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Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 09:34 GMT
Iraq: Global phone-in
Is war inevitable? What should replace the current regime in Iraq?
BBC News Online, BBC World Service Radio and American National Public Radio stations brought together opinions from around the world in a global interactive phone-in from London on Saturday, 15 February.
Listeners were able to share their views and experiences on Iraq, the weapons inspections and the war on terror.
BBC and NPR foreign correspondents from around the globe joined the debate.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Osuyi Eguakun, The Gambia
There is a potentially more dangerous development. Belgium, France and Germany opposing security assistance to Turkey in case of war against Iraq. Not that any of those three countries is a major military power, but still, it's the first major rift within Nato which puts in question its ability to deter.
If the hundreds of UN inspectors cannot find the so-called hidden weapons of Iraq, what makes you think the US can target them effectively if war begins?
I would like to ask Blair and the warmongers one question. Could you personally kill a child standing in front of you now on the evidence provided? If the answer is no, which it must be, how can you ask our armed forces to do this for you, as is inevitable?
America (and to a lesser extent Britain) are acting as the judge and jury in this situation. What is the point of the UN if it is not a "democratic" institution and why should America alone have the right to decide who has and who sells weapons? There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a despicable tyrant, but is it not for the people of Iraq at the least or his neighbours at best to decide on his replacement? For a so called God fearing country you would think that they would remove the moat from their own eye first!
The world community has an obviously awkward relationship with the US. Nobody doubts that Saddam's up to something, the US and other Western countries supplied the regime with this power. War in Europe is viewed differently in Europe, naturally. But, if the US symbolizes the Western world and is first on the list to be attacked and has the most resources to counter-attack, what would the international community have it do. Wait to see whether sanctions and more lies continue not to work? Let's create more rules for that to guy break, bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem will go away. How would France feel if Paris were considered a target? Berlin? Bashing the US, while it's convenient and often justified, is not an answer.
Don Barzini, NYC, USA
Why do things have to be resolved the hard way? why does the word "war" have to come into everything? To assume something does not mean that there is evidence to it. America will not only destroy the 'weapons of mass destruction' but also dispose of the hundreds of thousands of women, children and men.
The UK took a decade-old grad thesis and pretended it was "evidence." The US took satellite photos of trucks and claimed they were "mobile labs." Now the US has put major cities on orange and red alert - just in time for a provocative act that will give them the excuse to launch the war that they have been planning since 2000. What difference does the evidence make?
If the 'peace at any cost' lobby were capable of looking at the Iraq issue in an objective manner, instead of spewing out mindless slogans, they would see that the war is against the abhorrent regime there and not against the Iraqi people.
Yes, there will be civilian as well as military casualties. That's what happens in war. But the Iraqi people themselves will welcome their freedom, as did the Afghans and Kosovans before them.
I think the sooner we lance the boil that is Hussein the safer we will all be.
Those that keep mentioning the UN as our guide. It's the UN that blame the US for every problem in the world yet we contribute billions of aid around the world. We make our own decisions not with those that have their own motives. France sent Saddam Uranium in the last 10 years and Germany sent Scientists. France was guilty in 1998 of tipping off the Iraq's 24 hours prior to inspectors coming. How is they seem to know this time again. (France) Why? Finiancial contracts. Russia is an old ally and Iraq owes them Billions.
Colin Powell's "evidence" convinced me that the UN should
increase the number of inspectors, observation from above
and communication between the two until Iraq can be
safely disarmed of weapons of mass destruction. Bombs and war are not the answer. Saddam is not the only resident of Iraq. What happens when biological weapons are
hit by bombs?
Mark, New Jersey, USA
Isn't this about the US vs Iraq? Why should any other country get involved? Let the US show real leadership, and take full responsibility for the consequences of going to war.
The reason the US is concentrating on Iraq is that it does not want to deal with the North Korean problem right now. North Korea has threatened to use nuclear weapons in front of the world and defied US openly but the US is not in a position to deal with them or intimidate them and any attempt to do so might cause great embarrassment. Saddam is a safer bet, he is weaker, does not threaten so much and certainly does not have nuclear weapons. Without this context the US/UK logic or excuse of dealing with them one by one holds not much rationale.
Jonathan Tsou, Chicago USA
One thing is quite clear: People have very short memories. A year ago nobody even thought of Iraq, and now nobody remembers bin Laden - a case of government manipulation maybe?
Saddam is special because he could, with the proper weapons, take control of a large percentage of the oil reserves in the region and threaten western democracies. At that point Saddam would certainly become another Stalin, who Saddam directly models himself after. Now is the time to destroy Saddam and lift the Iraqi people out of their oppression so they can govern themselves in peace.
Yes, I'm sure Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. It was supplied with them by the western countries to fight Iran way back in the eighties. I'm also quite convinced that it deceives the UN.
But I'm also quite convinced that building up dictators and destroying them when they aren't needed any more, doesn't give people in the Middle East and elsewhere confidence in the politics of the free democracies. More likely the effect will be hostility, more fundamentalism and more terrorism.
Those who feel it is a US obligation to provide highly classified information to the UN need to think about those who risk their lives giving it. Why does Iraq seem to know where the inspectors go before hand? Wiretaps? Moles? Lose lips in the UN?
Information we give to the UN tends to somehow slip into Saddam's fingers, and when that happens he will kill those he deems as traitors. People will die and we will lose sources of information.
Imagine the job Powell and his buddies had in sifting out intelligence that would convince but would not risk the above situations.
If the military action in Iraq is intended as a start of a grand plan aimed at sweeping away all autocratic regimes throughout the Middle East and beyond within a decade or so, I can't wait for that to happen. The biggest frustration for me will certainly be, if it turns out to be just another chapter in the struggle for oil, or just an irrational crusade of some Christian zealots, as some sceptics suggest.
True, there is no 'smoking gun' here. But let the facts speak. Saddam did use chemical weapons against the Kurds many years ago. We've seen the pictures. He chased the UN inspectors out in 1995, presumably because they did find some incriminating evidence or they were getting too close to the truth. Over the last six years, isn't it believable that this man would most likely have continued his research for weapons of mass destruction?
Iran does have nuclear capability and the two neighbours have fought an eight-year war. Given prior experience, he's not likely to make the mistake of letting the inspectors find a shred of evidence this time around. Nobody wants a war but what is the alternative? Iraq must be disarmed. No two ways about it!!!
Why is the US taking such a hard line against Iraq who claim they do not have any weapons of mass destruction, but take a softer approach to North Korea who claim they do have mass destruction weapons?
Petre Stamatescu, Romania
The so-called "evidence" that Powell presented to the UN is neither convincing nor irrefutable as he put it. One may recall several years ago US bombed a so- called chemical factory on evidence presented by the CIA. It turned out to be just a pharmaceutical factory, and innocent lives were lost. Now that the UN weapon inspectors cannot find the weapons which Bush needs to legitimize his war on Iraq, the CIA thus come up with this type of "evidence" to be use as justification for impending war.
I wouldn't put any of the recent allegations past Saddam Hussein. Important point in Powell's speech: Saddam has been a ruthless dictator for the last two decades. However, rather than the US claiming the moral high ground I would like to hear them admit publicly and apologise to the world that they wholeheartedly supported this dictator when it suited them ie when he fought their enemy Iran.
As Kissinger said: 'Of course he was a bad guy, but he was our bad guy'. Also, the west, including the UK, sponsored and trained Iraqi nuclear scientists in the 1980s. It all goes to show that basing your foreign policy on the 'principle' of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' is a huge mistake. Like many times before, this mistake is going to cost many innocent people their lives. What a brave new world we live in!
Doesn't this worry US citizens and their government? Is it because the world likes Saddam? Surely not. It is just that the American way of doing international politics is devoid of real arguments and on the contrary is full of pretexts. It is more than obvious to the average layman that the US want to act against Iraq and Saddam. I am in no position to know exactly what the interest is. I am certain however it is not that of disarming Iraq. Be prepared for troubled times for the future generations if a precedent is created that might (and not international law) is right.
So who do you consider to be the most trustworthy? Mr Colin Powell or Mr Saddam Hussein? It all comes down to this question. Regardless of any proof that the US or Iraq might put forward, it is all about credibility. War is ugly, but I do know who I would trust. Do you?
On April 12, 2002 Rumsfeld declared "it is not a question of if, but only of when". Hence, the decision to go to war was taken and what the inspectors would find or not find became irrelevant. The proof is the policy of ever shifting the goal posts. With regard to the so-called proofs: if they were genuine, would it not have made sense to pass on this information to the inspectors and let them surprise the Iraqis? As far as the aerial photographs are concerned: did not the US bomb a factory which produced milk - and not chemical weapons, and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan? So much for reliable intelligence.
Sverre Sørum, Trondheim, Norway
I doubt whether Powell is sure the Iraqis have all those deadly pathogens, otherwise the US would not be quick to risk its troops in an invasion of Iraq. Remember the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles cited by Powell, he said they have a range of 500km! Powell's submissions make no case for war. Saddam is too dangerous to be forcefully disarmed if he is that armed. It's like trying to kill the snake in the baby's cot when the baby can be safely removed.
Iraq has played foul. The truth is there. The fate of the UN is at stake. Truth is not an issue of majority vote. I'll encourage a coalition to dislodge Saddam by force if the world must understand the strength of the UN. Colin Powell made his case. The French will change their mind shortly. It's clear that the Iraqi regime has done nothing concrete to earn international support. Clear Saddam now or else expect 35 Saddams all over the world in the next decade to test the nerves of the civilised world. Time is now or never.
David Heggie, Prague, Czech Republic
What amazes me about the whole scene is why the USA is so interested in invading Iraq rather then doing something about North Korea which admits that it has weapons of mass destruction and at the same time, threatens the US that it shall not hesitate to start a war if the US interferes in its weapon programs?
Powell's presentation was well-orchestrated but weak in that it relied on anonymous reports by defectors, phone conversations that may easily have been recorded in a Hollywood studio and satellite pictures that don't prove anything and may have been tampered with as had happened in the last war in 1991. I am not convinced that there is a need for war and by looking at which countries also have illegally produced ABC-weapons or oppress their own people, it becomes clear that this is just another case of convenient double standards applied by the US.
Ghaly Shafik, Egypt
The idea of destroying weapons of mass destruction is great. I think its the US who has to first destroy their stock and prove that their concern is not just an eyewash. The US has so many weapons that they are a bigger threat to the whole world than some minor guy called Saddam. The US has always dictated and sidelined other countries and even the Security Council opinions and decisions. While the entire world is talking of avoiding the war, only Bush is wanting it - making him a war monger and the single biggest threat to the entire mankind.
In my opinion Colin Powell and the USA has submitted more than enough evidence to justify military action against Saddams regime. People must understand what this man has done to constantly and methodically defy the UN inspectors and under 1441 it is obvious that he has not given the full cooperation that is required of him, he had his chance and now the time has come to remove this brutal man. I do not like war and I would prefer an alternative solution but there is no alternative at this point and if we give him more time then he will be able to attain those weapons that the world knows he should not have. War is sometimes the only answer and in this case it is perfectly justified.
Rudolf Peery, Möckmühl, Germany
Who was right, or who was wrong will be measured in body counts, massive casualty figures, and soaring costs on both sides. The potential of the ensuing instability in the Middle East will be but the 'tip of the iceberg', the whole world will become a global arena of instability, and I fear that rather than curb terrorism, it will serve only to fuel it. And after Iraq, where next? North Korea? And after that?
The US could well find itself engaged in numerous wars on terrorism, or should that read, numerous forays for global supremacy? It could not escape the dangers of being part of the instability, since in pure financial terms such goals would not come from small change. I trust the citizens of the United States are aware of whose pockets these expenses are going to come from. UK citizens should take similar note!
There is no evidence for a pre-emptive war. I believe both parties mix truth and fiction to make their case. What bothers me most is that Powell, Bush and Blair try to link Iraq to al-Qaeda. This is real nonsense and shows how desperately the US tries to make the case worse than it is. Going to war in this stage without any hard evidence would be simply criminal.
The UN must act decisively in order to set a precedent for subsequent resolutions. We must send a clear message that compliance is NOT optional. A quick side note: Many thanks to all of those in the UK standing with us on this issue. Your support is heavily appreciated.
The problem with Mr. Powell's "evidence" is that it lacks substantiation by any outside experts. Just as in a court of law, all evidence needs independent verification; Mr. Powell's presentation lacked such. So-called intercepted conversations and aerial photos showing "mobile labs" could be fabricated by a school kid.
Most of the world is not blind to America's sincere ambition: To secure the hegemony of the dollar and Iraq's oilfields.
Funny that a day after Colin Powell's brief to the Security Council, Iraq decides to allow a scientist to be interviewed privately. I guess military backed pressure does work.
Ansaruddin Rahimi, Nassau, Bahamas
Have people forgotten Saddam's evil and predatory history? Do some people really lend no weight to the gravity of reports from Iraqi insiders/defectors that illustrate the nature of this madman the world now confronts? Whilst concerns about the human costs of war, the credibility of the inspectors, the authority of the UN and, perhaps more so, peoples' perceptions of the balance of power in the West are all valid issues and rightly in need of discussion, let us not forget that dealing with the threat should be our primary and most immediate concern for the sake human-kind, NOT just the US and the UK.
Chad Weidner, Gent, Belgium
I don't think that Powell made a convincing leap from making allegations to producing evidence. Anyone with a home computer and graphics editing software could have manipulated images at least as well as his presentation. No real assessment of the claims made can be made without independent corroboration - of course, there is none, because of "security" reasons.
I don't dispute that Saddam needs to be removed, but war breeds war. There are people starving and dying in the world and these are more urgent cases. There must be more peaceful ways of removing Saddam and less costly in financial and human terms.
Unbelievable! "Evidence" this feeble would get laughed out of any court in the UK, and presumably in the US also. Clearly, though, Bush and Blair made their minds up about this long ago, and minor impediments such as law and justice will not stop them: just ask those who are still interned by the US without trial (except, of course, we can't!)
Yes, more than enough. We told Saddam to do something, he has not done it so must pay the price - that's it. If we do nothing and he does release the chemical or biological weapons, can I take it that everyone who is against the war will go and clear up the mess? It is not that often you here people talking about nerve gas. Why would that subject ever come up? This is the time in world history to be strong not weak.
Of course there is enough evidence to go to war, and really there has always been. The whole point of the US and the UK not sharing the information is because they don't want to share too much information especially to the UN, as there is a member of the Iraqi country there, and therefore any divulgence of evidence could lead to the loss of a surprise attack.
Powell's speech was completely out of order. If the US had "evidence" it should have passed it to the UN Inspectors. It is Inspectors, not Iraq, the US or any other party, who should present to the World. I am not interested in hearing US spin. It is a sad day for the world if a nation is brutally attacked on the basis of some marketing "spin".
So the UK evidence was copied from a student's PhD dissertation and a six-year-old document, and now that Iraq has offered to let U2s fly over and to let the inspectors interview scientists, Bush has said that it's too late.
Does this seem like compelling evidence to anybody? Hastily copied work is hardly convincing, and Bush's decision that Iraq's offer is too late indicates a strong fear of what might be found. Is anybody taken in by any of this? Bush wants a war - that's all there is to it.
Question to Blair and Bush: Why didn't you bring out all the proof before now? You wanted the UN to go and inspect Iraq, they did all they could but could not see anything. Don't you see you are just trying to challenge the UN?
Is it not Israel and North Korea that have all the weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons? Why should Bush stick only behind Iraq? Everybody knows that they want but oil. They want oil and will be killing innocent souls, destroying Iraq. How can you be killing people and giving them food at the same time? That is a very shameful act.
Whereas you're unsuccessfully looking for evidence of WMD against Saddam Hussein, you're blatantly neglecting the only country that admitted to having them, North Korea. Isn't that dodgy?
Isn't it telling that you have to even pose the question?
The problem is not so much that there is no basis for action now, but more that it was only after Bush decided on Iraq as the next target that Blair decided that this was an important issue. This is why people believe that he is merely following in the president's footsteps rather than making the agenda for himself.
How can you set aside £1bn - £3bn to a war that does not concern us - yet you say that we haven't got enough for the NHS and schools which are desperately in need of money?
Andrew Snow, Crowthorne, UK
Powell presented MORE THAN ENOUGH evidence that Saddam needs to be stopped now! He proved that Iraq has not disarmed as required by the UN Resolution. Saddam is making a mockery of the inspection process by hiding Iraq's weaponry and neither declaring ownership nor destruction of the weapons. Powell has done an excellent job of proving this - without a doubt. The US/UK must not wait for Iraq to decide to attack another country or allow them to sell their weaponry to terrorists.
If the US has all this information on how weapons and materials have been 'spirited away' why haven't they told the UN inspectors where to look?
Powell's evidence was not strong enough to convince me that the best action is war. It seemed like they circled buildings on the satellite pictures and inserted captions next to them.
What is the point of Colin Powell's presentation when Bush and the rest of his administration has already decided on going to war? It is obvious that Bush intends fight. I mean, why would he spend a whole lot of American tax dollars and send a whole lot of American troops there?
This whole US generated fiasco reminds me of the movie Minority Report, where they arrest people before they commit any crime. The US is hiding its real motives for war. Why hasn't the US presented this "evidence" (if you call it so) earlier? Isn't that called obstruction? The US has just proved one thing though: it has proved that it is playing a game of deceit.
Any evidence so far presented by Mr Powell seems inadequate to justify the slaughter of innocents or guilty.
It appears that any country which fails to prove that they do NOT have any arms of mass destruction and/or terrorist links, may be assumed to have them and are in danger of being attacked by the US and UK, who have a their own economic agenda as well as a history of global manipulation and mass murder.
The evidence Colin Powell released may not be sufficient to justify starting hostilities but now is not the time to go easy on Saddam.
People who write that Powell should have given this intelligence to the
inspectors instead of the UN are missing two points:
Powell did a good job of showing us that Iraq is masterfully "playing" the UN. If the inspectors still fail to find the weaponry which Iraq had but cannot now account for, Iraq is in trouble. If the inspectors do find the weaponry, Iraq is in trouble. Unless Iraq comes clean and/or the regime steps down, is there is any peaceful route out of this issue?
From what I heard today at the UN and reading the reaction on the board, I've come up with only one conclusion, I'm scared. I'm scared because there is no right or wrong decision to be made here. I'm scared because of the threat of another 9/11 happening all over again, whether we go to war against Iraq or not. It's damned if we do and damned if we don't.
I am a liberal, voted against Bush and don't want war. However, I am not enough of a sheep not to see that we need to stop this madman, even if it means doing it without UN approval!
Lisa, Burlington, VT, USA
That's good enough for me. A material breach of Resolution 1441. Let's roll!
There's no more reason to believe Iraq has the ability and is planning to unleash weapons of mass destruction than there is to believe that George W Bush won the election in 2002.
The key point that many "nay-sayers" seem to forget time and again is that it is up to Iraq to prove it has disarmed, not for the US/UK/UN to have to find it. The proof presented today will be discounted by these people as lies, conjecture or fabricated. For the rest - who actually listened, it was obvious that Iraq is not complying and doing its best to deceive the UN and the world. The UN is being played for fools by the Iraqis. They know the UN has little backbone and it is obvious they are winning the battle to this point.
John M, Winnipeg, Canada
The evidence may be credible, but why was this evidence not supplied to the UN weapons inspectors who could have traced the locations and confirmed that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction? In any case, this would have been a shorter route to disarm Saddam than the US is taking now.
I don't believe in what Powell said. I don't think he has shown any new evidence.
Carlos, Lisbon, Portugal
If the UN does not vote for strong action against Iraq, perhaps we should then just bring our troops home. Since many on this forum feel the US is too powerful I am very willing to bring all our troops home from the various countries around the world. This should show we do not desire to be the world's policeman and of course, should show what the true intentions of countries like Iraq and North Korea are.
To D Mabrey, NJ, USA: It would be a great idea if the US brought its troops back home. But your government will never consider that as
your troops around the world are there to protect American interests and to keep the flow of wealth coming. Homeless and jobless people in the US don't have medical protection. Do you think a government that cares so little for its citizens would do charity work for strangers around the globe?
Once again the US is taking bold steps to secure a foreign land in pursuit of world peace. Powell is laying out a strong case in the absence of hard evidence. The very fact that evidence is the centre of this argument is rather ironic. Saddam agreed to terms to save himself almost a decade ago and has yet to live up to that agreement. The fact that we have to uncover evidence indicates that the facts are not being offered and with Saddam's resume of violence and mass murder I submit that we may not have enough evidence to support NOT going to war.
Gary Loader, USA
Interesting but nothing new to justify a bombing campaign.
Colin Powell's continued effort to nurture a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein has pretty much rendered useless an attempt to convince the majority of the world that Iraq is a serious threat. All the evidence I have seen so far is circumstantial, probably dated back to the early/mid 90s.
You see along with the new pre-emptive doctrine the USA has to make an ideological and psychological drive that an entity is guilty unless it proves itself innocent. If the world accepts this doctrine now, then the war on Iraq will be the first of many callous invasions by the Western coalition forces on weaker states that disagree with a political and economic system, and geopolitical positioning.
It seems to me that still Mr Powell fails to convince the world why he is waging war against Iraq. What has been presented to the UN today seems to me too circumstantial to convince anyone. I think the world need more than a "hearsay" reasoning to justify the bloodshed that is going to be waged on both sides.
It seems to me that if even a pencil making factory was found, it would be labelled as a weapons making factory. The US cannot fool the world! If Iraq had these weapons how come they were utterly beaten in operation Desert Storm? They are 99% weaker than last time, I do not think that they can fight even the weakest armies! Britain should stop following the American line and instead focus on strengthening the opposition in Iraq and let them remove him.
I am disappointed about what has been presented so far because it is more of the continued rhetoric we have been hearing over and over again. People always prepare for inspections, but that does not mean concealment. Bush and Blair should show us evidence of what has been concealed. If the bunkers shown by Powell's pictures do exist, why not give this information to inspectors for verification. Everything should be done to save the world the consequences of war. What we have seen is no justification for war!
Frank, Oakland, PA, USA
I'm sitting in my dorm watching Powell speak right now and can I just tell you that I'm a bit more scared of Iraq than I have ever been in recent weeks. Can you honestly tell me that when the US intercepts orders regarding nerve agents and that they have photos of weapons facilities that are capable of producing mass biological weapons and endangering the lives of Iraqi people as well as US troops, that THIS alone is not evidence for war?
James, London, England
The United States may have turned itself to the policeman of the world but the question one may ask is what does it take for Iraq to comply with the UN resolution?
Perhaps Iraq does have some banned weapons. There are several equally dangerous regimes with WMD in this world who are not the subject of all this attention. Saddam Hussein is certainly not a pleasant character, but neither are several other dictators who rule by 'terror' on this planet. I cannot but remain convinced there is an ulterior agenda behind the US's obsession with obtaining control of Iraq and this part of the Middle East. I'm afraid I also remain completely unconvinced with Powell's presentation today; patent manipulation of poor evidence to support their case.
John David, UK
Does it really matter that evidence is produced? It appears to me that people's opinion have already made. Also, does it seem to most people that the people against moving on Iraq, are more anti-Bush than anti-Iraq?
Why did that Colin Powell bloke bother with all the hot air at the UN? Why didn't he just show us the receipts? Doesn't the US keep any records of who it sells stuff to?
Saddam should disarm, so should the USA too. The USA spends too much money on defence. Is it because it wants to carry on offending?
In the event of a war, would the UN (or whoever) consider putting the Iraqi oilfields under Russian control? After all, they are the largest single investor in the Iraqi oilfields.
It is overwhelmingly clear that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, and is hiding them from the UN Inspection teams. Those who claim otherwise are burying their heads in the sand. Do we have to wait till Saddam kills millions before we do something?
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