I cannot understand why all those people who mobilized to protest against Bush’s plans for Iraq, in the western cities – USA included-, have never shown such a zeal concerning the Palestinians. I try to understand why Bush seems to them much more dangerous than General Sharon, although the former is claiming to fight against a dictator, and the latter has not the slightest excuse for all the blood he spilled on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank.

What? Terrorism, you say? Is that it? Sharon would be only defending his fellow-citizens against the Palestinian terrorism! The old song! Thus, what Israel has been accomplishing in Palestine since the creation of its state in 1948 was not terrorism? Expelling people from their land, perpetrating collective massacres (from Deir Yasine to Jenin), bringing death and destruction everywhere in the region, is not terrorism!

I am quite amazed by this bizarre phenomenon: People who are mobilized in the streets, because Bush intends to wage war with or without the agreement of the Security Council, have never showed up in such a well organized movement from this side of the Atlantic to the opposite, during all the past half century whereof Israel not only bypassed this same Security Council but even ridiculed its very existence showing how such an assembly may be easily despised. Who can deny that Israel never fulfilled or even heard the many UN resolutions that were pronounced against its policy, not only vis-�-vis the Palestinians, but also the other Arabs who have still portions of their territories under occupation? Who can deny too that Israel never got punished? That’s why I wonder: why did we not see a popular mobilization of this scope in the streets of Europe and the USA precisely to protest against the Israeli policy of terror and indifference?

I am sure that the majority of the demonstrators are really peaceful people who just want to avoid war, because war is never a good solution. But I just notice that in the same time that several demonstrations are organized hither and thither, to tell Bush his “four truths”, Sharon is exploiting this smoke screen to carry on his plans of ethnic cleansing in Gaza and the West Bank, without even a single protest from the Western streets! And I wonder why is Sharon allowed to go unpunished for his past and his present crimes?

Yet, while noticing that people – in Europe- are growing more aware of the necessities to act for peace, it is no less noticeable that this same movement is not only bringing some shade to Sharon – since nobody is worrying about him-, but also a lot of relief to Saddam, who is certainly happy to state how he became a “popular hero” in France and in other countries!

Of course, nobody is shouting in Paris streets “long live Saddam”, but out there in Iraq, they have a tradition since Saddam got power in 1979, which is to transform all their catastrophes into victories. That was the case of all the wars Saddam plagued the country with. Even the “storm of the desert” has become “the mother of all battles”. That’s why they do not need that the French or any peace-activists shout, “long live Saddam” to feel that this is actually the “prevailing feeling” in the streets of the “old Europe”. Now, why argue? Just read the official Iraqi press and you will understand what I mean.

Let this be clear: I am not saying that Bush is right. I am not saying that Chirac is right either. I will borrow the metaphor used by an Arab diplomat to describe this crisis. He said that the Iraqis are given the choice of dying with the sword (i.e. American way) or dying smothered (i.e. French way). In both cases, where is the choice?

Nobody will have to convert a converted. I am definitely persuaded that peace is the purpose of all reasonable people. Nevertheless, I wonder what if all this zeal deployed to counter the American plans in the Security Council, was deployed many years ago to alleviate the pains of the Iraqi people? I mean, if those who have the right to use their veto, and who are now claiming that they want peace, would have opposed the USA since the first moment when the Security Council pronounced a resolution punishing the Iraqi population for the misdeeds of its government, would we have reached today’s unbelievable situation? Why the regime of inspections for instance was judged necessarily dependent on the complete blockade of the normal economical life of the country? Why the Iraqis were not allowed to resume their previous economic and social activity under the regime of inspections? That was not even done to Germany after the defeat of the Nazi regime. That was neither done to Japan, nor to Italy. But, when Iraq lose the war, the Western states – the real patrons of the UNO- not only judged necessary to settle the inspections’ regime in order to destroy its armament program – so that its neighbors feel safer-, but they felt that to do so without – by the way -destroying its infrastructure and its economy, would not fulfill the purpose of the UNO. So, the purpose of the UNO has become to starve the Iraqi population, in the hope that some revolt bursts out against Saddam.

The manipulation was odious. We do not need to add that not only Saddam crushed all the revolts and smothered all opposition, but also twelve years after his invasion of Kuwait, the Kuwaitis do not appear to feel safer with him as a neighbor.

Now, who exactly among those who claim today that protracting indefinitely the regime of inspections as an alternative to war, suggests in the same time to stop the boycott and to raise the blockade over the Iraqi society? They would do that indeed, since they have granted some $40 to 50 oil for UN support contracts (Russia and France indeed). But the Americans say: it is too late. And they add explaining this position: We have played together the same game, using the UN Security Council as a platform for a common purpose. Meanwhile, you (Russians and French) tried to play your own game with Saddam. You got your contracts. OK. But you forgot your allies. Were we not forming a team in this affair?

In other terms, the Americans feel today as if the Russian and particularly the French cuckolded them. It was not nice between friends, and it is Saddam who won.

But till when?

Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.