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Editorial from Le Monde
The American failure (L'échec américain)
Tuesday March 18, 2003 (LE MONDE)

Perhaps all will go according to the best possible scenario for the United States: under the pressure of the ultimatum launched Monday March 17 by George W Bush, the Iraqi army could try a coup d'etat which would allow the American forces to enter Iraq "peacefully". Nothing is less sure. And that, in any case, will not in any way change the essential conclusion: America and Great Britain going to war against Iraq, without a mandate from the UN, in a perfectly unilateral way, signifies a formidable diplomatic failure for the Bush government.

It is less the UN that is concerned, the way they claim in Washington, than the political prestige of the United States. Perhaps their moral authority. In spite of the pressures that they exerted (or perhaps because of them), they did not have the "political" majority in the Security Council â?? political, not legal - of nine votes which they wished to obtain. Such a majority, even in the case of a French or Russian veto, would have made them the winners. It would not have been sufficient in a vote on a resolution justifying the use of force against Saddam Hussein. But it would have shown that a majority of the countries within the Council shared the view of the United States.

However, this is not the case. The United States did not convince. And Mr. Bush, establishing Monday evening a well-worn and unfounded comparison with the 1930's, was not more convincing: the rule of Saddam is not the equivalent, in terms of power or in terms of ambition, of the third Reich Germany threatening all of Europe. Their
resorting to that kind of arguments cannot but lessen the credibility of the cause of the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

From the beginning of this affair, the United States has not proved either the existence or the imminence of a danger coming from Iraq to be an absolute priority for the international community. They made a show of scorning the arguments advanced by France and Russia - Paris and Moscow only had mercenary concerns! However, these arguments were, and still are shared by an enormous majority of countries - one cannot stop a disarmament procedure of Iraq at the very time when the men in charge of it publicly declare that it is giving results.

Washington was mistaken on the firmness of the intentions in Paris; misled on the reactions of Turkey in this affair; misled on the state of the public opinion, including inside the United States; misled on its capacity to exert pressure on "the small" member states of the UN Security Council. The United States was mistaken on the role which they believed they could make the UN play, the role of recording a war prepared in advance and which had been decided for a long time. They did not improve their stand when they proclaimed, suddenly, as by coincidence on the day before going to war against an Arab country, their belated concern for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The effect was more negative than positive, winding up an obvious political-diplomatic failure, whatever the continuation of this unhappy adventure will prove to be.