July 26, 2004
Surprising views of Iraq from the French pressBy Olivier Guitta
Here are some very positive stories and op—eds concerning Iraq recently found in the French press.
1. America that we love to hate, by Bruno Tertrais in Le Figaro
Bruno Tertrais, in a very refreshing op—ed, builds a case defending the Bush administration from the hysteria and lies present in France. First, he starts off by establishing the most common view in France: 'The Bush administration is composed of dangerous and corrupted cheaters who took power illegitimately in November 2000.' Tertrais explains that this visceral hate of the US, and especially of Bush, pushed most in France to accept lies as facts as long as they were confirming their views.
But Tertrais makes a methodical review of the myths and facts. First, there was no state lie: Bush did not lie on purpose to the American people and world opinion concerning Iraq. All testimonies point out that the fear of WMD was real inside the Administration. Considering Saddam's past history with WMDs and UN reports in 1998, it was very logical to assess that Iraq was still in possession of forbidden weapons. The CIA's mistake was to present a 'slam dunk' case while truth was more complex.
Secondly, regarding the Niger uranium claim which President Bush mentioned in his State of the Union speech in January 2003, Tertrais underlines that the British Judge Hutton showed that this fact was indeed included in some British Secret Service MI6 reports. The Iraqi officer who supplied this information is of good faith and clearly identified. So in this matter, mistake, maybe, but again NO LIE.
Then Tertrais reminds us that Iraq really was pursuing a ballistic missile and biological weapons program. It is false to say that nothing was found in Iraq. From the Kay report, people only remember the sentence: 'We were all wrong,' whereas it is filled with facts proving Iraq's numerous lies. Even if the threat was not imminent, the Bush administration's case was really based on the idea that the US could not afford to wait for a threat to materialize to act. So once again, NO LIE.
Concerning the Iraq—Al Qaeda link, let's remember that the Bush Administration never said that Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks. So, even if there is still a controversy about the factual links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, Bush did not lie and never based his case for war on this premise. Nonetheless, Iraq's current Prime Minister Allawi affirmed in June that Saddam's regime had extensive contacts with al Qaeda.
Another canard is that the Bush administration is controlled by neo—cons. None of the top five people in the government —— Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld —— is a neo—con. Neo—cons have been also critical of some Bush policies concerning the non—preparedness of the after—war in Iraq, and of Saudi Arabia's relationship with our country. There is no neo—con conspiracy behind the Iraq campaign.
Last, regarding the commercial contracts in Iraq, it is not totally illogical that they were given to the leaders in their field: i.e. Halliburton for oil services and Bechtel for construction. Of course it is not surprising that Bush has had deep connections to these firms considering his background.
Finally, Tertrais concludes that even though there are plenty of reasons to criticize the US regarding Iraq, it is unfair to add wrong ones. Bush's enemies in the US and France are guilty of precisely what they accuse Bush of: lying to advance their political agenda. In their case, everything is good, even lies or half—truths to present Bush as the devil himself.
2. Young new proud recruits determined to fight terrorism in Le Monde
On Al Tahrir (Liberation) square in Baghdad, two gigantic billboards invite Iraqis to join the police. 'Iraq needs you' is the slogan. The recruiting center is administered by the British while the actual training is done by Americans. Since January 2,650 police officers graduated from groups with evocative names: Liberation, Future, Generosity, Progress. The number of women is rapidly growing: from one in the first batch to 66 in the latest. As Samira Mehsen, one of the female officers, said, 'We are determined to defend our homeland and rebuild a new civilized democratic and free Iraq respecting human rights.' Another female recruit adds, 'NO, we are not afraid of terrorist acts and bombs, otherwise we would not be here; we are not afraid of terrorists because we do not want to go back to the old regime where women had no rights. For this, everybody needs to help us serve our country and put it back in shape.'
Another recruit very happy to have found a job where he can serve his country, Ali Zeghaer, states that, 'We are courageous and resolute to fight against crime and terrorism, this new world plague.'
One of the more senior police officers already working under Saddam, Jamal Taleb Said explains that the American presence does not bother him. He adds, 'They are here to help us. There is no reason to be troubled because they are efficient and nice.' Even though the police's motto 'Serve everybody' remains the same as under Saddam, the spirit is not at all the same.
3. Iraq: One year of progress by Kendal Nezan in Liberation
Nezan, President of the Kurdish Institute in Paris, wrote in an op—ed about the major improvement in Iraq. Here is a summary of what he had to say:
In the past year, Kurdistan became a beacon of stability, prosperity and freedom. All kids go to school, four universities sprang up where 40% of the students are girls. Thanks to the 3 billion USD granted by the US to Kurdistan, the Kurdish economy is booming. Wages have in average been multiplied by ten, inflation is moderate and unemployment is almost zero. Health expenditures have been multiplied by 30 and infantile mortality has plummeted, thanks to a massive vaccination campaign. Water, oil and power have been restored to good levels. Kurds have never been freer and we are grateful to the Coalition for their efforts.
It is troubling that most positive stories about Iraq do not make it to the US media, which rather likes to depict the US action as negative, unfruitful and unpopular in the Iraqi street.
Thanks to the French press, which we cannot accuse of being pro—Bush, to say the least, we get access to another version of what is really happening in Iraq. And it feels good to also see the benefits of the US intervention in Iraq.