-up plans, the report concluded.

Most of the work was done in piecemeal fashion, as no single government agency had responsibility for all of the money spent. The State Department, for example, was supposed to oversee reconstruction strategy starting in 2004, but controlled only about 10 percent of the money at stake. The Defense Department paid for the vast majority of the projects — 75 percent.

Voir par ailleurs:

2014 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings – Mercer survey

United States , New York

Publication date: 19 February 2014


Vienna is the city with the world’s best quality of living, according to the Mercer 2014 Quality of Living rankings, in which European cities dominate. Zurich and Auckland follow in second and third place, respectively. Munich is in fourth place, followed by Vancouver, which is also the highest-ranking city in North America. Ranking 25 globally, Singapore is the highest-ranking Asian city, whereas Dubai (73) ranks first across Middle East and Africa. The city of Pointe-à-Pitre (69), Guadeloupe, takes the top spot for Central and South America.

Mercer conducts its Quality of Living survey annually to help multinational companies and other employers compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Two common incentives include a quality-of-living allowance and a mobility premium. A quality-of-living or “hardship” allowance compensates for a decrease in the quality of living between home and host locations, whereas a mobility premium simply compensates for the inconvenience of being uprooted and having to work in another country. Mercer’s Quality of Living reports provide valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for over 460 cities throughout the world, the ranking covers 223 of these cities.

Political instability, high crime levels, and elevated air pollution are a few factors that can be detrimental to the daily lives of expatriate employees their families and local residents. To ensure that compensation packages reflect the local environment appropriately, employers need a clear picture of the quality of living in the cities where they operate,” said Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer.

Mr Parakatil added: “In a world economy that is becoming more globalised, cities beyond the traditional financial and business centres are working to improve their quality of living so they can attract more foreign companies. This year’s survey recognises so-called ‘second tier’ or ‘emerging’ cites and points to a few examples from around the world These cities have been investing massively in their infrastructure and attracting foreign direct investments by providing incentives such as tax, housing, or entry facilities. Emerging cities will become major players that traditional financial centres and capital cities will have to compete with.”

Europe

Vienna is the highest-ranking city globally. In Europe, it is followed by Zurich (2), Munich (4), Düsseldorf (6), and Frankfurt (7). “European cities enjoy a high overall quality of living compared to those in other regions. Healthcare, infrastructure, and recreational facilities are generally of a very high standard. Political stability and relatively low crime levels enable expatriates to feel safe and secure in most locations. The region has seen few changes in living standards over the last year,” said Mr Parakatil.

Ranking 191 overall, Tbilisi, Georgia, is the lowest-ranking city in Europe. It continues to improve in its quality of living, mainly due to a growing availability of consumer goods, improving internal stability, and developing infrastructure. Other cities on the lower end of Europe’s ranking include: Minsk (189), Belarus; Yerevan (180), Armenia; Tirana (179), Albania; and St Petersburg (168), Russia. Ranking 107, Wroclaw, Poland, is an emerging European city. Since Poland’s accession to the European Union, Wroclaw has witnessed tangible economic growth, partly due to its talent pool, improved infrastructure, and foreign and internal direct investments. The EU named Wroclaw as a European Capital of Culture for 2016.

Americas

Canadian cities dominate North America’s top-five list. Ranking fifth globally, Vancouver tops the regional list, followed by Ottawa (14), Toronto (15), Montreal (23), and San Francisco (27). The region’s lowest-ranking city is Mexico City (122), preceded by four US cities: Detroit (70), St. Louis (67), Houston (66), and Miami (65). Mr Parakatil commented: “On the whole, North American cities offer a high quality of living and are attractive working destinations for companies and their expatriates. A wide range of consumer goods are available, and infrastructures, including recreational provisions, are excellent.

In Central and South America, the quality of living varies substantially. Pointe-à-Pitre (69), Guadeloupe, is the region’s highest-ranked city, followed by San Juan (72), Montevideo (77), Buenos Aires (81), and Santiago (93). Manaus (125), Brazil, has been identified as an example of an emerging city in this region due to its major industrial centre which has seen the creation of the “Free Economic Zone of Manaus,” an area with administrative autonomy giving Manaus a competitive advantage over other cities in the region. This zone has attracted talent from other cities and regions, with several multinational companies already settled in the area and more expected to arrive in the near future.

Several cities in Central and South America are still attractive to expatriates due to their relatively stable political environments, improving infrastructure, and pleasant climate,” said Mr Parakatil. “But many locations remain challenging due to natural disasters, such as hurricanes often hitting the region, as well as local economic inequality and high crime rates. Companies placing their workers on expatriate assignments in these locations must ensure that hardship allowances reflect the lower levels of quality of living.

Asia Pacific

Singapore (25) has the highest quality of living in Asia, followed by four Japanese cities: Tokyo (43), Kobe (47), Yokohama (49), and Osaka (57). Dushanbe (209), Tajikistan, is the lowest-ranking city in the region. Mr Parakatil commented: “Asia has a bigger range of quality-of-living standard amongst its cities than any other region. For many cities, such as those in South Korea, the quality of living is continually improving. But for others, such as some in China, issues like pervasive poor air pollution are eroding their quality of living.

With their considerable growth in the last decade, many second-tier Asian cities are starting to emerge as important places of business for multinational companies. Examples include Cheonan (98), South Korea, which is strategically located in an area where several technology companies have operations. Over the past decades, Pune (139), India has developed into an education hub and home to IT, other high-tech industries, and automobile manufacturing. The city of Xian (141), China has also witnessed some major developments, such as the establishment of an “Economic and Technological Development Zone” to attract foreign investments. The city is also host to various financial services, consulting, and computer services.

Elsewhere, New Zealand and Australian cities rank high on the list for quality of living, with Auckland and Sydney ranking 3 and 10, respectively.

Middle East and Africa

With a global rank of 73, Dubai is the highest-ranked city in the Middle East and Africa region. It is followed by Abu Dhabi (78), UAE; Port Louis (82), Mauritius; and Durban (85) and Cape Town (90), South Africa. Durban has been identified as an example of an emerging city in this region, due to the growth of its manufacturing industries and the increasing importance of the shipping port. Generally, though, this region dominates the lower end of the quality of living ranking, with five out of the bottom six cities; Baghdad (223) has the lowest overall ranking.

The Middle East and especially Africa remain one of the most challenging regions for multinational organisations and expatriates. Regional instability and disruptive political events, including civil unrest, lack of infrastructure and natural disasters such as flooding, keep the quality of living from improving in many of its cities. However, some cities that might not have been very attractive to foreign companies are making efforts to attract them,” said Mr Parakatil.

Notes for Editors

Mercer produces worldwide quality-of-living rankings annually from its most recent Worldwide Quality of Living Surveys. Individual reports are produced for each city surveyed. Comparative quality-of-living indexes between a base city and a host city are available, as are multiple-city comparisons. Details are available from Mercer Client Services in Warsaw, at +48 22 434 5383 or at www.mercer.com/qualityofliving.

The data was largely collected between September and November 2013, and will be updated regularly to take account of changing circumstances. In particular, the assessments will be revised to reflect significant political, economic, and environmental developments.

Expatriates in difficult locations: Determining appropriate allowances and incentives

Companies need to be able to determine their expatriate compensation packages rationally, consistently and systematically. Providing incentives to reward and recognise the efforts that employees and their families make when taking on international assignments remains a typical practice, particularly for difficult locations. Two common incentives include a quality-of-living allowance and a mobility premium:

  • A quality-of-living or “hardship” allowance compensates for a decrease in the quality of living between home and host locations.
  • A mobility premium simply compensates for the inconvenience of being uprooted and having to work in another country.

A quality-of-living allowance is typically location-related, while a mobility premium is usually independent of the host location. Some multinational companies combine these premiums, but the vast majority provides them separately.

Quality of Living: City benchmarking

Mercer also helps municipalities assess factors that can improve their quality of living rankings. In a global environment, employers have many choices as to where to deploy their mobile employees and set up new business. A city’s quality of living standards can be an important variable for employers to consider.

Leaders in many cities want to understand the specific factors that affect their residents’ quality of living and address those issues that lower their city’s overall quality-of-living ranking. Mercer advises municipalities through a holistic approach that addresses their goals of progressing towards excellence, and attracting multinational companies and globally mobile talent by improving the elements that are measured in its Quality of Living survey.

Mercer hardship allowance recommendations

Mercer evaluates local living conditions in more than 460 cities it surveys worldwide. Living conditions are analysed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:

  • Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc.)
  • Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services)
  • Socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom)
  • Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc)
  • Schools and education (standards and availability of international schools)
  • Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc)
  • Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc)
  • Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc)
  • Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services)
  • Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)

The scores attributed to each factor, which are weighted to reflect their importance to expatriates, allow for objective city-to-city comparisons. The result is a quality of living index that compares relative differences between any two locations evaluated. For the indices to be used effectively, Mercer has created a grid that allows users to link the resulting index to a quality of living allowance amount by recommending a percentage value in relation to the index.

Voir enfin:

The 10 worst cities in the world to live in

The Economist

Friday 30 August 2013

Damascus in Syria is the worst city in the world to live in, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking.

Cities across the world are awarded scores depending on lifestyle challenges faced by the people living there. Each city is scored on its stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Since the Arab Spring in 2011, Syria has been plagued with destruction and violence as rebels fight government forces. The country has been left battle-scarred with around 2 million people fleeing from country, while Damascus has been the source of much recent tension.

Other cities that have made it onto worst cities the list include Dhaka in Bangladesh and Lagos in Nigeria. Third worst city to live in was Port Moresby in Papa New Guinea, surprisingly Melbourne and Sydney in neighbouring nation Australia were ranked in the top 10 cities in the world to live in.

Click here to see the top 10 cities in the world

2. Dhaka, Bangladesh: The country has faced controversy recently after a garment factory collapsed killing over 1,000 people

2. Dhaka in Bangladesh: The country has faced controversy recently after a garment factory collapsed killing over 1,000 people

3. Moresby, Papa New Guinea: Despite recent growth, most people live in extreme poverty

3. Moresby, Papa New Guinea: Despite recent growth, most people live in extreme poverty

4. Lagos, Nigeria: The city rated poorly in The Economist Intelligence Unit's report and was awarded the lowest score for stability in the bottom 10 countries to live in

4. Lagos, Nigeria: The city rated poorly in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s report and was awarded the lowest score for stability

5. Harare, Zimbabwe: With the continuing economic and political crises that face the country, Harare is the fifth worst city to live in.

5. Harare, Zimbabwe: With the continuing economic and political crises that face the country, Harare is the fifth worst city to live in.  

6. Algiers, Algeria: While it rates more highly for its stability, there are terrorist groups that are active in the city. While conflict and natural disasters have left the old town in ruins

6. Algiers, Algeria: While it rates more highly for its stability, there are terrorist groups that are active in the city

7. Karachi, Pakistan: Violence linked to terrorism and high homicide rates makes this city one of the worst places in the world to live in

7. Karachi, Pakistan: Violence linked to terrorism and high homicide rates makes this city one of the worst places in the world to live in  

8. Tripoli, Libya: Since the Arab Spring in 2011 there has been violence and protests in the city

8. Tripoli, Libya: Since the Arab Spring in 2011 there has been violence and protests in the city

9. Douala, Cameroon: Despite being the richest city in the whole of Central Africa, Douala has scored the lowest for health care in the bottom 10 cities

9. Douala, Cameroon: Despite being the richest city in the whole of Central Africa, Douala has scored the lowest for health care in the bottom 10 cities

10. Tehran, Iran: While the city rates highly on health care and education, Tehran did not score so well on infrastructure.

10. Tehran, Iran: While the city rates highly on health care and education, Tehran did not score so well on infrastructure.


Syrie: Dix ans après la tragédie irakienne, la farce syrienne ? (The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is finally unraveling)

2 septembre, 2013
http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/250x250/37045817.jpgHegel fait remarquer quelque part que, dans l’histoire universelle, les grands faits et les grands personnages se produisent, pour ainsi dire, deux fois. Il a oublié d’ajouter : la première fois comme tragédie, la seconde comme farce. Marx
Pendant trop longtemps, les gens ont cru que la cause profonde de l’instabilité au Moyen-Orient était le problème israélo-palestinien. Ce n’est pas la cause première, c’est l’un des résultats de la crise régionale. Si nous avons la paix avec les Palestiniens, les centrifuges ne vont pas s’arrêter de tourner en Iran, la crise ne s’arrêtera pas en Syrie, l’instabilité en Afrique du Nord ne cessera pas, les attaques contre l’Occident ne cesseront pas. (…) La situation en Syrie expose aussi une autre vérité, c’est qu’il y a quelque chose de très profond et de très large dans la tourmente du Moyen-Orient. Nous voyons la région toute entière allant du Maroc à l’Afghanistan dans la tourmente, en convulsion, dans l’instabilité. Une instabilité endémique qui n’est pas enracinée dans tel ou tel conflit, mais dans le rejet de la modernité, dans le rejet de la modération, le rejet du progrès, dans le rejet des solutions politiques. C’est en fait le cœur du problème au Moyen-Orient. C’est quelque chose qui menace tout le monde, menace les régimes modérés, menace Israël, menace l’Occident et menace tous ceux qui ne croient pas dans les dogmes doctrinaires qui guident les extrémistes. Benyamin Netanyahou
They (Syria) have a very serious chemical weapons capability. We’ve been saying that for some time-goes back to the speech I made at the BWC review conference, or on CWC that I talked about that and talked about their chemical weapons capability. So these are real programs; there’s no doubt about it. We’ve also been concerned about what might be happening in the nuclear area as well, in addition to missile and cruise missile capabilities. (…) they’re getting outside assistance in the civil nuclear area. There are a variety of things that they’ve got that we’re concerned about from a weapons point of view. I’m not saying they’re doing anything specific; I’m just saying it’s a worrisome pattern that we’ve seen, and I think that has been our view, well, before the onset of the second gulf war. John Bolton (May 2003)
Syria has "one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities" and is continuing to develop an offensive biological weapons capability. In addition, Syria has "a combined total of several hundred Scud and SS-21 SRBMs [short-range ballistic missiles], and is believed to have chemical warheads available for a portion of its Scud missile force. John Bolton (Sep. 2003)
Comprenez-moi bien: je ne me fais aucune illusion sur Saddam Hussein. C’est un homme brutal, un homme impitoyable, un homme qui massacre son propre peuple pour asseoir son pouvoir personnel. Il a à plusieurs reprises défié les résolutions de l’ONU, contrecarré les équipes d’inspection de l’ONU, mis au point des armes chimiques et biologiques et cherché à obtenir la capacité nucléaire. Il est une personne mal intentionnée. Le monde et le peuple irakien, serait mieux sans lui. Mais je sais aussi que Saddam ne pose aucune menace imminente et directe pour les États-Unis ou ses voisins, que l’économie irakienne est en ruine, que l’armée irakienne n’est plus que l’ombre d’elle-même et que de concert avec la communauté internationale, il peut être contenu jusqu’à ce que, comme tous les petits dictateurs, il tombe dans les oubliettes de l’histoire. Obama (Chicago, 02.10.02)
Mais si ce sont les critères sur lesquels nous nous appuyons pour décider du déploiement des forces américaines, alors, en suivant ce raisonnement, vous auriez 300 000 soldats au Congo dès maintenant – où des millions ont été massacrés en raison de conflits ethniques – ce que nous n’avons pas fait. Nous nous déployerions unilatéralement et occuperions le Soudan, ce que nous n’avons pas fait. Ceux d’entre nous qui se soucient du Darfour ne pensent pas que ce serait une bonne idée. Obama (2007)
Il s’agit d’un crime contre l’humanité et un crime contre l’humanité ne devrait pas demeurer impuni, ce qui doit être fait doit être fait. Ahmet Davutoglu (ministre turc des Affaires Etrangères)
Tout cela ne peut que nous rappeler les événements d’il y a dix ans, quand, en prenant pour prétexte des informations mensongères sur la présence en Irak d’armes de destruction massive, les Etats-Unis, en contournant l’ONU, se sont lancés dans une aventure, dont tout le monde connaît maintenant les conséquences. Alexandre Loukachevitch (porte-parole de la diplomatie russe)
As it turns out, Arabs and Muslims are today reviling Barack Obama’s America for proposing military action that is aimed at protecting Arabs and Muslims from atrocities in Syria. That is more or less the same thing that happened when George W. Bush sought to overthrow the Taliban oppressors of Afghanistan and Iraq’s madman tyrant Saddam Hussein. Whatever it is that the U.S. winds up doing in Syria will not have the imprimatur of the United Nations, and it will be opposed by the Arab League even though that august body has been vocal in its criticism of the Assad regime and supportive of efforts to effect regime change in Damascus. But the use of U.S. force to punish an Arab government for using chemical weapons against its own people is still a bridge too far for them. As the U.S. prepares to attack Syria, it will do so without a U.N. endorsement or even encouragement from those Arab governments that hate Assad. What exactly is the difference between this and Bush’s “coalition of the willing” that the American left (including Obama himself) mocked so much? Not much. (…) Just as Muslims claimed that American wars fought to save Muslim lives in Somalia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq were really expressions of American imperialism, now Obama’s war in Syria is treated the same way. Jonathan S. Tobin
George W. Bush was widely mocked by the Left during the Iraq War, with liberals jeering at the “coalition of the willing,” which included in its ranks some minnows such as Moldova and Kazkhstan. Michael Moore, in his rather silly documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, went to great lengths to lampoon the Iraq War alliance. But the coalition also contained, as I pointed out in Congressional testimony back in 2007, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, and 16 members of the NATO alliance, as well as Japan and South Korea. In Europe, France and Germany were the only large-scale countries that sat the war out, with 12 of the 25 members of the European Union represented. The coalition, swelled to roughly 40 countries, and was one of the largest military coalitions ever assembled. As it stands, President Obama’s proposed military coalition on Syria has a grand total of two members – the US and France. And the French, as we know from Iraq, simply can’t be relied on, and have very limited military capability. It is a truly embarrassing state of affairs when Paris, at best a fair weather friend, is your only partner. John Kerry tried to put a brave face on it at his press conference today, by referring to France “as our oldest ally,” but the fact remains that his administration is looking painfully isolated. Nile Gardiner
Rien n’illustre mieux l’impossible équation syrienne que le refus du Parlement britannique d’autoriser le Premier ministre conservateur David Cameron à participer à d’éventuelles frappes contre le régime de Bachar al-Assad. Par rapport aux précédents irakien et libyen, on assiste à un renversement total de la situation. En 2003, la Grande-Bretagne, sous la direction de Tony Blair, s’était alliée à George W. Bush pour se débarrasser de Saddam Hussein, provoquant une profonde fracture à l’intérieur de l’Union européenne. En 2011, David Cameron avait fait cause commune avec Nicolas Sarkozy pour voler au secours des insurgés libyens contre Kadhafi, entraînant le soutien réticent de Barack Obama.  Face à l’imbroglio syrien, les Etats-Unis sont laissés seuls, avec une exception qui peut paraître paradoxale: la France. Les autres Européens se tairont ou approuveront, mais de toute façon ne participeront pas à d’éventuels raids sur des sites stratégiques syriens. Daniel Vernet
Évidemment, cela serait désastreux si le régime du président Al-Assad l’emportait après s’être débarrassé de la rébellion et avoir réaffirmé son pouvoir sur l’intégralité du pays. Mais une victoire des rebelles serait également très dangereuse pour les États-Unis et pour beaucoup de ses alliées en Europe et dans le Moyen-Orient. Des groupes extrémistes, dont certains appartenant à Al Qaida, sont devenus la force de frappe la plus efficace en Syrie (…) Le maintien d’une impasse devrait être l’objectif de l’Amérique. Il n’y a qu’une seule solution pour atteindre cet objectif : armer les rebelles quand il semble que les forces de Bashar Al-Assad reprennent le dessus et, au contraire, cesser de les approvisionner lorsqu’ils sont en train de gagner. Edward Luttwark
Maintenant que nous avons révélé au monde entier, et donc au président Bachar El-Assad, tous les détails de la future attaque aérienne contre la Syrie – la source (plusieurs navires de guerre et peut-être un ou deux bombardiers), les armes (des missiles de croisière), la durée (deux ou trois jours) et l’objectif (punir et non “changer de régime”) –, peut-être devrions-nous aussi indiquer l’heure exacte des bombardements ? histoire de ne pas déranger Damas à l’heure du souper. Charles Krauthammer
Pour revenir aux questions d’obscénité morale, les soldats français, britanniques, allemands, ou les boys peuvent-ils faire le coup de feu dans le même camp que ceux qui se plaisent à exécuter un gamin en place publique, devant ses parents, parce qu’il avait affirmé ne rien avoir à faire de Mohammad ? Dans le même camp que ceux qui filment la décapitation de prêtres chrétiens et diffusent les images sur Internet ?
Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists. The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islamic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions. But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel. Victor Davis Hanson
Bombing a monstrous regime guilty of past WMD use was amoral; now it is ethical? Victor Davis Hanson

Conflits ethniques inextricables, ADM, groupes terroristes Al Qaeda compris, inspections de l’ONU, problème de mandat du Conseil de sécurité pour cause de véto russe, renversements d’alliances …

Après la tragédie, la farce ?

Alors que l’actualité dissipe, sous nos yeux et chaque jour un peu plus, les illusions des révoltes ochlocratiques (la loi de la rue et de la foule) qui avaient jusqu’ici passé pour le "printemps arabe" laissant enfin voir en plein jour, entre Téhéran, Ryiad et Doha et avec le soutien objectif de Moscou et Pékin, les vrais instigateurs et financiers du terrorisme mondial …

Comme celles du coup de la prétendue centralité du conflit israélo-palestinien (entendez: la responsabilité israélienne) pour la résolution des problèmes de la région …

Et que se dégonfle une fois de plus la baudruche de l’immense espoir soulevé il y a cinq ans par l’élection à la Maison Blanche d’un prétendu messie noir et maitre es votes "présent" qui, pris à son propre bluff, tente à nouveau de jouer la montre en s’abritant à présent derrière la consultation du Congrès …

Mais aussi, piégé à présent par son mentor américain de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, celle de l’Obama corrézien qui, seul rescapé d’une coalition réduite à lui-même (contre près d’une cinquantaine  pour le "cowboy" Bush), avait tant critiqué l’activisme brouillon de son prédécesseur …

Comment ne pas voir, avec l’historien américain Victor Davis Hanson et alors que 10 ans après une intervention américaine (et en fait alliée) qui avait soulevé l’hystérie collective anti-Bush que l’on sait …

L’incroyable et cruelle ironie que présente actuellement un imbroglio syrien où, en une sinistre et meurtrière partie de poker menteur planétaire sur fond d’une population à nouveau martyrisée et par les deux camps …

L’on se retrouve sommé de choisir, par ceux-là même qui avaient le plus critiqué alors "l‘aventure irakienne", entre le monstre Assad et ses doubles à la puissance dix allahakbaristes?

The Israeli Spring

August 29, 2013

Israel’s enemies are doing more damage to each other than Israel ever could.

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Israel could be forgiven for having a siege mentality — given that at any moment, old frontline enemies Syria and Egypt might spill their violence over common borders.

The Arab Spring has thrown Israel’s once-predictable adversaries into the chaotic state of a Sudan or Somalia. The old understandings between Jerusalem and the Assad and Mubarak kleptocracies seem in limbo.

Yet these tragic Arab revolutions swirling around Israel are paradoxically aiding it, both strategically and politically — well beyond just the erosion of conventional Arab military strength.

In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists. Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could — and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion. Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.

The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islamic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions.

But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry is still beating last century’s dead horse of a “comprehensive Middle East peace.” But does Kerry’s calcified diplomacy really assume that a peace agreement involving Israel would stop the ethnic cleansing of Egypt’s Coptic Christians? Does Israel have anything to do with Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people?

There are other losers as well. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to turn a once-secular Turkish democracy into a neo-Ottoman Islamist sultanate, with grand dreams of eastern-Mediterranean hegemony. His selling point to former Ottoman Arab subjects was often a virulent anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Turkey became one of Israel’s worst enemies and the Obama administration’s best friends.

Yet if Erdogan has charmed President Obama, he has alienated almost everyone in the Middle East. Islamists such as former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi felt that Erdogan was a fickle and opportunistic conniver. The Gulf monarchies believed that he was a troublemaker who wanted to supplant their influence. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians trust him. The result is that Erdogan’s loud anti-Israeli foreign policy is increasingly irrelevant.

The oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf once funded terrorists on the West Bank, but they are now fueling the secular military in Egypt. In Syria they are searching to find some third alternative to Assad’s Alawite regime and its al-Qaeda enemies. For the moment, oddly, the Middle East foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil monarchies dovetails with Israel’s: Predictable Sunni-Arab nationalism is preferable to one-vote, one-time Islamist radicals.

Israel no doubt prefers that the Arab world liberalize and embrace constitutional government. Yet the current bloodletting lends credence to Israel’s ancient complaints that it never had a constitutional or lawful partner in peace negotiations.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt dictatorship is gone. His radical Muslim Brotherhood successors were worse and are also gone. The military dictatorship that followed both is no more legitimate than either. In these cycles of revolution, the one common denominator is an absence of constitutional government.

In Syria, there never was a moderate middle. Take your pick between the murderous Shiite-backed Assad dictatorship or radical Sunni Islamists. In Libya, the choice degenerated to Moammar Qaddafi’s unhinged dictatorship or the tribal militias that overthrew it. Let us hope that one day westernized moderate democracy might prevail. But that moment seems a long way off.

What do the Egyptian military, the French in Mali, Americans at home, the Russians, the Gulf monarchies, persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and the reformers of the Arab Spring all have in common? Like Israel, they are all fighting Islamic-inspired fanaticism. And most of them, like Israel, are opposed to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

In comparison with the ruined economies of the Arab Spring — tourism shattered, exports nonexistent, and billions of dollars in infrastructure lost through unending violence — Israel is an atoll of prosperity and stability. Factor in its recent huge gas and oil finds in the eastern Mediterranean, and it may soon become another Kuwait or Qatar, but with a real economy beyond its booming petroleum exports.

Israel had nothing to do with either the Arab Spring or its failure. The irony is that surviving embarrassed Arab regimes now share the same concerns with the Israelis. In short, the more violent and chaotic the Middle East becomes, the more secure and exceptional Israel appears.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Books. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com.

Voir aussi:

Is The War to Save Face or Save Lives?

August 29, 2013

Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

Most of the arguments pro and con for an intervention in Syria have already been made.

I think the consensus is that while stopping Assad in 2011 might have been wise (before the use of the WMD and 100,000 dead), doing so now is, well, problematic.

He has shown far more resilience than the administration thought when it ordered him to leave (dictators rarely leave when ordered to by an American president). The opposition seems far more dominated by al-Qaeda affiliates than originally thought (not all that many Westernized intellectuals, persecuted minorities, and Arab Spring bloggers are still left on the barricades).

In addition, both critics and supporters of the president point out that had Obama just kept quiet, he could have kept the option of intervening on his own timetable, rather than being forced to when his rhetorical red lines were not merely crossed but erased in humiliating fashion. Since his bluff has been called, he now has to act to save face rather than to save lives — 100,000 of them too late.

Yet the rub is not just that it is unlikely that we can find all the WMD depots and destroy them safely from the air (keeping them out of both Assad’s and our allies’ hands).

Nor is the problem just that it is unlikely that a limited punitive blow against Assad will topple him (and then what?) and restore American rhetorical credibility.

Instead, we are not sure that the opposition is likely to be any better than the monster Assad. Did we learn nothing from Libya and Egypt? The paradox in the Middle East is that Americans can control the postwar landscape and promote consensual government only by inserting large numbers of ground troops — an unacceptable political reality. A Putinesque shelling and bombing solution (more rubble, less trouble) is ethically unacceptable to most Americans.

Then there are the domestic politics. During the Iraq War, authorization from Congress was essential; now it is not? The excruciating and ultimately failed effort in 2002 at the UN took weeks; now it is not even attempted by a Peace Prize laureate? Bombing a monstrous regime guilty of past WMD use was amoral; now it is ethical?

Voir également:

The Pros and Cons of Attacking Syria

PJ Media

August 28, 2013

MICHAEL LEDEEN

Well today, Thursday, it looks like we’re running away from the very idea of doing anything. Today’s headlines say that the intel is suddenly dubious, that Cameron won’t do anything without the UN — which means he won’t do anything at all — and Hollande is suddenly cautious.

Surprised? You say it’s inconceivable that Obama would do nothing at all after all the yelling and jumping up and down?

It wouldn’t be the first time. Think back to the Iranian-sponsored plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador to Washington. There was a monster press conference, featuring the FBI director and General Holder himself. Intel was presented. Violent words were uttered. Anyone who watched it would have had only one question: what terrible vengeance will we wreak upon the Iranians?

And then…nothing. Aside from General Mattis, it’s hard to find an authoritative voice condemning the inaction (and Mattis only said it on the eve of retirement). The story just went away, as pundits assured their readers, viewers, and listeners that the Iranians couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered an attack on American soil.

Kinda like the current refrain that Assad couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered a chemical attack against his enemies…

As you know, I think the best way to go after Assad is to help the Iranian people bring down their theocratic fascist regime. There are only two chances that Obama will support such a policy (and Slim has moved to Qatar). I would not be surprised if the air goes out of Obama’s trial war balloons, and the public is told that it never happened at all, that he never seriously contemplated violent action, and that he fought from the get-go to rein in the hawks.

Orwell says in 1984 that history was always manipulated, but nobody in the past had the ability to totally erase and rewrite recent events now on display. It may be only a matter of hours before we are told that Obama’s brave decision — to do nothing — is an example of consummate presidential leadership, courage under pressure, and moral virtue.

Yes, it could happen. Most anything can happen.

Voir encore:

ROGER KIMBALL

Aristotle gives Obama a lesson about Syria.

What is the right thing to do about Syria? On the one hand you have the thuggish Assad regime, which has murdered thousands in the past year. I doubt whether Vogue will be running more pieces like “A Rose In the Desert” [6] any time soon. That now-notorious interview with Mrs. Assad from February 2012 — talk about bad timing! — treated the magazine’s 11 million readers to a gushing portrait of the “wildly democratic” Assads, a power couple who combined the fashion sense of Anna Wintour herself with the do-gooder instincts of a latter day Mother Teresa. The preposterous puff piece won Wintour and her writer, Joan Juliet Buck, last year’s Walter Duranty Award for Journalistic Mendacity [7].

On the other hand, you have the opposition to the Assad regime. What manner of beast is that? Not all that dissimilar to the Libyan opposition. You remember those freedom fighters: two parts al-Qaeda energized by Salafist radicals [8] and tempered by the wise beards of the “largely secular” (or so says our director of national intelligence [9]) from the Muslim Brotherhood. Doubtless there was also a sprig or two of genuine secular protest, but that element was like the lemon peel on the Martini glass: a fleeting aroma of spring freshness backed up by an 80-proof cocktail of radicalism.

The trace fragrance of lemons in a properly made Martini [10] has approximately as much to do with spring time as the ochlocratic uprisings that are currently tearing apart Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other places of fun and frolic in the Muslim world. It isn’t an “Arab Spring,” as sentimentalists in the press and the Obama administration insisted, but a bad case of what Andrew McCarthy calls Spring Fever [11].

So what’s a panicked Alinskyite narcissist to do? So far, Obama’s Middle East policy — if a pattern of blundering confusion can rightly be called a “policy” — has borne an eerie similarity to his voting record as a state and later a U.S. Senator: cagey attestations of “Present” whenever a vote is taken, combined with a canny and ruthless talent for somehow taking the credit for eventualities that might redound to one’s credit. The demise of Osama bin Laden [12] is a case in point.

When Obama took office, Egypt was ruled by an authoritarian but basically pro-Western and pro-Israel autocrat. Now the country is teetering on the edge of anarchy, its economy in shambles, its people mere weeks away from starvation. When Obama took office, Libya was ruled by a preposterous transvestite thug who had been brought to heel by Western suasion. Now Libya is a toxic breeding ground of Islamic triumphalism, aptly epitomized by the obscene murder of Muammar Gaddafi by a mob of radical Islamists as well as the attack on our installation in Benghazi last September 11, a coordinated assault that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and which Obama’s spokesmen blamed on a rancid anti-Muslim internet video but which was really the result of his administration’s dithering incompetence. “Present” didn’t save the day for Ambassador Chris Stevens and the brave men in his security detail and it hasn’t been working out too well with respect to Syria, either, where someone —was it Assad’s minions? (Was it?) — unleashed poison gas near Damascus [13], killing hundreds.

So, should Obama bomb Syria, even if it is illegal [14]? Careful. There’s a reason why Russia’s deputy prime minister — speaking, of course, for Putin himself — said that the West was behaving about Syria like “a monkey with a grenade [15].” The vertiginous spectacle of blundering incompetence is painful to behold.

And this is where Aristotle makes an entrance. In a famous passage of The Nicomachean Ethics [16], Aristotle observed that one can behave in certain ways that make any course of action morally opprobrious. Most of us do not choose to act in an unjust way. But we can live our lives in such a way that no good course of action is open to us. “The unjust and profligate,” Aristotle says, “might at the outset have avoided becoming so… although when they have become unjust and profligate it is no longer open to them not to be so.” Once you cast the stone, you cannot bring it back, but you are responsible for having taken up flinging the stone in the first place.

Or voting “Present.” Some of my friends believe the grounds for military action against Syria are patent. I suspect it is too late for such clarity. There was a time, in the early days of the Obama regime, when we might have taken effective action in the Middle East, when leadership might have made a difference in Egypt, in Libya, in Iran. In those days — how distant they seem! — the United States still exerted enormous if widely resented moral influence in the region. Obama’s habit of “leading from behind” (i.e., relinquishing leadership) has not-so-gradually eroded that authority. Now what? Obama, along with his Goneril and Regan, Samantha Power and Valerie Jarrett, would be sadly comic if the game they were playing were not so serious. Obama’s blundering has already cost thousands of lives in the Muslim world, many American lives as well as the lives of indigenes. In Syria, the stakes have been raised yet again. Intervene or leave it alone? There are those who believe that the horror of the gas attacks in Syria require that action, some action, any action, as a necessary cathartic for us moral paragons in the West. But what if it unleashes something far worse? Are we confident that this president and his band of not-so-merry pranksters have the skill to deploy force at the right time, in the right place, for the right ends, and in the right proportion? Pondering that I think of Aristotle’s observation that “only a blockhead fails to recognize that our character is the result of our conduct.” I am not uplifted by the reflection.

— In addition to his work at PJ Media [17] and The New Criterion [18], Roger Kimball is the publisher of Encounter Books [19], a purveyor of serious non-fiction titles from a broadly construed conservative perspective.

ROGER L. SIMON

Okay, I’m a warmonger.

Worse than that — I’m a chickenhawk. The closest I have ever come to war is a bar fight with a contributor to the Daily Kos. (Kidding… almost)

Nevertheless, I don’t see what choice the U. S. has about striking Syria — and not because our president drew some sort of “red line,” but because of gas itself. You don’t have to be Jewish to believe that, since Auschwitz, gassing your fellow human beings is pretty close to the most obscene act we can perform on each other. It’s forbidden by the Geneva Conventions for a reason.

The people who perpetrate this obscenity — Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad — deserve to die for their actions. And I’m not even much of a believer in capital punishment.

That’s one reason to move against the Syrian regime, although I fear our administration will not do enough and make the whole thing moot.

The second reason is to scare the bejeesus out of what Brother Ledeen calls the “terror masters” in Iran and perhaps deter them from obtaining nuclear weapons. We will certainly have to do more in that regard, but any weakening of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria nexus is to the good.

Some worry we will be aiding al-Qaeda. Perhaps so. But they’re next. (Or possibly simultaneous if this report from Le Figaro [20] is to be believed.)

In any case, in the War on Terror, we are going to have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time.

We’re even going to have to learn to function without a good commander-in-chief… at least for a while.

If you want more extensive elucidation of my views, I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday [21].

— Roger L. Simon is the co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media.

DAVID P. GOLDMAN

Go after the dog’s master, not the dog.

Kudos to Michael Ledeen [22] for explaining that the road to Damascus starts in Tehran. As Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu [23] explained on Aug. 25, “Assad’s regime isn’t acting alone. Iran, and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria. In fact, Assad’s regime has become a full Iranian client and Syria has become Iran’s testing ground. … Iran is watching and it wants to see what will be the reaction to the use of chemical weapons.”

We are at war with Iran, and I have little to add to Michael’s excellent summary. As he reiterates, we have been at war with Iran for decades. The only distinction is that Iran knows this and the Obama administration pretends it’s not happening. Because the American public is disgusted with the miserable return on our investment of 5,000 lives, 50,000 casualties, and $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans are too timid to push for decisive military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program — although air strikes rather than ground troops would be required.

I made a similar case on March 29 [24]:

It’s pointless to take potshots at Obama for failing to act on Syria. What we should say is this: “Iran is the main source of instability in the Middle East. Iran’s intervention in Syria has turned the country into a slaughterhouse. By showing weakness to Iran, the Obama administration encourages its murderous activities elsewhere in the region.”

I also recommend Ed “Give War a Chance” Luttwak’s [25] Aug. 25 op-ed in the New York Times, “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” Victory for Assad would be victory for Iran. “And if the rebels win, “ Luttwak wrote, “moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers.” The whole region is paralyzed and ripe for destabilization. Saudi subsidies are keeping Egypt from starving, literally. “Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.” I would add that Turkey also is at economic free-fall with its stock market down by 40% in dollar terms since April.

Luttwak argues that the U.S. should favor “an indefinite draw.” Here I disagree: the chemical attack shows how easily Iran can manipulate events in Syria to suit its strategic objectives. The best solution is Yugoslav-style partition: an Alawite redoubt in the Northwest including Latakia (where Russia has its naval station), and a Sunni protectorate in the rest of the country, except for an autonomous zone for Syria’s Kurds. Everyone wins except the Turks, who understandably abhor the idea of an independent Kurdish entity. Someone has to lose, though. What has Turkey done for us lately?

Obama probably will choose the worst of all possible alternatives. Daniel Pipes warns that this course of action “will also entail real dangers. Bashar al-Assad’s notorious incompetence means his response cannot be anticipated. Western strikes could, among other possibilities, inadvertently lead to increased regime attacks on civilians, violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States. In other words, the imminent attack entails few potential benefits but many potential drawbacks. As such, it neatly encapsulates the Obama administration’s failed foreign policy.”

If the problems of the Middle East look intractable now, consider what they will look like if Iran can promote mass murder from under a nuclear umbrella. The hour is late. If we Republicans can’t summon the courage to advance fundamental American national security issues in the midst of crisis, we will deserve the voters’ contempt.

— David P. Goldman [26] joined PJM after nearly 10 years of anonymous essaying at Asia Times Online and two years of editing and writing at First Things.

RICHARD FERNANDEZ

The most discouraging thing about the Syrian situation is the seeming pointlessness of Washington’s actions. There appears to be no directing intelligence, no strategic calculation behind the administration’s actions.The reasons for the proposed strike are largely cast in emotional terms: outrage at Assad having killed a thousand with nerve gas. But given that the last 100,000 of his victims did not elicit the same outrage, the recent indignation seems a judgment upon the manner (and not the fact) of the execution of innocents — a tragedy, as it were, of manners.

Yet none of the truly important questions have been aired in the proper forums. What is America’s interest in Syria? To checkmate Russia and Iran? To prevent Islamic terrorism from seizing yet another failed state? To forestall a wave of unrest and instability across the region? To prevent Israel from being drawn into war? And how will a limited strike designed not to inconvenience Assad too much achieve of any of these?

These questions were meant to be asked. They were required to be asked by the Founders, who personally knew more about war in more intimacy and length than the president ever will. This administration has abolished war by the adolescent method of giving it a variety of aliases like “leading from behind,” “kinetic military options,” and “sending a message.” In so doing, Obama has not only trivialized war but obviated the need to think on it.

Under its former and ugly name, the act of one country striking another country with military force was an awful thing, a fearful landscape to be entered only by long debate in the widest possible forum. The gateway to the battlefield was hung about with dread signs and the memories of sacrifices past. Today it’s a punch line.

The president might remember that in war the other side gets to vote and no plan, no set of talking points ever survives contact with the enemy; that once he starts something there is is an element of risk about where it goes. Did I say “the other side?” Well is there “another side” and does it have a name? It is the measure of the absurdity of the situation that this fundamental quantity, the sine qua non of conflict, the question of who is the enemy, remains, like the word “war” itself, concealed under an alias.

President Obama may not be interested in consequences, but consequences may be interested in him.

— Richard Fernandez [27] has been a software developer for nearly 15 years.

ANDREW KLAVAN

The good thing is that this is a military action with a clearly defined purpose: to distract us from the ineptitude and corruption of the Obama administration. In order to achieve this goal, a contained and restricted action should suffice, requiring little more than the meaningless scattershot dropping of bombs, followed by a presidential speech about poison gas featuring a Very Serious Expression. The word “barbaric” and the phrase “will not be tolerated” should only be deployed if absolutely necessary, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. The sides are clearly drawn: on one we have the murderous tyrant Bashar al-Assad, and on the other, we have al-Qaeda, and really, you just couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people. So, looking on the bright side, at least we’re unlikely to miss hitting our enemies. I remember when the media and the left excoriated George W. Bush for “going it alone” and “rushing to war” in Iraq even though he waited for more than a year and solicited the support of our allies and the UN. I’m glad to say Obama will not be distracted by that sort of background noise. It’s much easier to make these decisions by yourself in a big hurry when it’s nice and quiet.

— Andrew Klavan [28] is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and media commentator.

RONALD RADOSH

I have previously argued [29] that what to do about Syria and the regime led by Bashar Assad leaves us few good options. I have also been critical, in another column [30], of the arguments made by the interventionists. Since then, with the recent proof of the massive chemical attacks unleashed by Iran’s proxy (Syria), the situation has changed.

The administration has made it clear with their leaks of apparent plans that they are contemplating what we might call an ineffectual and purely symbolic raid on Syria, one that will leave Assad in power, spare even his presidential palace, and allow him to brag how he managed to withstand the attack from imperialist America. As a Wall Street Journal [31]editorial [31] explains, “the attack in Syria isn’t really about damaging the Bashar Assad regime’s capacity to murder its own people, much less about ending the Assad regime for good.” It is “primarily about making a political statement, and vindicating President Obama’s ill-considered promise of ‘consequences,’ rather than materially degrading Assad’s ability to continue to wage war against his own people.”

If this is the reason for the administration’s contemplated strike, the outcome will only be to strengthen the regime, embolden the Iranians to move forward more quickly to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and build up the authority of the Putin government in Russia, while emasculating further the authority and position of the United States in the world. It will likely mark the fruition of Obama’s ill-considered strategy of “leading from behind” and will also show the folly of both his outreach to the Muslim world and the once-heralded decision to work through and with the Muslim Brotherhood.

A few days ago, the Foreign Policy Initiative released a letter to the president [32] signed by a distinguished bipartisan group of liberal and conservative writers, foreign policy experts, journalists, academics, and political leaders. The group stated:

We urge you to respond decisively by imposing meaningful consequences on the Assad regime. At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons. It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.

The group goes on to urge that the president consider “direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime.” Not only the use of chemical weapons, but all weapons that Assad can use against his own people must be taken out of operational use. The writers call for training and arming moderate and trusted elements that would oppose both the Assad regime and the growing Islamist radicals working with the opposition.

They are correct to argue that if nothing or only a symbolic action is undertaken, after the president has said time and time again that certain red lines cannot be crossed, the world will see our talk as nothing but empty threats, and the Iranian regime will be emboldened.

There may be many reasons to be wary about the effects of intervention in Syria, but doing nothing is an option our nation can no longer afford.

— Ron Radosh [33] is a professional historian, author or co-author of more than 15 books, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.

CLAUDIA ROSETT

Yes, the U.S. should act. Short of all-out World War III, or IV, or maybe V (take your pick), for U.S. policy to have any deterrent effect on the world’s worst regimes developing and using the world’s deadliest weapons, America’s threats must be credible. The stakes here go way beyond Syria, or even the use of chemical weapons.

As President Obama said in 2009, alluding to a North Korean ballistic missile test, “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” Or, as Obama has said in multiple permutations for at least five years now about Iran, “When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons, we mean what we say.” Or, as Obama said a year ago about the conflict in Syria, “If we start to see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” that would cross “a red line.”

Since these various pronouncements, North Korea has conducted additional long-range missile tests plus two nuclear tests. Iran despite growing layers of sanctions has carried on with pursuit of the nuclear bomb. And Syria’s Assad regime, according to Obama himself, has used chemical weapons (evidently a whole bunch of them, on multiple occasions, this latest attack being the worst).

All these developments are connected, and not solely because they involve weapons of mass murder. There is an axis of rogue regime activity here, whether we call it an axis of evil, a gathering storm, or a concatenation of unacceptable red line crossers. As Michael Ledeen has rightly been explaining for years, the core problem is Iran: chief ally of Syria, business partner of North Korea, and world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, including its role as patron of Hezbollah and collaborator when convenient with al Qaeda. All these folks in various ways do business with each other, and from each other’s pioneering moves in the field of proliferation, they not only swap weapons materials and technology; they also learn how much it is possible to get away with. If anyone would like to start keeping a dossier labeled “Moral Obscenities” (to round out Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of chemical weapons use in Syria), all of the above would belong in that file.

A move to seriously disable any part of this hydra would send a much overdue message to the rest. It would also signal to Russia and China, the chief protectors and suppliers of this axis of terror, that the U.S. is not actually willing to cede the 21st century world order to the thug states of the globe.

I’d cast my vote for the prescription of Bret Stephens and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, for a strike that targets Bashar Assad and the vital figures of his regime. That leaves the question of what might follow in Syria — and the deeper question there is less who might prevail in Damascus, than whether the U.S. has prepared an end game for the fall of the regime in Iran. What’s desperately needed here is not just a tactical response, but a strategy in service of U.S. interests that aims to win.

— Claudia Rosett [34] is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and heads its Investigative Reporting Project.

BARRY RUBIN

Forgot about the hysteria of an impending U.S. attack on Syria. Forget about the likely self-congratulatory backslapping by policy makers and the chanting of “USA!” by citizens. A U.S. air assault on Syria will not change anything.

Clearly, it will not change the regional problems, including the U.S. support for an Islamist government in Egypt, the unstable Islamist government in Tunisia, the grim expectations for a “peace process,” the constant betrayal of the United States by the Turkish government, and the Iranian nuclear race. But beyond that, it won’t change the Syrian crisis.

Would the attack determine the outcome of a Syrian civil war, either in favor of the Iranian-backed government or the Islamists favored by the United States? No. Would it by itself increase the prestige and credibility of the United States in the Middle East? No.

Let’s consider the three motives for the potential Syrian attack. One, the humanitarian motive. After perhaps 100,000 people in Syria have been killed, this addresses one percent of the casualties (namely those by chemical weapons). That might be worthwhile but leaves unaddressed the 99 percent of other casualties. Is it really true that the Syrian government somewhat, without motive, used chemical weapons? And finally, is it really humanitarian since the rebel side is likely to be equally ferocious against minorities and people it doesn’t like? The humanitarian motive, while sincere, really doesn’t amount to very much but merely tells the Syrian government the proper way in which people can be killed. Second, what message does America’s potential attack in Syria really send? That American power, which will be limited, is not going to be sufficient to change the course of the war. So the United States will not determine who wins and that, after all, is the only thing that everyone is really interested in. The third motive is to send a message to Iran that it won’t be able to succeed in aggression. But in fact this too can be said to send the opposite message: that, in the words of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, “the United States cannot do a damn thing.”

What are the possible outcomes of this mission? The Syrian government will not be overthrown or saved. That is going to be totally outside this operation. Perhaps it will make the outcome more likely to be a diplomatic one. But again, the likelihood that Russia and Iran will agree to have their client deposed is simply low. One could argue that the attack will lead to a lower estimation of American credibility since not much will have changed afterward, although this is not what the media will say. It is interesting to note that in confronting Saddam Hussein the Clinton administration attacked Iraq at least four times in 1998 alone. But of course Hussein was only overthrown six years later by a controversial decision by another administration.

What would the best beneficial outcomes for the Obama administration be? First, that Obama will congratulate himself on his daring use of force and on not backing down to anyone. But so what? Aside from the newspaper headlines and the bounces in public opinion polls, the effect will be merely psychological and domestic. In friendly capitals, it will only show that he is willing to support the Sunni Islamists and oppose the Shia ones. In enemy capitals, there will be continued derision of the limited means at Obama’s disposal for affecting events.

What would be the best outcome for America? That the war will go on long enough until one side (not the regime) wins. But basically the civil war is going to be fought out. It might well be said that strategically it would be better that Iran didn’t win the victory, but frankly a victory by radical Islamist rebels and al-Qaeda is hardly a bargain. Don’t forget that in practice an American intervention would not be on the side of easing the lot of Syrian civilians but on the side of an extremely oppressive and unstable future government winning. In other words, it is not that there are no easy answers, but that there are no good answers.

— Barry Rubin [35] has been a PJ Columnist since April 2011 and is also PJ Media’s Middle East Editor. He’s also the editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal [36] (MERIA), and editor, Turkish studies, at Taylor & Francis Online [37].

MICHAEL WALSH

Regarding Syria and possible American intervention in that benighted and savage land, there’s really only question worth asking — and it’s not whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea, or whether it helps or harms Israel, or whether it encourages or discourages Iran from its Twelver [38] obsession with Armageddon. And that question is: why?

As Napoleon said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” – and for the “Arab world” (perhaps better characterized as the ummah), this is the biggest and best mistake they’ve made since the Iran-Iraq War. For it is of absolutely no moment to the United States who wins the struggle between the Assad government and the al-Qaeda rebels trying to take it down; the “Arab spring” delusion surely has taught us that by now — and if it hasn’t, please see Benghazi [39]. It is of no moment whether Assad has used poison gas on his own people; please see “Hussein, Saddam,” as Western high dudgeon is entirely opportunistic. Indeed, the entire Middle East is no longer worth the life of one more American soldier, for it is an area in which we have not a single vital national interest.

Once the Obama administration has been retired into the infamy of the history books, fracking and other forms of new energy will more than compensate for any loss of Arab oil (as the old saying goes, “what are they going to do – eat it?”). Israel’s security — like that of western Europe during the Soviet threat — is guaranteed by the American nuclear umbrella, not to mention its own. Is there a scenario under which Israel suffers, depending on who wins the struggle for power in Damascus? Of course there is — but that is true about every development in the Middle East, and does not affect our strategic relationship with the Jewish state in the slightest. Further, dragging Israel into the equation, however benignly, only fuels the anti-Semites on both the Left and the Right who see the Zionist Hand behind every American foreign-policy decision.

The hand-wringing and bed-wetting over Syria represents the triumph of Foggy Bottom fecklessness over military realpolitik. Our lawyer-ridden and process-obsessed society has all but subordinated strategic thinking to the striped-pants set, whose only frame of reference is: yap, yap, yap; they’re like the capon judge, Don Curzio, trying to figure out what the hell is going in in the great sextet from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro [40], while it’s perfectly clear to everyone in the audience.

Now another Hussein, Barack Obama, is typically dithering about what sort of “measured” and “proportionate” response the U.S. — without congressional approval, of course — should offer to… what provocation, again, exactly? The Left used to stand for not imposing “our morality” on the Third World, so what’s different this time, besides the occupant of the Oval Office? Neither Obama nor Vice President Valerie Jarrett has the slightest understanding of the uses of power other than for self-aggrandizement, but then that’s what happens when you elect the unholy love child of Al Capone and Saul Alinsky to the nation’s highest office.

So let ‘em kill each other, and for as long as possible — and if the conflagration spills over the borders, quarantine it as one would a viral outbreak. Intervention, especially when we have already advertised that our goal is not regime change, will net us a grand total of zero good will from the Believers, whose zest for slaughtering each other almost matches their zest for murdering us.

To quote Napoleon again, if you start to take Vienna, take Vienna. If the goal is to stop Iran, then stop Iran, destroy its nuclear capability, disestablish Islam as the state religion, and restore the glory of Persian culture and the Peacock Throne (again [41]). That would have the added advantage of thwarting the Russian Bear, which has lusted after Iran for more than a century, and lost its best chance when its agent-in place, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh [42], served a stint as the Islamic Republic’s foreign minister during the Jimmy Carter Hostage Crisis. (Ghotbzadeh was eventually stood up against a wall and shot as a traitor to the Revolution.)

Islamism is a fever; best let it rage until it burns itself out. And if it kills the host, that’s too damn bad.

— Michael Walsh [43] is a weekly op-ed columnist for the New York Post and a regular contributor to National Review Online.

J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS

The Obama administration is on the verge of reducing their whole reason for existence — this time in Syria. In 2008, Obama ran for president promising an America where race was in the rear-view mirror. These days, racial issues are crashing through the windshield, in no small measure because of Obama’s rhetoric. In 2008, Obama capped years of harping about the UN, congressional authorizations of force, and American military hubris with an election win. Swarms of his supporters, particularly the young, bought into the rhetoric of the gentle and restrained America. The absurd “Coexist” bumper sticker had become policy.

In Libya, Obama first revealed himself as an international hypocrite. Congressional authorization for force wasn’t so important now that he was ordering it. In Syria, he is about to double down. The oddest thing about this president is that he always seems to take the side of the radicals on the Islamic spectrum — both at home and abroad. At home, he shoves a radicalized version of civil rights down Americans’ throats, forcing schools to give teachers weeks off for the Haj. Abroad, Obama has sided with regimes and factions that are slaughtering Christians and threatening the security of Israel. Some Americans, particularly journalists, avert their eyes to the ominous parallels. Rather than oppose evil, this president seems to lurk in its fringe. Rather than vocally condemning the murder of Catholic priests and the destruction of churches in Syria, this president is about to take the side of the murderers. Never before has America had a leader like this. He is not the man to be leading the nation in this present darkness.

— J. Christian Adams [44] is an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice.

URLs in this post:

[1] PJ columnist: http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/

[2] Foundation for Defense of Democracies: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/

[3] Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B003H4I4OK/pjmedia-20

[4] PJ columnist: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/

[5] Hoover Institution: http://www.hoover.org/

[6] Vogue will be running more pieces like “A Rose In the Desert”: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/01/the-only-remaining-online-copy-of-vogues-asma-al-assad-profile/250753/

[7] Walter Duranty Award for Journalistic Mendacity: http://pjmedia.com/blog/walter-duranty-prize/?singlepage=true

[8] Salafist radicals: http://blogs.thenewstribe.com/blog/68760/growing-salifist-terrorism-in-syria/

[9] director of national intelligence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POwd44zH9GA

[10] properly made Martini: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/03/08/how-robert-bork-defended-the-original-martini/

[11] Spring Fever: http://www.encounterbooks.com/books/spring-fever-the-illusion-of-islamic-democracy/

[12] demise of Osama bin Laden: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2137636/Osama-bin-Laden-death-SEALs-slam-Obama-using-ammunition-bid-credit.html

[13] unleashed poison gas near Damascus: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/fears-of-possible-western-strike-on-syria-ripple-across-the-middle-east/2013/08/28/23818cde-1050-11e3-a2b3-5e107edf9897_story.html

[14] even if it is illegal: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/opinion/bomb-syria-even-if-it-is-illegal.html?_r=1&

[15] a monkey with a grenade: http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130827/182995837/Russian-Deputy-Premier-Calls-West-Monkey-With-Hand-Grenade.html

[16] The Nicomachean Ethics: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B006OIST5U/pjmedia-20

[17] his work at PJ Media: http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/

[18] The New Criterion: http://www.newcriterion.com/

[19] Encounter Books: http://www.encounterbooks.com/#

[20] if this report from Le Figaro: http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/28/report-u-s-syria-strikes-may-target-latakia-assads-home-province/

[21] I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday: http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2013/08/28/emerson-syria-and-the-principal-enemy/

[22] Michael Ledeen: http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2013/08/25/the-road-to-damascus-starts-in-tehran/

[23] Netanyahu: http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-shines-light-on-syrias-partners/

[24] March 29: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2013/03/29/iraq-didnt-destroy-the-republican-party-but-iran-might/2/

[25] Luttwak’s: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/opinion/sunday/in-syria-america-loses-if-either-side-wins.html?_r=0

[26] David P. Goldman: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/

[27] Richard Fernandez: http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/

[28] Andrew Klavan: http://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/

[29] previously argued: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2013/06/14/7315/

[30] another column: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2013/06/23/should-the-u-s-intervene-in-syria-the-debate-continues/

[31] Wall Street Journal : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324591204579039011328308776.html

[32] letter to the president: http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/foreign-policy-experts-urge-president-obama-respond-assads-chemical-attack

[33] Ron Radosh: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/

[34] Claudia Rosett: http://pjmedia.com/claudiarosett/

[35] Barry Rubin: http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/

[36] the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal: http://www.gloria-center.org/

[37] Taylor & Francis Online: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ftur20#.UZs4pLUwdqU

[38] Twelver: http://twelvershia.net/

[39] Benghazi: http://pjmedia.com/michaelwalsh/2013/05/05/benghazi-blues/

[40] Le Nozze di Figaro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1b6Gb2c-M0

[41] again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d

[42] Sadegh Ghotbzadeh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadegh_Ghotbzadeh

[43] Michael Walsh: http://pjmedia.com/michaelwalsh/

[44] J. Christian Adams: http://pjmedia.com/jchristianadams/

— Michael Ledeen is a PJ columnist [1] and the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies [2]. He is a highly regarded expert on Iran’s Green Movement and maintains close ties to opposition groups inside Iran. The author of more than 20 books, see Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West [3].

Voir par ailleurs:

Leading From Behind Congress

Obama recklessly gambles with American credibility.

The Wall Street Journal

September 1, 2013

President Obama’s Syrian melodrama went from bad to worse on Saturday with his surprise decision to seek Congressional approval for what he promises will be merely a limited cruise-missile bombing. Mr. Obama will now have someone else to blame if Congress blocks his mission, but in the bargain he has put at risk his credibility and America’s standing in the world with more than 40 months left in office.

This will go down as one of the stranger gambles, if not abdications, in Commander in Chief history. For days his aides had been saying the President has the Constitutional power to act alone in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and that he planned to do so. On Friday, he rolled out Secretary of State John Kerry to issue a moral and strategic call to arms and declare that a response was urgent.

But on Friday night, according to leaks from this leakiest of Administrations, the President changed his mind. A military strike was not so urgent that it couldn’t wait for Congress to finish its August recess and vote the week of its return on September 9. If the point of the bombing is primarily to "send a message," as the President says, well, then, apparently Congress must co-sign the letter and send it via snail mail.

It’s hard not to see this as primarily a bid for political cover, a view reinforced when the President’s political consigliere David Axelrod taunted on Twitter that "Congress is now the dog that caught the car." Mr. Obama can read the polls, which show that most of the public opposes intervention in Syria. Around the world he has so far mobilized mainly a coalition of the unwilling, with even the British Parliament refusing to follow his lead. By comparison, George W. Bush on Iraq looks like Metternich.

But what does anyone expect given Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy leadership? Since he began running for President, Mr. Obama has told Americans that he wants to retreat from the Middle East, that the U.S. has little strategic interest there, that any differences with our enemies can be settled with his personal diplomacy, that our priority must be "nation-building at home," and that "the tide of war is receding." For two-and-a-half years, he has also said the U.S. has no stake in Syria.

The real political surprise, not to say miracle, is that after all of this so many Americans still support military action in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons—50% in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC poll. Despite his best efforts, Mr. Obama hasn’t turned Americans into isolationists.

A Congressional vote can be useful when it educates the public and rallies more political support. A national consensus is always desirable when the U.S. acts abroad. But the danger in this instance is that Mr. Obama is trying to sell a quarter-hearted intervention with half-hearted conviction.

From the start of the Syrian uprising, these columns have called for Mr. Obama to mobilize a coalition to support the moderate rebels. This would depose an enemy of the U.S. and deal a major blow to Iran’s ambition to dominate the region.

The problem with the intervention that Mr. Obama is proposing is that it will do little or nothing to end the civil war or depose Assad. It is a one-off response intended to vindicate Mr. Obama’s vow that there would be "consequences" if Assad used chemical weapons. It is a bombing gesture detached from a larger strategy. This is why we have urged a broader campaign to destroy Assad’s air force and arm the moderate rebels to help them depose the regime and counter the jihadists who are gaining strength as the war continues.

The very limitations of Mr. Obama’s intervention will make it harder for him to win Congress’s support. He is already sure to lose the votes of the left and Rand Paul right. But his lack of a strategy risks losing the support of even those like GOP Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have long wanted America to back the Syrian rebels.

Yet now that Mr. Obama has tossed the issue to Congress, the stakes are far higher than this single use of arms in Syria or this President’s credibility. Mr. Obama has put America’s role as a global power on the line.

A defeat in Congress would signal to Bashar Assad and the world’s other thugs that the U.S. has retired as the enforcer of any kind of world order. This would be dangerous at any time, but especially with more than three long years left in this Presidency. Unlike the British in 1956, the U.S. can’t retreat from east of Suez without grave consequences. The U.S. replaced the British, but there is no one to replace America.

The world’s rogues would be further emboldened and look for more weaknesses to exploit. Iran would conclude it can march to a nuclear weapon with impunity. Israel, Japan, the Gulf states and other American friends would have to recalculate their reliance on U.S. power and will.

***

These are the stakes that Mr. Obama has so recklessly put before Congress. His mishandling of Syria has been so extreme that we can’t help but wonder if he really wants to lose this vote. Then he would have an excuse for further cutting defense and withdrawing America even more from world leadership. We will give him the benefit of the doubt, but only because incompetence and narrow political self-interest are more obvious explanations for his behavior.

All of which means that the adults in Congress—and there are some—will have to save the day. The draft language for authorizing force that Mr. Obama has sent to Congress is too narrowly drawn as a response to WMD. Congress should broaden it to give the President more ability to respond to reprisals, support the Syrian opposition and assist our allies if they are attacked.

The reason to do this and authorize the use of force is not to save this President from embarrassment. It is to rescue American credibility and strategic interests from this most feckless of Presidents.

Voir de même:

In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins

Edward N. Luttwak

The New York Times

August 24, 2013

WASHINGTON — ON Wednesday, reports surfaced of a mass chemical-weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs that human rights activists claim killed hundreds of civilians, bringing Syria’s continuing civil war back onto the White House’s foreign policy radar, even as the crisis in Egypt worsens.

But the Obama administration should resist the temptation to intervene more forcefully in Syria’s civil war. A victory by either side would be equally undesirable for the United States.

At this point, a prolonged stalemate is the only outcome that would not be damaging to American interests.

Indeed, it would be disastrous if President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to emerge victorious after fully suppressing the rebellion and restoring its control over the entire country. Iranian money, weapons and operatives and Hezbollah troops have become key factors in the fighting, and Mr. Assad’s triumph would dramatically affirm the power and prestige of Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based proxy — posing a direct threat both to the Sunni Arab states and to Israel.

But a rebel victory would also be extremely dangerous for the United States and for many of its allies in Europe and the Middle East. That’s because extremist groups, some identified with Al Qaeda, have become the most effective fighting force in Syria. If those rebel groups manage to win, they would almost certainly try to form a government hostile to the United States. Moreover, Israel could not expect tranquillity on its northern border if the jihadis were to triumph in Syria.

Things looked far less gloomy when the rebellion began two years ago. At the time, it seemed that Syrian society as a whole had emerged from the grip of fear to demand an end to Mr. Assad’s dictatorship. Back then, it was realistic to hope that moderates of one sort or another would replace the Assad regime, because they make up a large share of the population. It was also reasonable to expect that the fighting would not last long, because neighboring Turkey, a much larger country with a powerful army and a long border with Syria, would exert its power to end the war.

As soon as the violence began in Syria in mid-2011, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, loudly demanded that it end. But instead of being intimidated into surrender, Mr. Assad’s spokesmen publicly ridiculed Mr. Erdogan, while his armed forces proceeded to shoot down a Turkish fighter jet, before repeatedly firing artillery rounds into Turkish territory and setting off lethal car bombs at a Turkish border crossing. To everyone’s surprise, there was no significant retaliation. The reason is that Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.

Consequently, instead of a Turkey-based and Turkish-supervised rebellion that the United States could have supported with weapons, intelligence and advice, Syria is plagued by anarchic violence.

The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways; Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion; and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world who have advertised their intention to turn Syria into a base for global jihad aimed at Europe and the United States.

Given this depressing state of affairs, a decisive outcome for either side would be unacceptable for the United States. An Iranian-backed restoration of the Assad regime would increase Iran’s power and status across the entire Middle East, while a victory by the extremist-dominated rebels would inaugurate another wave of Al Qaeda terrorism.

There is only one outcome that the United States can possibly favor: an indefinite draw.

By tying down Mr. Assad’s army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a war against Al Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington’s enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America’s allies.

That this is now the best option is unfortunate, indeed tragic, but favoring it is not a cruel imposition on the people of Syria, because a great majority of them are facing exactly the same predicament.

Non-Sunni Syrians can expect only social exclusion or even outright massacre if the rebels win, while the nonfundamentalist Sunni majority would face renewed political oppression if Mr. Assad wins. And if the rebels win, moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers, who would also impose draconian prohibitions.

Maintaining a stalemate should be America’s objective. And the only possible method for achieving this is to arm the rebels when it seems that Mr. Assad’s forces are ascendant and to stop supplying the rebels if they actually seem to be winning.

This strategy actually approximates the Obama administration’s policy so far. Those who condemn the president’s prudent restraint as cynical passivity must come clean with the only possible alternative: a full-scale American invasion to defeat both Mr. Assad and the extremists fighting against his regime.

That could lead to a Syria under American occupation. And very few Americans today are likely to support another costly military adventure in the Middle East.

A decisive move in any direction would endanger America; at this stage, stalemate is the only viable policy option left.

Edward N. Luttwak is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of “Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace.”

Voir aussi:

Barack Obama’s Iraq Speech

Speeches Against Going to War with Iraq (2002)

Wikisource

Delivered on Wednesday, October 2, 2002 by Barack Obama, Illinois State Senator, at the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq war rally (organized by Chicagoans Against War in Iraq) at noon in Federal Plaza in Chicago, Illinois; at the same day and hour that President Bush and Congress announced their agreement on the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War, but over a week before it was passed by either body of Congress.

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

I don’t oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance, corruption and greed, poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not — we will not — travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Voir de plus:

Barack Obama is proving an embarrassing amateur on the world stage compared to George W. Bush

Nile Gardiner

The telegraph

August 30th, 2013

President Bush knew how to build a coalition

George W. Bush was widely mocked by the Left during the Iraq War, with liberals jeering at the “coalition of the willing,” which included in its ranks some minnows such as Moldova and Kazkhstan. Michael Moore, in his rather silly documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, went to great lengths to lampoon the Iraq War alliance. But the coalition also contained, as I pointed out in Congressional testimony back in 2007, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, and 16 members of the NATO alliance, as well as Japan and South Korea. In Europe, France and Germany were the only large-scale countries that sat the war out, with 12 of the 25 members of the European Union represented. The coalition, swelled to roughly 40 countries, and was one of the largest military coalitions ever assembled.

As it stands, President Obama’s proposed military coalition on Syria has a grand total of two members – the US and France. And the French, as we know from Iraq, simply can’t be relied on, and have very limited military capability. It is a truly embarrassing state of affairs when Paris, at best a fair weather friend, is your only partner. John Kerry tried to put a brave face on it at his press conference today, by referring to France “as our oldest ally,” but the fact remains that his administration is looking painfully isolated.

There can be no doubt that David Cameron’s defeat in the House of Commons was a huge blow to President Obama, and has dominated the US news networks this morning. The absence of Britain in any American-led military action significantly weakens Obama’s position on the world stage, and dramatically undercuts the Obama administration. The vote reflected not only a lack of confidence in the Commons in the prime minister’s Syria strategy, it also demonstrated a striking lack of confidence in Barack Obama and US leadership.

In marked contrast to Obama, President Bush invested a great deal of time and effort in cultivating ties with key US allies, especially Britain. The Special Relationship actually mattered to George W. Bush. For Barack Obama it has been a mere blip on his teleprompter. Bush also went out of his way to build ties with other allies in Europe, including with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and an array of countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Obama simply hasn’t bothered making friends in Europe, and has treated some nations with sheer disdain and disrespect, including Poland and the Czech Republic. He has found common currency with France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, an ideological soul-mate, but finds himself in a very lonely position elsewhere across the Atlantic.

In addition, and most importantly, George W. Bush was a conviction president on foreign policy matters, driven by a clear sense of the national interest. President Bush emphatically made his case to the American people and to the world, explaining why he believed the use of force was necessary, and dozens of countries decided to follow him. In the case of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy has been weak-kneed, confused and strategically incoherent, the president hasn’t effectively made the case for military intervention in Syria, and has made no serious effort to cultivate support both at home and abroad. President Bush may not have been greatly loved on the world stage, but he was respected by America’s allies, and feared by his enemies. In marked contrast, Obama hasn’t generated a lot of respect abroad, and he certainly isn’t feared.

Voir enfin:

‘It Didn’t Happen’

James Taranto

The  WSJ

July 26, 2007

Barack Obama’s latest pronouncement on Iraq should have shocked the conscience. In an interview with the Associated Press last week, the freshman Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate opined that even preventing genocide is not a sufficient reason to keep American troops in Iraq.

"Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done," Mr. Obama told the AP. "We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea."

Mr. Obama is engaging in sophistry. By his logic, if America lacks the capacity to intervene everywhere there is ethnic killing, it has no obligation to intervene anywhere — and perhaps an obligation to intervene nowhere. His reasoning elevates consistency into the cardinal virtue, making the perfect the enemy of the good.

Further, he elides the distinction between an act of omission (refraining from intervention in Congo and Darfur) and an act of commission (withdrawing from Iraq). The implication is that although the U.S. has had a military presence in Iraq since 1991, the fate of Iraqis is not America’s problem.

Unlike his main rivals for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Obama has been consistent in opposing the liberation of Iraq. In a 2002 speech, he declared that "an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world." But Mr. Obama’s side lost that argument, and it is no longer 2002. For America to countenance genocide of Arab Muslims hardly seems a promising way to extinguish the Mideast’s flames or to encourage the best impulses of the Arab world.

One may take the position that genocide would not be the likely result of an American retreat from Iraq. That is the view of Mr. Obama’s Massachusetts colleague John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee. Mr. Kerry, who served in Vietnam before turning against that war, voted for the Iraq war before turning against it. He draws on the Vietnam experience in making the case that the outcome of a U.S. pullout from Iraq would not be that bad. "We heard that argument over and over again about the bloodbath that would engulf the entire Southeast Asia, and it didn’t happen," he said recently.

"It didn’t happen" — just as Mr. Kerry predicted it wouldn’t. In his June 1971 debate with fellow swift boat veteran John O’Neill on "The Dick Cavett Show," the 27-year-old Mr. Kerry said, "There’s absolutely no guarantee that there would be a bloodbath. . . . One has to, obviously, conjecture on this. However, I think the arguments clearly indicate that there probably wouldn’t be. . . . There is no interest on the part of the North Vietnamese to try to massacre the people once people have agreed to withdraw." Mr. Kerry acknowledged that "there would be certain political assassinations," but said they would number only "four or five thousand."

Here is what did happen:

In 1973, the U.S. withdrew its troops from Vietnam, as Mr. Kerry had urged. In December 1974, the Democratic Congress ended military aid to South Vietnam. In April 1975, Saigon fell.

According to a 2001 investigation by the Orange County Register, Hanoi’s communist regime imprisoned a million Vietnamese without charge in "re-education" camps, where an estimated 165,000 perished. "Thousands were abused or tortured: their hands and legs shackled in painful positions for months, their skin slashed by bamboo canes studded with thorns, their veins injected with poisonous chemicals, their spirits broken with stories about relatives being killed," the Register reported.

Laos and Cambodia also fell to communists in 1975. Time magazine reported in 1978 that some 40,000 Laotians had been imprisoned in re-education camps: "The regime’s figures do not include 12,000 unfortunates who have been packed off to Phong Saly. There, no pretense at re-education is made. As one high Pathet Lao official told Australian journalist John Everingham, who himself spent eight days in a Lao prison last year, ‘No one ever returns.'"

The postwar horrors of Vietnam and Laos paled next to the "killing fields" of Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge undertook an especially vicious revolution. During that regime’s 3½-year rule, at least a million Cambodians, and perhaps as many as two million, died from starvation, disease, overwork or murder. The Vietnamese invaders who toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979 were liberators, albeit only by comparison.

In the aftermath of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. According to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, between 1975 and 1995 more than 1.4 million Indochinese escaped, nearly 800,000 of them by boat. This does not include "boat people" who died at sea, 10% of the total by some estimates.

Mr. Obama’s blasé cynicism about the possibility of genocide in Iraq is of a piece with Mr. Kerry’s denial of the humanitarian catastrophe that followed America’s departure from Vietnam. It also creates an opportunity for the Democratic front-runner.

In 1998, Hillary Clinton’s husband traveled to Rwanda, where he apologized for failing to intervene to prevent the 1994 genocide in which Hutus massacred some 800,000 Tutsis. "We cannot change the past," President Clinton said. "But we can and must do everything in our power to help you build a future without fear, and full of hope." It was in this spirit that Mr. Clinton intervened in Kosovo in 1999, over Republican objections, to prevent ethnic cleansing of Albanian Muslims.

Like Mr. Kerry, Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war, then tilted against it before facing the Democratic primary electorate. Her opponents on the left have made much of her refusal to apologize for her vote. But if she can find the courage to defend a continued American presence in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, it will reduce the likelihood that the next president will have to apologize for something far worse.


Irak/10e: Attention, un mensonge peut en cacher un autre ! (When everyone agreed about Iraq)

17 mars, 2013

La paix, bien sûr, mais la démocratie et la liberté ne sont-elles pas aussi des valeurs précieuses pour les chrétiens? Florence Taubman
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal. President Clinton (February 1998)
[La mission des forces armées américaines et britanniques est d']attaquer les programmes d’armement nucléaires, chimiques et biologiques de l’Irak et sa capacité militaire à menacer ses voisins (…) On ne peut laisser Saddam Hussein menacer ses voisins ou le monde avec des armements nucléaires, des gaz toxiques, ou des armes biologiques. » (…) Il y a six semaines, Saddam Hussein avait annoncé qu’il ne coopérerait plus avec l’Unscom [la commission chargée du désarmement en Irak (…). D’autres pays [que l’Irak possèdent des armements de destruction massive et des missiles balistiques. Avec Saddam, il y a une différence majeure : il les a utilisés. Pas une fois, mais de manière répétée (…). Confronté au dernier acte de défiance de Saddam, fin octobre, nous avons mené une intense campagne diplomatique contre l’Irak, appuyée par une imposante force militaire dans la région (…). J’avais alors décidé d’annuler l’attaque de nos avions (…) parce que Saddam avait accepté nos exigences. J’avais conclu que la meilleure chose à faire était de donner à Saddam une dernière chance (…).  Les inspecteurs en désarmement de l’ONU ont testé la volonté de coopération irakienne (…). Hier soir, le chef de l’Unscom, Richard Butler, a rendu son rapport au secrétaire général de l’ONU [Kofi Annan. Les conclusions sont brutales, claires et profondément inquiétantes. Dans quatre domaines sur cinq, l’Irak n’a pas coopéré. En fait, il a même imposé de nouvelles restrictions au travail des inspecteurs (…). Nous devions agir et agir immédiatement (…).  J’espère que Saddam va maintenant finalement coopérer avec les inspecteurs et respecter les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité. Mais nous devons nous préparer à ce qu’il ne le fasse pas et nous devons faire face au danger très réel qu’il représente. Nous allons donc poursuivre une stratégie à long terme pour contenir l’Irak et ses armes de destruction massive et travailler jusqu’au jour où l’Irak aura un gouvernement digne de sa population (…). La dure réalité est qu’aussi longtemps que Saddam reste au pouvoir il menace le bien-être de sa population, la paix de la région et la sécurité du monde. La meilleure façon de mettre un terme définitif à cette menace est la constitution d’un nouveau gouvernement, un gouvernement prêt à vivre en paix avec ses voisins, un gouvernement qui respecte les droits de sa population. Bill Clinton (16.12.98)
Dans l’immédiat, notre attention doit se porter en priorité sur les domaines biologique et chimique. C’est là que nos présomptions vis-à-vis de l’Iraq sont les plus significatives : sur le chimique, nous avons des indices d’une capacité de production de VX et d’ypérite ; sur le biologique, nos indices portent sur la détention possible de stocks significatifs de bacille du charbon et de toxine botulique, et une éventuelle capacité de production.  Dominique De Villepin
Il est maintenant clair que les assurances données par Chirac ont joué un rôle crucial, persuadant Saddam Hussein de ne pas offrir les concessions qui auraient pu éviter une guerre et le changement de régime. Selon l’ex-vice président Tareq Aziz, s’exprimant depuis sa cellule devant des enquêteurs américains et irakiens, Saddam était convaincu que les Français, et dans une moindre mesure, les Russes allaient sauver son régime à la dernière minute. Amir Taheri
Comme l’exemple d’usage chimique contre les populations kurdes de 1987-1988 en avait apporté la preuve, ces armes avaient aussi un usage interne. Thérèse Delpech
Les inspecteurs n’ont jamais pu vérifier ce qu’il était advenu de 3,9 tonnes de VX (…) dont la production entre 1988 et 1990 a été reconnue par l’Irak. Bagdad a déclaré que les destructions avaient eu lieu en 1990 mais n’en a pas fourni de preuves. En février 2003 (…) un document a été fourni [par Bagdad] à l’Unmovic pour tenter d’expliquer le devenir d’environ 63 % du VX manquant. Auparavant, les Irakiens prétendaient ne pas détenir un tel document. » Idem pour l’anthrax, dont l’Irak affirmait avoir détruit le stock en 1991. Mais, « en mars 2003, l’Unmovic concluait qu’il existait toujours, très probablement, 10 000 litres d’anthrax non détruits par l’Irak... Comme pour le VX, l’Irak a fourni à l’ONU, en février 2003, un document sur ce sujet qui ne pouvait permettre de conclure quelles quantités avaient été détruites … Thérèse Delpech
Je pense que c’est à cause de l’unanimité, tout le monde était contre la guerre, les gens étaient contents de lire dans les journaux combien la guerre était mauvaise, comme le président français l’avait prédit. (…) Dans la phase du Saddamgrad Patrice Claude et Rémy Ourdan du Monde ont inventé des atrocités, produit des témoignages en phase avec ce qu’ils ne pouvaient voir. (…) Sur les fedayyin de Saddam, les gardes les plus brutaux du dictateur, ses SS, Ourdain a dit que les fedayyin n’ont pas combattu parce qu’ils étaient effrayés de la façon dont les GI’s tuaient tout le monde, dont un grand nombre de civils. Alain Hertoghe
Even when viewed through a post-war lens, documentary evidence of messages are consistent with the Iraqi Survey Group’s conclusion that Saddam was at least keeping a WMD program primed for a quick re-start the moment the UN Security Council lifted sanctions. Iraqi Perpectives Project (March 2006)
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a de facto link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.  Iraqi Perspectives Project (Saddam and Terrorism, Nov. 2007, released Mar. 2008)
Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 « good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm » in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting « Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, ‘the Gulf,’ and Syria. » It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were « sacrificing for the cause » went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the « Heroes Attack. » This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to « obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province.  » Study (Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia)
The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible, and that they have changed their tactic. Captured Iraqi document  (« Letter from Russian Official to Presidential Secretary Concerning American Intentions in Iraq », March 25, 2003)
Est-ce que les peuples du Moyen-Orient sont hors d’atteinte de la liberté? Est-ce que des millions d’hommes, de femmes et d’enfants sont condamnés par leur histoire et leur culture au despotisme? Sont-ils les seuls à ne pouvoir jamais connaître la liberté ou même à ne pas avoir le choix? Bush (2003)
La raison pour laquelle je continue de dire qu’il y a un lien entre l’Irak, Saddam et Al-Qaida est parce qu’il y a un lien entre l’Irak et Al-Qaida. (…) Cette administration n’a jamais dit que les attentats du 11/9 ont été orchestrés entre Saddam et Al Qaeda. Nous avons dit qu’il y avait de nombreux contacts entre Saddam Hussein et Al Qaeda. George W. Bush (Washington Post, 2004)
Avec notre aide, les peuples du Moyen-Orient s’avancent maintenant pour réclamer leur liberté. De Kaboul à Bagdad et à Beyrouth, il y a des hommes et des femmes courageux qui risquent leur vie chaque jour pour les mêmes libertés que nous apprécions. Et elles ont une question pour nous : Avons-nous le courage de faire  au Moyen-Orient ce que nos pères et grands-pères ont accompli en Europe et en Asie ? En prenant position avec les chefs et les réformateurs démocratiques, en donnant notre voix aux espoirs des hommes et des femmes décents, nous leur offrons une voix hors du radicalisme. Et nous enrôlons la force la plus puissante pour la paix et la modération au Moyen-Orient : le désir de millions d’être libres. (…) En ce tout début de siècle, l’Amérique rêve au jour où les peuples du Moyen-Orient quitteront le désert du despotisme pour les jardins fertiles de la liberté – et reprendront leur place légitime dans un monde de paix et de prospérité. Nous rêvons au jour où les nations de cette région reconnaitront que leur plus grande ressource n’est pas le pétrole de leur sous-sol – mais le talent et la créativité de leurs populations. Nous rêvons au jour où les mères et les pères de tout le Moyen-Orient verront un avenir d’espoir et d’opportunités pour leurs enfants. Et quand ce beau jour viendra, les nuages de la guerre seront balayés, l’appel du radicalisme diminuera… et nous laisserons à nos enfants un monde meilleur et plus sûr. Bush (11/9/2006)  
Le projet de révolution démocratique mondiale peut faire sourire. Mais ce n’est pas totalement sans raison que les néoconservateurs, qui l’ont inspiré, se targuent d’avoir contribué, sous le deuxième mandat de M. Reagan, à la démocratisation en Asie, en Amérique latine et en Europe. Ils souhaitent aujourd’hui mettre un terme à «l’exception moyen-orientale» : à la fois par intérêt et par idéalisme, l’Administration américaine veut rompre avec des décennies d’accommodement avec les dictatures de la région au nom de la stabilité (condition nécessaire, notamment, à l’accès régulier à un pétrole bon marché). Il s’agirait en effet de gagner la «quatrième guerre mondiale», comme a été gagnée la «troisième», c’est-à-dire la guerre froide. Le pari est évidemment difficile. Pour des raisons tactiques, les États-Unis doivent aujourd’hui ménager des régimes autoritaires tels que l’Arabie saoudite, dont ils ont besoin pour la lutte antiterroriste. (…) De ce fait, Paul Wolfowitz n’a pas tort de suggérer que le combat engagé par les États-Unis durera plus longtemps que la guerre froide et sera plus dur que la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Mais, si le résultat est incertain, le mouvement lui est bien engagé. Les révolutions pacifiques en Géorgie et en Ukraine ont été appuyées discrètement par des organisations publiques et privées américaines. Certes, ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler le «printemps arabe» repose aussi sur des dynamiques locales et a bien sûr bénéficié d’événements imprévus tels que la mort de Yasser Arafat ou l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri. Mais la pression américaine a joué un rôle non négligeable. En mai 2004, choisissant de «se couper les cheveux avant que les Américains ne les tondent» – selon les termes d’un diplomate, les dirigeants de la Ligue arabe se sont engagés à étendre les pratiques démocratiques, à élargir la participation des citoyens à la vie publique et à renforcer la société civile. Même le président Assad semble aux abois lorsqu’il dit publiquement qu’il «n’est pas Saddam Hussein» et qu’il «veut négocier»… (…). La question géopolitique centrale de notre temps reste donc bien celle qui avait été au coeur de l’affrontement franco-américain de 2002-2003 : faut-il préférer la stabilité au risque de l’injustice, ou la démocratisation au risque du chaos ? Optimiste et risqué, le pari américain n’en reste pas moins éthiquement défendable et met du coup l’Europe, qui se veut une «puissance morale» (si l’on en croit le président de la Commission, M. Barroso), en porte-à-faux. L’Union européenne s’est révélée être une force capable de promouvoir simultanément la stabilité et la démocratisation, mais seulement dans son environnement immédiat. Pour le reste, elle n’a pas de stratégie alternative, le «processus de Barcelone» ayant eu du point de vue politique des résultats plus que mitigés. Il lui reste donc à choisir entre approuver, s’opposer ou accompagner le combat américain. Bruno Tertrais (mars 2005)
By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction. Wired magazine (2010)
It’s more than a little ironic that, with its newest document dump from the Iraq campaign, WikiLeaks may have just bolstered one of the Bush administration’s most controversial claims about the Iraq war: that Iran supplied many of the Iraq insurgency’s deadliest weapons and worked hand-in-glove with some of its most lethal militias. The documents indicate that Iran was a major combatant in the Iraq war, as its elite Quds Force trained Iraqi Shiite insurgents and imported deadly weapons like the shape-charged Explosively Formed Projectile bombs into Iraq for use against civilians, Sunni militants and U.S. troops. A report from 2006 claims “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons from Iran were smuggled into Iraq. (It’s one of many, many documents recounting WMD efforts in Iraq.) Others indicate that Iran flooded Iraq with guns and rockets, including the Misagh-1 surface-to-air missile, .50 caliber rifles, rockets and much more. As the New York Times observes, Iranian agents plotted to kidnap U.S. troops from out of their Humvees — something that occurred in Karbala in 2007, leaving five U.S. troops dead. (It’s still not totally clear if the Iranians were responsible.) Wired
A partir de la Guerre Froide, cette région est devenue stratégique de par ses ressources nécessaires au premier consommateur mondial d’énergie, mais aussi de par la rivalité idéologique entre l’URSS et les Etats-Unis. Cette époque fut dominée par la pensée de Kissinger qui prôna en conformité avec la « Realpolitik », l’immobilisme politique des régimes arabes comme option nécessaire à la consolidation de l’influence américaine. En échange d’une approbation de la diplomatie américaine, les régimes se voyaient soutenus. Les limites de cette politique ont commencé à se faire sentir lorsque les Etats-Unis en 1979 ont continué à appuyer le Shah d’Iran, ignorant alors qu’une population était en train de se soulever, donnant naissance à l’islamisme politique. Dans les années 80, le président Reagan introduisit une vision opposée au réalisme, attenant à une vision idéaliste d’une mission américaine d’exporter les justes valeurs au reste du monde. C’est dans son discours de Juin 1982 que Reagan parla « d’une croisade pour la liberté qui engagera la foi et le courage de la prochaine génération». Le président Bush père et Clinton reprirent une vision plus « réaliste » dans un nouveau contexte de sortie de Guerre Froide. Malgré « le nouvel ordre mondial » prôné par Bush père, son action n’alla pas jusqu’à Bagdad et préféra laisser un régime connu en place. Le 11 Septembre 2001 a révélé les limites de l’immobilisme politique des pays arabes, lorsque certains régimes soutenus n’ont pu s’opposer aux islamistes radicaux. Les néo-conservateurs qui participaient alors au gouvernement de G.W Bush, décidèrent de passer à l’action et de bousculer l’ordre établi dans la région, afin de pérenniser leur accès aux ressources énergétiques, mais aussi probablement pour d’autres raisons. Notamment selon G. Ayache « pour montrer (leur) force par rapport à la Chine dont le statut international ne cesse de croître et dont les besoins énergétiques sont appelés à concurrencer ceux des Etats-Unis(…), et dans l’objectif proclamé de lutte contre le terrorisme.» Les néo-conservateurs se sont dès le début prononcés pour la redistribution des cartes politiques dans cette région, donc un changement de régimes. Le nouveau président américain voulut se poser dans la lignée des présidents qui ont marqué l’histoire. Lors de son discours du 11 Septembre 2006, il s’est adressé en ces termes au peuple américain : « Ayez la patience de faire ce que nos pères et nos grands-pères ont fait pour l’Europe et pour l’Asie.» En fait, le vieux projet de Reagan d’exportation de la démocratie fut remis au goût du jour à travers l’annonce du projet de Grand Moyen-Orient en Novembre 2003 qui prôna la nécessité d’une démocratisation sans limites. Les néo-conservateurs qui avaient participé au deuxième mandat de Reagan revendiquèrent leur apport à la démocratisation en Asie, en Amérique latine et en Europe dans les années 80 et 90. Il était donc temps selon eux de mettre fin à la situation stagnante au Moyen-Orient. La théorie des dominos était censée s’appliquer à la région en partant de l’Irak, même si elle pouvait mettre un certain temps à se réaliser selon les dynamiques locales. Alia Al Jiboury
Depuis la chute de la dictature de Ben Ali en Tunisie, les dictateurs et autres despotes arabes tremblent devant le vent de liberté, transformé en tempête. Les peuples arabes, compressés depuis des décennies, rêvent de liberté et de démocratie. Ils finissent, à tour de rôle, par réaliser le projet de George W. Bush, qu’ils avaient tant dénoncé. Mediarabe.info (février 2011)
Though the Iraq War later became a favorite Democratic club for bashing George W. Bush, Republicans and Democrats alike had long understood that Saddam was a deadly menace who had to be forcibly eradicated. In 1998 President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making Saddam’s removal from power a matter of US policy. "If the history of the last six years has taught us anything," Kerry had said two years earlier, "it is that Saddam Hussein does not understand diplomacy, he only understands power." But bipartisan harmony was an early casualty of the war. Once it became clear that Saddam didn’t have the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were a major justification for the invasion, unity gave way to recrimination. It didn’t matter that virtually everyone – Republicans and Democrats, CIA analysts and the UN Security Council, even Saddam’s own military officers – had been sure the WMD would be found. Nor did it matter that Saddam had previously used WMD to exterminate thousands of men, women, and children. The temptation to spin an intelligence failure as a deliberate "lie" was politically irresistible. When the relatively quick toppling of Saddam was followed by a long and bloody insurgency, opposition to the war intensified. For many it became an intractable article of faith that victory was not an option. The war to remove Saddam was not merely "Bush’s folly," but – as Senate majority leader Harry Reid called it in 2007 — "the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country." But then came Bush’s "surge," and the course of the war shifted dramatically for the better. By the time Bush left office, the insurgency was crippled, violence was down 90 percent, and Iraqis were being governed by politicians they had voted for. It was far from perfect, but "something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq," reported Newsweek in early 2010. On its cover the magazine proclaimed: "Victory at Last." And so it might have been, if America’s new commander-in-chief hadn’t been so insistent on pulling the plug. In October 2011, President Obama – overriding his military commanders, who had recommended keeping 18,000 troops on the ground – announced that all remaining US servicemen would be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Politically, it was a popular decision; most Americans were understandably weary of Iraq. But abandoning Iraqis and their frail, fledgling democracy was reckless. (…) The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago ended the reign of a genocidal tyrant, and ensured that his monstrous sons could never succeed him. It struck a shaft of fear into other dictators, leading Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi, for example, to relinquish his WMD. It let Iraqis find out how much better their lives could be under democratic self-government. Like all wars, even wars of liberation, it took an awful toll. The status quo ante was worse. Jeff Jacoby
Iraq, I suggested, would wind up “at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world, and, at best, pleasant, civilized and thriving.” I’ll stand by my worst-case scenario there. Unlike the emerging “reforms” in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria, politics in Iraq has remained flawed but, by the standards of the grimly Islamist Arab Spring, broadly secular. So I like the way a lot of the trees fell. But I missed the forest. (…) Granted that most of the Arab world, from Tangiers to Alexandria, is considerably less “multicultural” than it was in mid century, the remorseless extinction of Iraq’s Christian community this last decade is appalling — and, given that it happened on America’s watch, utterly shameful. Like the bland acknowledgement deep in a State Department “International Religious Freedom Report” that the last church in Afghanistan was burned to the ground in 2010, it testifies to the superpower’s impotence, not “internationally” but in client states entirely bankrolled by us. Foreigners see this more clearly than Americans. As Goh Chok Tong, the prime minister of Singapore, said on a visit to Washington in 2004, “The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America’s credibility and will to prevail.” Just so. If you live in Tikrit or Fallujah, the Iraq War was about Iraq. If you live anywhere else on the planet, the Iraq War was about America, and the unceasing drumbeat of “quagmire” and “exit strategy” communicated to the world an emptiness at the heart of American power — like the toppled statue of Saddam that proved to be hollow. On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, mobs trashed U.S. embassies across the region with impunity. A rather more motivated crowd showed up in Benghazi, killed four Americans, including the ambassador, and correctly calculated they would face no retribution. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, these guys have reached their own judgment about American “credibility” and “will” — as have more potent forces yet biding their time, from Moscow to Beijing. (…) Nevertheless, in the grim two-thirds-of-a-century roll call of America’s un-won wars, Iraq today is less un-won than Korea, Vietnam, or Afghanistan, and that is not nothing. The war dead of America and its few real allies died in an honorable cause. But armies don’t wage wars, nations do. And, back on the home front, a vast percentage of fair-weather hawks who decided that it was all too complicated, or a bit of a downer, or Bush lied, or where’s the remote, revealed America as profoundly unserious. A senator who votes for war and then decides he’d rather it had never started is also engaging in “alternative history” — albeit of the kind in which Pam Ewing steps into the shower at Southfork and writes off the previous season of Dallas as a bad dream. In non-alternative history, in the only reality there is, once you’ve started a war, you have two choices: to win it or to lose it. Withdrawing one’s “support” for a war you’re already in advertises nothing more than a kind of geopolitical ADHD. Mark Steyn

Attention, un mensonge peut en cacher un autre !

Bill Clinton, le Congrès, Madeleine Albright, l’inspecteur nucléaire Richard Butler, Gore, Hillary Clinton, Kerry, Edward Kennedy, John Edwards, Tom Daschle, Biden, Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd, Jay Rockefeller, 72% de l’opinion publique …

Y avait-il, aux Etats-Unis mêmes sans parler de notre Villepin national et des services secrets allemands, quelqu’un qui ne croyait pas en mars 2003 à l’existence (confirmée d’ailleurs depuis par Wikileaks) d’ADM en Irak ?

Retour, à la veille du 10e anniversaire du lancement de l’Opération Liberté pour l’Irak  et avec  le professeur du United States Naval War College  Stephen F. Knott, sur le mythe devenu depuis vérité d’évangile (et motivation d’ailleurs, pour le contrer, de tant de blogs dont celui-ci) des prétendus "mensonges" de l’Administration Bush sur les raisons de la guerre  …

Qui, avec tous ses risques, apporta le premier régime élu démocratiquement, Israël mis à part, du Moyen-Orient …

Et sans lequel il n’y aurait probablement pas eu, aussi mitigé soit son bilan, de "printemps arabe"

When Everyone Agreed About Iraq

For years before the war, a bipartisan consensus thought Saddam possessed WMD.

Stephen F. Knott

WSJ

March 15, 2013

At 5:34 a.m. on March 20, 2003, American, British and other allied forces invaded Iraq. One of the most divisive conflicts in the nation’s history would soon be labeled " Bush’s War."

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime became official U.S. policy in 1998, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act—a bill passed 360-38 by the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. The law called for training and equipping Iraqi dissidents to overthrow Saddam and suggested that the United Nations establish a war-crimes tribunal for the dictator and his lieutenants.

The legislation was partly the result of frustration over the undeclared and relatively unheralded "No-Fly Zone War" that had been waged since 1991. Saddam’s military repeatedly fired on U.S. and allied aircraft that were attempting to prevent his regime from destroying Iraqi opposition forces in northern and southern Iraq.

According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hugh Shelton, in 1997 a key member of President Bill Clinton’s cabinet (thought by most observers to have been Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) asked Gen. Shelton whether he could arrange for a U.S. aircraft to fly slowly and low enough that it would be shot down, thereby paving the way for an American effort to topple Saddam. Kenneth Pollack, a member of Mr. Clinton’s National Security Council staff, would later write in 2002 that it was a question of "not whether but when" the U.S. would invade Iraq. He wrote that the threat presented by Saddam was "no less pressing than those we faced in 1941."

Radicalized by the events of 9/11, George W. Bush gradually concluded that a regime that had used chemical weapons against its own people and poison gas against Iran, invaded Iran and Kuwait, harbored some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, made lucrative payments to the families of suicide bombers, fired on American aircraft almost daily, and defied years of U.N. resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction was a problem. The former chief U.N. weapons inspector, an Australian named Richard Butler, testified in July 2002 that "it is essential to recognize that the claim made by Saddam’s representatives, that Iraq has no WMD, is false."

In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had "stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to "develop nuclear weapons." Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that "a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam's] hands is a real and grave threat to our security."

Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, "we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing" WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would "likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years."

Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush’s decision to use force.

If Mr. Bush "lied," as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that "regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq's] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin." Germany’s intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that "it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years."

According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam’s own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad.

The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration’s duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility.

We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn’t Bush’s war, it was America’s war.

Mr. Knott, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, is the author of "Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics" (University Press of Kansas, 2012).

Voir aussi:

WikiLeaks Show WMD Hunt Continued in Iraq – With Surprising Results

Noah Shachtman

Wired

10.23.10

By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.

An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.

In August 2004, for instance, American forces surreptitiously purchased what they believed to be containers of liquid sulfur mustard, a toxic “blister agent” used as a chemical weapon since World War I. The troops tested the liquid, and “reported two positive results for blister.” The chemical was then “triple-sealed and transported to a secure site” outside their base.

Three months later, in northern Iraq, U.S. scouts went to

look in on a “chemical weapons” complex. “One of the bunkers has been tampered with,” they write. “The integrity of the seal [around the complex] appears intact, but it seems someone is interesting in trying to get into the bunkers.”

Meanwhile, the second battle of Fallujah was raging in Anbar province. In the southeastern corner of the city, American forces came across a “house with a chemical lab … substances found are similar to ones (in lesser quantities located a previous chemical lab.” The following day, there’s a call in another part of the city for explosive experts to dispose of a “chemical cache.”

Nearly three years later, American troops were still finding WMD in the region. An armored Buffalo vehicle unearthed a cache of artillery shells “that was covered by sacks and leaves under an Iraqi Community Watch checkpoint. “The 155mm rounds are filled with an unknown liquid, and several of which are leaking a black tar-like substance.” Initial tests were inconclusive. But later, “the rounds tested positive for mustard.”

In WikiLeaks’ massive trove of nearly 392,000 Iraq war logs are hundreds of references to chemical and biological weapons. Most of those are intelligence reports or initial suspicions of WMD that don’t pan out. In July 2004, for example, U.S. forces come across a Baghdad building with gas masks, gas filters, and containers with “unknown contents” inside. Later investigation revealed those contents to be vitamins.

But even late in the war, WMDs were still being unearthed. In the summer of 2008, according to one WikiLeaked report, American troops found at least 10 rounds that tested positive for chemical agents. “These rounds were most likely left over from the [Saddam]-era regime. Based on location, these rounds may be an AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] cache. However, the rounds were all total disrepair and did not appear to have been moved for a long time.”

A small group — mostly of the political right — has long maintained that there was more evidence of a major and modern WMD program than the American people were led to believe. A few Congressmen and Senators gravitated to the idea, but it was largely dismissed as conspiratorial hooey.

The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.

But the more salient issue may be how insurgents and Islamic extremists (possibly with the help of Iran) attempted to use these lethal and exotic arms. As Spencer noted earlier, a January 2006 war log claims that “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons were smuggled in from Iran.

That same month, then “chemical weapons specialists” were apprehended in Balad. These “foreigners” were there specifically “to support the chemical weapons operations.” The following month, an intelligence report refers to a “chemical weapons expert” that “provided assistance with the gas weapons.” What happened to that specialist, the WikiLeaked document doesn’t say.

Voir également:

Chemical Weapons, Iranian Agents and Massive Death Tolls Exposed in WikiLeaks’ Iraq Docs

Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman

Wired

10.22.10

As the insurgency raged in Iraq, U.S. troops struggling to fight a shadowy enemy killed civilians, witnessed their Iraqi partners abuse detainees and labored to reduce Iran’s influence over the fighting.

None of these phenomena are unfamiliar to observers of the Iraq war. But this afternoon, the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks released a trove of nearly 392,000 U.S. military reports from Iraq that bring a new depth and detail to the horrors of one of America’s most controversial wars ever. We’re still digging through the just-released documents, but here’s a quick overview of what they contain.

(Our sister blog Threat Level looks at how Friday’s document dump could affect Bradley Manning, who’s already charged in other WikiLeaks releases.)

It Was Iran’s War, Too

No one would accuse WikiLeaks of being pro-war. Not when the transparency group titled its single most famous leak “Collateral Murder.” Not when its founder, Julian Assange, said that its trove of reports from the Afghan conflict suggested evidence for thousands of American “war crimes.”

So it’s more than a little ironic that, with its newest document dump from the Iraq campaign, WikiLeaks may have just bolstered one of the Bush administration’s most controversial claims about the Iraq war: that Iran supplied many of the Iraq insurgency’s deadliest weapons and worked hand-in-glove with some of its most lethal militias.

The documents indicate that Iran was a major combatant in the Iraq war, as its elite Quds Force trained Iraqi Shiite insurgents and imported deadly weapons like the shape-charged Explosively Formed Projectile bombs into Iraq for use against civilians, Sunni militants and U.S. troops.

A report from 2006 claims “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons from Iran were smuggled into Iraq. (It’s one of many, many documents recounting WMD efforts in Iraq.) Others indicate that Iran flooded Iraq with guns and rockets, including the Misagh-1 surface-to-air missile, .50 caliber rifles, rockets and much more.

As the New York Times observes, Iranian agents plotted to kidnap U.S. troops from out of their Humvees — something that occurred in Karbala in 2007, leaving five U.S. troops dead. (It’s still not totally clear if the Iranians were responsible.)

High Civilian Death Tolls

Over 66,000 deaths classified as “civilians” are listed in the documents, which span the years between 2004 and 2009. According to an initial assessment by the Iraq Body Count, an organization that tallies reports of civilian casualties, that’s 15,000 more dead Iraqi civilians than the United States has previously acknowledged.

“This data should never have been withheld from the public,” Iraq Body Count told the Guardian.

In one incident highlighted by The New York Times, Marines who couldn’t get a car carrying an Iraqi family to stop at a Fallujah checkpoint after warning them with a flare opened fire on the car, killing a woman and wounding her husband and two children. Confusion at checkpoints was a common feature of the Iraq war, placing U.S. troops who didn’t speak Arabic in a murky situation of judging who posed a threat to them.

Iraqi Detainee Abuse

The United States spent billions to train and equip Iraqi security forces, a mission that continues to this day. But while under U.S. tutelage, Iraqi soldiers and police abused detainees in their custody. And even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib detainee-abuse scandal, U.S. troops sometimes tolerated accounts of Iraqi abuse, writing “no investigation is necessary” in one case.

That wasn’t uniformly the case: In a 2005 report, U.S. troops discovered “a hand cranked generator with wire clamps” at an Iraqi police station in Baghdad where a detainee claimed to have been brutalized. The report says the Americans took the generator as evidence and reported the incident to a two-star general — but it doesn’t specify if the general was American or Iraqi.

As expected, the Pentagon denounced WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the nearly 400,000 documents. “We deplore Wikileaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies,” e-mails Geoff Morrell, spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large. By disclosing such sensitive information, Wikileaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us. The only responsible course of action for Wikileaks at this point is to return the stolen material and expunge it from their websites as soon as possible.”

WikiLeaks appears to have learned from the criticism of its last document dump, however. According to the Guardian, which has pored through the documents under a press blackout for weeks, WikiLeaks didn’t release all the information in an Iraq-deaths database, in order to protect the identities of Iraqis who worked with the United States — a correction for something that it didn’t sufficiently do when releasing U.S. military documents from Afghanistan this summer.

We’re still digging through the documents. We’ll bring you more soon. And in comments, tell us what you’re seeing — and what you’re interested in learning more about.

Voir encore:

WikiLeaks docs prove Saddam had WMD, threats remain

Seth Mandel

Weekly blitz

October 28, 2010

WikiLeaks’ latest publication of Iraq war documents contains a lot of information that most reasonable people would prefer remained unknown, such as the names of Iraqi informants who will now be hunted for helping the U.S.

And although the anti-war left welcomed the release of the documents, they would probably cringe at one of the most significant finds of this latest crop of reports: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

"By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," Wired magazine’s Danger Room reports. "But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction."

That is, there definitively were weapons of mass destruction and elements of a WMD program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq when U.S.-led coalition troops entered the country to depose Hussein.

Predictably, the liberal media did their best to either ignore the story–like the New York Times and Washington Post did–or spin it. It’s not an easy choice to make, since ignoring the story makes you look out of the loop and hurts your reputation as an informative publication, yet spinning the story means actively attempting to confuse and mislead your readers. CBS News chose the latter.

"WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs: No Evidence of Massive WMD Caches" read the headline on CBS News’ online. Here is the story’s opening paragraph:

"The nearly 400,000 Iraq war log documents released by WikiLeaks on Friday were full of evidence of abuses, civilian deaths and the chaos of war, but clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction–the Bush administration’s justification for invading Iraq–appears to be missing."

There are two falsehoods in that sentence, demonstrating the difficulty in trying to spin a clear fact. The Bush administration’s justification for invading Iraq was much broader than WMD–in fact, it was similar to the litany of reasons the Clinton administration signed the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which specifically called for regime change in Iraq as the official policy of the United States government (Iraq had repeatedly violated international law, Iraq had failed to comply with the obligations that ended the Gulf War, Iraq had circumvented U.N. resolutions, etc.).

"If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow," President Clinton said in February 1998. "Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal."

The second falsehood was the phrase "appears to be missing." In August 2004, American soldiers seized a toxic "blister agent," a chemical weapon used since the First World War, Wired reported. In Anbar province, they discovered a chemical lab and a "chemical cache." Three years later, U.S. military found buried WMD, and even as recent as 2008 found chemical munitions.

This isn’t the first time Iraq war documents shattered a media myth about Saddam’s regime. In 2008, a Pentagon study of Iraqi documents, as well as audio and video recordings, revealed connections between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Called the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP), the report–based on more than 600,000 captured original documents and thousands of hours of audio and video recordings–proved conclusively that Saddam had worked with terrorist organizations that were plotting attacks on American targets around the world.

One way to identify a media narrative in deep trouble is the naked attempt to draw conclusions for the reader instead of just presenting the story. The CBS report on the leaked WMD documents is a case in point of the reporter telling the reader what they ought to think, knowing full well that otherwise the facts of the case would likely lead the reader to the opposite conclusion.

"At this point," CBS reporter Dan Farber desperately pleads, "history will still record that the Bush administration went into Iraq under an erroneous threat assessment that Saddam Hussein was manufacturing and hoarding weapons of mass destruction."

That’s as close as the liberal mainstream media will get to admitting they were wrong. It’s their version of a confession. The myth that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was WMD-free has met its demise.

And these weapons couldn’t simply be the lost scraps of Saddam’s attempts to destroy the stockpile, as Ed Morrissey points out.

"Had Saddam Hussein wanted those weapons destroyed, no lower-ranking military officer would have dared defy him by keeping them hidden," he writes. "It would have taken dozens of officers to conspire to move and hide those weapons, as well as a like number of enlisted men, any and all of whom could have been a spy for the Hussein clique."

But now that we’ve answered the question of whether there were actual weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–there were and are–we may have a more significant question to answer: Who has possession of these weapons now?

"But the more salient issue may be how insurgents and Islamic extremists (possibly with the help of Iran) attempted to use these lethal and exotic arms," Wired reports. In 2006, for example, "neuroparalytic" chemical weapons were brought in from Iran.

"That same month, then ‘chemical weapons specialists’ were apprehended in Balad," the Wired report continues. "These ‘foreigners’ were there specifically ‘to support the chemical weapons operations.’ The following month, an intelligence report refers to a ‘chemical weapons expert’ that ‘provided assistance with the gas weapons.’ What happened to that specialist, the WikiLeaked document doesn’t say."

Seth Mandel is the Washington DC based correspondent of Weekly Blitz.

Voir encore:

President Clinton explains Iraq strike

CNN/TIME and Congressional Quarterly

December 16, 1998

CLINTON: Good evening.

Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq; why we have acted now; and what we aim to accomplish.

Six weeks ago, Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors called UNSCOM. They are highly professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the elimination of Iraq’s capability to retain, create and use weapons of mass destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability.

The inspectors undertook this mission first 7.5 years ago at the end of the Gulf War when Iraq agreed to declare and destroy its arsenal as a condition of the ceasefire.

The international community had good reason to set this requirement. Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.

The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.

The United States has patiently worked to preserve UNSCOM as Iraq has sought to avoid its obligation to cooperate with the inspectors. On occasion, we’ve had to threaten military force, and Saddam has backed down.

Faced with Saddam’s latest act of defiance in late October, we built intensive diplomatic pressure on Iraq backed by overwhelming military force in the region. The UN Security Council voted 15 to zero to condemn Saddam’s actions and to demand that he immediately come into compliance.

Eight Arab nations — Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman — warned that Iraq alone would bear responsibility for the consequences of defying the UN.

When Saddam still failed to comply, we prepared to act militarily. It was only then at the last possible moment that Iraq backed down. It pledged to the UN that it had made, and I quote, a clear and unconditional decision to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors.

I decided then to call off the attack with our airplanes already in the air because Saddam had given in to our demands. I concluded then that the right thing to do was to use restraint and give Saddam one last chance to prove his willingness to cooperate.

I made it very clear at that time what unconditional cooperation meant, based on existing UN resolutions and Iraq’s own commitments. And along with Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain, I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully, we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.

Now over the past three weeks, the UN weapons inspectors have carried out their plan for testing Iraq’s cooperation. The testing period ended this weekend, and last night, UNSCOM’s chairman, Richard Butler, reported the results to UN Secretary-General Annan.

The conclusions are stark, sobering and profoundly disturbing.

In four out of the five categories set forth, Iraq has failed to cooperate. Indeed, it actually has placed new restrictions on the inspectors. Here are some of the particulars.

Iraq repeatedly blocked UNSCOM from inspecting suspect sites. For example, it shut off access to the headquarters of its ruling party and said it will deny access to the party’s other offices, even though UN resolutions make no exception for them and UNSCOM has inspected them in the past.

Iraq repeatedly restricted UNSCOM’s ability to obtain necessary evidence. For example, Iraq obstructed UNSCOM’s effort to photograph bombs related to its chemical weapons program.

It tried to stop an UNSCOM biological weapons team from videotaping a site and photocopying documents and prevented Iraqi personnel from answering UNSCOM’s questions.

Prior to the inspection of another site, Iraq actually emptied out the building, removing not just documents but even the furniture and the equipment.

Iraq has failed to turn over virtually all the documents requested by the inspectors. Indeed, we know that Iraq ordered the destruction of weapons-related documents in anticipation of an UNSCOM inspection.

So Iraq has abused its final chance.

As the UNSCOM reports concludes, and again I quote, "Iraq’s conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in the fields of disarmament.

"In light of this experience, and in the absence of full cooperation by Iraq, it must regrettably be recorded again that the commission is not able to conduct the work mandated to it by the Security Council with respect to Iraq’s prohibited weapons program."

In short, the inspectors are saying that even if they could stay in Iraq, their work would be a sham.

Saddam’s deception has defeated their effectiveness. Instead of the inspectors disarming Saddam, Saddam has disarmed the inspectors.

This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance.

And so we had to act and act now.

Let me explain why.

First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.

Second, if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community — led by the United States — has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday — make no mistake — he will use it again as he has in the past.

Third, in halting our air strikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance, not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. We will not only have allowed Saddam to shatter the inspection system that controls his weapons of mass destruction program; we also will have fatally undercut the fear of force that stops Saddam from acting to gain domination in the region.

That is why, on the unanimous recommendation of my national security team — including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of state and the national security adviser — I have ordered a strong, sustained series of air strikes against Iraq.

They are designed to degrade Saddam’s capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction, and to degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors.

At the same time, we are delivering a powerful message to Saddam. If you act recklessly, you will pay a heavy price. We acted today because, in the judgment of my military advisers, a swift response would provide the most surprise and the least opportunity for Saddam to prepare.

If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler’s report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.

Also, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this weekend. For us to initiate military action during Ramadan would be profoundly offensive to the Muslim world and, therefore, would damage our relations with Arab countries and the progress we have made in the Middle East.

That is something we wanted very much to avoid without giving Iraq’s a month’s head start to prepare for potential action against it.

Finally, our allies, including Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, concurred that now is the time to strike. I hope Saddam will come into cooperation with the inspection system now and comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. But we have to be prepared that he will not, and we must deal with the very real danger he poses.

So we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction and work toward the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people.

First, we must be prepared to use force again if Saddam takes threatening actions, such as trying to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems, threatening his neighbors, challenging allied aircraft over Iraq or moving against his own Kurdish citizens.

The credible threat to use force, and when necessary, the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression and prevent another Gulf War.

Second, so long as Iraq remains out of compliance, we will work with the international community to maintain and enforce economic sanctions. Sanctions have cost Saddam more than $120 billion — resources that would have been used to rebuild his military. The sanctions system allows Iraq to sell oil for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people.

We have no quarrel with them. But without the sanctions, we would see the oil-for-food program become oil-for-tanks, resulting in a greater threat to Iraq’s neighbors and less food for its people.

The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world.

The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government — a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people. Bringing change in Baghdad will take time and effort. We will strengthen our engagement with the full range of Iraqi opposition forces and work with them effectively and prudently.

The decision to use force is never cost-free. Whenever American forces are placed in harm’s way, we risk the loss of life. And while our strikes are focused on Iraq’s military capabilities, there will be unintended Iraqi casualties.

Indeed, in the past, Saddam has intentionally placed Iraqi civilians in harm’s way in a cynical bid to sway international opinion.

We must be prepared for these realities. At the same time, Saddam should have absolutely no doubt if he lashes out at his neighbors, we will respond forcefully.

Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.

And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.

Because we’re acting today, it is less likely that we will face these dangers in the future.

Let me close by addressing one other issue. Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans or weaken our resolve to face him down.

But once more, the United States has proven that although we are never eager to use force, when we must act in America’s vital interests, we will do so.

In the century we’re leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we’ll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.

Tonight, the United States is doing just that. May God bless and protect the brave men and women who are carrying out this vital mission and their families. And may God bless America.

COMPLEMENT (18.03.13):

Ten Years Ago, an Honorable War Began With Wide Support

Now the U.S. has bailed out of Iraq leaving behind little trace. And a strongman is in charge.

Fouad Ajami

The WSJ

March 18, 2013

Nowadays, few people step forth to speak well of the Iraq War, to own up to the support they gave that American campaign in the Arab world. Yet Operation Iraqi Freedom, launched 10 years ago this week, was once a popular war. We had struck into Afghanistan in 2001 to rout al Qaeda and the terrorists’ Taliban hosts—but the 9/11 killers who brought ruin onto American soil were not Afghan. They were young Arabs, forged in the crucible of Arab society, in the dictators’ prisons and torture chambers. Arab financiers and preachers gave them the means and the warrant for their horrific deeds.

America’s previous venture into Iraq, a dozen years earlier, had been a lightning strike: The Iraqi dictator was evicted from Kuwait and then spared. Saddam Hussein’s military machine was all rust and decay by 2003, but he swaggered and let the world believe that he had in his possession a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The Arab redeemer, as he had styled himself, lacked the guile that might have saved him. A great military expedition was being readied against him in London and Washington, but he gambled to the bitter end that George W. Bush would not pull the trigger.

On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom—the first bombs fell on March 19—well over 70% of the American public supported upending the Saddam regime. The temptation to depict the war as George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s is convenient but utterly false. This was a war waged with congressional authorization, with the endorsement of popular acceptance, and with the sanction of more than a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for Iraq’s disarmament.

Those unburdened by knowledge of the ways of that region would come to insist that there had been no operational links between the Iraqi despot and al Qaeda. These newborn critics would insist on a distinction between secular terrorism and religious terrorism, but it was a distinction without a difference.

The rationale for the war sustained a devastating blow in the autumn of 2004 when Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. arms inspector for Iraq, issued a definitive report confirming that Saddam had possessed no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The war now stood on its own—and many of its former supporters claimed that this wasn’t what they had signed up for. Yet the "architects" of the war could not pull the plug on it. They soldiered on, offering a new aim: the reform and freedom of Iraq, and the example of a decent Iraq in the "heart of the Arab world."

President Bush, seen in this image from television, addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House, on March 19, 2003. Bush said U.S. forces launched a strike against targets of military opportunity in Iraq, describing the action as the opening salvo in an operation to disarm Iraq and to free its people.

There were very few takers for the new rationale. In the oddest of twists, American liberalism now mocked the very idea that liberty could put down roots in an Arab- Muslim setting.

Nor were there takers, among those watching from lands around Iraq, for the idea of freedom midwifed by American power. To Iraq’s east lay the Iranian despotism, eager to thwart and frustrate the American project. To the west in Syria there was the Baath dictatorship of the House of Assad. And beyond there was the Sunni Arab order of power, where America was despised for giving power to Shiites. For a millennium, the Shiite Arabs had not governed, and yet now they ruled in Baghdad, a city that had been the seat of the Islamic caliphate.

A stoical George W. Bush held the line amid American disaffection and amid the resistance of a region invested in the failure of the Iraq campaign. He doubled down with the troop "surge" and remained true to the proposition that liberty could stick on Arab soil.

There is no way of writing a convincing alternative history of the region without this war. That kind of effort is inherently speculative, subject to whim and preference. Perhaps we could have let Saddam be, could have tolerated the misery he inflicted on his people, convinced ourselves that the sanctions imposed on his regime were sufficient to keep him quarantined. But a different history played out. It delivered the Iraqis from a tyranny that they would have never been able to overthrow on their own.

The American disappointment with Iraq helped propel Barack Obama to power. There were strategic gains that the war had secured in Iraq, but Mr. Obama had no interest in them. Iraq was the "war of choice" that had to be brought to a "responsible close," he said. The focus instead would be on that "war of necessity" in Afghanistan.

A skilled politician, Mr. Obama made the Iraqi government an offer meant to be turned down—a residual American force that could hardly defend itself, let alone provide meaningful protection for the fledgling new order in Baghdad. Predictably, Iraq’s rulers decided to go it alone as 2011 drew to a close. They had been navigating a difficult course between Iran and the U.S. The choice was made easy for them, the Iranian supreme leader was next door, the liberal superpower was in retreat.

Heading for the exits, Mr. Obama praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as "the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq." The praise came even as Mr. Maliki was beginning to erect a dictatorship bent on marginalizing the country’s Kurds and Sunni Arabs and even those among the Shiites who questioned his writ.

Two weeks ago, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, issued his final report, called "Learning from Iraq." The report was methodical and detailed, interspersed with the testimonies of American and Iraqi officials. One testimony, by an Iraqi technocrat, the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, offered a compelling image: "With all the money the U.S. has spent, you can go into any city in Iraq and you can’t find one building or project built by the U.S. government. You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad or other cities, but you can’t point a finger at a single project that was built and completed by the United States."

It was no fault of the soldiers who fought this war, or of the leaders who launched it, that their successors lacked the patience to stick around Iraq and safekeep what had been gained at an incalculable cost in blood and treasure.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of "The Syrian Rebellion" (Hoover Press, 2012).

COMPLEMENT (20.03.13):

On balance, was the Iraq war worth it?

Jeff Jacoby

The Boston Globe

March 20, 2013

TEN YEARS AGO this week, the United States led an invasion of Iraq with the explicit purpose of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The preceding months had been filled with vehement protests against the impending war, expressed in editorials, in advertisements, and in rallies so vast that some of them made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. With so many people against the invasion, who supported it?

Well, if you were like the great majority of Americans – you did. In February and March 2003, Newsweek’s polls showed 70 percent of the public in favor of military action against Iraq; Gallup and Pew Research Center surveys showed the same thing. Congress had authorized the invasion a few months earlier with strong bipartisan majorities; among the many Democrats voting for the war were Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden.

The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago ended the reign of a genocidal tyrant, and ensured that his monstrous sons could never succeed him.

Though the Iraq War later became a favorite Democratic club for bashing George W. Bush, Republicans and Democrats alike had long understood that Saddam was a deadly menace who had to be forcibly eradicated. In 1998 President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making Saddam’s removal from power a matter of US policy. "If the history of the last six years has taught us anything," Kerry had said two years earlier, "it is that Saddam Hussein does not understand diplomacy, he only understands power."

But bipartisan harmony was an early casualty of the war. Once it became clear that Saddam didn’t have the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were a major justification for the invasion, unity gave way to recrimination. It didn’t matter that virtually everyone – Republicans and Democrats, CIA analysts and the UN Security Council, even Saddam’s own military officers – had been sure the WMD would be found. Nor did it matter that Saddam had previously used WMD to exterminate thousands of men, women, and children. The temptation to spin an intelligence failure as a deliberate "lie" was politically irresistible.

When the relatively quick toppling of Saddam was followed by a long and bloody insurgency, opposition to the war intensified. For many it became an intractable article of faith that victory was not an option. The war to remove Saddam was not merely "Bush’s folly," but – as Senate majority leader Harry Reid called it in 2007 — "the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country."

But then came Bush’s "surge," and the course of the war shifted dramatically for the better.

By the time President Bush left office, Iraq had been transformed from a "republic of fear" into a relatively peaceful constitutional democracy.

By the time Bush left office, the insurgency was crippled, violence was down 90 percent, and Iraqis were being governed by politicians they had voted for. It was far from perfect, but "something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq," reported Newsweek in early 2010. On its cover the magazine proclaimed: "Victory at Last."

And so it might have been, if America’s new commander-in-chief hadn’t been so insistent on pulling the plug.

In October 2011, President Obama – overriding his military commanders, who had recommended keeping 18,000 troops on the ground – announced that all remaining US servicemen would be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Politically, it was a popular decision; most Americans were understandably weary of Iraq. But abandoning Iraqis and their frail, fledgling democracy was reckless.

"It freed Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to be more of a Shiite sectarian than he could have been with the US looking over his shoulder," military historian Max Boot observed this week. And with Maliki moving against his Sunni opponents, some of them "are making common cause once again with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, [which] has recovered from its near-death experience" during the surge. It is cold comfort that so many urgently warned of just such an outcome in 2011.

So was the Iraq war worth it? On that, Americans are a long way from a consensus. It is never clear in the immediate aftermath of any war what history’s judgment will be. Two decades ago, the 1991 Gulf War was regarded as a triumph. In retrospect, the decision to leave Saddam in power – and to let him murderously crush an uprising we had encouraged – looks like a tragic blunder.

But this much we do know: The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago ended the reign of a genocidal tyrant, and ensured that his monstrous sons could never succeed him. It struck a shaft of fear into other dictators, leading Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi, for example, to relinquish his WMD. It let Iraqis find out how much better their lives could be under democratic self-government. Like all wars, even wars of liberation, it took an awful toll. The status quo ante was worse.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His website is http://www.JeffJacoby.com).

COMPLEMENT (22.03.13):

Geopolitical ADHD

Mark Steyn

National Review online

March 22, 2013

Ten years ago, along with three-quarters of the American people, including the men just appointed as President Obama’s secretaries of state and defense, I supported the invasion of Iraq. A decade on, unlike most of the American people, including John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, I’ll stand by that original judgment.

None of us can say what would have happened had Saddam Hussein remained in power. He might now be engaged in a nuclear-arms race with Iran. One or other of his even more psychotic sons, the late Uday or Qusay, could be in power. The Arab Spring might have come to Iraq, and surely even more bloodily than in Syria.

But these are speculations best left to the authors of “alternative histories.” In the real world, how did things turn out?

Three weeks after Operation Shock and Awe began, the early-bird naysayers were already warning of massive humanitarian devastation and civil war. Neither happened. Overcompensating somewhat for all the doom-mongering, I wrote in Britain’s Daily Telegraph that “a year from now Basra will have a lower crime rate than most London boroughs.” Close enough. Major General Andy Salmon, the British commander in southern Iraq, eventually declared of Basra that “on a per capita basis, if you look at the violence statistics, it is less dangerous than Manchester.”

Ten years ago, expert opinion was that Iraq was a phony-baloney entity imposed on the map by distant colonial powers. Joe Biden, you’ll recall, advocated dividing the country into three separate states, which for the Democrats held out the enticing prospect of having three separate quagmires to blame on Bush, but for the Iraqis had little appeal. “As long as you respect its inherently confederal nature,” I argued, “it’ll work fine.” As for the supposedly secessionist Kurds, “they’ll settle for being Scotland or Quebec.” And so it turned out. The Times of London, last week: “Ten Years after Saddam, Iraqi Kurds Have Never Had It So Good.” In Kurdistan as in Quebec, there is a pervasive unsavory tribal cronyism, but on the other hand, unlike Quebec City, Erbil is booming.

What of the rest of the country? Iraq, I suggested, would wind up “at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world, and, at best, pleasant, civilized and thriving.” I’ll stand by my worst-case scenario there. Unlike the emerging “reforms” in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria, politics in Iraq has remained flawed but, by the standards of the grimly Islamist Arab Spring, broadly secular.

So I like the way a lot of the trees fell. But I missed the forest.

On the previous Western liberation of Mesopotamia, when General Maude took Baghdad from the Turks in 1917, British troops found a very different city from the Saddamite squat of 2003: In a lively, jostling, cosmopolitan metropolis, 40 percent of the population was Jewish. I wasn’t so deluded as to think the Jews would be back, but I hoped something of Baghdad’s lost vigor might return. Granted that most of the Arab world, from Tangiers to Alexandria, is considerably less “multicultural” than it was in mid century, the remorseless extinction of Iraq’s Christian community this last decade is appalling — and, given that it happened on America’s watch, utterly shameful. Like the bland acknowledgement deep in a State Department “International Religious Freedom Report” that the last church in Afghanistan was burned to the ground in 2010, it testifies to the superpower’s impotence, not “internationally” but in client states entirely bankrolled by us.

Foreigners see this more clearly than Americans. As Goh Chok Tong, the prime minister of Singapore, said on a visit to Washington in 2004, “The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America’s credibility and will to prevail.” Just so. If you live in Tikrit or Fallujah, the Iraq War was about Iraq. If you live anywhere else on the planet, the Iraq War was about America, and the unceasing drumbeat of “quagmire” and “exit strategy” communicated to the world an emptiness at the heart of American power — like the toppled statue of Saddam that proved to be hollow. On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, mobs trashed U.S. embassies across the region with impunity. A rather more motivated crowd showed up in Benghazi, killed four Americans, including the ambassador, and correctly calculated they would face no retribution. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, these guys have reached their own judgment about American “credibility” and “will” — as have more potent forces yet biding their time, from Moscow to Beijing.

A few weeks after the fall of Saddam, on little more than a whim, I rented a beat-up Nissan at Amman Airport and, without telling the car-hire bloke, drove east across the Iraqi border and into the Sunni Triangle. I could not easily make the same journey today: Western journalists now require the permission of the central government to enter Anbar Province. But for a brief period in the spring of 2003 we were the “strong horse” and even a dainty little media gelding such as myself was accorded a measure of respect by the natives. At a rest area on the highway between Rutba and Ramadi, I fell into conversation with one of the locals. Having had to veer onto the median every few miles to dodge bomb craters, I asked him whether he bore any resentments toward his liberators. “Americans only in the sky,” he told me, grinning a big toothless grin as, bang on cue, a U.S. chopper rumbled up from over the horizon and passed high above our heads. “No problem.”

“Americans only in the sky” is an even better slogan in the Obama era of drone-alone warfare. In Iraq, there were a lot of boots on the ground, but when it came to non-military leverage (cultural, economic) Americans were content to remain “only in the sky.” And down on the ground other players filled the vacuum, some reasonably benign (the Chinese in the oil fields), others less so (the Iranians in everything else).

And so a genuinely reformed Middle East remains, like the speculative scenarios outlined at the top, in the realm of “alternative history.” Nevertheless, in the grim two-thirds-of-a-century roll call of America’s un-won wars, Iraq today is less un-won than Korea, Vietnam, or Afghanistan, and that is not nothing. The war dead of America and its few real allies died in an honorable cause. But armies don’t wage wars, nations do. And, back on the home front, a vast percentage of fair-weather hawks who decided that it was all too complicated, or a bit of a downer, or Bush lied, or where’s the remote, revealed America as profoundly unserious. A senator who votes for war and then decides he’d rather it had never started is also engaging in “alternative history” — albeit of the kind in which Pam Ewing steps into the shower at Southfork and writes off the previous season of Dallas as a bad dream. In non-alternative history, in the only reality there is, once you’ve started a war, you have two choices: to win it or to lose it. Withdrawing one’s “support” for a war you’re already in advertises nothing more than a kind of geopolitical ADHD.

Shortly after Gulf War One, when the world’s superpower assembled a mighty coalition to fight half-a-war to an inconclusive halt at the gates of Baghdad, Washington declined to get mixed up in the disintegrating Balkans. Colin Powell offered the following rationale: “We do deserts. We don’t do mountains.” Across a decade in Iraq, America told the world we don’t really do deserts, either.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.


Irak/9e: Comment perdre une guerre déjà gagnée (How Obama lost Iraq)

21 décembre, 2011
We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region. Obama
There is no question that the United States was divided going into that war. But I think the United States is united coming out of that war. We all recognize the tremendous price that has been paid in lives, in blood. And yet I think we also recognize that those lives were not lost in vain. (…) As difficult as [the Iraq war] was, and the cost in both American and Iraqi lives, I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world. Leon Panetta  (secrétaire américain à la Défense)
Il y a d’abord eu moins de morts qu’au Vietnam. De mémoire, il y a eu 13 500 soldats morts (sic) alors qu’en Irak il y en a eu 4 500. On est dans une autre dimension : trois fois moins pour une durée égale. Et surtout, l’armée américaine qui repart du Vietnam est une armée démoralisée, défaite. Là ce n’est pas le cas. Les Américains partent au fond assez tranquillement. Il n’y a pas eu de scènes d’évacuation comme à Saïgon. Ils quittent le pays avec l’accord du gouvernement en place. (…)Les Américains ont renversé Saddam Hussein, c’était le but. Ils ont installé un gouvernement démocratiquement élu, il n’y a pas de doutes là-dessus. Voilà pour les points positifs. Les points négatifs, c’est qu’il y a eu des dizaines de milliers de morts et une guerre civile en Irak. Le prix à payer est extrêmement lourd. D’autant qu’on n’a pas l’impression que l’économie de l’Irak a redémarré. Lorsque l’on reprend ce que l’on disait il y a huit ans, comme quoi c’était une guerre pour mettre la main sur le pétrole ; on constate que le pétrole n’a pas redémarré. Le but politique de détruire un régime dictatorial a été atteint, mais le prix à payer a été extrêmement élevé. Jean-Dominique Merchet (spécialiste des questions de défense)
The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances. The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. (…) The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem, and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise. Charles Krauthammer

A l’heure où, avec le pitoyable retrait américain et des prétendus mensonges de Bush au soi-disant "million de morts", de "l’exécution sommaire de Sadam Hussein" à  "la honte d’Abou Ghraib" ou  du "déclenchement d’une véritable guérilla" à la "communautarisation" d’un État supposé "laïc" sans oublier la "guerre pour le pétrole, nos médias nous ressortent les contre-vérités habituelles  sur l’Irak…

Et où, à moins d’un an d’une présidentielle rien de moins qu’assurée, le Carter noir de la Maison Blanche s’attribue les mérites d’une victoire militaire pour une guerre contre laquelle il s’était fait élire …

Tout en se retrouvant,  du fait de son évident manque de conviction (le débat sur le nombre de troupes et les garanties d’immunité apparaissant plutôt comme un prétexte) et malgré  les quelque 40 000 hommes encore dans la région notamment au Koweit voisin, sans les moindres troupes sur place …

Retour, avec Charles Krauthammer, sur la manière dont l’actuelle Administration américaine vient de réussir l’exploit… de perdre une guerre déjà gagnée!

Who Lost Iraq?

You know who.

Charles Krauthammer

The NRO

November 3, 2011

Barack Obama was a principled opponent of the Iraq War from its beginning. But when he became president in January 2009, he was handed a war that was won. The surge had succeeded. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been routed, driven to humiliating defeat by an Anbar Awakening of Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the infidel Americans. Even more remarkably, the Shiite militias had been taken down, with American backing, by the forces of Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. They crushed the Sadr militias from Basra to Sadr City.

Al-Qaeda decimated. A Shiite prime minister taking a decisively nationalist line. Iraqi Sunnis ready to integrate into a new national government. U.S. casualties at their lowest ebb in the entire war. Elections approaching. Obama was left with but a single task: Negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to reinforce these gains and create a strategic partnership with the Arab world’s only democracy.

He blew it. Negotiations, such as they were, finally collapsed last month. There is no agreement, no partnership. As of December 31, the American military presence in Iraq will be liquidated.

And it’s not as if that deadline snuck up on Obama. He had three years to prepare for it. Everyone involved, Iraqi and American, knew that the 2008 SOFA calling for full U.S. withdrawal was meant to be renegotiated. And all major parties but one (the Sadr faction) had an interest in some residual stabilizing U.S. force, like the postwar deployments in Japan, Germany, and Korea.

Three years, two abject failures. The first was the administration’s inability, at the height of American post-surge power, to broker a centrist nationalist coalition governed by the major blocs — one predominantly Shiite (Maliki’s), one predominantly Sunni (Ayad Allawi’s), one Kurdish — that among them won a large majority (69 percent) of seats in the 2010 election.

Vice President Joe Biden was given the job. He failed utterly. The government ended up effectively being run by a narrow sectarian coalition where the balance of power is held by the relatively small (12 percent) Iranian-client Sadr faction.

The second failure was the SOFA itself. The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances.

The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. Message received. Just this past week, Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurds — for two decades the staunchest of U.S. allies — visited Tehran to bend a knee to both Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It didn’t have to be this way. Our friends did not have to be left out in the cold to seek Iranian protection. Three years and a won war had given Obama the opportunity to establish a lasting strategic alliance with the Arab world’s second most important power.

He failed, though he hardly tried very hard. The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem, and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise.

But surely the obligation to defend the security and the interests of the nation supersede personal vindication. Obama opposed the war, but when he became commander-in-chief the terrible price had already been paid in blood and treasure. His obligation was to make something of that sacrifice, to secure the strategic gains that sacrifice had already achieved.

He did not, failing at precisely what this administration so flatters itself for doing so well: diplomacy. After years of allegedly clumsy brutish force, Obama was to usher in an era of not hard power, not soft power, but smart power.

Which turns out in Iraq to be . . . no power. Years from now we will be asking not “Who lost Iraq?” — that already is clear — but “Why?”

Voir aussi:

What Obama Left Behind in Iraq

Fouad Ajami

The WSJ

December 17, 2011

There’s no need to fear the deference of Iraq’s Shiites toward Iran.

‘The tide of war is receding, and the soul of Baghdad remains, the soul of Iraq remains," Vice President Joe Biden said at Camp Victory, by the Baghdad airport, earlier this month, in the countdown to the official end of the Iraq war. In truth, the receding tide Mr. Biden glimpsed was that of American power and influence in Iraq and in the Greater Middle East.

This wasn’t something the people of that region pined for. These are lands that crave the protection of a dominant foreign power as they feign outrage at its exercise. Nor was it decreed by the objective facts of American power, for this country still possesses all the ingredients of influence and prestige. It was, rather, a decision made in the course of the Obama presidency—the ebb of our power has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

America was never meant to stay in Iraq indefinitely. In all fairness to President Obama, he had ridden the disappointment with Iraq from the state legislature in Illinois to the White House. He was not a pacifist, he let it be known. He did not oppose all wars. It was only "dumb" wars he was against. In every way he could, he kept Iraq at arm’s length. He never partook of the view that we had secured strategic gains in that country worth preserving. It was thus awkward to watch the president on Monday, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by his side, explaining as we exit that "We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region." The words rang hollow.

A president who understood the stakes would have had no difficulty justifying a residual American presence in Iraq. But not this president. At the core of Mr. Obama’s worldview lies a pessimism about America and the power of its ideals and reach in the world.

The one exception to this strategic timidity is the pride Mr. Obama takes in prosecuting the war against terrorists. In a moment evocative of George W. Bush, Mr. Obama last week swatted away the charge that he had been appeasing America’s enemies abroad: "Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top Al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement." Fair enough.

But the world demands more than that, it begs for a larger strategic reading of things.

We shall never know with certainty what was possible and open to us in Iraq. On the face of it, the Iraqis wanted us out, and Mr. Maliki and his coalition had been unwilling to give our troops legal immunity from prosecution. But how we got there is less understood. The U.S. commanders on the ground thought that a residual presence of 20,000 soldiers would suffice to keep the order in Iraq and give the United States an anchor in that country. The White House had proposed a much lower figure, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000. That force level would have been unsustainable, a target for the disgruntled and the conspirators.

No Iraqi government would run the gauntlet of a divided country, and a feisty parliament, for that sort of deal. Mr. Maliki may not be fully tutored in the ways of American democracy, but he is shrewd enough to recognize that this American leader was not invested in Iraq’s affairs.

Six years ago, when this war was still young and its harvest uncertain, a brilliant Iraqi diplomat and writer, Hassan al- Alawi, wrote a provocative book titled "al-Iraq al-Amriki" ("American Iraq"). It was proper, he observed, to speak of an American Iraq as one does of a Sumerian, a Babylonian, an Abbasid, an Ottoman, then a British Iraq. He didn’t think that America would stick around long in Iraq, but he thought the American impact would be monumental.

Whereas British Iraq empowered the Sunnis, the Americans would tip the scales in favor of the Shiites. All three principal communities in Iraq had a vested interest in American protection. The Kurds, the most pro- American population in the region, were desperate to have America remain—a balance to the power of Turkey, a buffer between their autonomous zone in the north and the Baghdad government. The Sunnis, the erstwhile masters of the country, had come around: An American presence with enough authority would be their shield against a sectarian, Shiite regime that would cut them out of the spoils.

Ironically, the Shiite majority, the followers of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr aside, had a vested interest in an American deterrent on the ground. For all their edge in the politics of Baghdad, the Shiites are still given to a healthy measure of paranoia about the world around them. The Iraq midwifed by U.S. power had been delivered into a hostile neighborhood. The Sunni Arabs had yet to accept and make their peace with the rise of a Shiite-led government in Baghdad. And the rebellion in Syria added to the uncertainty, feeding the anxiety of Mr. Maliki and the Shiite political class over a Syrian regime to their west ruled by the Sunni majority. There is also Turkey, large and now with economic means and a view of itself as a protector of the Sunnis of the region.

And there remained Iran, to the east, with the traffic of commerce and pilgrimage, with the religious entanglements born of a common Shiite faith. For the Sunni Arabs—and for Americans who had opposed this war—Iraq is destined to slip, nay it has already slipped, into the orbit of the Persian theocracy. The American war, with all its sacrifices, had simply created a "sister republic" of the Persian state, it is said.

Those who love to organize an untidy world have spoken of a "Shiite crescent" that stretches from Iran, through Iraq, all the way to the Mediterranean and Syria and Lebanon. But the image is false. Iraq is a big and proud country, with a strong sense of nationalism, and oil wealth of its own. An Iraqi political class, with its vast oil reserves, has no interest in ceding its authority to the Iranians.

The Shiism that straddles the boundaries of the two countries divides them as well. The sacred lands of Shiism are in Iraq, and the Shiism of the Iraqis is Arab through and through. The pride of Najaf is great, I can’t see it deferring to the religious authority of strangers.

One of our ablest diplomats, Ryan Crocker, then ambassador to Baghdad, now our envoy in Kabul, once pronounced the definitive judgment on these contested Iraqi matters: "In the end, what we leave behind and how we leave will be more important than how we came." It so happened that when it truly mattered, the president who called the shots on Iraq had his gaze fixated on the past and its disputations.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

Voir enfin:

Irak : la fin d’une sale guerre

Philippe Rioux

La Dépêche

19/12/2011

Barack Obama avait promis un retrait total des troupes américaines. Celui-ci est effectif depuis hier. Neuf ans de guerre s’achèvent sur un bilan très contrasté.

Jusqu’au dernier moment, la date de l’évacuation des dernières troupes américaines d’Irak aura été tenue secrète, par crainte d’un attentat qui vienne endeuiller cette journée historique. Hier à l’aube, neuf ans après avoir envahi le pays pour renverser le dictateur Saddam Hussein, le dernier convoi composé de 110 véhicules transportant environ 500 soldats issus de la 3e brigade de la 1re division de cavalerie a traversé la frontière à 7 h 30 locales (5 h 30 à Paris). Le dernier véhicule est passé huit minutes plus tard et l’émotion était tangible parmi les soldats, dont beaucoup avaient accroché des bannières étoilées dans leurs véhicules.

L’opération « Iraqi Freedom » – la guerre la plus controversée depuis celle du Vietnam – s’achève donc dans l’amertume. Certes, le tyran Saddam Hussein a été renversé ; certes l’Irak a connu ses premières élections démocratiques depuis cinquante ans. Mais à quel prix ? Plus de 100 000 morts parmi les civils sont à déplorer – certains observateurs avancent même des centaines de milliers de victimes. Des conflits ethnico-religieux entre sunnites, chiites et kurdes menacent la stabilité d’un gouvernement très fragile. Le bloc laïque Iraqiya de l’ancien Premier ministre Iyad Allaoui a d’ailleurs décidé de suspendre à partir de samedi sa participation aux travaux du Parlement. L’économie du pays est exsangue : les services de base comme la distribution de l’électricité et de l’eau potable sont défectueux et la reprise des exportations du pétrole – 2,2 millions de barils par jour soit 7 milliards de dollars par mois – sont bien faibles.

Espoir de paix

Cette troisième guerre du Golfe, guerre « préventive » théorisée par George W. Bush après les attentats du 11-Septembre 2001 et qui a été émaillée de nombreux scandales dont le symbole reste celui de la prison d’Abou Ghraib, aura aussi coûté cher aux États-Unis. Financièrement (770 milliards de dollars par an), humainement (4 484 soldats morts) et moralement.

Reste que la fin d’une guerre, aussi controversée soit-elle, doit laisser place à l’espoir de la paix. Dans les rues de Bagdad hier, c’est cet espoir qui animait l’homme de la rue, à l’heure où l’Irak écrit un nouveau chapitre de son histoire.

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Les 6 dossiers noirs de Bagdad

1. Une guerre lancée sur des mensonges.

Après la deuxième guerre du Golfe de 1991, les Nations Unies adoptent la résolution 687 réclamant à l’Irak d’accepter la destruction de toutes les armes chimiques, biologiques et des infrastructures les produisant. Des inspections des Nations Unies et de l’Agence Internationale pour l’Énergie Atomique (AIEA) s’enchaînent alors jusqu’en 1998, puis reprennent en 2002 après une nouvelle résolution du Conseil de sécurité. Washington acquiert la certitude que Saddam Hussein dissimule aux inspecteurs des armes de destruction massive (ADM). Mais ni la CIA, ni les services secrets britanniques ne peuvent apporter de preuves formelles. Le 5 février 2003, le secrétaire d’État américain Colin Powell présente devant le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies des photos satellites montrant selon lui des camions-laboratoires. L’ex-général brandit ensuite une fiole contenant une poudre blanche : de l’anthrax. Craignant un veto de la France (lire ci-contre), de la Russie et de la Chine, les États-Unis et la Grande Bretagne lanceront la guerre sans l’aval de l’ONU. La guerre sera ensuite « légitimée » par d’autres résolutions du Conseil de sécurité. À noter qu’aux États-Unis et au Royaume-Uni, plusieurs enquêtes sont en cours pour déterminer s’il y a eu mensonge ou pas.

2. Les morts américains et irakiens.

En mars 2003, la coalition amenée par les États-Unis, le Royaume-Uni et l’Australie, compte 48 pays. Selon des sites Internet indépendants qui comptabilisent les morts (icasualties.org et antiwar.com), le bilan de la guerre est, du 20 mars 2003 au 1er décembre 2011, de 4 803 morts dans la coalition dont 4 484 soldats américains. A ces nombres s’ajoutent plus de 36 000 blessés dans la coalition dont 32 226 Américains. Du côté des civils, le nombre de victimes reste difficile à établir, mais tous les observateurs évoquent plus de 100000 morts. Depuis mars 2003, les pertes civiles s’étaleraient entre 104 035 et 113 680, selon l’organisation britannique IraqBodyCount.org. L’institut de sondage britannique Opinion research business a estimé à plus d’un million le nombre de victimes irakiennes entre mars 2003 et août 2007. Tandis que la revue The Lancet estimait en octobre 2006 que le nombre de décès irakiens imputables à la guerre était de 655 000. Le Haut Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (UNHCR) a comptabilisé en ce mois de décembre 1 323 250 réfugiés dont 549 150 reçoivent une aide.

3. L’exécution sommaire de Sadam Hussein.

Après plusieurs mois passés dans la clandestinité, l’ex-dictateur Saddam Hussein est arrêté par les Américains dans une cave de Tikrit dans la nuit du 13 au 14 décembre 2003. Le monde entier découvre les images d’un raïs méconnaissable, hirsute, hagard. En juillet 2004, le Tribunal spécial irakien (TSI), le juge pour génocide, crime contre l’humanité et crime de guerre, avec plusieurs autres membres du parti Baas. Saddam Hussein a retrouvé sa verve, invective le tribunal à plusieurs reprises durant le procès qui dure plusieurs mois. Le 15 mars 2006, il se déclare à la barre toujours président de l’Irak et appelle les Irakiens à combattre les Américains. Le 19 juin, le procureur général requiert la peine de mort contre l’ancien président. Le 5 novembre, Saddam Hussein est condamné à mort par pendaison pour crime contre l’humanité. Le 30 décembre 2006, l’ancien président irakien est exécuté à Bagdad à 6 h 0 5. Son corps sera enterré dans le centre d’Aouja, à 180 km au nord de Bagdad et 4 km au sud de Tikrit. Cette exécution sommaire déclenche une vive polémique, certains dénonçant une « mascarade » et une « parodie de justice ».

4. La honte d’Abou Ghraib

En août 2003, l’armée américaine rouvre le complexe pénitentiaire d’Abou Ghraib, construit dans les années 60 et situé à 32 km de Bagdad. Une prison de sinistre mémoire, lieu de torture du régime de Saddam. En 2004, la diffusion de photographies montrant des détenus irakiens humiliés par des militaires américains déclenche le scandale d’Abou Ghraib. Les photos montrent des soldats irakiens torturés, attachés par des câbles électriques, obligés de poser nus les uns sur les autres, menacés par des chiens de garde. Leurs dépouilles sont désacralisées après leur mort. Le tollé international oblige les États-Unis à ouvrir une enquête. En 2006, onze soldats américains sont jugés et condamnés pour les faits de tortures commis dans la prison. En mai 2006, George W. Bush admet que la prison était la « plus grosse erreur » des Américains en Irak. Abou Ghraib est aujourd’hui « Prison centrale de Bagdad » et peut accueillir 15 000 détenus.

5. Le terrorisme, les enlèvements

L’occupation de l’Irak par les Américains a déclenché une vraie guérilla. Pillages, affrontements, règlements de compte sont le lot quotidien de nombreuses villes du pays sur fond d’affrontements religieux et ethniques entre sunnites et chiites. Les forces de la coalition – dont le commandement est bunkérisé dans la « zone verte » ultra-sécurisée de Bagdad – sont confrontées à l’hostilité de la population et à des actes terroristes de plus en plus violents. En 2004, des attentats quasi quotidiens frappent les forces militaires d’occupation et les civils travaillant pour eux. Les attentats de Qahtaniya, le 14 août 2007, sont les plus meurtriers avec 572 morts et 1 562 blessés.

Aux attentats s’est aussi ajoutée la multiplication des prises d’otages opérées par des fidèles de Saddam, des djihadistes étrangers, des islamistes et des salafistes. En mai 2004, Nick Berg, un homme d’affaires américain, est décapité par les hommes de Zarqaoui. Le 20 août 2004, les journalistes français Christian Chesnot et Georges Malbrunot sont enlevés par un groupe jusqu’alors inconnu, l’Armée islamique en Irak. Les Français sont libérés le 21 décembre 2004. Le 5 janvier 2005, Florence Aubenas (photo) est à son tour enlevée à Bagdad. Sa détention prendra fin le 12 juin.

6. D’un État laïc au régime communautariste

À la faveur d’un coup d’État en 1968, Saddam Hussein devient vice-président de l’Irak, puis président du pays à partir de 1979. Dirigé par le puisant parti Baas – nationaliste arabe, laïc et socialiste – l’Irak apparaît alors aux yeux de certains occidentaux comme un rempart contre l’Iran islamique. En 1988, au sortir de huit ans de guerre avec l’Iran, l’Irak est exsangue, au bord de la banqueroute. Saddam Hussein envahit alors le Koweït, déclenchant la 2e Guerre du golfe et subissant un très dur embargo. Au cours de cette guerre, Saddam Hussein a remis au goût du jour les valeurs islamiques. La guerre de 2003 et la chute du régime ont conduit à un éclatement de l’État. Les anciens conflits religieux entre chiites et sunnites sont réapparus. Les États-Unis sont toutefois parvenus, après un gouvernement provisoire, à organiser les premières élections libres. Mais le gouvernement communautariste reste très fragile.

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Et maintenant au tour de l’Afghanistan

Après l’Irak, l’Afghanistan sera le prochain théâtre d’opérations militaires que les États-Unis vont quitter, conformément aux promesses de Barack Obama. Le président des États-Unis avait fait deux promesses aux Américains : un retrait d’Irak dès que possible et la victoire en Afghanistan. La première promesse est effective. La seconde pourrait bientôt l’être. Les États-Unis sont en passe de remporter le « dur conflit » en Afghanistan, a affirmé à des militaires américains mercredi dernier le secrétaire américain à la Défense, Leon Panetta, sur une base de l’est de l’Afghanistan. « Nous sommes à un point où nous faisons d’énormes progrès. Y a-t-il encore des menaces, y a-t-il encore des défis que nous allons devoir affronter ? Évidemment », a-t-il ajouté devant 200 des 600 hommes de la base.

« En fin de compte, ici en Afghanistan, nous allons pouvoir mettre en place un pays capable de se gouverner et de se protéger lui-même », a-t-il poursuivi, promettant que les États-Unis s’assureraient que ni les talibans ni Al-Qaïda ne pourraient « jamais plus trouver de refuge » en Afghanistan. L’Otan, États-Unis en tête, a entamé cette année le retrait progressif de la totalité de ses troupes de combat, censé s’achever fin 2014. Quelque 33 000 militaires américains auront quitté l’Afghanistan d’ici à fin septembre 2012, dont 10 000 d’ici à fin décembre. La France retirera un quart de ses soldats d’ici à fin 2012, a annoncé en juillet Nicolas Sarkozy.

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Expert : Jean-Dominique Merchet, spécialiste des questions de défense

Le prix à payer est extrêmement lourd

Certains évoquent pour l’armée américaine un nouveau Vietnam. Est-ce pertinent ?

Non, il n’y a pas de similitudes. Il y a d’abord eu moins de morts qu’au Vietnam. De mémoire, il y a eu 13 500 soldats morts alors qu’en Irak il y en a eu 4 500. On est dans une autre dimension : trois fois moins pour une durée égale. Et surtout, l’armée américaine qui repart du Vietnam est une armée démoralisée, défaite. Là ce n’est pas le cas. Les Américains partent au fond assez tranquillement. Il n’y a pas eu de scènes d’évacuation comme à Saïgon. Ils quittent le pays avec l’accord du gouvernement en place.

Pour autant, les États-Unis ont-ils gagné cette guerre ?

Les Américains ont renversé Saddam Hussein, c’était le but. Ils ont installé un gouvernement démocratiquement élu, il n’y a pas de doutes là-dessus. Voilà pour les points positifs. Les points négatifs, c’est qu’il y a eu des dizaines de milliers de morts et une guerre civile en Irak. Le prix à payer est extrêmement lourd. D’autant qu’on n’a pas l’impression que l’économie de l’Irak a redémarré. Lorsque l’on reprend ce que l’on disait il y a huit ans, comme quoi c’était une guerre pour mettre la main sur le pétrole ; on constate que le pétrole n’a pas redémarré. Le but politique de détruire un régime dictatorial a été atteint, mais le prix à payer a été extrêmement élevé.

Cette guerre a-t-elle changé la façon dont les États-Unis appréhendent les conflits armés ?

Les guerres d’Irak et d’Afghanistan se ressemblent un peu. Ce sont des guerres qui se font au sein de populations musulmanes, relativement hostiles et en tout cas très partagées. Ce sont des guerres de contre-insurrection. Cela a amené les Américains à beaucoup réfléchir sur cette notion, y compris en reprenant des auteurs français sur la guerre d’Algérie. Mais cela n’est pas forcément un modèle pour les guerres d’avenir ; cela ne marche que lorsque l’on peut s’appuyer sur un gouvernement et des forces locales assez puissantes.

A l’ONU en 2003, le "non" de la France

En 2003, les États-Unis auront tenté jusqu’au bout de convaincre les membres du Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies de l’existence d’armes de destructions massives en Irak. Des armes que Saddam Hussein aurait dissimulées depuis des années aux nombreux inspecteurs de l’ONU et de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA). Mais ni la CIA, ni les services britanniques n’ont produit jusqu’à présent des preuves irréfutables. Le 5 février 2003, le Conseil de sécurité se réunit une dernière fois. Le secrétaire d’État et ancien général Colin Powell, qui a des doutes à titre personnel, fait tout de même le job et présente des « preuves » : photographies aériennes de camions-laboratoires, enregistrements, fiole contenant, dit-il, de l’anthax…

En réponse, le 14 février, Dominique de Villepin, ministre français des Affaires étrangères, va prononcer un discours historique, celui du « non » de la France à cette guerre à venir. « C’est un vieux pays, la France, d’un vieux continent comme le mien, l’Europe, qui vous le dit aujourd’hui, qui a connu les guerres, l’occupation, la barbarie », conclut De Villepin qui, fait rare, sera applaudi. Craignant un veto de la France, de la Russie et de la Chine, les États-Unis passeront outre pour s’engager dans la guerre.

Voir enfin:


Christopher Hitchens: La vérité même contre le monde entier (Always looking for our Spanish Civil War)

19 décembre, 2011
Il y avait la vérité, il y avait le mensonge, et si l’on s’accrochait à la vérité, même contre le monde entier, on n’était pas fou. Orwell ("1984")
La liberté, c’est la liberté de dire que deux et deux font quatre. Lorsque cela est accordé, le reste suit. George Orwell ("1984")
Il est clair que la rhétorique de Bush sonne un peu plus vraie à nos oreilles qu’aux vôtres… Vaclav Havel
En Russie, le régime est plus moderne, plus démocratique et plus sophistiqué que le stalinisme. Mais il faut être vigilant. L’action de Poutine doit au moins nous inviter à la prudence. Avec lui, la Russie veut restaurer sa zone d’influence, son « étranger proche », comme ils disent là-bas. Nous n’avons pas le droit de fermer les yeux et de le laisser faire. Vaclav Havel
Here is a man [Jacques Chirac] who had to run for re-election last year in order to preserve his immunity from prosecution, on charges of corruption that were grave. Here is a man who helped Saddam Hussein build a nuclear reactor and who knew very well what he wanted it for. Here is a man at the head of France who is, in effect, openly for sale. He puts me in mind of the banker in Flaubert’s « L’Education Sentimentale »: a man so habituated to corruption that he would happily pay for the pleasure of selling himself. Here, also, is a positive monster of conceit. He and his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, have unctuously said that « force is always the last resort. » Vraiment? This was not the view of the French establishment when troops were sent to Rwanda to try and rescue the client-regime that had just unleashed ethnocide against the Tutsi. It is not, one presumes, the view of the French generals who currently treat the people and nation of Cote d’Ivoire as their fief. It was not the view of those who ordered the destruction of an unarmed ship, the Rainbow Warrior, as it lay at anchor in a New Zealand harbor after protesting the French official practice of conducting atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific. (…) We are all aware of the fact that French companies and the French state are owed immense sums of money by Saddam Hussein. We all very much hope that no private gifts to any French political figures have been made by the Iraqi Baath Party, even though such scruple on either side would be anomalous to say the very least. Is it possible that there is any more to it than that? The future government in Baghdad may very well not consider itself responsible for paying Saddam’s debts. Does this alone condition the Chirac response to a fin de regime in Iraq? (…) Charles de Gaulle had a colossal ego, but he felt himself compelled at a crucial moment to represent une certaine idee de la France, at a time when that nation had been betrayed into serfdom and shame by its political and military establishment. (…) He had a sense of history. To the permanent interests of France, he insisted on attaching une certain idee de la liberte as well. He would have nodded approvingly at Vaclav Havel’s statement — his last as Czech president — speaking boldly about the rights of the people of Iraq. And one likes to think that he would have had a fine contempt for his pygmy successor, the vain and posturing and venal man who, attempting to act the part of a balding Joan of Arc in drag, is making France into the abject procurer for Saddam. This is a case of the rat that tried to roar. Hitchens (2003)
It’s rather sad to think that whatever happens you and I can never possibly get involved in a war. Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited)
That’s why you join a party, to take up the struggles within it. And that’s what pushed me to the left—the humiliation of the Labour Government.  Hitchens
Si nous avions quitté l’Irak selon l’agenda du mouvement pacifiste, la situation serait précisément l’inverse: le peuple irakien serait maintenant atrocement martyrisé par les sadiques d’al-Qaeda, trop contents de se vanter en plus d’avoir infligé une défaite sur le champ de bataille aux Etats-Unis. Ce qui n’aurait pas manqué de se faire rapidement savoir en Afghanistan et, nul doute, à d’autres endroits où l’ennemi opère. Christopher Hitchens
Une seule faction du monde politique américain a trouvé moyen d’excuser le genre de fanatisme religieux qui nous menace le plus directement ici et maintenant. Et cette faction, je suis désolé et furieux de le dire, est la gauche. Depuis le premier jour de l’immolation du World Trade Center jusqu’en ce moment même, une galerie de pseudo-intellectuels accepte de présenter le plus mauvais visage de l’Islam comme la voix de l’opprimé. Comment ces personnes peuvent-elles supporter de relire leur propre propagande? Les tueurs suicide palestiniens – désavoués et dénoncés par le nouveau chef de l’OLP – qualifiées de victimes du “désespoir.” Les forces d’Al-Qaida et des Taliban présentées comme des porte-paroles dévoyés de l’anti-mondialisation. Les gangsters assoiffés de sang d’Irak, qui préfereraient engloutir toute la population dans la souffrance plutôt que de les laisser voter, joliment décrits comme des “insurgés” ou même, par Michael Moore, comme l’équivalent moral de nos Pères fondateurs. Si c’est ça, le sécularisme libéral, je préfère à tous les coups un modeste et pieux Baptiste amateur de chasse au cerf du Kentucky, aussi longtemps qu’il n’essaie pas de m’imposer ses principes (ce que lui interdit d’ailleurs notre constitution). (…) George Bush est peut-être subjectivement chrétien, mais il a objectivement fait plus pour la laïcité – avec les forces armées américaines – que la totalité de la communauté agnostique américaine combinée et doublée. Christopher Hitchens
Sur la porte de ma banque à Washington, une pancarte me prie poliment, mais sans explications, d’ôter tout ce qui me cache le visage avant d’entrer dans les lieux. Une personne qui ferait irruption dans la banque avec un masque quelconque serait, à juste titre, suspecte. Cette présomption de culpabilité devrait valoir aussi hors des murs de la banque. Je serais indigné et je refuserais de traiter avec une infirmière, un docteur ou un enseignant qui cacherait son visage, ou pire, avec un inspecteur des impôts ou un douanier voilé. Ne dit-on pas toujours, dans les expressions de la vie courante, «Qu’est-ce que tu as à cacher?» et «Tu n’oses pas montrer le bout de ton nez»? (…) Je voudrais poser une question toute simple à ces pseudo-libéraux qui prônent la tolérance sur la question du voile et de la burqa: que dire alors du Ku Klux Klan? Célèbre pour ses cagoules et sa pensée réactionnaire, le gang a toujours eu pour objectif le maintien d’une pureté protestante et anglo-saxonne. Le KKK a certes le droit de défendre ses positions fondées sur la religion, c’est écrit dans le Premier amendement de la Constitution américaine. J’irais même jusqu’à dire que, lors de défilés protégés par la police, ils peuvent en toute légalité cacher leur vilain visage. Mais je ne laisserais pas un homme ou une femme encagoulés enseigner à mes enfants, entrer avec moi à la banque, ou conduire mon taxi ou mon bus -aucune loi ne m’obligera jamais à le faire. Hitchens
I don’t quite see Christopher as a ‘man of action,’ but he’s always looking for the defining moment—as it were, our Spanish Civil War, where you put yourself on the right side, and stand up to the enemy. Ian Buruma
Hitchens was a longtime observer of the cruelty of Saddam Hussein, and had spoken publicly for his removal since 1998. He supported the cause of Kurdish independence, and had been to Halabja and seen the injuries caused there by Iraqi chemical weapons; and he was friendly with dissident Iraqis in exile, including Ahmed Chalabi, of the Iraqi National Congress, which aggressively promoted the notion, now widely discounted, that Saddam was poised to become a nuclear power. After September 11th, and the subsequent defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan (upon which Hitchens addressed the British antiwar left in the pages of the Guardian, “Ha ha ha, and yah, boo”), he had thrown himself into the debate over Iraq, making speeches and writing for Slate. Brandishing the nineteen-thirties slogan “Fascism Means War,” he argued that Saddam was something more than another tyrant; though he did not have nuclear weapons, he aspired to have them; his regime was on the verge of implosion, and better that it should implode under supervision, with the West providing “armed assistance to the imminent Iraqi and Kurdish revolutions.” Ian Parker
Between the two of them, my sympathies were with Mother Teresa. If you were sitting in rags in a gutter in Calcutta, who would be more likely to give you a bowl of soup? Alexander Cockburn
What’s great about him is that being despised is actually the source of his creativity. Thomas Cushman
He felt there was a liberal failure to get the point of what was happening.” The fatwa split the left. As “The instinct was, whenever there was any conflict between Third World opinion and the Western metropole, you’d always favor the Third World. Yet here was a case where people were forced to take the opposite view.” For Hitchens, that task was simplified by his contempt for religion. Ian Buruma

Chypre, Malouines, Affaire Rushdie, Bosnie, Kurdes, Irak, y a-t-il une cause en son temps sulfureuse que Christopher Hitchens n’aura pas défendue?

A l’heure où  le retrait américain d’Irak nous est présenté comme le prétendu accomplissement d’une promesse de campagne d’un président élu sur son opposition à la guerre …

Et au lendemain de la disparition de l’ancien dissident tchèque Vaclav Havel qui, une fois devenu président, sut prendre la défense du peuple irakien …

Pendant qu’au Pays autoproclamé des Droits de l’homme on verse des larmes de crocodile sur la condamnation, largement symbolique et 20 ans après les faits, d’un président français qui avait multiplié les casseroles et trahi son premier allié comme le peuple irakien qu’il prétendait soutenir …

Comment ne pas repenser à cet autre dissident dans l’âme, l’ancien troskyste anglo-américain Christopher Hitchens décédé deux jours plus tôt …

A qui son attachement orwellien à la vérité lui valut lui aussi de ne jamais perdre de vue, y compris contre son propre camp et ses propres préjugés anti-religieux, les droits à la liberté d’un peuple opprimé?

He Knew He Was Right

How a former socialist became the Iraq war’s fiercest defender.

Ian Parker

The New Yorker

October 16, 2006

Until not long ago, Christopher Hitchens, the British-born journalist, was a valued asset of the American left: an intellectual willing to show his teeth in the cause of righteousness. Today, Hitchens supports the Iraq war and is contemptuous of those who do not—a turn that has confused and dismayed former comrades, and brought him into odd new alliances. But his life looks much the same. He still writes a great deal, at a speed at which most people read. And, at fifty-seven, he still has an arrest-photograph air about him—looking like someone who, with as much dignity as possible, has smoothed his hair and straightened his collar after knocking the helmet off a policeman.

At a dinner a few months ago in San Francisco with his wife, Carol Blue, and some others, Hitchens wore a pale jacket and a shirt unbuttoned far enough to hint at what one ex-girlfriend has called “the pelt of the Hitch.” Hitchens, who only recently gave up the habit of smoking in the shower, was working through a pack of cigarettes while talking to two women at his end of the table: a Stanford doctor in her early thirties whom he’d met once before, and a friend of hers, a librarian. He spoke with wit and eloquence about Iranian politics and what he saw as the unnecessary handsomeness of Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco.

Hitchens writes on politics and literature; and in both lines of work he tends to start from textual readings of a subtle and suspicious-minded kind. When he is not writing, he talks in the same measured, ironic voice as his prose, with the same fluency and intellectual momentum, as if he were troubled by the thought that he might never find another audience. Hitchens likes to have his say: he takes his arguments to the cable-news channels, to West Point cadets, to panel discussions in windowless hotel conference rooms. He stays at public meetings until the crowd—dehydrated and faint—has no more questions to ask, and then he gives out his e-mail address. He is a fine, funny orator, with the mock-heroic manner of an English barrister sure of his ground (“by all means,” “if you will”), using derision, a grand diction, and looping subclauses that always carry him back to the main path. He also has the politician’s trick of eliding the last word of one sentence to the first of the next, while stressing both words, in order to close a gate against interruption. In more private settings, the rhetoric is the same—except that there are filthy jokes drawn out to twenty minutes, and longer quotations from his vast stock of remembered English poetry. He seems to be perpetually auditioning for the role of best man. Ian McEwan, the novelist, recently said of Hitchens, “It all seems instantly, neurologically available: everything he’s ever read, everyone he’s ever met, every story he’s ever heard.”

 In the noisy front room of the North Beach restaurant where the friends had met, Hitchens made a toast: “To the Constitution of the United States, and confusion to its enemies!” The conversation was amiable and boozy; Hitchens might be said to care more for history than for individual humans, but he was in an easy mood, after a drive, in beautiful early-evening light, from Menlo Park. (He and Blue, a writer working on a novel, live with their thirteen-year-old daughter in Washington, D.C., but spend the summer in California, where her parents live.) During the ride, he had discussed with the Pakistani-born taxi-driver the virtues and vices of Benazir Bhutto, while surreptitiously using a bottle of Evian to put out a small but smoky fire that he had set in the ashtray.

And then the young doctor to his left made a passing but sympathetic remark about Howard Dean, the 2004 Presidential candidate; she said that he had been unfairly treated in the American media. Hitchens, in the clear, helpful voice one might use to give street directions, replied that Dean was “a raving nut bag,” and then corrected himself: “A raving, sinister, demagogic nut bag.” He said, “I and a few other people saw he should be destroyed.” He noted that, in 2003, Dean had given a speech at an abortion-rights gathering in which he recalled being visited, as a doctor, by a twelve-year-old who was pregnant by her father. (“You explain that to the American people who think that parental notification is a good idea,” Dean said, to applause.) Dean appeared not to have referred the alleged rape to the police; he also, when pressed, admitted that the story was not, in all details, true. For Hitchens, this established that Dean was a “pathological liar.”

“All politicians lie!” the women said.

“He’s a doctor,” Hitchens said.

“But he’s a politician.”

“No, excuse me,” Hitchens said. His tone tightened, and his mouth shrunk like a sea anemone poked with a stick; the Hitchens face can, at moments of dialectical urgency, or when seen in an unkindly lit Fox News studio, transform from roguish to sour. (Hitchens’s friend Martin Amis, the novelist, has chided Hitchens for “doing that horrible thing with your lips.”) “Fine,” Hitchens said. “Now that I know that, to you, medical ethics are nothing, you’ve told me all I need to know. I’m not trying to persuade you. Do you think I care whether you agree with me? No. I’m telling you why I disagree with you. That I do care about. I have no further interest in any of your opinions. There’s nothing you wouldn’t make an excuse for.”

“That’s wrong!” they said.

“You know what? I wouldn’t want you on my side.” His tone was businesslike; the laughing protests died away. “I was telling you why I knew that Howard Dean was a psycho and a fraud, and you say, ‘That’s O.K.’ Fuck off. No, I mean it: fuck off. I’m telling you what I think are standards, and you say, ‘What standards? It’s fine, he’s against the Iraq war.’ Fuck. Off. You’re MoveOn.org. ‘Any liar will do. He’s anti-Bush, he can say what he likes.’ Fuck off. You think a doctor can lie in front of an audience of women on a major question, and claim to have suppressed evidence on rape and incest and then to have said he made it up?”

“But Christopher . . .”

“Save it, sweetie, for someone who cares. It will not be me. You love it, you suck on it. I now know what your standards are, and now you know what mine are, and that’s all the difference—I hope—in the world.”

What happened to Christopher Hitchens? How did a longtime columnist at The Nation become a contributor to the Weekly Standard, a supporter of President Bush in the 2004 election, and an invited speaker at the conservative activist David Horowitz’s forthcoming Restoration Weekend, along with Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh? Or, to put it another way, how did Hitchens come to be a “Lying, Self-Serving, Fat-Assed, Chain-Smoking, Drunken, Opportunistic, Cynical Contrarian”? (This is from the title of an essay posted on CounterPunch, a Web site co-edited by Hitchens’s former friend and Nation colleague Alexander Cockburn.) The question, in polite and impolite forms, goes around and around at Washington dinner parties: did Hitchens maintain high principles while the left drifted from him, or did he lose himself in vanity and ambition? The matter has even inspired a forthcoming anthology of attack and counterattack, “Terror, Iraq, and the Left: Christopher Hitchens and His Critics.”

On the time line of the Hitchens apostasy, which runs from revolutionary socialism to a kind of neoconservatism, many dates are marked in boldface—his reassessment cannot be fixed to any one of them—and those familiar with Hitchens’s work know that he has always thrived on sectarian battles, and always looked for “encouraging signs of polarization,” a phrase he has borrowed from his late friend Israel Shahak, the Israeli activist. But, when I talked with Hitchens, our conversation began with events in 2001. By that year, Hitchens said, he had begun to doubt if his future lay in political journalism. He had, by then, published fifteen books, including one on the Elgin Marbles dispute, and slim, scornful volumes—modern versions of eighteenth-century pamphleteering—making the case against Henry Kissinger (mass murderer), Bill Clinton (sex criminal), and Mother Teresa (friend of despots). He had written, but not yet published, an admiring book about George Orwell’s political clear-sightedness. He had a column for Vanity Fair, in addition to his “Minority Report” for The Nation, which he had started in 1982, a year after moving to America. But, he said, political commentary had become “increasingly boring. There were times when I was due to write a Nation column and I hadn’t got a hugely strong motive to write.” He no longer described himself as a socialist, an identity he had formed as a teen-ager, in the late sixties. He had taken to describing capitalism as the world’s only true revolutionary force.

“I was becoming post-ideological,” Hitchens recalled. “And I thought, Well, what I want is to write more about literature—not to dump politics, because one can never do that, but I remember thinking that I would make a real effort to understand Proust.” Wherever possible, Hitchens writes as an oppositionist, which means that his panegyrics are delivered in the form of a bodyguard’s shove against intruders; and in this case he had decided on a book-length riposte to Alain de Botton’s “How Proust Can Change Your Life.” Hitchens finished writing his notes on September 9th, then flew to Walla Walla, Washington, to give a lecture on Henry Kissinger that coincided with the filing of a federal lawsuit against Kissinger and other Nixon Administration officials by the family of René Schneider, the Chilean military commander murdered in 1970. “I made a speech to an excited audience, and I ended, ‘I like to think that tomorrow, 11th September 2001, will be remembered for a long time as a landmark day in the struggle for human rights’—a prescient remark, I hope you’ll agree. I got a standing ovation, signed a few books, kissed a few people, went to bed reasonably contented. You know the rest.”

He went on, “The advice I’ve been giving to people all my life—that you may not be interested in the dialectic but the dialectic is interested in you; you can’t give up politics, it won’t give you up—was the advice I should have been taking myself. Because I did know that something like 9/11 would happen.” So “it was goodbye to Marcel for a bit.” (He has not written his Proust book, but, in 2004, he published a limpid essay on a new translation of “Swann’s Way”: “Through his eyes we see what actuates the dandy and the lover and the grandee and the hypocrite and the poseur, with a transparency unexampled except in Shakespeare or George Eliot,” he wrote in The Atlantic. “And this ability, so piercing and at times even alarming, is not mere knowingness. It is not, in other words, the product of cynicism. To be so perceptive and yet so innocent—that, in a phrase, is the achievement of Proust.”)

In a 2003 interview, Hitchens said that the events of September 11th filled him with “exhilaration.” His friend Ian Buruma, the writer, told me, “I don’t quite see Christopher as a ‘man of action,’ but he’s always looking for the defining moment—as it were, our Spanish Civil War, where you put yourself on the right side, and stand up to the enemy.” Hitchens foresaw “a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate.” Here was a question on which history would judge him; and just as Orwell had (in his view) got it right on the greatest questions of the twentieth century—Communism, Fascism, and imperialism—so Hitchens wanted a future student to see that he had been similarly scrupulous and clear-eyed. (He once wrote, “I have tried for much of my life to write as if I was composing my sentences to be read posthumously.”) His enemies stood in two groups: first, the forces of jihad, and, second, those in “the Chomsky-Zinn-Finkelstein quarter,” as he has put it—the cohort of American leftists who seemed too ready to see the attacks as a rebuke to American imperialism. In his first Nation column after September 11th, Hitchens wrote that “the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face. . . . What they abominate about ‘the West,’ to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson.”

Many American liberals would have had no argument with that; nor, indeed, with the way Hitchens jabbed at the film-maker Oliver Stone at a public meeting in Manhattan a few weeks later, when Stone referred to the “revolt of September 11th.” (“Excuse me. Revolt? It was state-supported mass murder, using civilians as missiles.”) Nevertheless, Hitchens felt compelled formally to remove himself from the American left. In a clarifying sign-off a few months later, he dropped his Nation column. This may have been largely a change of address rather than a change of mind—moving out of the house long after the divorce—but he detected some inner shift in 2001. “For the first time in my life, I felt myself in the position of the policeman,” he told me. In part, this was a response to America’s panic. “Nobody knew what was going on. This giant government, and huge empire. Bush was missing. Panic, impotence, shame. I’ve never known any feeling like it. What does one do when the forces of law and order have let you down, and the whole of society is stunned and terrified? Simply, I must find out what it’s like to think like a cop. It shifts the angle, in a way that can’t really be wrenched back again.” During the I.R.A. bombing campaigns on the British mainland, which began in the nineteen-seventies, this had not happened. Then he had “kept two sets of books: I didn’t like bombs, I didn’t like the partition of Ireland.” Now he felt as if he had “taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

We were in Hitchens’s home in Washington. His top-floor apartment, with a wide view that includes No. 1 Observatory Circle, the Vice-Presidential residence, is large and handsome: sparely furnished, with a grand piano, books piled on the floor, a few embassy invitations on the mantelpiece, and prints and paintings propped against the walls rather than hung from them; these include an oil painting of Hitchens and Blue (a dark-haired, darkly dressed woman—a young Susan Sontag) with coffee, whiskey, and cigarettes on a table in front of them.

Hitchens has the life that a spirited thirteen-year-old boy might hope adulthood to be: he wakes up when he likes, works from home, is married to someone who wears leopard-skin high heels, and conducts heady, serious discussions late into the night. I arrived just after midday, and Hitchens said that it was “time for a cocktail”; he poured a large drink. His hair flopped over his forehead, and he pushed it back using just the tips of his fingers, his hand as unbending as a mannequin’s.

He noted that he never likes going to bed. “I’m not that keen on the idea of being unconscious,” he said. “There’s plenty of time to be unconscious coming up.” In Washington, his socializing usually takes place at home. “I can have some sort of control over who comes, what gets talked about, what gets eaten, what gets drunk, and the ashtrays,” he said. “Call me set in my ways.” (Hitchens’s predominant tone is quietly self-parodying. Even his farewells are ironic: “It’s been real,” “Stay cool.”) Guests at the Hitchens salon include people he first knew in London, who call him “Hitch,” including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and his great friend Martin Amis (“The only blond I have ever really loved,” Hitchens once said); long-standing American friends like Christopher Buckley and Graydon Carter; an international network of dissidents and intellectuals; and, these days, such figures as David Frum, the former Bush Administration speechwriter, and Grover Norquist, the conservative activist. In September, he hosted Barham Salih, a Kurd who is a Deputy Prime Minister of the new Iraqi government. Many guests can report seeing Hitchens step out of the room after dinner, write a column, then step back almost before the topic of conversation has changed.

Rushdie recalled an evening last year. “I met Paul Wolfowitz,” he said, laughing. “And I discovered, to my immense surprise, that he’s a very nice man.” Wolfowitz, the neoconservative who served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense between 2001 and 2005, and who now runs the World Bank, was a primary architect of the invasion of Iraq; he has become the emblem of Hitchens’s new political alignments. Wolfowitz respected Hitchens’s record as a writer on human rights. He called Hitchens in the fall of 2002, at the prompting of Kevin Kellems, then his special adviser, and now an adviser at the World Bank. “It felt like Cold War espionage,” Kellems recalled. “Contacting someone on the other side you think might want to defect.” Hitchens accepted an invitation to lunch at the Pentagon. “I snuck him in,” Kellems said. “We didn’t put his name on the schedule.”

As Wolfowitz knew, Hitchens was a longtime observer of the cruelty of Saddam Hussein, and had spoken publicly for his removal since 1998. He supported the cause of Kurdish independence, and had been to Halabja and seen the injuries caused there by Iraqi chemical weapons; and he was friendly with dissident Iraqis in exile, including Ahmed Chalabi, of the Iraqi National Congress, which aggressively promoted the notion, now widely discounted, that Saddam was poised to become a nuclear power. After September 11th, and the subsequent defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan (upon which Hitchens addressed the British antiwar left in the pages of the Guardian, “Ha ha ha, and yah, boo”), he had thrown himself into the debate over Iraq, making speeches and writing for Slate. Brandishing the nineteen-thirties slogan “Fascism Means War,” he argued that Saddam was something more than another tyrant; though he did not have nuclear weapons, he aspired to have them; his regime was on the verge of implosion, and better that it should implode under supervision, with the West providing “armed assistance to the imminent Iraqi and Kurdish revolutions.” Hitchens told me, “The number of us who would have criticized Bush if he hadn’t removed Saddam—that’s certainly the smallest minority I’ve ever been a member of.”

I mentioned the Pentagon meeting. “Wolfowitz was not asking my advice about Iraq—don’t run away with that idea,” Hitchens said. “He just felt that those who worked for the ousting of Saddam should get on closer terms with each other.” According to Kellems, who attended the meeting, “Hitchens said, ‘I was trying to signal you’ ”—through his writing—“and Wolfowitz said, ‘I wondered.’” Hitchens disputes that memory; he does remember asking Wolfowitz for reassurances that, in the event of an invasion, the United States would protect the Kurds from the Turks. They talked about Rwanda and Bosnia, about the history of genocide and the cost of inaction. Kellems, who has since become a friend of Hitchens, described “two giant minds unleashed in the room. They were finishing each other’s sentences.” According to Hitchens, Wolfowitz is a “bleeding heart,” and he went on, “There are not many Republicans, or Democrats, who lie awake at night worrying about what’s happening to the Palestinians, but he does.” (Hitchens has been a decades-long agitator for the Palestinian cause; he co-edited a book on the subject with Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American scholar.) “And Wolfowitz wants America’s human-rights ethic to be straight and consistent as far as possible. And if there’s an anomaly he’s aware of it.”

On April 9, 2003, the day the statue of Saddam was pulled down in central Baghdad, Hitchens wrote, “So it turns out that all the slogans of the anti-war movement were right after all. And their demands were just. ‘No War on Iraq,’ they said—and there wasn’t a war on Iraq. Indeed, there was barely a ‘war’ at all. ‘No Blood for Oil,’ they cried, and the oil wealth of Iraq has been duly rescued from attempted sabotage with scarcely a drop spilled.” That July, Hitchens and a few other reporters flew to Baghdad with Wolfowitz. “It’s quite extraordinary to see the way that American soldiers are welcomed,” Hitchens told Fox News upon his return. “To see the work that they’re doing and not just rolling up these filthy networks of Baathists and jihadists, but building schools, opening soccer stadiums, helping people connect to the Internet, there is a really intelligent political program as well as a very tough military one.”

Three years later, Hitchens is still on Fox News talking about the Iraq war. He has not flinched from his position that the invasion was necessary, nor declined any serious invitation to defend that position publicly, even as the violence in Iraq has increased, and American opinion has turned against the intervention and the President who launched it. In this role, he has presented himself with an immense test of his rhetorical mettle—one can say that without doubting his sincerity. He often seems to have had more at stake, and certainly more oratorical energy, than anyone in the government. (In recent months, the trope of “Islamic fascism,” which Hitchens has used frequently since his 2001 Nation column, has reached the top layers of government—in August, Bush said that the country was “at war with Islamic fascists”—and he has had to deny the charge that he is writing Administration speeches.) Today, he always carries with him—like the Kurdistan flag in his lapel—debating points, worn smooth with use: Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, took refuge in Iraq; Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam’s senior physicist, had centrifuge parts buried in his garden; as late as 2003, Iraqi agents were trying to buy missiles from North Korea; Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, offered Hitchens’s friend Rolf Ekéus, the weapons inspector, a two-and-a-half-million-dollar bribe. “I feel like Bellow’s Herzog, writing crazed letters,” Hitchens said, smiling. “The occupation has not turned out as one would have liked, but the main problem is to have underestimated the utter evil of the other side. I wouldn’t have believed they could keep up a campaign of murdering people at random.”

Hitchens asks his opponents this: “We should have left Iraq the way it was? However I replay the tape, however much I wish things had been done differently, I can’t get to that position.” He acknowledged that his support of the war had caused him some intellectual discomfort. “The most difficult thing is having to defend an Administration that isn’t defensible,” he said. On television and radio, he explained, “you’re invited on to defend the Administration’s view on something and then someone’s invited on to attack it. You don’t want to begin by putting distance, because then it looks like you’re covering your ass. You take the confrontation as it actually is. I’m not going to spend a few silky minutes saying, ‘You know, I don’t really like Bush and his attitude toward stem cells.’ No. Wait. The motion before the house is this: Is this a just and necessary war or is it not?”

He went on, “I’m open to the prosecution of the Administration, even the impeachment of some members, for the way they’ve fucked up the war, and also the way they exploit it domestically. But do not run away with the idea that my telling you this would satisfy any of my critics. They want me to immolate myself, and I sincerely believe that for some of them, when they see bad news from Iraq, the reaction is simply ‘This will make Hitchens look bad!’ I’ve been trying to avoid solipsism, but I’ve come to believe there are such people.”

Hitchens finds support on the right, of course. Peter Wehner, a deputy assistant to the President and the director of the office of strategic initiatives in the White House, invited Hitchens to give a lecture to White House staff a few years ago, and now jokingly addresses him as “Comrade” in e-mails. Wehner admired Hitchens as a “fantastic political pugilist” even when they were on opposing camps in the eighties. Now, he said, “On the issues of greatest gravity and historical importance—the war against global jihadism and the liberation of Iraq—I am thrilled to be on the same side of the divide as Christopher.”

To Hitchens’s left, there is enmity and derision. This summer, a mock-obituary, published online, described him dying in the manner of Major Kong: riding a warhead out of a B-52 in a future American war in Iran. Another Internet tribute posted a photograph of him with the caption “Hitchens: ‘I’ll Kick Saddam’s Fucking Teeth In.’ ”A parodic MySpace page introduces Hitchens this way: “I am a man of the Enlightenment. Words fall from my tongue and you eat them up like a starving kitten on the street.” Last year, Hitchens was jeered when he debated the British M.P. George Galloway in New York. When he appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” this summer, Hitchens said “Fuck you” to a hostile crowd and, to Maher, “Your audience, which will clap at apparently anything, is frivolous.”

Many friends and former friends have been watching Hitchens’s progress with disappointment, or something sharper. Colin Robinson, his former publisher at Verso Books, said, “I hope it might be possible to save some bits of Christopher. It’s a terrible loss to the left—it’s so rare to have someone in the mainstream media who could go out and give the other side a dusting.” Using a similar tone of regret, Eric Alterman, a Nation columnist and an estranged friend, called him a “performance artist.” Alexander Cockburn told me, “Between the two of them, my sympathies were with Mother Teresa. If you were sitting in rags in a gutter in Calcutta, who would be more likely to give you a bowl of soup?”

Hitchens claims to be unperturbed by his critics. “You’d think I’d driven over their pets and abducted their daughters,” Hitchens said. “I’d like to know what brings that on.” A pause. “So I could do it more.” He added, “People say, ‘What’s it like to be a minority of one, or a kick-bag for the Internet?’ It washes off me like jizz off a porn star’s face.” (Thomas Cushman, one of the editors of “Terror, Iraq, and the Left,” said of Hitchens, “What’s great about him is that being despised is actually the source of his creativity.”)

I asked Rushdie if recent events had taken their toll on his friend. “Christopher is well equipped to take care of himself,” Rushdie said, “but I do think that some of the people that he is now aligned with are not really people that he’s like. That must be very strange for him, and I worry about that.”

When I told Hitchens that some friends were worried, he smiled through his annoyance. “I suppose it’s nice to be worried about,” he said. “It’s almost like being cared about.”

In 1982, Hitchens wrote an essay for The Nation about Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited,” and the point he was most keen to make was that although the First World War predates the action of the novel, it remains at the center of the story. Hitchens quoted at length from Waugh’s honeyed description of the excursion made by Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte to the Venice of the early twenties, a passage of champagne cocktails and gondolas that ends with Sebastian saying, “It’s rather sad to think that whatever happens you and I can never possibly get involved in a war.”

I asked Carol Blue about this passage. She said that her husband, who was brought up in an English military family in the years following the Second World War, had an aspect of “those men who were never really in battle and wished they had been. There’s a whole tough-guy, ‘I am violent, I will use violence, I will take some of these people out before I die’ talk, which is really key to his psychology—I don’t care what he says. I think it is partly to do with his upbringing.”

The Second World War was “the entire subject of conversation” when Hitchens was growing up, he told me: “I didn’t know films were made out of anything else.” Every Boxing Day, the family would toast the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst. Portsmouth, where he first lived, was still scarred by Nazi air raids. Hitchens’s father was a career Navy man from a working-class family who reached the rank of commander and, with that, a foothold in the middle classes. He met Hitchens’s mother, who was from a lower-middle-class Liverpudlian family, during the war. Commander Hitchens was not a garrulous man, but some observations of his have stuck with his son. “They are all kind of solid,” Christopher said. “He said, ‘Beware of girls with thin lips’; ‘Don’t let them see you with just your socks on’; and ‘Socialism is founded on sand.’ ” His father also said that “the war was the only time when he knew what he was doing.”

His parents, Hitchens said, were of a class that “resent but sort of envy the rich, but they’re terrified of organized labor, and feel themselves to be the neglected, solid citizens.” Commander Hitchens was a conservative of the peeved, country-going-to-the-dogs sort—a Thatcherite in waiting. Christopher abandoned that conservatism as a boy but perhaps absorbed the lesson that politics is a form of anger. “My father was not a misanthrope, exactly, but he thought that the whole thing”—that is, life—“was a bit overrated.”

Commander Hitchens had a Baptist-Calvinist background. His wife was Jewish, but she never told her husband or her children. Hitchens learned this about her—and himself—only long after her death. (“On hearing the tidings, I was pleased to find that I was pleased,” he has written.) She was more social than Hitchens’s father, and more alert to signs of class slippage: it was vital to decant milk into a jug before taking it to the table, and to avoid saying “toilet.” Hitchens once overheard an argument between his parents about the cost of boarding school, in which his mother said, “If there is going to be a ruling class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it.”

She succeeded: Christopher was privately and expensively educated (as was Peter, his younger brother, who is a prominent right-wing newspaper columnist in London) and now has the accent—and white suit—of the English upper-middle classes. Ian Buruma detects in Hitchens some mix of regard and disdain “for the ‘real’ officer class. Waugh had a bit of that, and Wodehouse—Christopher’s favorite writers—which is one reason that Wodehouse ended up in America. America allows you to play the role of the fruity upper-class Englishman, whereas in En-gland you’d feel vulnerable to exposure.”

Hitchens went to boarding school, in Devon, at the age of eight. He was happy, but, he said, “a radicalizing thing for me was the realization that my parents had scrimped and saved to allow me to be the first member of my family to go to boarding school. I was surrounded by these sons of Lancastrian businessmen who thought it was their perfect right to be there. That had a huge effect: these fuckers don’t even know when they’re well off.” He also saw through Mrs. Watts, his instructor on religious matters, “who told us how good it was of God to make all our vegetation green, because it was the color that was most restful for our eyes, and how horrible it would be if it was orange. I remember sitting there, in my shorts and sandals, and thinking, That can’t be right.” Hitchens has just finished a book informed by a lifetime of steely anticlerical thought, “God Is Not Great,” to be published next year, which begins with Mrs. Watts, and goes on to say of his religious friends, “I would be quite content to go to their children’s bar-mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to ‘respect’ their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate prophet, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition—which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing. As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction. . . . Religion poisons everything.”

Hitchens used to have, at times, a “pronounced” stutter. “One way of curing it was to force yourself to speak in public,” he said. In his first school debate, Hitchens spoke against new immigration restrictions (nobody else would), and found that the techniques required—such as charm and the sudden, cutthroat withdrawal of charm—came naturally to him. His later success in America derived in part from his bruising rhetorical talents. In Britain, such qualities are on show every week at Prime Minister’s Question Time, but in America Hitchens was a novel act. “It’s extraordinary,” he said. “I’ve been invited onto shows like ‘Crossfire’ and told, ‘Can’t you hold it down a bit?’ ”

In 1964, he ran as the Labour Party candidate in his school’s mock election (again, nobody else would). He lost, but the Labour Party won in the country. The new government quickly proved itself to be, in Hitchens’s words, “completely corrupt and cynical”—backing President Johnson on Vietnam, for example. His response was to join the Party, thus starting a career of antagonistic idealism. “That’s why you join a party, to take up the struggles within it,” Hitchens explained. “And that’s what pushed me to the left—the humiliation of the Labour Government.” By the time he came to study politics, philosophy, and economics at Balliol College, Oxford—semi-official motto: “Effortless Superiority”—he had been invited to join a Trotskyist group, the International Socialists. (He was spotted while skillfully heckling a Maoist at a public meeting.)

As a student, Hitchens was good-looking and charismatic. He does not remember ever having met Bill Clinton, his Oxford contemporary, but he told me that there was a student who, at different times, was his girlfriend and Clinton’s, before she began a lifetime of lesbianism. He met Martin Amis and, for a time, shared a house with James Fenton, the poet, whom Hitchens had brought into the International Socialists. “He wore a beret—I have to tell you that he did,” Fenton said of Hitchens, remembering that his comrade “was not known as a stalwart of the ‘getting up at six to go to the factory gates’ brigade. I used to think that the revolution would break out and I’d be waking Christopher, trying to get him out of bed.”

In fact, something a little like this happened. During the Paris uprisings of 1968, transport links with France were cut before many, including Hitchens, could cross the Channel. “It’s a big regret of my life,” he said. Indeed, when he talks about the Cromwellian and American revolutions, his tone is almost nostalgic. (His personal identification with Thomas Paine is nearly as strong as it is with Orwell; his short study of Paine, published this year, was dedicated to Jalal Talabani—“first elected president of the Republic of Iraq; sworn foe of fascism and theocracy”—rather as “The Rights of Man” was dedicated to George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette.) But wherever Hitchens might have been a witness to an explosion of popular feeling, either no explosion occurred or it was delayed until he left. He recalled flying out of Iraq the day before the deaths, in July, 2003, of Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay. When Hitchens described the celebrations that followed, you could hear a man struggling to transform a secondhand report into a firsthand one by force of will power alone: “I could have been there—it kills me! That night, the entire cityscape was a blaze of weapons being fired in celebration. It was like ten million Fourth of Julys . . .”

At times, Hitchens can look like a brain trying to pass as a muscle. He reads the world intellectually, but emphasizes his physical responses to it. Talking of jihadism, he said, “You know, recognizing an enemy—it’s not just your mental cortex. Everything in you physically conditions you to realize that this means no good, like when you see a copperhead coming toward you. It’s basic: it lives or I do.” When Hitchens’s prose hits an off note, it often includes the visceral or the pseudo-visceral, whether in a paean to oral sex for Vanity Fair (“I was at once bewitched and slain by the warm, moist cave of her mouth”) or in commentaries on current affairs: “reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers,” “the stench of common bribery, pungently reeking of crude oil.” On these occasions, the bookish Hitchens is elbowed aside by an alternate self: a man as twitchingly alert as Trotsky at the head of the Red Army.

Such performances of masculinity don’t appear exclusively on the page. Not long ago, in Baltimore, I saw Hitchens challenge a man—perhaps homeless and a little unglued mentally—who had started walking in step with his wife and a woman friend of hers while Hitchens walked some way ahead. Hitchens dropped back to form a flank between the women and the man, then said, “This is the polite version. Go away.” The man ambled off. Hitchens pressed home the victory. “Go away faster,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it have been easier to cross the road?” Blue asked, innocently.

While still at Oxford, Hitchens wrote his first article for the New Statesman, a left-leaning weekly. Upon graduating and moving to London, he became an occasional contributor, while taking a number of jobs in mainstream journalism, and selling the Socialist Worker on street corners. The New Statesman was enjoying a golden moment: its staff and writers included Amis, Fenton, McEwan, and Julian Barnes, the novelist. The Friday-lunch gatherings of Statesman hot shots and other writers, in which they out-joked each other on matters of sex, literature, and nuclear disarmament, now have the status of literary legend. (The Statesman staff played a game in which the task was to think of the phrase least likely to be uttered by each member. For Hitchens: “I don’t care how rich you are, I’m not coming to your party.” For Amis: “You look a bit depressed, why don’t you sit down and tell me all about it?”)

Romantically, Hitchens described himself as playing second fiddle to an unstoppable Amis: “I’d basically be holding his coat and refilling his glass, and trying to learn from the Master.” In fact, Hitchens’s own appeal was considerable; among the girlfriends he had before his first marriage was Anna Wintour, who is now the editor of Vogue. Hitchens told me, “When I was younger—this will surprise you, seeing now the bloated carcass of the Hitch—I used to get quite a bit of attention from men. And, um. It was sometimes quite difficult, especially when you hadn’t seen it coming. I was considered reasonably pretty, I suppose, between seventeen and twenty-five. I remember noticing when it stopped, and thinking, Oh dear. What? None of these guys want to sleep with me anymore?” Asked about his own activities, he said, “Nobody who’s been to public school can pretend to know nothing of the subject. And even at university there was an epicene interlude. But it wasn’t what I wanted at all.” (In 1999, Alexander Cockburn wrote, “Many’s the time male friends have had to push Hitchens’s mouth, fragrant with martinis, away” during hellos and goodbyes; Hitchens said that he had no memory of “making a bid for the clean-limbed and cupid-lipped Alexander Cockburn.”)

In December, 1973, Hitchens, then twenty-four, published a lead article about Greek politics in the New Statesman. Datelined Athens, it was a serious, rather dry analysis of political developments following the ousting of the dictator George Papadopoulos. It avoided the kind of foreign-crisis writing he abhors. (His parody: “As I stand here pissed and weeping in this burning hell, the body of a child lies like a broken doll in the street.”) Almost the only local color was a glimpse of civil and religious icons on the wall of an Athens police station.

Although the article does not hint at it, there was an awful reason for Hitchens seeing the police-station wall. He told me the story: Not long after Hitchens graduated from Oxford, his mother left his father, and moved in with another man. “He was a charmer, which my father was not. He was witty, burbling, could do music, poetry, but couldn’t make a living. He was a flake, and not always so delicious. He had this dark, depressive side.” In the fall of 1973, a friend called Hitchens one morning in his London apartment to say she’d just read a newspaper article about the death of a Mrs. Hitchens in Athens. Hitchens flew alone to Greece, to learn that, in a suicide pact, his mother had taken an overdose of sleeping pills in a bedroom of the Georges V Hotel, while, in the bathroom, her companion had done the same, and also cut himself severely. “It was a terrible Polanski scene,” Hitchens said.

At the hotel, he said, “I went out of the bathroom to the window and had my first view of the Acropolis. It was a perfect view.” He learned that his mother had tried his number in London many times in the previous days, but he had missed the calls. “Before the days of answering machines,” he said. “If I’d picked up, it could have been enough to stop her, because I usually could make her laugh. That was a bitter reflection.”

Athens was in political turmoil— “this mad, Costa-Gavras world.” Hitchens, whose skills and taste in journalism draw him to penetrating quick studies, sized the city up. “You can learn a lot in a short time when there are tanks in the street,” he said. He wrote the article when he got home. “Everyone said, ‘Christopher, how could you?’ I said, ‘How could I not?’ It was therapeutic to write. No—consoling. Useful.” He added that, in the fifteen years before his father’s death, Hitchens never again discussed with him the death of his mother.

When Turkey invaded Cyprus the following summer, Hitchens realized that he had neglected an important part of the story. Cyprus became a specialty, and, later, the subject of his first book, which described the island as having been betrayed by outside powers; an accusing finger was pointed at Henry Kissinger. Hitchens became a figure in radical Cypriot circles, where he met his first wife, Eleni Meleagrou, whom he used to introduce as “the terrorist.” James Fenton sees Cyprus as decisive in Hitchens’s political development, not only because he had the experience of becoming a “mini-celebrity” but because of his disappointment in the British failure to protect Cyprus during the invasion: in other words, the dishonorable failure of an imperial power to make a military intervention. Hitchens, unlike Fenton and most others on the British left, supported Margaret Thatcher’s gunboat response to the Argentine occupation of the Falkland Islands, in 1982.

By then, Hitchens and Meleagrou had married and moved to America. Hitchens pounded away at Reagan and capital punishment as The Nation’s Washington columnist, and reported for other magazines from the Middle East, Central America, and Eastern Europe. The couple split up in 1989, not long after Hitchens met Carol Blue in Los Angeles. (Meleagrou and their two children, now aged twenty-two and seventeen, live in London.) That winter, Hitchens and Blue flew to Eastern Europe, to be witness to the revolutionary events of the time. It may need to be said: These were events that Hitchens welcomed. In 2001, Peter Hitchens—who has Christopher’s voice exactly, but is a churchgoer who is unpersuaded by Darwin—wrote an article in The Spectator (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) that recalled “a Reagan-era discussion about the relative merits and faults of the Western and Soviet systems, during which Christopher said that he didn’t care if the Red Army watered its horses in Hendon,” a London suburb. On the occasion being described, as Christopher later tartly explained to readers of Vanity Fair (in an article entitled “O Brother, Why Art Thou?”), he had been telling a joke. The brothers did not speak for four years. Hitchens said to me, “I’ve spent far more time talking to you than to him in the last twenty-five years.” Peter Hitchens said, “If we weren’t related, I don’t think we’d have much to do with each other,” but he showed a kind of regard for what he sees as the consistency of his brother’s position: “He’s a Trotskyist, really, not in terms of being a Bolshevik revolutionary but in that he is an idealist and he is impressed by military command.” (Peter, too, was once in the International Socialists.)

In a similar dispute, Martin Amis, in “Koba the Dread,” a nonfiction book on Stalin, cast Hitchens as, essentially, an apologist for Soviet Communism. Hitchens was irritated. He had always been “solid” on the subject of the Soviet bloc, he said; he was as much a friend of the opposition there as he was of the opposition in South Africa or in El Salvador. “Everything I’ve thought is on the record,” Hitchens went on. If he had been a Stalinist, “It would show, even if I was trying to conceal it.” Hitchens wrote two barbed responses: one in The Atlantic, and the other in the Guardian, which was headlined “DON’T. BE. SILLY.” He told me, “Martin does not know the fucking difference between Bukharin and Bakunin.” (His friendship with Amis survived this discord.)

In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, on the ground that his novel “The Satanic Verses” defamed Islam. “There’s a sense in which all this—Christopher’s move—is partly my fault,” Rushdie said. “The fatwa made Christopher feel that radical Islam was not only trying to kill his friend; it was a huge new threat to the kind of world he wanted to live in. And I have the sense he felt there was a liberal failure to get the point of what was happening.” The fatwa split the left. As Ian Buruma put it, “The instinct was, whenever there was any conflict between Third World opinion and the Western metropole, you’d always favor the Third World. Yet here was a case where people were forced to take the opposite view.” For Hitchens, that task was simplified by his contempt for religion.

Hitchens helped arrange a meeting between Rushdie and President Clinton, in 1993. But he had by then taken a position on the President, derived from policy difference and suspicion of Clinton’s character (but also, possibly, from awareness of the gap in political potency between two Oxford contemporaries, one of them being the leader of the free world). Hitchens despised him, and charged him with drug running, rape, and other crimes. He also became one of the loudest critics of Clinton’s bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan at the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal: Clinton had “killed wogs,” he wrote, to save his skin. While Hitchens’s literary and historical writing has allowed for nuanced appraisals, even forgiveness, of morally complex figures—in a 2005 book on Jefferson, for example, Hitchens finds his way past the fact of his slaveowning—the political present elicits prosecutorial zeal.

In 1992, Hitchens had begun a column for Vanity Fair; he was happy to discover that he could vastly increase his income and readership without having to watch his tongue—“a breakthrough for me,” he said. The same year, he went to Bosnia at his own expense; as he called for armed intervention there, three years before the Clinton Administration acted, he found himself endorsing the same petitions as many neoconservatives, including Wolfowitz. In 1999, in an incident that some see as the true start of Hitchens’s political pilgrimage, he told House Judiciary Committee staff members who approached him that Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend who was then working in the Clinton White House, had gossiped to Hitchens about Monica Lewinsky being a “stalker.” Blumenthal had testified that he had not made such remarks, so the claim put him at risk of a perjury charge and, potentially, strengthened the impeachment case against Clinton. It was possible to read Hitchens’s action as a gesture of principle, but many who knew him saw it as a vicious act: he was “Snitchens.” “He’d got to that moment in life when he was asking himself if he could Make A Difference,” Alexander Cockburn told me, in an e-mail. “So he sloshed his way across his own personal Rubicon and tried to topple Clinton via a betrayal of his close friendship.”

When I asked Hitchens about this period, he defended his actions but also said, “It seems to me to have happened to somebody else. That’s true of a lot of the fights I took part in before 2001. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but it shrinks incredibly compared to Baghdad and Beirut and New York.”

“That episode did hurt him,” Buruma said. “He lost friends, he felt isolated in Washington, and I think there was a time when he really felt bruised.”

Hitchens’s splenetic Clinton book, “No One Left to Lie To,” was published months after the Blumenthal incident. Verso, his publishing house, threw a party at Pravda, a SoHo restaurant. Colin Robinson recalled, “It’s the only launch party I’ve ever been to where people booed the author.”

The Hitchens-Blue partnership has a grad-school air. It’s hard to see who pays the bills or fills the fridge. Blue can get stuck at the post-shower, towel-wearing stage of the day. (Her husband, with affection: “Darling, you would be so much more convincing if you were dressed.”) Hitchens is not hapless—he meets his many deadlines and catches his many planes—but it’s unsettling to watch him rinse a single spoon for four minutes, or hear the pandemonium over the supply of cigarette lighters. (He has cut back from smoking three packs a day.) He is a late-learning and scary driver. He does not wear a watch, although he looks at his bare left wrist when trying to calculate the time.

One morning during the family’s summer escape to Northern California—they stay in a guesthouse built next to the home of Blue’s parents—Blue and I drove to a local supermarket. She walked the store’s aisles with an air of rock-star puzzlement that may have been heightened for my benefit; she did not want to seem like a housewife. We left with sandwiches, a cherry pie, and two bottles of whiskey, and nothing that looked beyond the horizon of the next meal.

When we returned with our provisions, at about one o’clock, Hitchens, who had been working, was sitting at his desk with a drink. On the walls around him were some color printouts of kittens and puppies sitting in lines. He pointed to a manuscript of “God Is Not Great,” a book that he thinks may have more heft and permanence than anything he has written before, in a career of rapid responses and public lashings. “I have been, in my head, writing it for many years,” he said. “Religion is going to be the big subject until the end of my life. And I wanted to make an intervention.”

Hitchens had already finished the morning period of mail and e-mail he refers to as “telegrams and anger” (a quotation from “Howards End”). He had given his attention that day to the wiretap lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the National Security Agency; in January, he accepted the A.C.L.U.’s invitation to become a named plaintiff, denting his reputation as an Administration cheerleader. He had also begun a review of Ann Coulter’s “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” for an obscure new British journal. He was not doing it for free, but the gesture was still generous; Hitchens, who is unusually lacking in professional competitiveness, makes himself available to younger writers and editors. He also teaches: he is presently a visiting professor at the New School, and he is supervising the Ph.D. thesis, on Orwell, of Thomas Veale, a U.S. Army major, who calls Hitchens the “only nineteen-thirties liberal in existence.”

Hitchens had started writing an hour or so before, planning on leniency: “I was thinking of hammering her for the first half and being a bit gentle the second.” (He shares Coulter’s disregard for Joseph Wilson, the diplomat.) But he had written a thousand words, and he was not through hammering. “I thought I’d do a thousand words by lunchtime—my usual ambition if I’m doing a short piece,” he said. But he now saw that he could get it all done before eating. “If I can’t fuck up Ann Coulter before lunch then I shouldn’t be in this business,” he said. Not long afterward, he came into the kitchen and handed me the finished review.

We had lunch outside. Hitchens ignored the sandwiches and put his fork in the cherry pie, moving outward from the center. He had a postproduction glow. “Writing is mainly recreational,” he said. “I’m not happy when I’m not doing it.” He can entertain himself in other ways—he strained to remember them—such as “playing with the cats and the daughter. But if I take even a day away from it I’m very uneasy.”

In the past few years, Hitchens has published, in addition to his books on Orwell, Jefferson, and Paine, a book of oppositionist advice entitled “Letters to a Young Contrarian”; a collection of his writings on the Iraq war; and a giant miscellany, “Love, Poverty, and War.” He wrote “God Is Not Great” in four months. He has contributed to dozens of publications (including Golf Digest—he plays the game). He almost never uses the backspace, delete, or cut-and-paste keys. He writes a single draft, at a speed that caused his New Statesman colleagues to place bets on how long it would take him to finish an editorial. What emerges is ready for publication, except for one weakness: he’s not an expert punctuator, which reinforces the notion that he is in the business of transcribing a lecture he can hear himself giving.

Earlier, in answer to a question I hadn’t asked, Blue had said to me, “Once in a while, it seems like he might be drunk. Aside from that, even though he’s obviously an alcoholic, he functions at a really high level and he doesn’t act like a drunk, so the only reason it’s a bad thing is it’s taking out his liver, presumably. It would be a drag for Henry Kissinger to live to a hundred and Christopher to keel over next year.”

Hitchens, too, brought up the subject of alcohol before I did. “You’re going to want to talk about this,” he said, not wrongly, pointing at his glass. (A writer likes a coöperative subject, but it can be dispiriting to make a portrait in the shadow of a gigantic self-portrait.) He was not a “piss artist,” he explained, “someone who can’t get going without a load of beer, who’s a drunk—overconfident and flushed. I can’t bear that.” He went on, “I know what I’m doing with it. And I can time it. It’s a self-medicating thing.” I took his point. Hitchens does drink a very great deal (and said of Mel Gibson’s blood-alcohol level at the time of his recent Malibu arrest—0.12 per cent—“that’s as sober as you’d ever want to be”). But he drinks like a Hemingway character: continually and to no apparent effect.

That evening at the guesthouse, Peter Berkowitz, the Straussian intellectual and Hoover Institution fellow, and Tod Lindberg, the editor of Policy Review, dropped by with family members. The back-yard pool was suddenly full of children. Someone had brought champagne, and Hitchens poured it with exaggerated disapproval. (A few years ago, he claimed that the four most overrated things in life were champagne, lobsters, anal sex, and picnics.) Hitchens went into the house and put on Bob Dylan’s “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven”; he stood in the doorway and sung quietly along. He quoted Philip Larkin on Dylan: a “cawing, derisive voice.” He repeated Larkin’s words a few times, approvingly. His daughter got out of the pool, and said, pleasantly, “Can we close the door, so nobody else has to hear this?”

She went back to her friends. “Look,” Hitchens said happily. “They’re waiting for us to die.”

Hitchens and Blue flew back to Washington just after Labor Day. At the end of that week, in the Madison Hotel, Hitchens sat alongside William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, and others on a panel convened by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, the conservative author and former White House military aide, introduced the event, and was applauded for a passing dig at the A.C.L.U. Hitchens, whose remarks were delivered into a warm hum of approval—“too easy,” he later said—described it as “a pleasure as well as a duty” to kill Islamic terrorists.

Horowitz has often spoken and written about his upbringing by Communist parents. Hitchens’s response, years ago, was to ask, “Who cares about his pathetic family?” But Horowitz holds no grudge, and the two men talked in the bar afterward, with the rapport that comes from being the only people in a ten-block radius who could say they had read all three volumes of Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Leon Trotsky. Horowitz asked about Hitchens’s commitment to his Restoration Weekend, in Palm Beach, later in the year. Hitchens would never apologize for sharing a platform with anyone, but he wanted to know what Horowitz saw in Ann Coulter: Hadn’t he noticed the creationism in “Godless”?

“I didn’t read the Darwin pages,” Horowitz admitted.

“It’s nearly a third of the sodding book!” Hitchens said.

Hitchens had to be up early in the morning, and he began to make his way out. But a friend came up and asked him a favor, leading Hitchens to a group of young Horowitz fans. Hitchens sat down. “You really want to hear the most obscene joke in the world?” he asked them.

An hour later, Hitchens was at home, making a bacon sandwich. I asked him if he had felt a pang of envy when, in 2005, Michael Ignatieff, the author, public intellectual, and longtime U.K. resident, moved back to his native Canada to become a Liberal M.P.—and a likely future leader of his party. Hitchens replied, “Not a pang. A twinge.” When he was a young man, Hitchens was once sounded out about standing for Parliament as a Labour candidate. He took another path, but in subsequent years has occasionally thought of the politician he did not become. And today in Britain the political furniture is arranged as he would like it to be; that is, with opposition to the Iraq intervention heard as loudly on the Conservative side as on the left, and—as he sees it—a Labour Government acting in accordance with the radical, humanist, internationalist idealism of his youth. Earlier this year, Hitchens had a private meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

I asked Hitchens if he would accept a life peerage and a seat in the House of Lords. “It would be fantastically tempting,” he said, showing more eagerness than I’d expected. “I think I couldn’t do it, even though it’s no longer hereditary. I couldn’t quite see the term ‘Lord Hitchens.’ ” He added, with some feeling, “That I never had the right to walk into Parliament is something I’ll always be sorry about.”

This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hitchens’s move to America. Barring a last-minute complication, this will also be the year he becomes a citizen. He began the process not long after the attacks of 2001. The paperwork is done, he has passed the exam, and he was interviewed in June.

I asked if he’d vote in November. “I’ll run in November,” he said. “Don’t rule it out.” He added, “I can’t be President. So we can relax about that.” ♦

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Le journaliste et écrivain Christopher Hitchens est mort à 62 ans

Slate.fr

16 décembre 2011

Les lecteurs de Slate.fr le connaissaient pour ses écrits qui ne laissaient personne indifférent, ou presque. Christopher Hitchens est mort à 62 ans ce jeudi 15 décembre au MD Anderson Cancer Center de Houston, dans le Texas.

 Ce journaliste prolifique, figure intellectuelle bien connue du grand public anglo-saxon, et anticonformiste célèbre, a entre autre écrit un best-seller antireligion, Dieu n’est pas grand: comment la religion empoisonne tout.

 Hitchens, un contributeur de Vanity Fair et de The Atlantic, et un chroniqueur régulier de Slate.com (retrouvez ses chroniques traduites sur Slate.fr), avait découvert en juin 2010 qu’il avait un cancer de l’œsophage au stade 4, un diagnostic qui avait forcé l’iconoclaste à restreindre son rythme –il fut un temps soutenu– d’apparitions publiques, mais pas à réduire sa prodigieuse production d’essais, articles, et critiques littéraires jusqu’à ses derniers jours.

 Lors d’une rare apparition dans ses derniers mois, à la convention de l’alliance athéiste d’Amérique, Hitchens avait concédé qu’il n’avait plus beaucoup de temps devant lui, mais dit qu’il ne comptait pasvarrêter de travailler à cause de la détérioration de sa santé: «Je ne vais pas abandonner jusqu’au moment où j’y serai vraiment forcé», avait-il dit, devant une ovation du public.

Hitchens a tenu sa promesse, écrivant des articles pour plusieurs publications pendant ses dernières semaines, sur tout, depuis la politique américaine jusqu’à sa propre mortalité.

En écrivant pour Vanity Fair un article publié quelques jours avant sa mort, Hitchens a réaffirmé qu’il espérait être entièrement conscient et réveillé lors de sa mort, «afin de "voir" la mort dans un sens actif, et non passif», comme il l’avait déjà expliqué à ses lecteurs avant même d’apprendre l’existence de son cancer. «J’essaye, toujours, de nourrir cette petite flamme de curiosité et de défi: prêt à jouer le jeu jusqu’à la fin et espérant qu’on ne m’épargnera rien de ce qui fait partie d’une vie», écrivait-il.

Né à Portsmouth, en Angleterre, en 1949, Hitchens a étudié à Oxford avant de lancer sa carrière journalistique dans les années 1970 avec les magazines International Socialism et le New Statesman.

Au début des années 1980, il a émigré aux Etats-Unis, où il a régulièrement chroniqué pour The Nation pendant vingt ans. Il a quitté le magazine de gauche après s’être fièrement opposé à ses rédacteurs en chef sur la guerre en Irak.

Hitchens a gagné un National Magazine Award pour ses chroniques en 2007, l’année où il est devenu, à 58 ans, citoyen américain. Le site Foreign Policy l’a inclus dans sa liste des 100 figures intellectuelles les plus importantes l’année suivante, et le magazine Forbes dans celle des 25 commentateurs progressistes les plus influents dans les médias américains en 2009, distinction qui a surpris certains étant donné le soutien bruyant d’Hitchens à la «guerre contre la terreur» de George W. Bush.

Il était souvent invité dans des émissions d’information et des débats publics et manquait rarement une occasion de défendre ses positions quand on la lui donnait. Il était l’auteur de pratiquement vingt livres dont certains traduits en français (Dieu n’est pas grand. Comment la religion empoisonne tout, Les Crimes de monsieur Kissinger) et avait récemment publié ses mémoires (Hitch-22: A Memoir) et Arguably, une compilation de ses essais les plus récents.

Hitchens est resté ferme dans sa critique de la religion même quand le pronostic sur sa maladie est devenu sombre. Dans une interview d’août 2010 avec Jeffrey Goldberg, son collègue de The Atlantic, il faisait savoir que, même si d’une manière ou d’une autre, il abjurait son athéisme fervent sur son lit de mort, cette conversion apparente ne serait qu’un geste creux.

«L’entité qui ferait un tel geste pourrait être une personne divagante et terrifiée dont le cancer a gagné le cerveau», expliquait-il. «Je ne peux garantir qu’une telle entité ne fera pas un geste aussi ridicule. Mais ce ne serait pas quelqu’un que l’on pourrait reconnaître comme moi.»

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Lire l’article original sur Slate.fr

Liens:

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[2] http://www.facebook.com/SlateFrance

[3] http://www.twitter.com/slatefr

[4] http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2011/12/16/christopher_hitchens_is_dead_iconoclast_and_public_intellectual_passes_away_at_a_houston_hospital_after_battle_with_cancer_.html

[5] http://www.slate.fr/taxonomy/term/7901

[6] http://www.slate.fr/dossier/26813/christopher-hitchens

[7] http://www.slate.fr/dossier/16807/necrologie

[8] http://www.slate.fr/dossier/13255/athéisme

[9] http://www.slate.fr/taxonomy/term/439

[10] http://www.slate.fr/taxonomy/term/241

[11] http://www.slate.fr/printmail/lien/47579/christopher-hitchens-mort

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[16] http://www.slate.fr/story/47571/areva-la-mutation-invisible

[17] http://www.slate.fr/story/47661/penser-la-france-attali-2012

[18] http://www.slate.fr/lien

[19] http://twitter.com/share?url=http://www.slate.fr/lien/47579/christopher-hitchens-mort&via=slatefr&lang=fr

[20] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47659/president-tcheque-vaclav-havel-mort

[21] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47655/faut-il-garder-les-noms-de-rues-communistes-en-ex-rda

[22] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47653/la-chanteuse-cesaria-evora-est-morte

[23] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47649/clegg-fillon-grande-bretagne-baroin

[24] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47619/pere-noel-personnage-peu-recommandable

[25] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47617/cadeaux-plus-chers-pas-forcement-apprecies

[26] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47603/2012-egypte-pyramide-secret-archeologue-autorisation

[27] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47597/turquie-interdit-etrangers-achat-immobilier-propriete

[28] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47585/rhys-morgan-medicament-miracle

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[30] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47573/kebab-ambassadeur-gastronomie-allemande

[31] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47561/bruits-plus-horribles-du-monde

[32] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47559/fitch-degrade-credit-agricole-credit-mutuel

[33] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47551/devoir-conjugal-justice-divorce

[34] http://www.slate.fr/lien/47549/blackwater-irak-bavure-guerre-mercenaire

[35] http://www.slate.fr/

 Voir aussi:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/arts/christopher-hitchens-is-dead-at-62-obituary.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

Polemicist Who Slashed All, Freely, Dies at 62

William Grimes

The NYT

December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died on Thursday in Houston. He was 62.

The cause was pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer, Vanity Fair magazine said in announcing the death, at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Mr. Hitchens, who lived in Washington, learned he had cancer while on a publicity tour in 2010 for his memoir, “Hitch-22,” and began writing and, on television, speaking about his illness frequently.

“In whatever kind of a ‘race’ life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist,” Mr. Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair, for which he was a contributing editor.

He took pains to emphasize that he had not revised his position on atheism, articulated in his best-selling 2007 book, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” although he did express amused appreciation at the hope, among some concerned Christians, that he might undergo a late-life conversion.

He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me,” he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was “impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle.”

Armed with a quick wit and a keen appetite for combat, Mr. Hitchens was in constant demand as a speaker on television, radio and the debating platform, where he held forth in a sonorous, plummily accented voice that seemed at odds with his disheveled appearance. He was a master of the extended peroration, peppered with literary allusions, and of the bright, off-the-cuff remark.

In 2007, when the interviewer Sean Hannity tried to make the case for an all-seeing God, Mr. Hitchens dismissed the idea with contempt. “It would be like living in North Korea,” he said.

Mr. Hitchens, a British Trotskyite who had lost faith in the Socialist movement, spent much of his life wandering the globe and reporting on the world’s trouble spots for The Nation magazine, the British newsmagazine The New Statesman and other publications.

His work took him to Northern Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Argentina in the 1970s, generally to shine a light on the evil practices of entrenched dictators or the imperial machinations of the great powers.

After moving to the United States in 1981, he added American politics to his beat, writing a biweekly Minority Report for The Nation. He wrote a monthly review-essay for The Atlantic and, as a carte-blanche columnist at Vanity Fair, filed essays on topics as various as getting a Brazilian bikini wax and the experience of being waterboarded, a volunteer assignment that he called “very much more frightening though less painful than the bikini wax.” He was also a columnist for the online magazine Slate.

His support for the Iraq war sprang from a growing conviction that radical elements in the Islamic world posed a mortal danger to Western principles of political liberty and freedom of conscience. The first stirrings of that view came in 1989 with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwah against the novelist Salman Rushdie for his supposedly blasphemous words in “The Satanic Verses.” To Mr. Hitchens, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, confirmed the threat.

In a political shift that shocked many of his friends and readers, he cut his ties to The Nation and became an outspoken advocate of the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and a ferocious critic of what he called “Islamofascism.” Although he denied coining the word, he popularized it.

He remained unapologetic about the war. In 2006 he told the British newspaper The Guardian: “There are a lot of people who will not be happy, it seems to me, until I am compelled to write a letter to these comrades in Iraq and say: ‘Look, guys, it’s been real, but I’m going to have to drop you now. The political cost to me is just too high.’ Do I see myself doing this? No, I do not!”

Christopher Eric Hitchens was born on April 13, 1949, in Portsmouth, England. His father was a career officer in the Royal Navy and later earned a modest living as a bookkeeper.

Though it strained the family budget, Christopher was sent to private schools in Tavistock and Cambridge, at the insistence of his mother. “If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it,” he overheard his mother saying to his father, clinching a spirited argument.

He was politically attuned even as a 7-year-old. “I was precocious enough to watch the news and read the papers, and I can remember October 1956, the simultaneous crisis in Hungary and Suez, very well,” he told the magazine The Progressive in 1997. “And getting a sense that the world was dangerous, a sense that the game was up, that the Empire was over.”

Even before arriving at Balliol College, Oxford, Mr. Hitchens had been drawn into left-wing politics, primarily out of opposition to the Vietnam War. After heckling a Maoist speaker at a political meeting, he was invited to join the International Socialists, a Trotskyite party. Thus began a dual career as political agitator and upper-crust sybarite. He arranged a packed schedule of antiwar demonstrations by day and Champagne-flooded parties with Oxford’s elite at night. Spare time was devoted to the study of philosophy, politics and economics.

After graduating from Oxford in 1970, he spent a year traveling across the United States. He then tried his luck as a journalist in London, where he contributed reviews, columns and editorials to The New Statesman, The Daily Express and The Evening Standard.

“I would do my day jobs at various mainstream papers and magazines and TV stations, where my title was ‘Christopher Hitchens,’ ” he wrote in “Hitch-22,” “and then sneak down to the East End, where I was variously features editor of Socialist Worker and book review editor of the theoretical monthly International Socialism.”

He became a staff writer and editor for The New Statesman in the late 1970s and fell in with a literary clique that included Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, James Fenton, Clive James and Ian McEwan. The group liked to play a game in which members came up with the sentence least likely to be uttered by one of their number. Mr. Hitchens’s was “I don’t care how rich you are, I’m not coming to your party.”

After collaborating on a 1976 biography of James Callaghan, the Labour leader, he published his first book, “Cyprus,” in 1984 to commemorate Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus a decade earlier. A longer version was published in 1989 as “Hostage to History: Cyprus From the Ottomans to Kissinger.”

His interest in the region led to another book, “Imperial Spoils: The Curious Case of the Elgin Marbles” (1987), in which he argued that Britain should return the Elgin marbles to Greece.

In 1981 he married a Greek Cypriot, Eleni Meleagrou. The marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by their two children, Alexander and Sophia; his wife, Carol Blue, and their daughter, Antonia; and his brother, Peter.

Mr. Hitchens’s reporting on Greece came through unusual circumstances. He was summoned to Athens in 1973 because his mother, after leaving his father, had committed suicide there with her new partner. After his father’s death in 1987, he learned that his mother was Jewish, a fact she had concealed from her husband and her children.

After moving to the United States, where he eventually became a citizen, Mr. Hitchens became a fixture on television, in print and at the lectern. Many of his essays for The Nation and other magazines were collected in “Prepared for the Worst” (1988).

He also threw himself into the defense of his friend Mr. Rushdie. “It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved,” he wrote in his memoir. “In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual and the defense of free expression.”

To help rally public support, Mr. Hitchens arranged for Mr. Rushdie to be received at the White House by President Bill Clinton, one of Mr. Hitchens’s least favorite politicians and the subject of his book “No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton” (1999).

He regarded the response of left-wing intellectuals to Mr. Rushdie’s predicament as feeble, and he soon began to question many of his cherished political assumptions. He had already broken with the International Socialists when, in 1982, he astonished some of his brethren by supporting Britain’s invasion of the Falkland Islands.

The drift was reflected in books devoted to heroes like George Orwell (“Why Orwell Matters,” 2002), Thomas Paine (“Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography,” 2006) and Thomas Jefferson (“Thomas Jefferson: Author of America,” 2005).

His polemical urges found other outlets. In 2001 he excoriated Mr. Kissinger, the secretary of state in the Nixon administration, as a war criminal in the book “The Trial of Henry Kissinger.” He helped write a 2002 documentary film by the same title based on the book.

Mr. Hitchens became a campaigner against religious belief, most notably in his screed against Mother Teresa, “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice” (1995), and “God Is Not Great.” He regarded Mother Teresa as a proselytizer for a retrograde version of Roman Catholicism rather than as a saintly charity worker.

“I don’t quite see Christopher as a ‘man of action,’ ” the writer Ian Buruma told The New Yorker in 2006, “but he’s always looking for the defining moment — as it were, our Spanish Civil War, where you put yourself on the right side, and stand up to the enemy.”

One stand distressed many of his friends. In 1999, Sidney Blumenthal, an aide to Mr. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Hitchens’s, testified before a grand jury that he was not the source of damaging comments made to reporters about Monica Lewinsky, whose supposed affair with the president was under investigation by the House of Representatives.

Contacted by House investigators, Mr. Hitchens supplied information in an affidavit that, in effect, accused Mr. Blumenthal of perjury and put him in danger of being indicted.

At a lunch in 1998, Mr. Hitchens wrote, Mr. Blumenthal had characterized Ms. Lewinsky as “a stalker” and said the president was the victim of a predatory and unstable woman. Overnight, Mr. Hitchens — now called “Hitch the Snitch” by Blumenthal partisans — became persona non grata in living rooms all over Washington. In a review of “Hitch-22” in The New York Review of Books, Mr. Buruma criticized Mr. Hitchens for making politics personal.

To Mr. Hitchens, he wrote, “politics is essentially a matter of character.”

“Politicians do bad things,” Mr. Buruma continued, “because they are bad men. The idea that good men can do terrible things (even for good reasons), and bad men good things, does not enter into this particular moral universe.” Mr. Hitchens’s latest collection of writings, “Arguably: Essays,” published this year, has been a best-seller and ranked among the top 10 books of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review.

Mr. Hitchens discussed the possibility of a deathbed conversion, insisting that the odds were slim that he would admit the existence of God.

“The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain,” he told The Atlantic in August 2010. “I can’t guarantee that such an entity wouldn’t make such a ridiculous remark, but no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a remark.”

Readers of “Hitch-22” already knew his feelings about the end. “I personally want to ‘do’ death in the active and not the passive,” he wrote, “and to be there to look it in the eye and be doing something when it comes for me.”

Voir enfin:

The Rat That Roared

Christopher Hitchens

The Wall Street Journal

February 6, 2003

To say that the history of human emancipation would be incomplete without the French would be to commit a fatal understatement. The Encyclopedists, the proclaimers of Les Droits de l’Homme, the generous ally of the American revolution . . . the spark of 1789 and 1848 and 1871, can be found all the way from the first political measure to abolish slavery, through Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, to the gallantry of Jean Moulin and the maquis resistance. French ideas and French heroes have animated the struggle for liberty throughout modern times.

There is of course another France — the France of Petain and Poujade and Vichy and of the filthy colonial tactics pursued in Algeria and Indochina. Sometimes the U.S. has been in excellent harmony with the first France — as when Thomas Paine was given the key of the Bastille to bring to Washington, and as when Lafayette and Rochambeau made France the « oldest ally. » Sometimes American policy has been inferior to that of many French people — one might instance Roosevelt’s detestation of de Gaulle. The Eisenhower-Dulles administration encouraged the French in a course of folly in Vietnam, and went so far as to inherit it. Kennedy showed a guarded sympathy for Algerian independence, at a time when France was too arrogant to listen to his advice. So it goes. Lord Palmerston was probably right when he said that a nation can have no permanent allies, only permanent interests. It is not to be expected that any proud, historic country can be automatically counted « in. »

However, the conduct of Jacques Chirac can hardly be analyzed in these terms. Here is a man who had to run for re-election last year in order to preserve his immunity from prosecution, on charges of corruption that were grave. Here is a man who helped Saddam Hussein build a nuclear reactor and who knew very well what he wanted it for. Here is a man at the head of France who is, in effect, openly for sale. He puts me in mind of the banker in Flaubert’s « L’Education Sentimentale »: a man so habituated to corruption that he would happily pay for the pleasure of selling himself.

Here, also, is a positive monster of conceit. He and his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, have unctuously said that « force is always the last resort. » Vraiment? This was not the view of the French establishment when troops were sent to Rwanda to try and rescue the client-regime that had just unleashed ethnocide against the Tutsi. It is not, one presumes, the view of the French generals who currently treat the people and nation of Cote d’Ivoire as their fief. It was not the view of those who ordered the destruction of an unarmed ship, the Rainbow Warrior, as it lay at anchor in a New Zealand harbor after protesting the French official practice of conducting atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific. (I am aware that some of these outrages were conducted when the French Socialist Party was in power, but in no case did Mr. Chirac express anything other than patriotic enthusiasm. If there is a truly « unilateralist » government on the Security Council, it is France.)

We are all aware of the fact that French companies and the French state are owed immense sums of money by Saddam Hussein. We all very much hope that no private gifts to any French political figures have been made by the Iraqi Baath Party, even though such scruple on either side would be anomalous to say the very least. Is it possible that there is any more to it than that? The future government in Baghdad may very well not consider itself responsible for paying Saddam’s debts. Does this alone condition the Chirac response to a fin de regime in Iraq?

Alas, no. Recent days brought tidings of an official invitation to Paris, for Robert Mugabe. The President-for-life of Zimbabwe may have many charms, but spare cash is not among them. His treasury is as empty as the stomachs of his people. No, when the plumed parade brings Mugabe up the Champs Elysees, the only satisfaction for Mr. Chirac will be the sound of a petty slap in the face to Tony Blair, who has recently tried to abridge Mugabe’s freedom to travel. Thus we are forced to think that French diplomacy, as well as being for sale or for hire, is chiefly preoccupied with extracting advantage and prestige from the difficulties of its allies.

This can and should be distinguished from the policy of Germany. Berlin does not have a neutralist constitution, like Japan or Switzerland. But it has a strong presumption against military intervention outside its own border and Herr Schroeder, however cheaply he plays this card, is still playing a hand one may respect. One does not find German statesmen positively encouraging the delinquents of the globe, in order to reap opportunist advantages and to excite local chauvinism.

Mr. Chirac’s party is « Gaullist. » Charles de Gaulle had a colossal ego, but he felt himself compelled at a crucial moment to represent une certaine idee de la France, at a time when that nation had been betrayed into serfdom and shame by its political and military establishment. He was later adroit in extracting his country from its vicious policy in North Africa, and gave good advice to the U.S. about avoiding the same blunder in Indochina. His concern for French glory and tradition sometimes led him into error, as with his bombastic statements about « Quebec libre. » But — and this is disclosed in a fine study of the man, « A Demain de Gaulle, » by the former French leftist Regis Debray — he always refused to take seriously the claims of the Soviet Union to own Poland and Hungary and the Czech lands and Eastern Germany. He didn’t believe it would or could last: He had a sense of history.

To the permanent interests of France, he insisted on attaching une certain idee de la liberte as well. He would have nodded approvingly at Vaclav Havel’s statement — his last as Czech president — speaking boldly about the rights of the people of Iraq. And one likes to think that he would have had a fine contempt for his pygmy successor, the vain and posturing and venal man who, attempting to act the part of a balding Joan of Arc in drag, is making France into the abject procurer for Saddam. This is a case of the rat that tried to roar.


Printemps arabe: C’est encore la faute à Bush (Bush Doctrine: OK For Libya But Not Iraq?)

6 mars, 2011

 

IBD cartoonSometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen. Lenin
I think the Obama administration’s "reset" outreach to countries like Iran and Syria is moribund — as it should be. Oppressed peoples in nightmarish states do not care to hear of our efforts to reach out to their oppressors, multiculturalism or no multiculturalism. Victor Davis Hanson
The uprisings may not all end happily. As history has shown time and again — notably in Iran in 1979 — minorities that are organized and willing to use violence can establish reigns of terror over unorganized or passive majorities. Whatever ensues, however, the Arab risings have revealed that Iran’s revolutionary ideology has not only been rendered bankrupt at home, but it has also lost the war of ideas among its neighbors. Karim Sadjapour
Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda, it’s not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama’s foreign policy – the "smart power" antidote to Bush’s alleged misty-eyed idealism. (…) Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom. Charles Krauthammer
En ce printemps arabe où, ironie de l’histoire, tout le monde semble s’être brusquement converti à la doctrine Bush dénoncée jusque là par tous …

Et où, pendant que le chef de file supposé du Monde libre semble de plus en plus dépassé par les évènements et que les joyeux membres du Conseil des droits de l’homme du Machin (Arabie saoudite, Cuba et Chine en tête) se décide enfin à suspendre leur compère libyen, ceux qui, à l’instar des mollahs iraniens, poussent le plus le feu de la contestation pourraient un jour voir celle-ci se retourner contre eux …

Retour, avec le célèbre commentateur du Washington Post Charles Krauthammer, sur l’ironie supplémentaire de ceux qui, pour un Khadafi au bilan et à l’armement bien moins dangereux qu’un Saddam, appellent à une intervention américaine qu’ils refusaient pour le boucher de Bagdad.

 

Et, derrière l’oubli de la 1ère révolution irakienne et de la doctine Bush sans lesquels l’actuel printemps arabe ne serait pas, celui de la fameuse doctrine du réalisme intelligent de la première année de son successeur …

Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post

March 4, 2011

Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the United States has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance and imperialism.

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein’s evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi’s. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear."

Moreover, that systemized brutality made Hussein immovable in a way that Gaddafi is not. Barely armed Libyans have already seized half the country on their own. Yet in Iraq, there was no chance of putting an end to the regime without the terrible swift sword (it took all of three weeks) of the United States.

No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda, it’s not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama’s foreign policy – the "smart power" antidote to Bush’s alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil society funds – money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy – by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee with Obama’s reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street – to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them."

Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.

Iraq, of course, required a sustained U.S. military engagement to push back totalitarian forces trying to extinguish the new Iraq. But is this not what we are being asked to do with a no-fly zone over Libya? In conditions of active civil war, taking command of Libyan airspace requires a sustained military engagement.

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq’s democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what’s unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect – last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services – but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.

Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? In fact, notes Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, the United States has been "conspicuously absent from the sloganeering."

It’s Yemen’s president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. They are not chanting the antiwar slogans – remember "No blood for oil"? – of the American left. Why would they? America is leaving Iraq having taken no oil, having established no permanent bases, having left behind not a puppet regime but a functioning democracy. This, after Iraq’s purple-fingered exercises in free elections seen on television everywhere set an example for the entire region.

Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.

Voir aussi:

Arabs Rise, Tehran Trembles

Karim Sadjapour

The NYT

March 5, 2011

In "Garden of the Brave in War," his classic memoir of life on a pomegranate farm in 1960s Iran, the American writer Terence O’Donnell recounts how his illiterate house servant, Mamdali, would wake him every morning with a loud knock on the door and a simple question: "Are you an Arab or an Iranian?"

"If I was naked," O’Donnell explained, "I would answer that I’m an Arab and he would wait outside the door, whereas if I was clothed I would reply that I was an Iranian and he would come in with the coffee." This joke went hand in hand, O’Donnell wrote, with an age-old chauvinism that depicted the Persians’ Arab neighbors as "uncivilized people who went about unclothed and ate lizards."

The Islamist victors of the 1979 Iranian revolution intended to change things, to replace the shah’s haughty Persian nationalism with an Arab-friendly, pan-Islamic ideology. Yet Tehran’s official reaction to the 2011 Arab awakening shows that, at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Middle East strategy, there lays a veiled contempt for Arab intelligence, autonomy and prosperity.

What many young Iranians see as a familiar struggle for justice, economic dignity and freedom from dictatorial rule, Iranian officialdom has struggled to spin as a belated Arab attempt to emulate the Islamic revolution and join Tehran in its battle against America and Israel.

The delusions of the Iranian regime are partly attributable to a generation gap. Tehran’s ruling elite continue to cling to the antiquated ideology of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose worldview was formed by decades of imperial transgressions in Iran. The demographic boom in the Middle East, however, has brought a wave of young Arabs and Iranians who associate subjugation and injustice not with colonial or imperial powers, but with their own governments.

Until now, Iran’s interests have been served by the Arab status quo: frustrated populations ruled over by emasculated regimes incapable of checking Israel, and easily dismissed as American co-dependents. A conversation I once had with a senior Iranian diplomat is instructive.

He complained, justifiably, about Washington’s excessive focus on military power to solve political problems. I posed a simple hypothetical: What if, instead of having spent several billion dollars financing Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad over the past three decades, Iran had spent that money educating tens of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites to become doctors, professors and lawyers? Wouldn’t those communities now be much better off and in a much stronger position to assert their rights vis-à-vis Israel?

"What good would that have done for Iran?" he responded candidly. (He himself had a doctorate from a British university.) "Do you think if we sent them abroad to study they would return to southern Lebanon and Gaza to fight Israel? Of course not; they would have remained doctors, lawyers and professors."

Iran, in essence, understands that it can inspire and champion the region’s downtrodden and dispossessed, but not the upwardly mobile. Its strategy to dominate the Middle East hinges less on building nuclear weapons than on the twin pillars of oil and alienation.

Iranian petrodollars are used to finance radicals — Khaled Meshaal in Syria, Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon and Moktada al-Sadr in Iraq, to name a few — who feed off popular humiliation. As an Arab Shiite friend once complained to me, "Iran wants to fight America and Israel down to the last Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi."

At first glance, the fall of Western-oriented Arab governments may appear to be a blow to Washington and a boon for Tehran. The seeming consensus among Western analysts and pundits — that Iran will fill the Middle East power vacuum — is short-sighted.

While the relationship between Egypt and Iran — the regions two oldest and most populous nations — will likely improve, the competition between them will likely intensify.

Tehran’s ascent in the Arab world over the last decade has been partly attributable to Cairo’s decline. The potential re-emergence of a proud, assertive Egypt will undermine Shiite Persian Iran’s ambitions to be the vanguard of the largely Sunni Arab Middle East. Indeed, if Egypt can create a democratic model that combines political tolerance, economic prosperity and adept diplomacy, Iran’s model of intolerance, economic malaise and confrontation will hold little appeal in the Arab world.

Renewed Iranian influence in places like Bahrain and Yemen may also prove self-limiting. As we have seen in Iraq, familiarity with Iranian officialdom often breeds contempt. Polls have shown that even a sizable majority of Iraq’s Shiites resent the meddling in their affairs by their co-religionists from Iran. "The harder they push," said Ryan Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq, "the more resistance they get."

Elsewhere in the Arab world, Iranian proxies like Hezbollah will increasingly find themselves in the awkward position of being a resistance group purportedly fighting injustice while simultaneously cashing checks from a patron that is brutally suppressing justice at home.

The Arab uprisings of 2011 will also, of course, have their effect on Iran internally. Iranian democracy advocates have long taken solace in the belief that they were ahead of their Arab neighbors, who would one day too have to undergo the intolerance and heartaches of Islamist rule. The largely secular nature of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have bruised the Iranian ego: were they the only ones naïve enough to succumb to the false promise of an Islamic utopia?

It has been said about authoritarian regimes that while they rule their collapse appears inconceivable, but after they’ve fallen their demise appears to have been inevitable. In the short term Tehran’s oil largesse and religious pretensions have seemingly created for it deeper, if not wider, popular support than many Arab regimes.

But the regime’s curiously heavy-handed response to resilient pro-democracy protests — including the recent disappearance of opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi — betrays its anxiety about the 21st-century viability of an economically floundering, gender-apartheid state led by a "supreme leader" who purports to be the prophet’s representative on Earth.

Tehran publicly cheered the fall of Egyptian and Tunisian regimes undone by corruption, economic stagnation and repression. Do its rulers not know that Iran — according to Transparency International, Freedom House and the World Bank — ranks worse than Tunisia and Egypt in all three categories?

A saying often attributed to Lenin best captures the sorts of tectonic shifts taking place in today’s Middle East. "Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen."

The uprisings may not all end happily. As history has shown time and again — notably in Iran in 1979 — minorities that are organized and willing to use violence can establish reigns of terror over unorganized or passive majorities. Whatever ensues, however, the Arab risings have revealed that Iran’s revolutionary ideology has not only been rendered bankrupt at home, but it has also lost the war of ideas among its neighbors.

Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Printemps arabe: Et si, loin de l’éliminer, la démocratie radicalisait l’islamisme? (Far from eliminating radicalization, Western values can actually exacerbate Islamist tendencies)

1 mars, 2011
 Au bout du compte, idéologies de l’individu comme idéologies collectivistes se sont soldées par l’échec. C’est maintenant à l’islam, à l’Umma de jouer leur rôle, en la plus critique des heures, quand règnent le trouble et la confusion (…). Le temps de l’islam est venu, lui qui ne renie pas les inventions matérielles en ce monde, car il les considère comme la première fonction de l’homme depuis que Dieu a accordé à celui-ci sa lieutenance sur la terre comme un moyen – sous certaines conditions – d’adorer Dieu et de réaliser les buts de l’existence humaine. Or, l’islam ne peut jouer son rôle que s’il s’incarne dans une société, dans une Umma (…). L’humanité ne prête pas l’oreille, ces temps-ci en particulier, à une croyance abstraite dont elle ne puisse constater la corroboration par des faits tangibles : or l’Umma, croit-on, a vu son existence s’éteindre depuis de nombreux siècles. Mais l’Umma n’est pas une terre sur laquelle vit l’islam, pas plus qu’une patrie dont les aïeux auraient vécu à telle époque selon un mode islamique (…). L’Umma musulmane est une collectivité (jama’a) de gens dont la vie tout entière, dans ses aspects intellectuels, sociaux, existentiels, politiques, moraux et pratiques, procède de l’éthique (…) islamique. Cette Umma, ainsi caractérisée, a cessé d’exister depuis que l’on ne gouverne plus nulle part sur terre selon la loi de Dieu. Sayyid Qutb
Aussi le mouvement de la lutte musulmane est-il une guerre défensive : défense de l’homme contre tous ceux qui aliènent sa liberté et bloquent sa libération, jusqu’à que soit instauré sur le genre humain le royaume de la Loi sacrée. Sayyid Qutb
If this is the West’s version of freedom, and their peace policy, we have our own policies in freedom and it is war until … the infidels leave defeated. Aldawsari (08.04.10)
Nous n’avons absolument rien à faire en Afghanistan, le plus tôt nous sortirons de là-bas, le mieux ce sera. Laurent Fabius (27.02.11, FR2)
Sayyid Qutb came to the United States from Egypt in 1948 to study English and went home appalled by the materialism and gross sensuality of American culture; he became a key ideologist in the development of Islamism.Gary Rosen
We generally understand "radical Islam" as a purely Islamic phenomenon, but Buruma and Margalit show that while the Islamic part of radical Islam certainly is, the radical part owes a primary debt of inheritance to the West. Whatever else they are, al Qaeda and its ilk are revolutionary anti-Western political movements, and Buruma and Margalit show us that the bogeyman of the West who stalks their thinking is the same one who has haunted the thoughts of many other revolutionary groups, going back to the early nineteenth century. In this genealogy of the components of the anti-Western worldview, the same oppositions appear again and again: the heroic revolutionary versus the timid, soft bourgeois; the rootless, deracinated cosmopolitan living in the Western city, cut off from the roots of a spiritually healthy society; the sterile Western mind, all reason and no soul; the machine society, controlled from the center by a cabal of insiders, often jews, pulling the hidden levers of power versus an organically knit-together one, a society of "blood and soil." The anti-Western virus has found a ready host in the Islamic world for a number of legitimate reasons, they argue, but in no way does that make it an exclusively Islamic matter. The Economist
It’s not enough to be against, or to bring down, a hated regime. It’s not even enough to be for something, at least in the sense in which the Arab world now seeks a freer and more representative political dispensation. What’s required is the statesmanship that can give concrete form to a hazy political dream. It would be nice to believe that this kind of statesmanship will emerge unbidden from decent quarters, which probably explains the fascination with Egyptian Google exec Wael Ghonim. But the perennial political problem is that good people usually lack political ambition. They cede the field to charlatans, romantics and jackals. Bret Stephens
Will Egypt see that its real enemies since the deposition of King Farouk in 1952 have always been poverty, ignorance, repression, failing prospects for its youth, and a shameful record in human rights? Or will it slip back into fervent nationalism, religious zealotry, and anti-Semitism and in the process find itself saddled with an army man eager to re-energize his country by demonizing the usual Israeli suspect? The opening of the Suez Canal to two Iranian warships does not bode well. Neither does radical Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s ability to draw over a million Egyptians to hear him preach in Tahrir Square. Nor does last week’s attack by the army on a Coptic monastery, or the brutal sexual assault on CBS News correspondent Lara Logan during the massive celebration of Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. As a crowd of 200 men attacked her, it was widely reported that they screamed "Jew,Jew, Jew." (Ms. Logan is not Jewish.) Andre Aciman
Paradoxically, a more democratic Iraq may also be a more repressive one; it may well be that a majority of Iraqis favor more curbs on professional women and on religious minorities. . . . Women did relatively well under Saddam Hussein. . . . Iraq won’t follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that’s the system many Iraqis seek. . . . We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq. Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times, June 24, 2003)
If American Muslims, who enjoy Western benefits — including democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression — are still being radicalized, why then do we insist that the importation of those same Western benefits to the Muslim world will eliminate its even more indigenous or authentic form of "radicalization"? (…) here are American Muslims, immersed in the bounties of the West — and still do they turn to violent jihad. Why think their counterparts, who are born and raised in the Muslim world, where Islam permeates every aspect of life, will respond differently?
In fact, far from eliminating radicalization, there is reason to believe that Western values can actually exacerbate Islamist tendencies. It is already known that Western concessions to Islam — in the guise of multiculturalism, "cultural sensitivity," political correctness, and self-censorship — only bring out the worst in Islamists. Yet even some of the most prized aspects of Western civilization — personal freedom, rule of law, human dignity — when articulated through an Islamist framework, have the capacity to "radicalize" Muslims. (…) Western notions of autonomy and personal freedom have even helped "Westernize" the notion of jihad into an individual duty, though it has traditionally been held by sharia as a communal duty. Nor should any of this be surprising: a set of noble principles articulated through a fascistic paradigm can produce abominations. ‘…) just as a stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice produces good humans, rearticulating these same concepts through an Islamist framework that qualifies them with the word "Muslim" — Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice — leads to what is being called "radicalization." Raymond Ibrahim
America needs to stop praising democracy — a means — and start supporting freedom and universal rights — the desired end. If that end can best be achieved by, say, a "philosopher-king," as opposed to popular support, so be it; if that end can be achieved by supporting secularists while "undemocratically" suppressing Islamists, so be it. Rather than offer lip service to any specific mode of governance, the US should support whoever and whatever form of government is best positioned to provide the boons regularly conflated with democracy. Raymond Ibrahim

Pourquoi la démocratie qui radicalise un Nidal Malik Hasan ou un Aldawsari au Texas ne radicaliserait pas leurs coreligionnaires au Caire ou à Tunis ?   

A l’heure où la menace terroriste n’a jamais été aussi élevée au sein même de nos sociétés occidentales …

Et où, au nom de la liberté d’expression, la plus haute institution éducative française se voit condamnée pour avoir refusé de cautionner l’appel au boycott de la première démocratie du Moyen-Orient …

Pendant que le prétendu chef de file du Monde libre navigue à  vue et que, sous prétexte de printemps arabe et sans compter l’annonce de sa capitulation préventive sur le front afghan par la probable future équipe à la tête du pays autoproclamé des droits de l’homme, s’enflamment brusquement ceux qui n’avaient pas eu de mots assez durs pour dénoncer il y a sept ans la mise hors d’état de nuire d’un des pires despotes de l’histoire …

Telle est la tout à fait pertinente question que pose l’islamologue Raymond Ibrahim.

Pointant, exemples à l’appui, la prétendument nécessaire équivalence, faite couramment en Occident, entre démocratie et régime pluraliste et laïc.

Et montrant au contraire que les valeurs occidentales peuvent même, ici comme là-bas, exacerber et radicaliser les tendances islamistes …

D’où son appel, pour l’Amérique, à arrêter de se focaliser sur la forme de gouvernement (la démocratie qui n’est qu’un moyen) pour se concentrer sur le contenu (la défense des véritables buts que sont la liberté et les droits universels).

Et ce y compris contre la volonté populaire si celle-ci s’avérait soutenir, comme en Iran ou à Gaza, des islamistes liberticides ..

Is an Egyptian "Democracy" a Good Thing?

Raymond Ibrahim

February 26, 2011

That democracy equates freedom is axiomatic in the West. Say the word "democracy" and images of a free, pluralistic, and secular society come to mind. Recently commenting on the turmoil in Egypt, President Obama made this association when he said that "the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve"—as if the two are inseparable.

But are they? Does "democracy" always lead to "universal rights" — and all of the other boons associated with that form of governance?

The fact is, there is nothing inherently liberal, humanitarian, or secular about democracies. Consider ancient Athens, regularly touted as history’s first democracy. It held principles, such as slavery, that would today be deemed antithetical to a democratic society. Indeed, whereas the status of women in "democratic" Athens would have made the Taliban proud, women in "authoritarian" Sparta reportedly enjoyed a much higher level of equality. Thus the Athenian Plato, one of history’s greatest minds, eschewed democracy, opting for a so-called "philosopher king" to provide for the good of the people.

In short, as with all forms of governance, democracy is a means to an end: based on whether that end is good (freedom) or bad (tyranny) should be the ultimate measure of its worth.

Recent examples of "people-power" — literally, demos-kratia — giving rise to fascistic governments are many: the Palestinians elected the terrorist organization Hamas to lead their government in 2006; Islamists were poised to take over in Algeria thanks to free elections in1991. Most famously, the Shah of Iran, whose monarchy was culturally and socially liberal, was overthrown by the people, who brought the Khomeini and tyranny to power in 1979.

Enter Egypt. For starters, what we are witnessing is a popular revolt. But now that the people have gotten what they want — the overthrow of Mubarak — will "people-power" also lead to a more liberal, secular, and pluralistic society? Theoretically, it is possible: many Egyptians, Christians and Muslims, would welcome a freer society. Despite al-Jazeera’s and the Iranian media’s propaganda — which some in the West follow hook-line-and-sinker — the majority of Egyptians protesting are not doing so to see sharia law implemented, but rather for mundane reasons: food and jobs.

That said, the Muslim Brotherhood does pose a very real threat; moreover, it does want strict sharia implemented. If the people help see it to power, Egypt will become considerably more fascistic. Yet this does not mean that most Egyptians are Islamists. While some are, others go along with the Brotherhood for the ostensible benefits, while being indifferent to the group’s ideological agenda. After all, Hamas’ famous strategy of endearing the Palestinians to it by providing for their needs was learned directly from its parent organization: Egypt’s Brotherhood.

In a way, this is not unlike Western democracies: people can vote based on their immediate needs, emotions, misinformation, or even sheer propaganda — and get more than they bargained for. Yet Western democracies have built-in safeguards, for example, a constitution, rule of law, and a separate judiciary. But what if all of these are built on Islamist principles, agreed to by the majority? The constitution, law, and judiciary of a government can all be built atop sharia (the word sharia simply means "the way" of Muslim society). After all, part of the Brotherhood’s by now infamous slogan is that "the Koran is our Constitution"; likewise, Iran has a "constitutional government" — based on sharia jurisprudence.

In short, America needs to stop praising democracy — a means — and start supporting freedom and universal rights — the desired end. If that end can best be achieved by, say, a "philosopher-king," as opposed to popular support, so be it; if that end can be achieved by supporting secularists while "undemocratically" suppressing Islamists, so be it. Rather than offer lip service to any specific mode of governance, the US should support whoever and whatever form of government is best positioned to provide the boons regularly conflated with democracy.

Such an approach would have an added bonus: it would fend off the ubiquitous charge — emanating from the ivory towers of academia to the Arab street — that America is hypocritical for befriending and supporting dictators even as it constantly sings paeans to democracy.

Can American Values Radicalize Muslims?
Raymond Ibrahim

Pajamas media

February 21, 2011

Recent comments by US officials on the threat posed by "radicalized" American Muslims are troubling, both for their domestic and international implications. Attorney General Eric Holder states that "the threat has changed … to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born." The situation is critical enough to compel incoming head of the House Committee on Homeland Security Peter King to do all he can "to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization."

To be sure, radicalized American Muslims pose a far greater risk than foreign radicals. For example, it is much easier for the former to get a job in the food industry and poison food — a recently revealed al-Qaeda strategy. American terrorists are also better positioned to exploit the Western mindset. After describing Anwar al-Awlaki as one of the most dangerous terrorists alive, Holder added that he "is a person who — as an American citizen — is familiar with this country and he brings a dimension, because of that American familiarity, that others do not." (Likewise, American Adam Gadahn is al Qaeda’s chief propagandist in English no doubt due to his "American familiarity.")

Sue Myrick, a member of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a particularly candid letter on "radicalization" to President Obama:

For many years we lulled ourselves with the idea that radicalization was not happening inside the United Sates. We believed American Muslims were immune to radicalization because, unlike the European counterparts, they are socially and economically well-integrated into society. There had been warnings that these assumptions were false but we paid them no mind. Today there is no doubt that radicalization is taking place inside America. The strikingly accelerated rate of American Muslims arrested for involvement in terrorist activities since May 2009 makes this fact self-evident.

Myrick named several American Muslims as examples of those who, while "embodying the American dream, at least socio-economically," still turned to radical Islam, astutely adding, "The truth is that if grievances were the sole cause of terrorism, we would see daily acts by Americans who have lost their jobs and homes in this economic downturn."

Quite so. Yet, though Myrick’s observations are limited to the domestic scene, they beg the following, even more "cosmic," question: If American Muslims, who enjoy Western benefits — including democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression — are still being radicalized, why then do we insist that the importation of those same Western benefits to the Muslim world will eliminate its even more indigenous or authentic form of "radicalization"?

After all, the mainstream position, the only one evoked by politicians, maintains that all American sacrifices in the Muslim world (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) will pay off once Muslims discover how wonderful Western ways are, and happily slough off their Islamist veneer, which, as the theory goes, is a product of — you guessed it — a lack of democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression. Yet here are American Muslims, immersed in the bounties of the West — and still do they turn to violent jihad. Why think their counterparts, who are born and raised in the Muslim world, where Islam permeates every aspect of life, will respond differently?

In fact, far from eliminating radicalization, there is reason to believe that Western values can actually exacerbate Islamist tendencies. It is already known that Western concessions to Islam — in the guise of multiculturalism, "cultural sensitivity," political correctness, and self-censorship — only bring out the worst in Islamists. Yet even some of the most prized aspects of Western civilization — personal freedom, rule of law, human dignity — when articulated through an Islamist framework, have the capacity to "radicalize" Muslims.

Consider: the West’s unique stress on the law as supreme arbitrator, translates into a stress to establish sharia law, Islam’s supreme arbitrator of human affairs; the West’s unwavering commitment to democracy, translates into an unwavering commitment to theocracy, including an anxious impulse to resurrect the caliphate; Western notions of human dignity and pride, when articulated through an Islamist mindset (which sees fellow Muslims as the ultimate, if not only, representatives of humanity) induces rage when fellow Muslims — Palestinians, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc. — are seen under Western, infidel dominion; Western notions of autonomy and personal freedom have even helped "Westernize" the notion of jihad into an individual duty, though it has traditionally been held by sharia as a communal duty.

Nor should any of this be surprising: a set of noble principles articulated through a fascistic paradigm can produce abominations. In this case, the better principles of Western civilization are being devoured, absorbed, and regurgitated into something equally potent, though from the other end of the spectrum. Put differently, just as a stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice produces good humans, rearticulating these same concepts through an Islamist framework that qualifies them with the word "Muslim" — Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice — leads to what is being called "radicalization."

Voir enfin:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Débat sur Israël : l’ENS condamnée pour entrave à la liberté d’expression
Le Monde
01.03.11
Le Tribunal administratif de Paris a condamné, samedi 26 février, la direction de l’Ecole normale supérieure (ENS) pour avoir refusé la réservation d’une salle pour un débat sur la question israélo-palestinienne.AFP
Le Tribunal administratif de Paris a condamné, samedi 26 février, la direction de l’Ecole normale supérieure (ENS) pour avoir refusé la réservation d’une salle pour un débat sur la question israélo-palestinienne. Le collectif Palestine de l’ENS avait déposé, début février, une demande de réservation de salle pour organiser un nouveau débat, dans le cadre de la "semaine contre l’apartheid israélien". Selon ses membres, ce débat avait pour objectif de "réfléchir à la pertinence de la qualification juridique d’apartheid pour décrire la situation israélo-palestinienne". Le collectif avait invité Omar Barghouti, initiateur en Cisjordanie de la campagne de boycott des produits israéliens ("Boycott, désinvestissement, sanctions", aussi appelée BDS) et la réalisatrice franco-israélienne Simone Bitton, ainsi que des étudiants israéliens et palestiniens.
L’ENS a refusé, par la voix de sa directrice, Monique Canto-Sperber, fin février, la réservation de la salle, estimant que "‘l’ENS n’a pas pour vocation d’abriter des meetings de partis politiques ou des réunions organisées par des groupes militants, nationaux ou internationaux, dans lesquels s’exprimerait un point de vue univoque", comme l’expliquait le blog du Monde de l’éducation.
LA JUSTICE DONNE RAISON AU COLLECTIF
Le collectif Palestine a dénoncé une "censure". Après avoir essuyé un nouveau refus de la direction de l’école, il a décidé de porter l’affaire en justice. Qui lui a donné en partie raison. Dans ses conclusions, le juge des référés estime que les plaignants "sont fondés à soutenir que la directrice de l’ENS, dans l’exercice de ses fonctions, a porté une atteinte grave et manifestement illégale à la liberté de réunion, qui constitue une liberté fondamentale".
Le juge ordonne à l’ENS de suspendre sa décision de réexaminer la demande du collectif Palestine. Il note également que les plaignants ont "fait part de leur volonté d’assurer un caractère contradictoire aux débats programmés". (Voir la décision du tribunal sur Le Monde.fr.)
Contacté par Le Monde.fr, l’un des avocats de l’école, Patrick Klugman, estime que "cette décision est un dangereux précédent". "La semaine contre l’apartheid d’Israël est un événement susceptible de poursuites pénales, donc je ne vois pas comment la direction de l’école aurait pu l’autoriser", explique-t-il, estimant que l’emploi du terme "apartheid" concernant l’Etat d’Israël est illégal en France. Il ajoute que l’ENS a la volonté de saisir le Conseil d’Etat sur cette question.
Conformément à la décision du juge, la direction de l’école a réexaminé, mardi, la demande du collectif. Et a de nouveau refusé la salle, au motif que le débat aurait dû être contradictoire, et qu’il ne peut être inclu dans la "semaine contre l’apartheid israélien".
Le collectif assure que le débat organisé n’est pas une promotion du boycott d’Israël mais un débat de fond sur la notion d'"apartheid". Et entend saisir le juge administratif mercredi pour obtenir satisfaction.
LE "PRÉCÉDENT" STÉPHANE HESSEL
Cette affaire fait suite à l’annulation d’un débat sur Israël avec Stéphane Hessel, mi-janvier, qui avait déclenché une polémique. L’auteur d’Indignez-vous !, ancien résistant, était invité à débattre de la répression de la campagne de boycott des produits israéliens. La direction de l’ENS avait annulé le débat après les inquiétudes relayées par le Conseil représentatif des associations juives de France et plusieurs associations juives.
 
 

 

Une décision qui avait suscité la colère de plusieurs chercheurs anciens élèves de l’école, qui avaient dénoncé dans une lettre publiée dans Libération une atteinte à la liberté d’expression. Ils estimaient que la directrice de l’ENS avait "déshonoré sa fonction". Cette dernière avait déploré dans une tribune au Monde un "vacarme d’indignation sincère et de mauvaise foi mêlées". Et avait expliqué avoir décidé "seule" de cette annulation, estimant qu’il s’agissait d’un "meeting sans débat". Elle ajoutait : "Si une situation analogue se présentait de nouveau, j’agirais de la même façon".

Voir également:

 Is There an Arab George Washington?
Most revolutions trace a familiar arc from euphoria to terror.
Bret Stephens
The WSJ
March 1, 2011

On learning that George Washington intended to follow up his victory at Yorktown by retiring to his farm at Mount Vernon, George III told the painter Benjamin West: "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." The British monarch may have wound up stark raving mad, but he knew a thing or two about the seductions of power.

We celebrate Washington today as the greatest of the founding fathers. But the fame he gained during his lifetime owed mainly to his willingness to relinquish the vast powers he had repeatedly been granted, and which were his for the keeping. That’s a rarity in the history of revolutions, in which the distance from liberation to despotism—from euphoria to terror—is usually short. The French Revolution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man. It very nearly ended in an extinction of those rights.

The uprisings now sweeping the Arab world threaten to retrace that familiar arc. Consider the irony of last month’s massive protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Until Egypt’s corrupt but tolerant monarchy was overthrown in 1952, the square was known as Midan El-Ismailiya after Ismail Pasha, the great 19th-century Egyptian Westernizer. It became Liberation Square only after Gamal Abdel Nasser’s 1952 coup, yet another calamitous revolution that began brightly with promises of democracy.

Now we’re being told that this time it’s different. A day after the demonstrators began to gather on Tahrir Square last month, an Egyptian friend of mine—a former independent member of parliament with close ties to the secular opposition—explained that difference: "It’s a revolution without papas," he told me. No Nasser, no Ben Bella, no Arafat, just ordinary people in their millions demanding their long-denied civil and political rights.

I’d love to think that my friend is right. And there’s no shortage of pop-political philosophy explaining how in our networked, horizontal, spontaneously organizing era of Facebook and Twitter, there’s no longer a need for credible leaders or effective political parties. Just click the install button on People Power 3.0 and the program will run itself.

Yet until technology recasts human nature, human nature will be what it always has been. And human nature abhors a leadership vacuum. When revolutions are successful, it’s not that they have no "papas"; it’s that they have good papas. So it was with Washington, or with Mandela—men of hard-earned and unmatched moral authority, steeped in the right values, who not only could defeat their adversaries but rein in the tempers of their own followers.

What happens when revolutions don’t have such leaders? The French Revolution is Exhibit A. Exhibit B might be Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution of 2005, which took place following the assassination of the charismatic former premier Rafik Hariri. Millions of Lebanese poured into Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square on March 14 to demand the end of Syrian occupation.

The Syrians obliged. Elections gave pro-Western groups clear majorities in parliament. The country seemed settled on a better course. In May of that year I went to Lebanon to see things for myself. "Wherever

I go here, the impression is of a people intent on making up for lost time, and determined never again to be dragged down by extremism," I wrote. "It is these Lebanese, one senses, and not Hezbollah, who are making the country anew, and who are doing so, at long last, in the absence of fear."

Re-reading those lines today, with Hezbollah in firm control of a puppet government and the various leaders of the March 14 movement murdered, dismembered or politically neutered, is enough to make me cringe.

But it’s also a useful lesson in the limits of the very kind of people power now being celebrated in Egypt. It’s not enough to be against, or to bring down, a hated regime. It’s not even enough to be for something, at least in the sense in which the Arab world now seeks a freer and more representative political dispensation. What’s required is the statesmanship that can give concrete form to a hazy political dream.

It would be nice to believe that this kind of statesmanship will emerge unbidden from decent quarters, which probably explains the fascination with Egyptian Google exec Wael Ghonim. But the perennial political problem is that good people usually lack political ambition. They cede the field to charlatans, romantics and jackals.

As Americans look at what is happening in the Middle East, it’s natural that their sympathies should lie with the demonstrators. Natural, too, is the belief that movements consisting mainly of oppressed people in search of a better life will lead to decent regimes that care for those people. And maybe that will turn out to be true.

But also true is that America’s revolutionary history was exceptional because we had a Washington while the French had a Robespierre and the Egyptians had a Nasser. We owe today’s Arabs our optimism, and the benefit of the doubt. They owe themselves the real lessons of our example.

Voir enfin:

 
The ‘Israel First’ Myth
Obsessed with the Jewish state, Mideast "experts" got the region all wrong.
James Taranto
The WSJ
3/1/2011

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, a brutal and continuing attempt to put down a rebellion in Libya, and varying degrees of unrest, sometimes violent, in Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Sudan and Yemen.

If only Israel would recognize a Palestinian state, we would have peace in the Middle East!

Ha ha. Hardly anybody is saying that now, but it’s worth remembering that it has been the accepted view among Mideast "experts" for decades. Israeli cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, who draws the syndicated Dry Bones strip, had a terrific one a few weeks ago. It showed a pair of such experts yammering, "Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Gaza," ad nauseam. In the second panel, the experts are shaken as a voice yells "EGYPT!" In the third panel, they stand silently, trying to make sense of it all.

Nick Cohen of London’s Observer, a rare British leftist who does not loathe Israel, confronts his ideological brethren in an excellent column:

To a generation of politically active if not morally consistent campaigners, the Middle East has meant Israel and only Israel. In theory, they should have been able to stick by universal principles and support a just settlement for the Palestinians while opposing the dictators who kept Arabs subjugated. Few, however, have been able to oppose oppression in all its forms consistently. . . .

Far from being a cause of the revolution, antagonism to Israel everywhere served the interests of oppressors. Europeans have no right to be surprised. Of all people, we ought to know from our experience of Nazism that antisemitism is a conspiracy theory about power, rather than a standard racist hatred of poor immigrants. Fascistic regimes reached for it when they sought to deny their own people liberty. . . .

Syrian Ba’athists, Hamas, the Saudi monarchy and Gaddafi eagerly promoted the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion], for why wouldn’t vicious elites welcome a fantasy that dismissed democracy as a fraud and justified their domination? Just before the Libyan revolt, [Muammar] Gaddafi tried a desperate move his European predecessors would have understood. He tried to deflect Libyan anger by calling for a popular Palestinian revolution against Israel. That may or may not have been justified, but it assuredly would have done nothing to help the wretched Libyans.

Cohen also claims that "the right has been no better than the liberal-left in its Jew obsessions. The briefest reading of Conservative newspapers shows that at all times their first concern about political changes in the Middle East is how they affect Israel."

Maybe he’s right–we haven’t been following British coverage closely enough to say–but here in America, the anti-Semitic canard that neoconservatives are loyal to Israel first has been disproved. Politico reported Feb. 3:

As Israeli leaders worriedly eye the protests and street battles in neighboring Egypt, they’ve been dismayed to find that the neoconservatives and hawkish Democrats who are usually their most reliable American advocates are cheering for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fall. . . .

In particular, neoconservatives such as Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Bush National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, and scholar Robert Kagan are essentially saying good riddance to Mubarak and chiding Obama mainly for not making the same sporadic push for democracy as President George W. Bush.

"If [the Israelis] were to say, ‘This is very worrying because we don’t know what the future will bring and none of us trust the [Muslim] Brotherhood’–we would all agree with that. But then they then go further and start mourning the departure of Mubarak and telling you that he is the greatest thing that ever happened," said Abrams, who battled inside the Bush administration for more public pressure on Arab allies to reform.

"They don’t seem to realize that the crisis that now exists is the creation of Mubarak," he said. "We were calling on him to stop crushing the moderate and centrist parties–and the Israelis had no sympathy for that whatsoever."

One can see why Israelis would be especially anxious about the outcome of the revolution in Egypt, the most populous Arab state and one that has waged war against Israel several times. On "The Journal Editorial Report" a couple of weeks ago, Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and a pro-democracy neoconservative, raised an analogy that seems to us pertinent:

There’s really been too much hand-wringing. Yes, there are a lot of ways this can go wrong. But, you know, I’m reminded that when the Berlin Wall came down, someone I admire, Margaret Thatcher, and her counterpart in France, Francois Mitterrand, were wringing their hands with the specter of a revived German threat in Europe. And President [George H.W.] Bush said: Look, let’s celebrate what the Germans have done, let’s embrace unity, and then we’ll have a chance to steer this in the right direction. . . .

Look, when the tide of freedom is sweeping, we should love it. And when it’s headed in the wrong direction, then we’ll have a lot more credibility to say, "Whoa, this isn’t freedom anymore."

We agree with Wolfowitz, but there’s a more sympathetic way of looking at Thatcher’s and Mitterand’s unease over German unification–one that ought to inspire some empathy for Israel’s anxiety. Germany was in their backyard and had waged a vicious war on both England and France just a few decades earlier. The same is true of Egypt today vis-à-vis Israel. And Egypt’s future is harder to predict than Germany’s in 1989, when most of the country was already stable, democratic and allied with the West. Regime change in Egypt produces uncertainty about the 1978 peace treaty, an agreement that is essential to Israel’s security.

On the other hand, we’ve long argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is largely a product of Arab dictators, a point even Thomas Friedman acknowledges in a recent column: "The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion." But Friedman still manages to get it backward:

If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner. Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won’t). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people’s priorities, which are for more schools not wars.

In truth, a more democratic Arab world–which is now a real possibility, though by no means a certainty–is a necessary precondition for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. On this point Friedman has long been obtuse. Nine years ago, he suggested the Arab states offer "a simple, clear-cut proposal to Israel to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse: In return for a total withdrawal by Israel to the June 4, 1967, lines, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the 22 members of the Arab League would offer Israel full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees."

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in a 2002 interview with Friedman, enthusiastically endorsed the idea, which Friedman started calling "the Abdullah plan." But as Friedman acknowledged in a 2009 column, Abdullah, who became king in 2005, "always stopped short of presenting his ideas directly to the Israeli people." That 2009 column included the latest Friedman brainstorm, "what I would call a five-state solution," involving the creation of a Palestinian state and promises by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia aimed at guaranteeing Israel’s security.

It was fanciful of Friedman to think that Arab dictators–whom he now acknowledges have depended on scapegoating Israel to maintain their hold on power–would have agreed to such plans. But what if they had?

A little history is perhaps apposite here. From Israel’s creation in 1948 until the 1979 Iranian revolution, Jerusalem had close relations with the authoritarian government of the shah. The current regime in Iran is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. It’s hard to see how Israel would be better off today if it had entrusted its security to the Arab dictators whose own people have suddenly made them an endangered species.

Two Columnists in One!

■"Paradoxically, a more democratic Iraq may also be a more repressive one; it may well be that a majority of Iraqis favor more curbs on professional women and on religious minorities. . . . Women did relatively well under Saddam Hussein. . . . Iraq won’t follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that’s the system many Iraqis seek. . . . We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq."–Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, June 24, 2003

■"Is the Arab world unready for freedom? A crude stereotype lingers that some people–Arabs, Chinese and Africans–are incompatible with democracy. . . . This line of thinking seems to me insulting to the unfree world. . . . It’s condescending and foolish to suggest that people dying for democracy aren’t ready for it."–Kristof, Times, Feb. 27, 2011

 (…)


Printemps arabe: Le renversement de Saddam a incontestablement aidé (Bush’s role is not unlike that of a midwife for democracy who helped to deliver it although by caesarean)

26 février, 2011
Mission accomplished (Bush)The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings… By advancing freedom in the greater Middle East, we help end a cycle of dictatorship and radicalism that brings millions of people to misery and brings danger to our own people. The stakes in that region could not be higher. If the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export. And as we saw in the ruins of two towers, no distance on the map will protect our lives and way of life. If the greater Middle East joins the democratic revolution that has reached much of the world, the lives of millions in that region will be bettered, and a trend of conflict and fear will be ended at its source… We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold. George W. Bush (Londres, 19.11. 2005)
Tant que cette région sera en proie à la tyrannie, au désespoir et à la colère, elle engendrera des hommes et des mouvements qui menacent la sécurité des Américains et de leur alliés. Nous soutenons les progrès démocratiques pour une raison purement pratique : les démocraties ne soutiennent pas les terroristes et ne menacent pas le monde avec des armes de destruction massive. George W. Bush (Congrès, 04.02.04)
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
And so the last remarkable month has been, in some ways, a vindication of neoconservatism’s core insight about the Arab world’s yearning for democracy; and a refutation of neoconservatism’s hubristic notion that another country, especially the US, could impose it. Which is really a vindication for Obama, whose own speech in Cairo echoed many of Rice’s themes. Iraq? Notice how the experience in Iraq was used by the Arab world’s tyrants – by Seif Qaddafi as recently as last night – as an example of what happens when Western democracy is installed: chaos, mass murder, and civil war. Tunisia and Egypt managed to cancel out Iraq. Andrew Sullivan 
On manifeste avant tout pour la dignité, pour le "respect" : ce slogan est parti de l’Algérie à la fin des années 1990. Les valeurs dont on se réclame sont universelles. Mais la démocratie qu’on demande aujourd’hui n’est plus un produit d’importation : c’est toute la différence avec la promotion de la démocratie faite par l’administration Bush en 2003, qui n’était pas recevable car elle n’avait aucune légitimité politique et était associée à une intervention militaire. Paradoxalement l’affaiblissement des Etats-unis au Moyen-Orient, et le pragmatisme de l’administration Obama, aujourd’hui permettent à une demande autochtone de démocratie de s’exprimer en toute légitimité. Olivier Roy
Tout se passe comme si les derniers événements en Tunisie et en Égypte marquaient l’actualisation du discours du Caire, en mai 2009, sur les valeurs partagées de l’Amérique et de l’islam. Au paradigme, un temps dominant en Amérique, de l’affrontement entre blocs civilisationnels, le 44e président américain a opposé l’idée d’une communauté de destin morale entre les États-Unis et le monde musulman, par rapport à l’extrémisme ravageur d’Al-Qaida. Jean-Pierre Filiu
Obama is too friendly with tyrants  (…) From 2005 to 2006, 11 contested elections took place in the Middle East: in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and Mauritania. These elections were not perfect, but the advances sparked unprecedented sociopolitical dynamism and unleashed tremendous pent-up desire for democratic choice. Photos of jubilant Iraqi women proudly displaying the indelible ink on their fingers after voting were followed by images of Egyptian opposition voters using ladders to enter polling stations when regime officials tried to block the doorways. Peaceful opposition groups proliferated in Egypt during the Bush years: Youth for Change, Artists for Change, Egypt’s Independent Judges and, perhaps the most well-known, Kefaya. That Iraq has held two genuinely contested and fair multiparty elections, on schedule, indicates that democracy is indeed taking root again there after 60 years of the most oppressive dictatorial rule. To be fair, Bush did back away from his support for Arab reform in his second term. But the image of his support stuck. Why has Obama distanced himself from his predecessor’s support for democracy promotion? One unsurprising outcome is that the regime in Egypt has reverted to wholesale imprisonment and harassment of political dissidents. Despite his promises of change when speaking in Cairo last June, Obama has retreated to Cold War policies of favoring stability and even support for "friendly tyrants." Far from establishing an imaginative policy of tying the substantial U.S. foreign aid to the region to political reform, the Obama administration has given a free pass to Egypt’s ailing 82-year-old autocrat, Hosni Mubarak. Last month when Mubarak’s regime extended the "emergency law" under which it has ruled for 29 years, prohibiting even small political rallies and sending civilians to military courts, Washington barely responded. (…) Democracy and human rights advocates in the Middle East listened with great anticipation to Obama’s speech in Cairo. Today, Egyptians are not just disappointed but stunned by what appears to be outright promotion of autocracy in their country. What is needed now is a loud and clear message from the United States and the global community of democracies that the Egyptian people deserve free, fair and transparent elections. Congress is considering a resolution to that effect for Uganda. Such a resolution for Egypt is critical given the immense U.S. support for Egypt. Just as we hope for a clear U.S. signal on democracy promotion, we must hope that the Obama administration will cease its coddling of dictators. Saad Eddin Ibrahim (15.06.10)
Le renversement de Saddam Hussein a incontestablement aidé les forces démocratiques dans la région à sentir que l’histoire est de leur côté et quand on m’interroge sur le rôle de Bush à cet égard je considère son rôle plutôt comme celui d’une sage-femme pour la démocratie. Rappelez-vous, des milliers, pas des centaines, des milliers, avaient travaillé pour la démocratie pendant les 40 dernières années dans cette région du monde, et Bush arrive dans ce jeu – et je suis heureux qu’il soit venu – et son rôle n’est pas très différent de celui d’une  sage-femme pour une région qui portait déjà en elle le désir de la démocratie et il l’a aidé à accoucher, bien que par césarienne. C’est probablement la plus proche, la plus frappante des analogies que nous devons employer. Lui en suis-je reconnaissant? Oui. Devrions-nous lui attribuer le changement démocratique de la région ? Non. Ce serait injuste pour les gens qui sont morts et les gens qui sont allés en prison et se sont sacrifiés pour les droits de l’homme et pour la démocratie. Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Pour ceux qui ont déjà oublié les dix élections multipartites qui, entre l’Afghanistan, la Palestine, le Liban, le Koweit, la Jordanie, le Yemen, l’Egypte ou la Mauritanie, ont suivi en moins d’un an celle d’Irak en 2005 …

A l’heure où, face à l’actuel carnage en Libye, le prétendu chef de file du Monde libre multiplie les atermoiements

Pendant que certains de nos commentateurs ont déjà commencé (mais le vice-président et ex-farouche critique de la guerre Joseph Biden ne s’était-il déjà pas approprié, pour l’Administration Obama il y a tout juste un an, le "succès irakien"?) à lui attribuer le crédit de l’actuel "printemps arabe" …

Retour sur  une interview de 2005 du célèbre activiste égypto-américain Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

Qui, contre les tenants tant de "l’exception arabe" que des bons sentiments, rappelait la longue mais oubliée tradition parlementaire de son pays comme les effets délétères de l’aide occidentale au Tiers-monde (quand elle sert de rente aux autocrates locaux pour remettre à plus tard toute réforme).

Et se payait le luxe non seulement  de prophétiser, cinq ans à l’avance, l’actuelle arrivée de la démocratie dans son pays et la région.

Mais, exception rarissime parmi les commentateurs arabes, avait l’honnêteté et le courage d’y reconnaitre la part de la sage-femme qui, certes par césarienne, en avait aidé l’accouchement

Extraits :

You have the Orientalists or some so-called Arabists, or area specialists who talk a lot about “Arab exceptionalism”: this idea that democracy cannot exist in the Arab world. Somehow the democratic changes that spread throughout the Third World starting in Portugal back in 1974, and then moved to Spain, and then to Greece, then to Latin America and back to East Asia and then to Eastern and Central Europe and what we social scientists called the third wave of democracy has not rooted itself in the Middle East. Of course, this third wave is now 31 years old and people wonder why has the wave not yet broken at the Arab shores?  And some people have said well, it’s Arab exceptionalism: that there is something about our culture, or Islam, which somehow defies democracy.  And of course a few of us who have been fighting for democracy in the region have taken issue with this kind of proposition. Arab exceptionalism? We are human beings like everybody else, and we can have democracy too.

Removing Saddam Hussein has definitely helped the democratic forces in the region to feel that history is on their side and when I am asked about the role of Bush in this regard I see his role are more like a midwife for democracy. Remember, thousands, not hundreds, thousands, have been working for democracy for the last 40 years in this region of the world, and Bush comes into this game—and I am happy that he came—and his role is not unlike a midwife for a region that was already pregnant with the yearning for democracy and he helped to deliver it, although by caesarean. That is probably the closest, the most vivid of analogies that we have to use. Am I grateful to him? I am. Should we give credit to him for democratic change in the region? No. That would be unfair to people who died and people who went to prison and sacrificed for human rights and for democracy.

You have to remember, Radio Free America helped deliver democracy and freedom to Eastern Europe and ultimately to the Soviet Union. And this has to be acknowledged that there is a role for the West and in the same way we have to give credit to the Bush administration and to the Europeans who have been really working hard for democracy in the Middle East.  (…)

They should be concerned, but from a distance.  If they move too close, then they will discredit us, the reformers and the human rights activists and those pushing for democracy. What we need for the United States to do now is to weaken their support for the tyrants: for the Mubaraks, for the Abdullahs. We can do battle with them on our own terms if they do not have the backing and support of the United States or other western powers. Look at Egypt: they get $4 billion a year, $2 billion from the United States and another $2 billion from Europe and Japan. This creates a rentier state where there is no accountability for the state to its people since it is supported from abroad. And they can get away with more. Of course, there should not be sanctions which only end up hurt the people. But the United States should condition its financial support for different countries on a timetable for genuine political and social change. Enable democratic forces to have at least a stable footing against the dictators. I don’t have access to a newspaper, the maximum number of people I can get in my Center is maybe 100 per week. So we need more support. But things are moving. Not as quickly as I would like, but gradually, and peacefully. And that’s important: we don’t want violent change—like what happened in Romania and Ceaucescu. The region has had enough bloodshed. So we want to fight our battles peacefully, and the United States and western powers can aid in this reform for greater freedom and political reform.  And I think within five to ten years there will be major reform.

The Prospect for Democracy in the Middle East:

A Conversation with Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Saad Eddin Ibrahim was arrested on June 30, 2000 and was convicted in 2001 on false charges that he embezzled funds and disseminated false information harmful to the interests of Egypt. Although sentenced to seven years, he was acquitted by Egypt’s high court in 2003. Described as the Andrei Sakharov of the Middle East, Ibrahim has been a tireless human rights and pro-democracy activist not only for his native Egypt, but throughout the region as well. He is also a scholar who has deepened the understanding of Islamic thought and its relationship to democracy, modernity and liberalism. A staunch critic of the notion of "Arab exceptionalism" prevalent in the West and the clash of civilizations thesis, he advocates a universalist conception of democracy and human rights.

Ibrahim is the founder and director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and is currently a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. He is also a candidate for president in Egypt. This interview was held in March 2005 in New York City.

——————————————————————————–

Q:  Hosni Mubarak has announced that there will be open elections in Egypt. I was wondering how you’d characterize these elections? Do they signal any kind of authentic political  change in Egypt?

A: They do, they signal at least a new direction and I am personally grateful this has  happened and while it is a baby step on a thousand mile journey, it is an important step.  As much as I criticize Mubarak, I have to give him credit when he does well and this is one of the rare good things that he’s done, after long protracted resistance. Until a month before his announcement he was saying there was no way that they would change the constitution to allow for contested elections. I don’t know how familiar you are with all this, but Egypt has had a constitution since 1971—which can actually be traced back 20 years earlier—which filled the office of the presidency not by contested election but with something called a “referendum” where only one name appears on the ballot and the citizens, if they care at all to participate, vote either “yes” or “no.” Of course, often people stay away and don’t even bother voting, and the ones who do go will usually vote “yes.”

That is why the state can always announce that Mubarak was elected by 99%, and of course in some cases 100%, of the voting population. Of course this was the same thing with Saddam Hussein. In Egypt, those who do vote have to provide their name and sign their ballot as well as provide their address.

So to allow at least some means to shape the process by which elections take place, by moving away from the referendum vote and toward contested elections, is, to me, a very important step, even though by any democratic standard it is a baby step.

Q: What do you think the reasons are for Mubarak suddenly changing his position and allowing contested elections?

A: Since I was released from prison I openly challenged the man. That challenge escalated about 5 months ago when I said if he dares, if he thinks he is popular, then let him run in a free and open election. I repeated that over and over and three other public figures followed me and declared that they would also run and they demanded that Mubarak debate with them.

So the four of us applied pressure and then the Parliament ratified the draft of the amendment to allow contested elections.  But you see, the idea is to break that barrier of fear that is ingrained in the Middle East—not unlike the way it was ingrained in Eastern Europe, in the Soviet Union, under totalitarian, authoritarian regimes—in which people live in fear and think that there is no alternative and that they have to subject themselves to a continuous system of oppression.

Now a few of us have dared to challenge that and to break that pattern, and some of us have paid the price for it. But we continue and I think I must say that over the last ten years it was a very confrontational struggle, the last half of which I was in prison, but it paid off and I think it was to signal to other Arab countries and other Third World. You can look at us as another Ukraine, another Czechoslovakia, another Georgia, another Poland, because these countries have gone through similar regimes of communism, even longer, for longer periods and have undergone even harsher political systems. So I am hopeful as an activist and I never will give up. And I see hope not only for Egypt but for the entire region.

Q: Does this mean a kind of expansion or a rebirth or even a birth of a kind of public sphere in Egypt? I mean will this lead to the level of newspapers, journals, the university system, the education system. Will this continue to spread?

A: It will. It is happening very slowly, but very steadily. I organized four rallies before I left Egypt and I think the first rally started with 100 people and the fourth one had a thousand people and now there are others organizing rallies and protests. This would have been unheard of two or three years ago, even one year ago, but now it is not. The first time there was a direct challenge to the regime happened only one year ago. The only kind of rallies that were allowed by the regime were anti-American and anti-Israeli rallies.

Q: And Mubarak has also opened new relations with Israel.

A: Yes, he did this when the US and Europe began making some noise about democracy in the Middle East. Mubarak thinks that if he defines his role in the Arab-Israeli conflict and if he mediates an Israeli-Palestinian deal, that somehow this will endear him to the West and get him off the hook and ward off the rising tide of resistance that is growing in Egypt.

Q: So should are we witnessing the beginnings of an authentic change in the region?

A: Well you have the Orientalists or some so-called Arabists, or area specialists who talk a lot about “Arab exceptionalism”: this idea that democracy cannot exist in the Arab world. Somehow the democratic changes that spread throughout the Third World starting in Portugal back in 1974, and then moved to Spain, and then to Greece, then to Latin America and back to East Asia and then to Eastern and Central Europe and what we social scientists called the third wave of democracy has not rooted itself in the Middle East. Of course, this third wave is now 31 years old and people wonder why has the wave not yet broken at the Arab shores?  And some people have said well, it’s Arab exceptionalism: that there is something about our culture, or Islam, which somehow defies democracy.  And of course a few of us who have been fighting for democracy in the region have taken issue with this kind of proposition. Arab exceptionalism? We are human beings like everybody else, and we can have democracy too.

Many people do not realize that Egypt, for example, had its first constitution and its first elected political party back in 1866—very few people recognize this or remember it. And we have had a liberal age from the middle of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th century, but because of the last 30 years, peoples’ memories—at least outside the region—have become tuned or conditioned to thinking that the problems in the Middle East must be a chronic condition, not that they are only 30 years old, and not realizing that the reason for the current state of the Middle East was first, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and two, the Cold War.

The Cold War made the United States and other western democracies look the other way when it came to political oppression and allowed them to deal with tyrants and dictators.  But even President Bush, with his limited reading of world history, or whoever writes his speeches for him, engaged in some courtesy of United States foreign policy in his big speech a year and three months ago. He said that for 60 years the United States and other western countries, sacrificed democracy for the sake of stability and for Cold War constituents. It was a big mistake, it was a policy that produced, in the long run, over 60 years, a lot of anomalies, including so-called Islamic militancy because religion became the only way to fight the tyrants and getting away with it. The state could not control hundreds of thousands of mosques and so the mosque became a platform. In as much as it was the case with the Catholic Church in Poland, it became a platform for dissidents who wanted to get away with opposition to Communism.

In the Middle East, the mosque has played that role. And of course the outcome of this was, among other things, 9/11. That the 19 people who perpetrated the attacks on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt–two countries that the United States has befriended—Saudi Arabia for the last 33 years and Egypt for the last 40 years is very telling. These are countries that the United States befriended and supported, backing tyrannical regimes. At the end of the day this produces human beings who are angry and hostile, not only to their own regimes, but also to the West which for so long has backed and supported these regimes.

Q: One of the other claims of the Bush Administration  is the role that the Iraq War has played in transforming the Middle East, that it has served as a catalyst for democratic change. What is your take on this?

A: Well, of course, the Bush administration—having failed to produce weapons of mass destruction or to establish a sort of a linkage between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda or 9/11—had to find something else to legitimize their invasion of Iraq, which, happily for me, is democracy. And I have to say that part of it, even though it is the wrong pretext for war, is the right thing for us: the democracy activists.

Removing Saddam Hussein has definitely helped the democratic forces in the region to feel that history is on their side and when I am asked about the role of Bush in this regard I see his role are more like a midwife for democracy. Remember, thousands, not hundreds, thousands, have been working for democracy for the last 40 years in this region of the world, and Bush comes into this game—and I am happy that he came—and his role is not unlike a midwife for a region that was already pregnant with the yearning for democracy and he helped to deliver it, although by caesarean.

 That is probably the closest, the most vivid of analogies that we have to use. Am I grateful to him? I am. Should we give credit to him for democratic change in the region? No. That would be unfair to people who died and people who went to prison and sacrificed for human rights and for democracy.

You have to remember, Radio Free America helped deliver democracy and freedom to Eastern Europe and ultimately to the Soviet Union. And this has to be acknowledged that there is a role for the West and in the same way we have to give credit to the Bush administration and to the Europeans who have been really working hard for democracy in the Middle East. 

Q: You’ve also done a lot of work on Islamic thought and you mentioned before that the history of democratic and liberal ideas in the Arab world stretches back to the 19th century. What do you see as the relationship or the affinity between these progressive ideas in Islamic thought, and those from western thought like the Enlightenment?

A: Like all relationships, you would find, in Islam, a lot of strain and at a defense of the alignment of political and intellectual forces anywhere, you can push the freedom which goes back to the Mutazillites in Islam. Most people don’t realize these were free thinkers, many of them were persecuted by Caliphs and they had to flee.  People like Ibn Khaldun himself, moving from one country to the other. So there is a conservative, reactionary strain in Islam that has always favored people in power. They will propagate a version of Islam that they push as the status quo, fueled with tradition, if you knew Arabic I could really say what phrase they use, and that is “to put up with a tyrant, is better than division.” So they call it in Arab tradition fitma the would rather put up with a tyrant that allows tradition (inaudible). And that would be the model of that strained conservatism. Don’t stand up to resist rulers because they may create division in tradition and they’ll set the Muslim nation, or the umma, back.

Q: But there is also a skepticism of reason, if one thinks of al-Ghazali for instance, of reason itself, a critique of the falsafa tradition which was promulgating rational interpretation of Islam and Islamic culture.

A: There were the three strains in Islamic thought, and now I will over-simplify. There were the free-thinkers, or the Mutazillites; a conservative religious strain that was favored by the Sultans; and there were the escapists or the Sufis and figures like al-Ghazali. These three strains have been preserved, and of course by the time you come to the 20th century you find again an attempt to revive the rationalist school with people such as al-Afghani and others. But very quickly they were marginalized.

Q: Why were they marginalized?

A: Because they were pushing for reform of Islam.

Q: It was political…

A: Yes. And this fits into what we are trying to do now at the Ibn Khaldun Center. We have one person there who is more of a Mutazillite, a free thinker—and he is now leading the movement for Islamic reformation. He has been influenced by many of the older thinkers from Islamic philosophy, that older current, but also from a more recent current, by thinkers such as Afghani and Muhammed Abdul.

The big discussion now is that Islam has not undergone a reformation. 

Q: So there are these two philosophical strains:  reason on the one hand and conservative reaction, fundamentalism, on the other. We could see a figure like Sayyid Qutb as a figure of reaction.  What is balance of power in terms of influence in the Islamic world between the two?

A: We are the weakest. Those that are calling for an Islamic reformation are by far the weakest.  However, our call is gaining in strength and there is a realization now that there is a need for an Islamic reformation.  Right now we have 30 Islamic thinkers who are meeting regularly, from Indonesia to Morocco. Our last meeting was in October, in fact.  The meeting was broken into by some reactionaries as well as state security thugs and was disrupted.  They accused us of being heretics and that we had no business talking about an Islamic reformation, that Islam had no need of reform. The very idea that Islam needs change or correction is an affront to them.

There is now one outfit in Washington called the Joint Symposium on Islam and Democracy, there is also the Ibn Khaldun Center in Cairo, and there are others as well. And we are trying to bring these people together into a network. So there is a movement which is gaining in strength. But compared to the other two forces of reaction, we don’t have the backing of the state and we have no access to mass media. The radicals can use thousands of mosques to preach, and the state can use the mass media, but we have neither so it’s a problem. 

Q: So according to this network of scholars—what exactly would a reformed Islam look like with respect to politics? In the west this began with the push for the separation of Church and State…

A: That is exactly what the Islamic reformers have enunciated. One cannot simply take from the west; the reinterpretation of Islam that is happening with this group of reformist scholars is also important. They are good Muslim scholars and can debate any technicality of religious law. They have come up with one important proposition: that freedom is a central Quranic value. From this, they are able to elaborate other values like equality, gender equality, human rights, democracy; for the separation between religion and the state. At the core of this is the idea that religion and the state corrupt one another—hence, their separation is vital for the survival of both.

Q: This was Luther’s argument as well…

A: Of course.

Q: One last question. What do you think America’s role in future should be in Middle East?

A: They should be concerned, but from a distance.  If they move too close, then they will discredit us, the reformers and the human rights activists and those pushing for democracy. What we need for the United States to do now is to weaken their support for the tyrants: for the Mubaraks, for the Abdullahs. We can do battle with them on our own terms if they do not have the backing and support of the United States or other western powers.

Look at Egypt: they get $4 billion a year, $2 billion from the United States and another $2 billion from Europe and Japan. This creates a rentier state where there is no accountability for the state to its people since it is supported from abroad. And they can get away with more. Of course, there should not be sanctions which only end up hurt the people. But the United States should condition its financial support for different countries on a timetable for genuine political and social change. Enable democratic forces to have at least a stable footing against the dictators. I don’t have access to a newspaper, the maximum number of people I can get in my Center is maybe 100 per week. So we need more support.

But things are moving. Not as quickly as I would like, but gradually, and peacefully. And that’s important: we don’t want violent change—like what happened in Romania and Ceaucescu. The region has had enough bloodshed. So we want to fight our battles peacefully, and the United States and western powers can aid in this reform for greater freedom and political reform.  And I think within five to ten years there will be major reform.

Voir aussi:

 Obama is too friendly with tyrants

Saad Eddin Ibrahim

The Washinton Post

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When a billboard appeared outside a small Minnesota town early this year showing a picture of George W. Bush and the words "Miss me yet?" the irony was not lost on many in the Arab world. Most Americans may not miss Bush, but a growing number of people in the Middle East do. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remain unpopular in the region, but his ardent support for democracy was heartening to Arabs living under stalled autocracies. Reform activists in Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and elsewhere felt empowered to press for greater freedoms during the Bush years. Unfortunately, Bush’s strong support for democracy contrasts sharply with President Obama’s retreat on this critical issue.

To be sure, the methods through which Bush pursued his policies left much to be desired, but his persistent rhetoric and efforts produced results. From 2005 to 2006, 11 contested elections took place in the Middle East: in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and Mauritania. These elections were not perfect, but the advances sparked unprecedented sociopolitical dynamism and unleashed tremendous pent-up desire for democratic choice. Photos of jubilant Iraqi women proudly displaying the indelible ink on their fingers after voting were followed by images of Egyptian opposition voters using ladders to enter polling stations when regime officials tried to block the doorways.

Peaceful opposition groups proliferated in Egypt during the Bush years: Youth for Change, Artists for Change, Egypt’s Independent Judges and, perhaps the most well-known, Kefaya. That Iraq has held two genuinely contested and fair multiparty elections, on schedule, indicates that democracy is indeed taking root again there after 60 years of the most oppressive dictatorial rule.

To be fair, Bush did back away from his support for Arab reform in his second term. But the image of his support stuck. Why has Obama distanced himself from his predecessor’s support for democracy promotion? One unsurprising outcome is that the regime in Egypt has reverted to wholesale imprisonment and harassment of political dissidents.

Despite his promises of change when speaking in Cairo last June, Obama has retreated to Cold War policies of favoring stability and even support for "friendly tyrants." Far from establishing an imaginative policy of tying the substantial U.S. foreign aid to the region to political reform, the Obama administration has given a free pass to Egypt’s ailing 82-year-old autocrat, Hosni Mubarak. Last month when Mubarak’s regime extended the "emergency law" under which it has ruled for 29 years, prohibiting even small political rallies and sending civilians to military courts, Washington barely responded.

Apparently the Obama administration thinks that strengthening ties with Mubarak will encourage Egypt to become more proactive in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But Mubarak has not advanced Israeli-Palestinian peace beyond what his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, accomplished in the 1970s, and the Egyptian leader has tightened his crackdown on Egypt’s brave young pro-democracy bloggers. Egypt is scheduled to hold two important elections over the next 18 months, votes that could well shape the future of democracy in the Middle East’s largest country and the region itself. What tone does President Obama want to see established in this volatile neighborhood?

Democracy and human rights advocates in the Middle East listened with great anticipation to Obama’s speech in Cairo. Today, Egyptians are not just disappointed but stunned by what appears to be outright promotion of autocracy in their country. What is needed now is a loud and clear message from the United States and the global community of democracies that the Egyptian people deserve free, fair and transparent elections. Congress is considering a resolution to that effect for Uganda. Such a resolution for Egypt is critical given the immense U.S. support for Egypt. Just as we hope for a clear U.S. signal on democracy promotion, we must hope that the Obama administration will cease its coddling of dictators.

The writer, an Egyptian sociologist and democracy activist living in exile, is a distinguished visiting professor at Drew University in Madison, N.J.

 Voir enfin:

L’Amérique se passionne pour le soulèvement arabe

Jean-Pierre Filiu

Marianne

 18 Février 2011

Cette semaine, Marianne laisse carte blanche à Jean-Pierre Filiu*. Pour lui, une grande partie des États-Unis, qui ne voyait jusque-là dans le monde arabe qu’une pépinière de terroristes, est amenée à revoir son analyse de l’islamisme. Loin du fantasme Ben Laden mis en exergue par les néoconservateurs, Barack Obama évoque une communauté de destin entre États-Unis et monde musulman. 

 

Marianne : Quel premier bilan tirez-vous des révolutions tunisienne et égyptienne ?

Jean-Pierre Filiu : Il faudrait être capable d’analyser ce qui arrive dans certains pays arabes, en se libérant de la grille fixiste qui enserre trop souvent nos raisonnements. N’en déplaise à tout ce qu’on est fondé à craindre, ce ne sont pas les islamistes qui tiennent l’agenda des révolutions en cours – et pas davantage leurs objectifs à long terme ne le déterminent. Que les islamistes soient un parti puissant et organisé (Égypte) ou un courant affaibli par l’exil forcé de son chef et le haut degré de laïcité de la société (Tunisie), n’a que peu d’influence sur les réflexes conditionnés d’une grande partie des Occidentaux… L’alternative « dictature ou islamisme », ici, n’est plus opérante, car le chaos, dans plus d’un cas, a été le fait du parti au pouvoir plutôt que celui des contestataires politiques. En outre, le contexte créé par les soulèvements égyptien et tunisien a suscité une dynamique qui n’est plus analysable avec les seules lunettes du passé. Les batagliya égyptiens ont mené, avec les voyous tunisiens encouragés par le régime de Ben Ali, des pillages, pour déstabiliser les révolutions. Par contraste, les islamistes sont désormais intégrés à des plates-formes où leurs revendications ne donnent pas forcément le ton.

M : Nous allons y revenir. Mais ce dégel arabe est-il une bonne nouvelle pour Al-Qaida ?

J.-P.F. : Non, tout au contraire, c’est une catastrophe. D’où le mutisme persistant de l’internationale terroriste. En moins d’un mois, tout leur arsenal idéologique s’est brutalement effondré. Les masses ne les suivent pas, elles réclament la démocratie, les élections libres et une fonction publique honnête – toutes notions qui, pour Al-Qaida, relèvent de l’hérésie ! L’autre pilier qui s’effondre pour l’organisation de Ben Laden, c’est l’idée que seule la violence pouvait venir à bout des dictatures soutenues par l’« ennemi lointain » américano-occidental. Cette débâcle stratégique n’empêche pas la centrale terroriste de rester aux aguets. On ne peut pas exclure d’ailleurs, de la part d’Al-Qaida, des provocations délibérées pour perturber et paralyser le mouvement démocratique. Pour l’heure, la Tunisie, qui est à la portée des maquis de Kabylie d’Al-Qaida, n’a été frappée d’aucune provocation, preuve de la désintégration des réseaux jihadistes.

M : Le monde né des décombres des attentats du 11 septembre 2001 s’achève-t-il ?

J.-P.F. : Oui, et rien ne l’illustre avec plus d’éloquence que le tour du débat aux États-Unis.

M. : Pour parler en termes géopolitiques, sort-on de la rumination chère à Samuel Huntington du « choc des civilisations » ?

J.-P.F. : En fait, le mouvement qui s’opère est plus vaste : Fukuyama et sa « fin de l’histoire » comme Huntington et son « choc des civilisations » sont deux modèles idéologiques également frappés de caducité. Tout se passe comme si les derniers événements en Tunisie et en Égypte marquaient l’actualisation du discours du Caire, en mai 2009, sur les valeurs partagées de l’Amérique et de l’islam. Au paradigme, un temps dominant en Amérique, de l’affrontement entre blocs civilisationnels, le 44e président américain a opposé l’idée d’une communauté de destin morale entre les États-Unis et le monde musulman, par rapport à l’extrémisme ravageur d’Al-Qaida. L’environnement médiatique quotidien des Américains a changé. Au lieu que passent en boucle des images de Ben Laden et de ses lieutenants dans leurs grottes, ce sont les jeunes internautes en pleine insurrection qui leur sont montrés, déclenchant chez eux une identification inédite.

M. : Il reste, malgré tout, une droite américaine nostalgique des anciens régimes…

J.-P.F. : Disons plutôt qu’une partie de la droite américaine, la plus proche des positions classiques des républicains, désapprouve le mouvement en cours. Mais l’Amérique dans son ensemble se passionne pour les révolutions arabes. L’éditorialiste Thomas Friedman donne largement le ton, dans les colonnes du New York Times, où il fait montre d’une empathie communicative envers la « do-it-yourself revolution ».

L’administration Obama, du fait de la dimension intérieure, a communiqué jour après jour abondamment, ce qui a pu donner une impression de « pilotage à vue » vis-à-vis du régime finissant de Moubarak. Reste ceci : la profonde division de la droite américaine, hésitante sur sa réponse idéologique, car écartelée entre deux postulats contradictoires. Aux néoconservateurs entonnant l’air du « on vous l’avait bien dit », et pour lesquels les changements de régime en cours doivent être interprétés comme une validation de leurs thèses, s’oppose une droite classique, moins idéologique, et pour laquelle Obama rentrera dans l’histoire comme le président qui, sans aucune contrepartie, a « perdu » Moubarak et a fragilisé la position des États-Unis au Moyen-Orient, à l’instar de Carter avec l’Iran du chah. Ces conservateurs classiques insistent volontiers sur le « lâchage » corollaire d’Israël, qui apparaît paradoxalement moins problématique à de nombreux néoconservateurs, tributaires d’un seul agenda : celui de la « démocratisation » universelle, « kantienne » en son principe et en son action.

M. : Quel vous paraît devoir être l’avenir de cette vague démocratique ?

J.-P.F. : En Egypte comme en Tunisie, le mouvement s’émancipe du déterminisme patriarcal. On n’est pas dans le « meurtre du père » mais dans son expulsion : on lui dit : « Dégage ! » C’est pour cela que la disgrâce de Ben Ali, célébré en 1987 par l’opposition comme par la population pour avoir renversé Bourguiba, est particulièrement éclairante. Nous assistons là à un tournant historique majeur : ni les Tunisiens ni les Égyptiens ne veulent substituer un lider maximo à un autre. Tout ce qui ira vers davantage de parlementarisme (une notion qui n’est pas étrangère à l’Égypte) et moins de présidentialisme apparaît porteur d’avenir.

M. : Est-il raisonnable de suspendre toute méfiance envers les Frères musulmans ?

J.-P.F. : On est en plein basculement d’une matrice vers l’autre. Les Frères musulmans, après tout, ont accompagné plus que suscité le mouvement. Subissant la nouvelle donne, ils ont été les premiers à chercher à négocier avec Omar Souleiman. En embuscade, ils ont un rival, le modèle turc d’un islamisme modéré, à l’aise dans la mondialisation capitaliste. Or, le modèle turc continue à profiter du repoussoir de l’armée. Comme il n’existe pas de réponse islamique sérieuse à quelque défi qui se pose à l’Égypte, les Frères musulmans peuvent y être tentés par une évolution « à la turque ». 

* Professeur à Sciences-Po et professeur invité à l’université Columbia, à New York. A publié Apocalypse dans l’Islam, Fayard. A paraître : La Véritable Histoire d’Al-Qaida, Hachette Pluriel, mars 2011.


Egypte: Cachez cette révolution que je ne saurai voir (No Iraqi revolution please, we’re French)

12 février, 2011
Aux armes citoyens (…) Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons! Hymne national du Pays autoproclamé des droits de l’homme
Pourquoi le Tiers-Etat ne renverrait-il pas dans les forêts de Franconie toutes ces familles qui conservent la folle prétention d’être issues de la race des conquérants …?Abbé Sieyès
On doit noter que le premier à prendre à son compte la coexistence en France de peuples différents, d’origines différentes, fut aussi le premier à élaborer une pensée raciale définie. Le comte de Boulainvilliers, noble français qui écrivit au début du XVIIIe siècle des oeuvres qui ne furent publiées qu’après sa mort, interprétait l’histoire de la France comme l’histoire de deux nations différentes dont l’une, d’origine germanique, avait conquis les premiers habitants, les « Gaulois », leur avait imposé sa loi, avait pris leurs terres et s’y était installée comme classe dirigeante, en « pairs » dont les droits suprêmes s’appuyaient sur le « droit de conquête » et sur la « nécessité » de l’obéissance toujours due au plus fort. Hannah Arendt
La Révolution française, après tout, a connu sa phase démocratique, puis terroriste, puis thermidorienne – sans compter, avec le culte de l’Etre suprême, son moment théocratique. Et si c’était cela qui se produisait, mais à l’échelle, non d’un pays, mais d’un monde ? Et si le même monde pouvait être le théâtre, au même moment ou presque, de révolutions spontanément démocratiques (Tunis), immédiatement terroristes (Téhéran) ou possiblement théocratiques (une Egypte où l’on ne barrerait pas la route, tout de suite, aux Frères) ? BHL
Vers une dictature intégriste en Egypte? Adler
Les masques tombent. Nos trois intellectuels dénoncent un éventuel extrémisme en Egypte mais soutiennent celui au pouvoir en Israël. Ils critiquent l’absence de démocratie dans le monde arabe mais s’émeuvent dès qu’elle est en marche. Leur priorité n’est pas la démocratie mais la docilité à l’égard d’Israël, fut-il gouverné avec l’extrême droite. Pascal Boniface
Avec la mesure et la lucidité qui le caractérisent, Jean-François Kahn écrit, ce lundi dans Libération : "Ne pas soutenir, ne pas applaudir l’insurrection démocratique en Egypte ou ailleurs s’apparente, même du point de vue de la laïcité, à une trahison". Celui qui s’était opposé (avec beaucoup d’autres) à la libération par la force de l’Irak – pays qui démontre aujourd’hui, que cela plaise ou non, qu’un peuple arabo-musulman peut accéder à la démocratie – veut croire que le risque d’une récupération islamiste de la révolution en Egypte ne vaut pas les réserves émises notamment par Alain Finkielkraut quand il dit: "Je suis fasciné, mais prudent". "Diaboliser a priori toute tentative de réintégrer l’islamisme politique à un jeu démocratique exigeant confinerait à l’aveuglement", assure le sermonneur centriste. Après tout, Barack H. Obama ne dit pas autre chose quand il laisse comprendre, appliquant sa politique d’apaisement avec l’islam politique, que les Frères musulmans, mouvement d’essence totalitaire, ont un rôle à jouer dans la reconstruction de l’Egypte. Pour ma part, autant j’approuve ceux qui, en Europe, soutiennent les authentiques démocrates de Tunisie et d’Egypte, autant je redoute ces belles âmes qui, au lieu de se taire, croient malin de justifier une place à l’islamisme. Il n’a vraiment pas besoin de ce genre d’encouragements.  Ivan Rioufol
Renforcez les forces armées, relâchez votre emprise, et il y aura un coup d’Etat. Alors vous aurez un dictateur, mais quelqu’un d’équitable. (…) Oubliez la démocratie, les Irakiens sont par nature trop durs.Moubarak (à une délégation de parlementaires américains, 2008)
 We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that’s the fate of the Middle East. They may be talking about democracy but they don’t know what they’re talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam. Mubarak (entretien téléphonique avec parlementaire israélien)
He had been a cruel and effective cop on the banks of the Nile, but the furies repressed in Egypt had come America’s way. The jihadists who hadn’t been able to overthrow Mr. Mubarak had struck at American targets instead. We must remember that Mohamed Atta and Ayman Zawahiri were bred in the tyrannical republic of Hosni Mubarak. (…) Several years ago, in the aftermath of the decapitation of the Saddam regime in Baghdad, the administration of George W. Bush had made a run at Hosni Mubarak: They wanted him to open up his country, give it a badly needed dose of reform. They had taken notice of the anti-Americanism and the antimodernism of his regime. He had belittled the Iraq war and declared it a project of folly. He had spoken openly of Iraq’s need for the heavy hand of a strongman. Democracy was not for the Arabs—not now—this autocrat of the barracks proclaimed. Mr. Mubarak waited out that American moment of enthusiasm. He appealed to his country’s nativism. He didn’t have to worry. The Bush administration would soon abandon its "diplomacy of freedom." It had done heavy, burdensome work in Iraq, and it would now leave well enough alone. Mr. Mubarak then smashed a nascent challenge to his tyranny: a fragile liberal movement whose name alone summed up the alienation between pharaoh and his people: Kifaya, "Enough!"  Fouad Ajami
Today, everyone and his cousin supports the "freedom agenda." Of course, yesterday it was just George W. Bush, Tony Blair and a band of neocons with unusual hypnotic powers who dared challenge the received wisdom of Arab exceptionalism – the notion that Arabs, as opposed to East Asians, Latin Americans, Europeans and Africans, were uniquely allergic to democracy. Indeed, the left spent the better part of the Bush years excoriating the freedom agenda as either fantasy or yet another sordid example of U.S. imperialism.Now everyone, even the left, is enthusiastic for Arab democracy. Fine. Fellow travelers are welcome. But simply being in favor of freedom is not enough. (…) As the states of the Arab Middle East throw off decades of dictatorship, their democratic future faces a major threat from the new totalitarianism: Islamism. As in Soviet days, the threat is both internal and external. Iran, a mini-version of the old Soviet Union, has its own allies and satellites – Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – and its own Comintern, with agents operating throughout the region to extend Islamist influence and undermine pro-Western secular states. That’s precisely why in this revolutionary moment, Iran boasts of an Islamist wave sweeping the Arab world. (…) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the U.S. helped keep European communist parties out of power, it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties – the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists – in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states. Charles Krauthammer
Once upon a time, a number of prominent liberals — among them Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid — thought it was a good idea to remove Saddam Hussein and supplant his Baathist rule with democracy.(…) By early 2004, almost all that liberal support had entirely dissipated, predicated on two developments. First, a presidential election was just months away and Bush’s war was no longer "mission accomplished" but turning into a campaign liability. Second, a resistance had formed under hardcore Islamists that was beginning to take a heavy toll on American forces. No WMD had been found, and it was now easy to suggest that one could withdraw support for building democracy in Iraq because two of the 23 writs for going to war were no longer operative, the effort was probably lost, and George W. Bush might well deservedly not be reelected. No matter. Bush pressed on. His polls sunk yet he was barely reelected. His ongoing "democracy" agenda got little support from those who once had enthusiastically praised the Iraqi adventure and had proclaimed their belief in universal human rights. Few came to Secretary of State Rice’s support when in 2005 she chastised Hosni Mubarak’s regime to grant fundamental rights. Fewer saw any connection between Saddam’s fate and America’s pro-democratic stance and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the fright of Mr. Gaddafi who gave up his WMD arsenal, or the sudden willingness of Pakistan to harness Dr. Khan. Instead, "spreading democracy" was seen by the left as a wounded George Bush’s quirky tic. His talk about "universal" freedom was ridiculed more as a manifestation of a sort of evangelical Christianity than genuine political idealism. Bush’s zeal for democracy, then, was orphaned: the right was now realist again ("they are either incapable of democracy or not worth the effort to implant it") and the left multicultural ("who are we of all people to say what sort of government others should employ?"). Note especially that Barack Obama, both as senator and presidential candidate, derided the war, declared the surge as failed, and wanted all troops out of Iraq by March 2008, regardless of the effect on the struggling Maliki government. That Bush also confronted Putin over the putdown of Georgia, allowed a plebiscite in Gaza, and warned of the anti-democratic tendencies of a Chavez or Ahmadinejad was drowned out by Iraq. Remember that these were the days of Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore calling for a right-wing fundamentalist insurgent victory in Iraq, and novels and films envisioning the assassination of George Bush. Victor Davis Hanson
Depuis la chute de la dictature de Ben Ali en Tunisie, les dictateurs et autres despotes arabes tremblent devant le vent de liberté, transformé en tempête. Les peuples arabes, compressés depuis des décennies, rêvent de liberté et de démocratie. Ils finissent, à tour de rôle, par réaliser le projet de George W. Bush, qu’ils avaient tant dénoncé. Mediarabe.info 

Cachez cette révolution que je ne saurai voir!

Alors qu’avec  la sortie forcée à la tunisienne de Moubarak par son armée le monde se réjouit de l’accès longuement différé du Monde arabe au "people power" …

Comment ne pas s’étonner de l’étrange silence radio, de nos médias comme de nos intellectuels, sur la révolution à part entière – certes assistée (merci qui?) et encore nécessairement balbutiante – qui a probablement en large mesure  inspiré celles-ci ?

Comment ne pas être surpris, du faussaire Enderlin à notre BHL national, de ces références insistantes à « la seule démocratie de la région » (ie. Israël) excluant précisément la 2e qui au moins depuis 5  ans et contre tant ses terroristes intérieurs que les manipulations de ses voisins, tente de s’implanter entre le Tigre et l’Euphrate?

Comment ne pas aussi douter de la sincérité de nos Pascal Boniface nationaux et de leurs applaudissements sélectifs (pour la chute d’un dictateur pro-américain mais pas celle d’un dictateur avec l’aide américaine) comme de leurs amalgames pervers avec l’intégrisme et l’extrémisme des partis israéliens  actuellement au pouvoir ou leur attribution de la furie khomeiniste aux complots comme aux guerres par Saddam interposé des seuls Américains ?

Comment ne pas voir la mauvaise foi de ces critiques  quand ils font mine de reprocher à nos Adler, BHL et Finkielkraut pour cause d’inquiétude au seul Etat d’Israël, leur compréhensible prudence suite à l’exemple iranien et face à l’évidente menace des Frères musulmans et de leurs complices à la Baradei tant contre les libertés publiques en général que celles de leurs minorités religieuses notamment chrétiennes ?

Comment ne pas voir en effet, quand on est soi-même issu d’une Révolution qui a théorisé la Terreur et la chasse au « sang impur (que nous chantons encore aujourd’hui quand nous ne l’imposons pas à nos derniers arrivés sur nos stades !) et même si on aurait pu souhaiter des mains autrement plus habiles que celles du Hussein pour tenir le forceps …

Qu’après s’être tant bien que mal sortis de la pensée magique et sacrificielle des temps préchrétiens via cet affreux hybride de judéochristianisme qui a pris le nom d’islam puis avoir plus récemment succombé aux tentations nazie ou socialiste

Ces peuples ont toutes les chances de  faire leur troisième et nécessaire révolution via (au moins en partie et à des degrès divers à l’instar notamment de cette révolution irakienne que personne ne veut voir si ce n’est pour en dénoncer avec raison le terrible traitement de ses minorités chrétiennes) ce tout aussi affreux hybride de "modernité" (la nôtre) et de restes d’islam qu’est l’idéologie islamiste?

 Adler, BHL et Finkielkraut anxieux face à la perspective d’une Egypte démocratique

Pascal Boniface

Affaires stratégiques

07 février 2011

Tout le monde devrait se réjouir de la contestation du régime répressif de Moubarak en Égypte. Mais la joie de voir la mise en place d’une véritable démocratie dans ce grand pays arabe est gâchée par une sombre perspective : la prise du pouvoir par les Frères Musulmans. Mais alors que The Economist qui n’est pas précisément un organe islamo-gauchiste se réjouit d’une révolte pacifique, populaire et séculière, trois des principaux intellectuels médiatiques français sont heureusement là pour mettre en garde les naïfs qui stupidement sont toujours prêts à applaudir à la chute des dictateurs.

Dans le Figaro des 29 et 30 janvier, Alexandre Adler est le premier à tirer la sonnette d’alarme dans sa chronique intitulée « Vers une dictature intégriste au Caire ? » dans laquelle il qualifie au passage Mohamed El Baradei, l’une des figures de proue de l’opposition à Moubarak de « pervers polymorphe ».

Alain Finkielkraut prend le relais dans Libération du 3 février. Il se demande si Mohamed El Baradei sera « l’homme de la transition démocratique ou l’idiot utile de l’islamisme » et doute de la possibilité de l’instauration d’un régime démocratique en Égypte à cause des Frères musulmans. Selon lui, il y avait une tradition démocratique en Europe de l’Est mais il doute qu’il y en ait une en Egypte. C’est faux et stupide à la fois. Seule la Tchécoslovaquie avait été une démocratie avant l’instauration du communisme en Europe de l’Est. Et il est curieux d’exiger le préalable d’une tradition démocratique pour une nation qui veut justement faire chuter une dictature. Dans Le Point (dont la couverture est sobrement intitulée « le spectre islamiste »), BHL avoue sa crainte de voir les fondamentalistes bénéficier de la chute de Moubarak avec la perspective d’une Égypte qui suivrait l’exemple iranien.

Ces trois intellectuels relaient en fait les craintes israéliennes face au changement politique en Égypte. Ce qui est assez amusant c’est que les mêmes qui ont dénoncé pendant des lustres l’absence de régimes démocratiques dans le monde arabe s’inquiètent désormais de la possibilité qu’il en existe. Cela ferait tomber leur argument de « Israël la seule démocratie du Proche-Orient » qu’ils psalmodient. Mais surtout cela pourrait signifier la mise en place de régimes moins accommodants avec Israël. Or c’est leur principale pour ne pas dire unique préoccupation.

Il n’est d’ailleurs pas étonnant qu’ils soient passés complètement à côté de la révolution tunisienne ; ils n’ont ni soutenu la révolte populaire comme ils ont pu le faire pour l’Iran, (la Tunisie n’est pas hostile à Israël donc on n’y soutient pas les revendications démocratiques) ni ne se sont inquiétés de ses conséquences comme ils le font pour l’Égypte (la Tunisie n’a pas un rôle clé au Proche Orient).

Ils font un parallèle entre la mise en place d’un régime répressif islamiste en Iran après 1979 et ce qui pourrait se produire en Égypte. Comparaison n’est pas raison ; si le régime des mollahs a pu s’imposer en Iran, c’est en grande partie du fait des craintes d’interventions extérieures américaines (et du précédent Mossadegh) et face à l’agression à partir de 1980 de Saddam Hussein, à l’époque soutenu unanimement par le monde occidental. Le sentiment de menace extérieure a largement servi le régime iranien pour se maintenir en place. C’est d’ailleurs une règle générale qui ne vaut pas que pour l’Iran.

Curieusement nos trois vedettes médiatiques qui s’inquiètent fortement de l’arrivée au pouvoir d’un mouvement intégriste religieux n’ont jamais rien dit contre le fait qu’en Israël un parti de de cette nature soit membre depuis longtemps de la coalition gouvernementale. Le parti Shass un parti extrémiste religieux (et raciste) est au pouvoir en Israël avec un autre parti d’extrême droite celui-ci laïc et tout aussi raciste, Israel Beiteinu. Ces deux partis alliés au Likoud essaient d’ailleurs de restreindre les libertés politiques et mettent une très forte pression sur les différentes O.N.G. de défense de droits de l’homme sans que nos trois intellectuels s’en émeuvent particulièrement.

Les Frères musulmans peuvent-ils prendre seul le pouvoir ? C’est fortement improbable pour ne pas dire impossible. Un gouvernement auquel éventuellement participeraient les Frères musulmans pourrait lever le blocus sur Gaza. Il ne se lancerait pas dans une guerre contre Israël du fait du rapport de forces militaires largement favorable à Israël sans parler de l’appui stratégique américain. Ce qui pourrait se produire par contre, c’est qu’un autre gouvernement égyptien soit moins accommodant avec l’actuelle coalition de droite et d’extrême-droite au pouvoir en Israël. Mais est-ce si grave qu’un pays démocratique d’une part ait une politique indépendante et d’autre part ne laisse pas carte blanche à un gouvernement de droite et d’extrême-droite ?

Les masques tombent. Nos trois intellectuels dénoncent un éventuel extrémisme en Egypte mais soutiennent celui au pouvoir en Israël. Ils critiquent l’absence de démocratie dans le monde arabe mais s’émeuvent dès qu’elle est en marche. Leur priorité n’est pas la démocratie mais la docilité à l’égard d’Israël, fut-il gouverné avec l’extrême droite.

Voir aussi :

 «Y a-t-il une tradition démocratique en Egypte ? Je l’espère.»

Eric Aeschimann

Libération

03/02/2011

Interview Inquiet de la montée de l’islamisme, le philosophe Alain Finkielkraut reste prudent :

  Mais où sont passés les défenseurs des droits de l’homme ? Que pensent-ils, ces intellectuels qui, au nom de la démocratisation du monde arabe, avaient refusé de condamner l’intervention américaine en Irak ? Nés du combat contre le totalitarisme soviétique, ces «néoconservateurs à la française» n’ont cessé de dénoncer l’islamisme ces dernières années, toujours au nom de la démocratie. Or, aujourd’hui, ils sont silencieux. Pas un qui n’ait appelé à soutenir les démocrates tunisiens et égyptiens comme ils le firent pour la Géorgie ou l’Ukraine. Pour Libération, le philosophe Alain Finkielkraut (1) explique les raisons de cette prudence.

Généralement prompts à soutenir les démocrates partout dans le monde, les intellectuels français restent silencieux devant les soulèvements des peuples tunisien et égyptien. Pourquoi ?

Je suis fasciné, mais prudent. Il y a un précédent : en 1979, en Iran, un dictateur a été chassé du pouvoir. Cela a donné la révolution islamique, dont tout le monde ou presque s’accorde à dire qu’elle est au moins aussi terrible et peut-être pire que le régime du chah par un irrésistible mouvement populaire. A l’époque, on a beaucoup reproché à Michel Foucault son enthousiasme trop hâtif. Raison de plus, aujourd’hui, pour ne pas se précipiter. Bien sûr, il y a quelque chose de merveilleux à voir un peuple se révolter contre un pouvoir autocratique et prédateur. Mais nous savons aussi que, pendant ce temps, les coptes sont en très mauvaise posture et que cela n’est pas le fait de Moubarak, mais d’une partie du peuple. Si les Frères musulmans devaient prendre le pouvoir, leur situation se détériorerait encore et le traité de paix avec Israël pourrait être dénoncé.

Les peuples arabes seraient-ils par nature incapables de vouloir la démocratie ?

En Egypte, les manifestants s’interrompent pour faire la prière. Cette révolte contient des potentialités libératrices. Mais Sayyid Qutb, mort en 1966 et qui reste la principale référence idéologique des Frères musulmans, dénonçait l’errance des incroyants, des juifs, des chrétiens. Il fustigeait aussi «cette liberté bestiale qu’on appelle la mixité» et «ce marché d’esclaves qu’on appelle émancipation de la femme». Si cette idéologie arrive au pouvoir, un mouvement démocratique aura mis fin aux libertés démocratiques.

Pourquoi vous méfiez-vous des révolutions qui font tomber les dictatures arabes, tandis que vous aviez accueilli dans la joie les révolutions qui ont fait tomber les régimes communistes ?

Parce que, dans les pays de l’Est, il y avait une tradition démocratique dont les intellectuels dissidents, notamment tchécoslovaques ou polonais, étaient les héritiers. Une telle tradition existe-t-elle en Egypte ? Je l’espère, mais je n’en suis pas sûr. Mohamed el-Baradei n’est pas le Václav Havel égyptien, car tout le monde sait, ou devrait savoir, que lorsqu’il était directeur de l’Agence internationale pour l’énergie atomique (AIEA), il a sciemment minimisé le programme nucléaire iranien et occulté certains documents qui compromettaient Téhéran. Mohamed el-Baradei a parlé des Frères musulmans comme de simples conservateurs comparables aux islamistes turcs de l’AKP. Or l’AKP doit composer avec les laïcs et ceux-ci ont, en Turquie, une force et une légitimité sans équivalent dans les pays arabes. En outre, la modération d’Erdogan [Premier ministre turc, ndlr] est toute relative, comme en témoigne son rapprochement avec l’Iran. El-Baradei sera-t-il l’homme de la transition démocratique ou l’idiot utile de lislamisme ?

1)      Dernier ouvrage paru : «L’explication», avec Alain Badiou, éditions Lignes. Lire aussi page 18

 

Voir également:

Avec les démocrates égyptiens

 Bernard-Henri Lévy

Le Point

10/02/2011

C’est étrange, ce besoin qu’ont certains de dire que les intellectuels seraient " embarrassés " par la révolution en cours dans le monde arabe.

Les intellectuels en général, je ne sais pas.

Mais pour ce qui me concerne, les choses sont assez claires.

J’ai salué, dès le premier jour, le vent de liberté qui a commencé par souffler en Tunisie, puis s’est déplacé vers l’Egypte et qui est en train de s’étendre au reste de la région.

Et je l’ai fait avec d’autant plus d’enthousiasme que l’événement sonne le glas d’un certain nombre d’idées reçues que je combats depuis vingt ans – à commencer par celle, raciste, d’une " exception arabe " rendant cette partie du monde rétive, par essence, à l’idée de démocratie.

La preuve est faite que non.

La preuve est faite que les différentialistes, culturalistes et autres défaitistes qui arguaient d’on ne sait quelle fatalité pour fermer à ces peuples les chemins de l’émancipation n’avaient, une fois de plus, rien compris.

Et il est, comme d’habitude, vérifié que la démocratie est un bien commun et que, partout, je dis bien partout, où il y a de l’oppression, de la servitude, des violations massives des droits, il se trouve des hommes et des femmes, en plus ou moins grand nombre, pour s’aviser de ce bien commun et en réclamer leur part.

Alors, après, l’enthousiasme n’exclut pas la lucidité.

Et la lucidité comme, d’ailleurs, la probité appellent, en la circonstance, plusieurs remarques.

1. Révolté ne veut pas nécessairement dire démocrate. Et le fait est qu’il y avait, place Tahrir, au Caire, parmi les centaines de milliers de citadins qui ont campé, pendant des jours, dans l’espoir de faire chuter le régime, des démocrates et d’autres – les Frères musulmans – qui ne l’étaient absolument pas.

2. J’ai souvent dit que le seul choc des civilisations qui compte est, au sein même de l’islam, le choc entre islam des Lumières et islam fondamentaliste, rigoriste, éventuellement terroriste. Eh bien voilà. Nous en sommes là. C’est exactement la situation qui prévaut dans l’Egypte d’aujourd’hui. Mais dire que l’islam des Lumières s’affirme, progresse, sort de l’ombre, ne veut pas dire, malheureusement, que l’autre soit vaincu ni qu’il faille désarmer face à lui. Les démocrates ont à se battre, en d’autres termes, non pas sur un, mais sur deux fronts. Non pas contre un ennemi, mais contre deux. Et je ne vois pas au nom de quoi il faudrait s’interdire de penser qu’ils ont à défaire Moubarak, d’un côté ; mais qu’ils ont à empêcher, de l’autre, les héritiers de Hassan el-Banna de profiter de la situation pour remplacer la tyrannie par leur propre ordre de fer.

3. D’autant que, dans ce jeu à trois termes, d’étranges alliances peuvent se nouer dont une, en particulier, suffirait à éteindre la flamme qui s’est allumée place Tahrir. Cette alliance, c’est celle de Moubarak et des Frères. C’est celle qui pourrait naître du dialogue engagé par le vice-président Souleiman, et béni par les Etats-Unis, avec tous les représentants de l’opposition – au premier rang desquels, inévitablement, les Frères. Et je ne vois pas en quoi ce serait être exagérément Cassandre que de redouter que la confrérie ne prenne l’avantage sur, par exemple, les mouvements dits du 6 avril ou Kefaya et que, se liguant avec le raïs et, surtout, avec son armée, elle n’éteigne en douceur l’espoir démocratique égyptien.

Alors, que peuvent faire les chancelleries qui observent, tétanisées, cette lueur qui se lève au sud ?

Elles doivent se convaincre, d’abord, qu’elles ont intérêt à la démocratie : prenez un traité de paix comme celui avec Israël ; signé avec un dictateur, il dure ce que dure sa dictature et, quand celle-ci chute, risque de tomber à l’eau avec elle ; ratifié par un Parlement légitimement élu, il survit aux changements de majorité, s’inscrit dans la durée, gagne en solidité.

Elles doivent résister, ensuite, au lâche soulagement que pourrait leur inspirer un accord entre les Frères et le régime : ce serait le replâtrage de la dictature ; ce serait la mise en selle d’une force dont seuls les irresponsables nous garantissent qu’elle a " mûri " et renoncé à la charia ; et ce serait la répétition, donc, de l’erreur commise, il y a trente ans, en Afghanistan, avec les talibans ; est-ce cela que nous voulons ?

Et rien n’interdit, enfin, de s’adresser aux différents acteurs qui – y compris, hélas, les Frères – émergent du mouvement et d’indexer notre soutien sur le respect, par eux, d’un certain nombre de conditions : l’engagement, justement, à ne pas remettre en question le traité avec Israël (que vaudrait une démocratie qui commencerait par rompre avec la seule démocratie de la région ?) ; la proclamation du principe de liberté de conscience et de culte (le sort fait aux coptes et, plus généralement, aux chrétiens n’est-il pas, dans cette partie de la planète, un bon marqueur de l’idée que l’on se fait de la tolérance ?) ; l’affirmation, enfin, de l’égalité des droits pour les femmes (elles sont, en Egypte comme ailleurs dans le monde arabo-musulman, le fer de lance des contestations – que vaudrait une avancée démocratique qui les verrait, à l’arrivée, plus maltraitées que sous la dictature ?

La révolution égyptienne est en marche.

L’aider à s’imposer est de la responsabilité de chacun.

Voir aussi: 

Pourquoi l’Egypte n’est peut-être pas la Tunisie

Bernard-Henri Lévy

Le Point

 03/02/2011

Bien sûr, il y a des points communs entre la révolution du jasmin en Tunisie et la révolte, aujourd’hui, de l’Egypte.

Le despotisme de Moubarak au moins aussi abject que celui de Ben Ali.

Le même mur de la peur qui tombe, les cent fleurs d’une liberté de parole tout aussi inédite et qui s’épanouissent un peu partout – ne disait-on pas, en Egypte, que le seul endroit où l’on avait le droit d’ouvrir la bouche, c’était chez le dentiste ?

La beauté de l’insurrection ; sa dignité ; cette chaîne humaine, par exemple, qui s’est spontanément organisée pour protéger le musée du Caire après que des pillards s’y étaient introduits.

La demande de démocratie; depuis le temps que l’on nous serinait qu’il y a des peuples ontologiquement étrangers à la revendication démocratique et qui n’y ont pas droit ! eh bien, la preuve est faite que non ; et elle se fait, cette preuve, au Caire autant qu’à Tunis.

Et je ne parle pas du malaise des grandes puissances, égal dans les deux cas : jusqu’à la Chine (qu’il faudra bien s’habituer à placer au premier rang des plus puissantes des grandes puissances) qui a bloqué le mot " Egypte " sur son réseau de micro-blogging Sina !

Reste que les situations ne sont pas, pour autant, les mêmes et que les différences, n’en déplaise à la pensée toute faite, l’emportent sur les points communs.

Moubarak, d’abord, n’est pas tout à fait Ben Ali et, despote pour despote, offrira une résistance plus coriace : en témoigne l’habileté diabolique avec laquelle il a, dès les premières heures du mouvement, retiré sa police, ouvert les portes de ses prisons et laissé la pègre déferler sur la capitale et terroriser les classes moyennes.

Le régime de Ben Ali, ensuite, était un régime policier quand celui de Moubarak est une dictature militaire : or les régimes policiers, avec leurs réseaux de mouchards, d’agents doubles et de flics infiltrés, tiennent tant que les peuples ont peur et tombent quand ils se révoltent ; les dictatures militaires, révolte ou pas, tiennent tant que tient l’armée et ne s’effondrent que quand l’armée les lâche.

L’armée égyptienne, justement, n’est pas l’armée tunisienne : elle fut l’accoucheuse du régime avec Nasser ; son pilier, sous Sadate ; elle est, aujourd’hui, au terme de trente années d’état d’exception, l’ossature, non seulement de l’Etat, mais d’une part de la société – l’imagine-t-on, cette armée, poussant Moubarak dans son avion aussi vite que cela se fit avec Ben Ali ?

La démocratie s’apprend vite ; rien ni personne, je le répète, ne peut faire qu’une société soit condamnée à la non-démocratie ; sauf qu’il serait absurde de nier que la maturité du peuple tunisien, sa culture politique, son niveau d’alphabétisation ne se retrouvent, pour l’heure, ni dans les zones rurales de Haute-Egypte ni dans la mégalopole du Caire avec ses quartiers à l’abandon où, comme à Choubra, au nord, des millions d’habitants ont pour seul horizon les 2 dollars par jour qui leur permettront de survivre jusqu’au lendemain.

D’autant que pèse enfin sur l’Egypte une hypothèque qui pouvait, en Tunisie, être tenue pour négligeable et qui est celle de l’islamisme radical : que les Frères musulmans du Caire aient été, jusqu’ici, d’une extrême prudence, c’est certain ; mais non moins certain demeure leur poids politique (en 1987, la confrérie fut le moteur de l’Alliance islamique qui, malgré la fraude massive, remporta 60 sièges au Parlement !) ; non moins certain est leur quadrillage des organisations sociales du pays (n’ont-ils pas, en mars 2005, conquis pas exemple la majorité des sièges dans le syndicat des avocats ?) ; certaine encore est leur présence, depuis le soir du 27, dans toutes les manifestations (comparez, sur les rares images qui nous arrivent à travers les réseaux sociaux, le nombre de voiles et de robes noires à leur quasi-absence à Tunis) ; et non négligeable, donc, est le risque de les voir ramasser la mise après la chute de Moubarak (avec la perspective d’une Egypte virant au fondamentalisme d’Etat et devenant au sunnisme ce que l’Iran est au chiisme…).

Tout cela pour dire que les révoltés du Caire n’ont pas un ennemi mais deux : Moubarak et les Frères musulmans.

Tout cela pour dire que ce n’est pas un événement qui advient sous nos yeux, mais deux : une révolution réussie à Tunis et une autre, au Caire, qui se cherche.

Et tout cela pour souligner que, pour penser ces événements, pour les concevoir dans leur singularité et les aider à accoucher, surtout, de la meilleure part d’eux-mêmes, il faut se débarrasser des idées toutes faites : à commencer par celle d’une " révolution arabe " unique, émettant sur une longueur d’onde unique, et qu’il faudrait, de Tunis à Sanaa en passant par Alexandrie, saluer dans des termes identiques.

La Révolution française, après tout, a connu sa phase démocratique, puis terroriste, puis thermidorienne – sans compter, avec le culte de l’Etre suprême, son moment théocratique. Et si c’était cela qui se produisait, mais à l’échelle, non d’un pays, mais d’un monde ? Et si le même monde pouvait être le théâtre, au même moment ou presque, de révolutions spontanément démocratiques (Tunis), immédiatement terroristes (Téhéran) ou possiblement théocratiques (une Egypte où l’on ne barrerait pas la route, tout de suite, aux Frères) ? Et si l’on osait, dans ce monde comme dans les autres, rêver de révolutions sautant leurs funestes étapes pour aller droit à un Thermidor heureux (aspiration, à l’heure où j’écris, des forces vives de la révolution en marche en Egypte) ? C’est une hypothèse. Mais qui a le mérite de dire pourquoi l’on se bat et contre qui.

Voir enfin:



 Egypt and the future of Arab democracy: Get rid of Islamists, and freedom will thrive
 

 

 

Charles Krauthammer

The NY Daily News

February 11th 2011

Today, everyone and his cousin supports the "freedom agenda." Of course, yesterday it was just George W. Bush, Tony Blair and a band of neocons with unusual hypnotic powers who dared challenge the received wisdom of Arab exceptionalism – the notion that Arabs, as opposed to East Asians, Latin Americans, Europeans and Africans, were uniquely allergic to democracy. Indeed, the left spent the better part of the Bush years excoriating the freedom agenda as either fantasy or yet another sordid example of U.S. imperialism.

Now everyone, even the left, is enthusiastic for Arab democracy. Fine. Fellow travelers are welcome. But simply being in favor of freedom is not enough. With Egypt in turmoil and in the midst of a perilous transition, we need foreign policy principles to ensure democracy for the long run.

No need to reinvent the wheel. We’ve been through something analogous before. After World War II, Western Europe was newly freed but unstable, in ruin – and in play. The democracy we favored for the continent faced internal and external threats from communist totalitarians. The United States adopted the Truman Doctrine that declared America’s intention to defend these newly free nations.

This meant not just protecting allies at the periphery, such as Greece and Turkey, from insurgency and external pressure, but supporting democratic elements within Western Europe against powerful and determined domestic communist parties.

Powerful they were. The communists were not just the most organized and disciplined. In France, they rose to be the largest postwar party; in Italy, to the second largest. Under the Truman Doctrine, U.S. Presidents used every instrument available, including massive assistance – covert and overt, financial and diplomatic – to democratic parties to keep the communists out of power.

As the states of the Arab Middle East throw off decades of dictatorship, their democratic future faces a major threat from the new totalitarianism: Islamism. As in Soviet days, the threat is both internal and external. Iran, a mini-version of the old Soviet Union, has its own allies and satellites – Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – and its own Comintern, with agents operating throughout the region to extend Islamist influence and undermine pro-Western secular states. That’s precisely why in this revolutionary moment, Iran boasts of an Islamist wave sweeping the Arab world.

We need a foreign policy that not only supports freedom in the abstract but is guided by long-range practical principles to achieve it – a Freedom Doctrine composed of the following elements:

(1) The United States supports democracy throughout the Middle East. It will use its influence to help democrats everywhere throw off dictatorial rule.

(2) Democracy is more than just elections. It requires a free press, the rule of law, the freedom to organize, the establishment of independent political parties and the peaceful transfer of power. Therefore, the transition to democracy and initial elections must allow time for these institutions, most notably political parties, to establish themselves.

(3) The only U.S. interest in the internal governance of these new democracies is to help protect them against totalitarians, foreign and domestic. The recent Hezbollah coup in Lebanon and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza dramatically demonstrate how anti-democratic elements that achieve power democratically can destroy the very democracy that empowered them.

(4) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the U.S. helped keep European communist parties out of power, it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties – the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists – in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states.

We may not have the power to prevent this. So be it. The Brotherhood may today be so relatively strong in Egypt, for example, that a seat at the table is inevitable. But under no circumstances should a presidential spokesman say, as did Robert Gibbs, that the new order "has to include a whole host of important nonsecular actors." Why gratuitously legitimize Islamists? Instead, Americans should be urgently supporting secular democratic parties in Egypt and elsewhere with training, resources and diplomacy.

We are, unwillingly again, parties to a long twilight struggle, this time with Islamism – most notably Iran, its proxies, and its potential allies, Sunni and Shiite. We should be clear-eyed about our preferred outcome – real democracies governed by committed democrats – and develop policies to see this through.

A freedom doctrine is a freedom agenda given direction by guiding principles. Truman did it. So can we.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com Charles Krauthammer‘s column, which appears on Fridays, is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Formerly a resident and then chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, he joined The New Republic as a writer and editor in 1981. He is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and The New Republic. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award for essays and criticism in 1984, the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 1987 and the Bradley Prize in 2004.

 Voir enfin:

Clueless on Cairo
Victor Davis Hanson
Pajamas Media
February 8, 2011

My Three-week Victory, Your Seven-year Mess

It is difficult trying to figure out what the left’s position is on democracy and the Middle East. Here’s a brief effort.

Once upon a time, a number of prominent liberals — among them Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid — thought it was a good idea to remove Saddam Hussein and supplant his Baathist rule with democracy. I say that with confidence since one can watch the speeches of the senators in question on YouTube debating the 23-writ authorizations to use force in October 2002, in addition to reading the New York Times and Newsweek editorials between 2002-3 of prominent liberal columnists. The New Republic stable of authors was particularly in favor of the Bush-Cheney "just war" to invade Iraq. Jonathan Chait (who would go on to author an infamous essay about why "I hate George Bush") and Peter Beinhart were especially hard on the fellow left for not joining the Bush effort.

By early 2004, almost all that liberal support had entirely dissipated, predicated on two developments. First, a presidential election was just months away and Bush’s war was no longer "mission accomplished" but turning into a campaign liability. Second, a resistance had formed under hardcore Islamists that was beginning to take a heavy toll on American forces. No WMD had been found, and it was now easy to suggest that one could withdraw support for building democracy in Iraq because two of the 23 writs for going to war were no longer operative, the effort was probably lost, and George W. Bush might well deservedly not be reelected.

No matter. Bush pressed on. His polls sunk yet he was barely reelected. His ongoing "democracy" agenda got little support from those who once had enthusiastically praised the Iraqi adventure and had proclaimed their belief in universal human rights. Few came to Secretary of State Rice’s support when in 2005 she chastised Hosni Mubarak’s regime to grant fundamental rights. Fewer saw any connection between Saddam’s fate and America’s pro-democratic stance and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the fright of Mr. Gaddafi who gave up his WMD arsenal, or the sudden willingness of Pakistan to harness Dr. Khan.

Instead, "spreading democracy" was seen by the left as a wounded George Bush’s quirky tic. His talk about "universal" freedom was ridiculed more as a manifestation of a sort of evangelical Christianity than genuine political idealism. Bush’s zeal for democracy, then, was orphaned: the right was now realist again ("they are either incapable of democracy or not worth the effort to implant it") and the left multicultural ("who are we of all people to say what sort of government others should employ?").

Then And Now

Note especially that Barack Obama, both as senator and presidential candidate, derided the war, declared the surge as failed, and wanted all troops out of Iraq by March 2008, regardless of the effect on the struggling Maliki government. That Bush also confronted Putin over the putdown of Georgia, allowed a plebiscite in Gaza, and warned of the anti-democratic tendencies of a Chavez or Ahmadinejad was drowned out by Iraq. Remember that these were the days of Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore calling for a right-wing fundamentalist insurgent victory in Iraq, and novels and films envisioning the assassination of George Bush.

Fast forward to the presidency of Barack Obama. I think it is fair to suggest that all talk about promoting democracy was dropped entirely, and for three reasons: anything Bush had promoted was de facto tainted ("reset"); Obama’s multiculturalism accepted that all indigenous governments were more authentic than an imported Western democracy (cf. his silence over the brutal putdown of the Iranian dissidents); Obama was busy courting China and Russia, two authoritarian and powerful governments that could complicate any pro-democracy pressure on lesser states.

Better to Be Enemies

I note in passing once more that when it was a question of "tilting," Obama usually seemed more fond of the anti-democratic than the democratic alternative: Syria and Iran were courted, Israel was snubbed; Colombia was ignored, Cuba and Venezuela got "outreach"; Eastern Europe was taken for granted, autocratic Russia was romanced. In short, whether because of Pavlovian anti-Bush tendencies, multicultural preference for authentic indigenous leadership, or wishing a stage for the postracial, postnational Obama to charm our enemies and achieve a "breakthrough," Obama cared little at all about promoting human rights (note that all Obama’s once shrill civil rights bluster about Guantanamo, tribunals, renditions, preventative detention, the Patriot Act, Iraq, and drone attacks was dropped — on the cynical but correct premise that the left would still idolize a President Obama even if he parroted Dick Cheney).

Back to Egypt

All of which brings us to Egypt. I think it would also be fair to say that the administration has been caught entirely surprised. Far from being a sort of national liberationist of the left, Obama is simply confused — his advisors now telling him that Mubarak must go, that he must go sometime, that the demonstrators are genuine democratic patriots, that they are dupes who will be pushed aside by the Muslim Brotherhood, which itself is either sinister or in fact reformed and a possible future US partner.

In turn, the president seems to voice the last advice he was given, and so we are to assume two things: one, his make "no mistake about it" declaration will change and soon be rendered obsolete as conditions on the ground in Egypt change; two, he will artfully inject himself into the breaking news by the overuse of the now accustomed "I, my, mine" as he is self-constructed to be the catalyst for all that is becoming good and a long harsh critic of all that is turning bad. In other words, Obama will talk far too much and seek to turn someone else’s revolution into a showcase of his own rhetoric. And in adolescent fashion, Obama will reveal private conversations he has had with Egyptian leaders, both breaking confidentiality and portraying his interlocutors as either agreeing with his own advice or nodding to his dictates and directives.

What do I derive from all this? Hillary was right about her 3AM slur, and Obama is acting as any 2-year Senate veteran might in such a crisis. There is no consistent support from the left for democracy movements overseas. Strongmen like Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad, and Assad are weirdly seen as either untouchable or genuine in a way a Mubarak or a Jordanian king is not. And the latter are vulnerable only when it looks like they may fail; if they seem stable, we hear not a peep from Obama about their human rights records.

In short, the left has not yet sorted out its adherence to multiculturalism and its supposed support for human rights, which are usually antithetical. It apparently believes that any pro-democratic criticism of Obama’s tepidness is not worth the damage that might accrue to his agenda of universal healthcare, more entitlements, and left-wing domestic appointments. Whereas on the right there are three fissures over Egypt — neocon support for the protestors, realist support for Mubarak to keep a lid on things and change slowly, isolationist desires to keep the hell out of another costly obligation — on the left these days it is basically trying to explain post facto Obama’s herky-jerky policies as coherent, successful, and idealist.

Predictions? I think unfortunately we may go the 1940s "we can work with Mao"/1970s "no inordinate fear of communism"/2000s "jihad can mean a personal struggle" route, where liberals believe that totalitarian nationalists somehow admire the American Revolution and our lack of a colonial heritage, and, as closet moderates, wish to work with us. That translates into a backdoor courtship with the Muslim Brotherhood, in the fashion we did with Khomeini, and ends in a decade or so with a Sunni Ahmadinejad and the betrayal of the present protestors — again, in the manner we did the Iranian moderate reformers in 1979-80 and again in 2009.

How odd that in support of the brave secular protestors in the streets of Cairo, we are already talking about not demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood — the existential enemies of every idealist now trying to win a free society from Mubarak, the dictator/non-dictator who must go now!, very soon, after he transitions a new government in the summer, when a new president is elected in the fall, or, as future events dictate, not at all.


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