TCS Daily


Reality TV

By Chresten Anderson - March 13, 2003 12:00 AM

In the UN Security Council the debate is raging over the Iraqi dictator: Should a US-led coalition invade and forcefully disarm, and possibly retire, Saddam Hussein? World opinion is split between the voices arguing for military action, led by US President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and those arguing for peace at any cost, led by French President Jacques Chirac and Germany's Gerhard Schröder. That is the picture in the media, or in any case the media picture seen from Denmark.

But what this picture fails to show is what is really going on. The so-called 'war' coalition is the voice of action, the voice of freedom and prosperity. For the road taken by the French, Germans, Russians and Chinese is not the road of peace, as they would have us believe. It is but the road of inaction, the road of the status quo, the road of continuous sanctions, the road of illiteracy for Iraqi youth, the road of starvation for the Iraqi people, the road of dying children.

But these images are seldom shown on TV. And the unholy alliance of Saddam and Chirac and friends wants to keep it that way.

Saddam wants to appear as a powerful and benevolent ruler to his people. In the Iraqi government-controlled media he is the benevolent ruler, the bureaucrat-god who makes everything good. Chirac and friends don't want the real story out because then he could suddenly be blamed for death, destruction and poverty. Suddenly the question would be one of how to assist the Iraqi people, and to end their suffering. After 12 years of embargos, how many Iraqis have suffered and died? And how much longer do we want this to go on?

France and its allies neglect to set a deadline, but are instead playing into Saddam's game. A game he masters, the one where he does nothing and yet still gets more time. Saddam doesn't care about the sanctions; he doesn't care about the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Neither do Chirac, Schröder or Putin, for that matter. All they care about is not being blamed for the TV-images that are going to roll across TV-screens on CNN, and the strong reactions they will cause among the large Muslim minorities in their countries, or the outrage it will provoke among the political grassroots or anti-American groups such as Greenpeace.

The French and Russian opposition is strengthened by the fact that, even as permanent members of the UN Security Council, they are incapable of taking on Saddam Hussein by themselves. And if they can't then surely the US shouldn't be allowed to either. Both nations live in their past glory of being major global powers. The only reminiscence of this bygone era is their permanent membership of the Security Council.

And so it is with most of the opponents of action in Iraq; they are opposed to it, not because of the suffering it will cause the Iraqi people, but because of domestic politics. Because they don't want to be blamed for a single death, even though their inaction starves and kills the Iraqi people every day.

When a regime blatantly violates international law, suppresses freedom, starves its people, constitutes a major threat to its neighbors, repeatedly shows its willingness to be the aggressor, then it is time to act.

Even if President Bush's intentions are not the most noble in the world, the chance of bringing peace and prosperity to a people that has suffered for far too long is so valuable that it cannot and should not be passed by, just because some politicians want to get re-elected.

Chresten Anderson is a student of political science at the University of Copenhagen.
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