The United States and United Kingdom stood almost isolated as they were roundly condemned by the international community for their unprovoked attack on Baghdad on Friday which killed two Iraqi civilians and injured twenty others. The British and American governments said the attacks were “self-defense.”
Loud criticism of the attack came from governments and media all over the world, and thousands of Palestinians marched in Tulkarm and Hebron in the occupied West Bank to oppose the attack on Iraq, even as at least two more Palestinians were shot dead for protesting continuing Israeli occupation.
Leading the criticism was Russia which said the attack violated international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Russian Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Prikhodko said Russia always “strongly opposes any U.S. military actions, whomever they are against, if these actions bypass the U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
A spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said that France was neither informed or consulted about the attack, which France believes “raised questions.” In 1998 France withdrew from enforcing the unilaterally imposed “no fly” zones and has since been highly critical of Anglo-American policy and attacks on Iraq.
Belarus, a close ally of Moscow said in a statement from its foreign ministry that “Such actions should be regarded as an open violation of international law which undermines the U. N. system of maintaining international peace and security. Such actions can only aggravate the situation on the regional and global scales.”
China, whose embassy in Belgrade was bombed and destroyed in a U.S. attack in 1999 also strongly criticised the Anglo-American action. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said “We condemn the air attacks launched by the United States and Britain against Iraq, and express deep regret over the deaths and injuries of innocent civilians resulting from the action.”
Iraq’s neighbor Iran denounced the attack in a commentary on Tehran Radio, saying “The violent attacks of the American air force are signs of the adventurism of the new administration of George W. Bush,” and “This surprise attack adds to the growing violence in the Middle East,” in reference to the continued violence by Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people.
Turkey, a member of NATO, whose military-dominated government allows the United States to launch planes against Iraq from the Incirlik airbase also condemned the Anglo-American attack. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said “We followed the military operation with concern. It is regrettable that a need was felt for such an operation and that civilians were affected.” Ecevit also expressed regret that the United States had not consulted Turkey over the action.
Atal Behari Vajpayee, the prime minister of India called the attack on Iraq “unacceptable” saying that “India has consistently opposed the unilateral imposition of the no-fly zones on Iraq” because “They do not come within the framework of United Nations Security Council resolutions.” Vajpayee added that “Such strikes cause unnecessary and avoidable suffering upon the innocent men, women and childen of Iraq.”
While popular and media reaction in the Arab world was sharply against the newest American aggression, and many commentators noted that once again Arabs are being killed and injured at the hands of both Israel and the United States simultaneously, reaction from governments was more muted. In Jordan the main dailies which usually reflect government thinking strongly condemned the attacks as “cowardly” and featured prominent photos of civilian victims. The Jordanian foreign minister said that Jordan strongly opposes the use of force and the sanctions on Iraq.
While Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abd El Meguid said the attack on Iraq had “had no justification,” generally, however, Arab governments, particularly those in the Gulf maintained silence or gave muted responses. Iraq accuses Kuwait and Saudi Arabia which allow themselves to be used as bases for American attacks on Iraq of being accomplices.
The United States found some support from Poland. A spokesman for prime minister Jerzy Buzek said the attacks were “understandable.” Poland joined NATO, the U.S.-led military alliance in 1999. Canada’s prime minister, Jean Chretien, betraying a disturbing ignorance about Iraq said that his country was not informed about the attack in advance but that “This is the protection of the freezone … there is an agreement there and when it’s not respected the enforcement of the agreement is done by the Brits and the Americans and they do it on their own without consultation with us.” There is in fact no “agreement” regarding any “no fly zones.” These zones were unilaterally created and imposed by the United States and are not mentioned in any U.N. resolutions or the ceasefire agreements Iraq signed ending the Gulf War ten years ago.
In the United States leading newspapers such as The New York Times welcomed the American attack and most electronic media broadcast Pentagon justifications without criticism, comment or dissenting analysis. American media downplayed or omitted mention of Iraqi civilians killed and injured by frequent U.S. bombardment, including the latest attack. While international reaction to the U.S.-led action was loud and clear, the question remains as to whether the United States is able to hear it.