Are we still all American?

Article published on Feb. 24, 2003
community published
Article published on Feb. 24, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Towards a new war in Iraq

"We are all American"...With these words Silvio Berlusconi, the President of the Council, concluded a speech in Rome expressing Europe's solidarity with our ally on the other side of the ocean, which was on its knees after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

'We are all American' was probably the feeling of many of us in those unforgettable days when we were trying to create order in a world that was becoming ever more clearly divided by sects based on ethnicity, religion, geography, economics and politics. Today, more than a year on from September 11th, and faced with the scenario of a combative Western response that calls to mind the Prussian military strategies of the 19th century that many countries thwarted, it is likely that a large proportion of those who used to feel American has started to put forward some questions...

Some are looking again at Afghanistan, others at Kashmir, the same number again at Iraq: in short, are we still all American?

Do we still want to meddle en masse like a year and a half ago in order to show off the strength of a West that is about to confront the biggest civil crisis that the modern era has ever presented? Are we all convinced by the justification of presumed "Enduring freedom"? And who is this "Enduring freedom" for? And what are the values that embody it? What costs with regard to the next September 11th that this time they will not be able to claim was unexpected?

However, probably the most recurrent question concerns the presumed justification of the democratic and civil values that the supreme West, with a cathartic hand, has taken upon itself to spread across the rest of the world. It also concerns the role that the West has been persuaded to take in this mission. This plan of action avoids acknowledging how the EU is again in hiding, even in the face of an ill-concealed American desire to meddle in Iraq in the absence of a resolution by the Security Council; even in the face of a complex and manifestly artificial attempt by Uncle Sam to make the whole world believe that Saddam is hiding terrible weapons within his own arsenal; even in the face of the obvious stubbornness with which Bush is 'inviting' the UN inspectors to uncover these weapons with the utmost zeal...even if they are not there...and if they really are not, well it is okay anyway that what we thought was so dangerous is, in reality, not. The important thing is that we cling on to the possibility anyway.

Let's not forget too that the US has another ace up its sleeve: the religious aspect. In effect it seems permitted by everyone to regard as right intervention in those hotbeds that represent breeding grounds for supporters and exporters of acts of terrorism in the Muslim mould. It is of little interest to the lobbyists who brought Bush to power that Saddam represents a typical example of a secular dictatorship that has fought and is still fighting (including through use of the death penalty) every form of Islamic fundamentalism and, in particular, every conversion to Wahabism that, as everyone knows, is the faith of Osama Bin Laden. It is not important that Saddam is considered something of an apostate, an insult so grave as to merit the death penalty in the Arab world. The fact that the Iraqi leader fears, more than us, the eventuality that the Islamic fundamentalists will get their hands on weapons of mass destruction because he would represent the most immediate and natural target is of still less importance to the American administration.

The most widespread view is that attack on Iraq is imminent, even if outside the US it is unlikely that even a lawyer would be able to legitimise such an action. Imminent too are the consequences that we know all too well. In the light of the ideas expressed here, allow me to put forward a final thought:

While we await the assumption by the EU of a more autonomous and marked position at constitutional level in relation to the US, a large part of the population of the old continent no longer feels so American. It is to be hoped that such a feeling crosses the ocean in a more concrete way than that of the moderate words spoken by the elegant Mr Solana...because, unfortunately, those who do not understand their own history are destined to relive it - and frankly to relive it in an unnecessarily bloody way.