who in the
Coalition of the Willing
Some 30 countries were part of the Coalition against Iraq in the first Gulf War. The Coalition against Iraq is much larger this time.
of 21 March
2003 informed the world that:
“President Bush is
assembling a Coalition that has already begun military operations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass
destruction, and enforce 17 UNSC resolutions.”
and that already 48 countries, all of whom “understand
the threat Saddam Hussein’s weapons pose to the world”, were “publicly
committed to the Coalition”, including:
Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic,
Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia,
Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia,
Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama,
Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon
Islands, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United
On 3 April 2003, the number of Coalition members rose to
49 with the addition of Tonga, and that’s where it stands at the time
The White House boasts that this Coalition is drawn
from every corner of the world, with every major race, religion and ethnicity
in the world represented in it, with a total population of around 1.23 billion
and a combined GDP of approximately $22 trillion. (It doesn’t mention that almost 50% of the
latter is due to the US economy).
The next time you hear a Coalition spokesman from Qatar, remember s/he is speaking on behalf of
all these 49 countries. The fact that
spokesmen for the Coalition have always been either American or British up to
now is sheer coincidence: Palau will get its turn shortly.
through the list of Coalition countries, an obvious question springs to mind:
what contribution does a country have to make in order to qualify for inclusion
in the list? The answer is: absolutely
none. When an initial list was announced
by the State Department a few days earlier on 18 March 2003, spokesman Richard
Boucher, admitted this (see here
for press briefing):
“I’d have to say these
are countries that we have gone to and said, ‘Do you want to be listed?’ and
they have said, ‘Yes’”
This implies that around 140 countries said No. Given the
possible negative consequences of saying No to any request from the US (as
Yemen found out to its cost in 1990 when it voted against Security Council
resolution 678 authorising the use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait), it is
remarkable that so many said No – particularly since saying Yes didn’t involve
What did Coalition members actually contribute? Australia was the only country, apart from the
US/UK, to provide combat troops. A few
other countries, including Poland and Spain, provided non-combatant military
Kuwait and a couple of other Gulf states allowed the US/UK to use their
territories as a launching pad for their aggression against Iraq; Turkey famously resisted enormous US pressure to do likewise. Other US/UK Coalition “partners”, if they
provided anything at all, provided overflying rights
only; none of them was prepared to allow Iraq to be attacked by aircraft taking off
from their territory (or if they did they kept very quiet about it). On one occasion, Italy did allow US paratroops to embark in Vicenza en route to Iraqi Kurdistan, but to
quieten public controversy the Italian government was at pains to re-emphasise
that Italian airbases were not available for bombing Iraq.
The end result was that, apart from Kuwait, the US/UK had to rely on carrier-based
aircraft, plus long range missions from Fairford in
Gloucestershire and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
(Ireland is not on the President’s list even
though, by allowing Shannon to be used for refuelling military
aircraft, it contributed more to the war effort than the vast majority of the
countries on the list. It obviously said
No, when asked.)
Why the US President should go to the trouble of
assembling this bizarre list, let alone describe it as a Coalition and boast
about it, is a mystery, since it shows a lack of support around the world for
the US/UK aggression against Iraq.
(Although, like the Americans, the UK government always refers to what
is going on in Iraq as Coalition action, it seems to be embarrassed by the
makeup of the Coalition, since there is no mention of its membership on any UK
The makeup of the Coalition is a reflection of the
remarkable difficulty that the US has had in browbeating states into doing
its bidding about Iraq in the past six months. This has been constantly demonstrated at the
UN, where there have been four open meetings of the Security Council on Iraq since last autumn, and on each occasion
there was little support for the US/UK position (the proceedings of these meetings can
be located from here).
At the first, on 16-17 October 2002 when the US/UK
was trying to pressurise the Security Council into
passing a resolution giving them a free hand to make war on Iraq, of the 65
states which spoke only two – Australia and Albania – were unequivocally on
their side. The vast majority sided with
the other three permanent members of the Council, France, Russia
and China. On 18-19 February 2003 after the second Blix report, when the US/UK were demanding military action
against Iraq rather than the continuation of inspections, they did a little
better: Australia and Albania were joined by Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, the
Marshall Islands, Georgia and Latvia, but around 50 states sided with
France. Two more meetings were held in
March, one on 11-12 March the week before the US/UK attacked Iraq
and the other on 26-27 March the week after, and again a large majority of
states were opposed to the use of force.
These open meetings took place at
the request of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Not much is heard of it these days.
It was founded in 1961 as a grouping of “neutral” states during the Cold
War and Tito was its principal architect (see here). It has had a continuous existence since then,
and held its 13th summit in Kuala
Lumpur in late February. It now has 116 member states out a total of
193 UN member states. Nearly all states
in Africa, Asia and Latin
America are members.
All Arab states including Iraq are
Insofar as it functions as an organisation, it seems to be primarily as a lobby group at the
UN. Thus, for example, there is a NAM caucus
within the Security Council, through which NAM states on
the Council attempt to reach a common position on issues before the Council. Six out of the 10 current non-permanent
members of the Security Council are NAM members – Angola, Cameroon, Chile,
Guinea, Pakistan, Syria – and they all sided with France throughout (although
Angola ended up on the President’s list).
Africa was the chair of NAM for five
years up to February, and tried to make it into an organisation
that speaks with one voice on world issues, most recently over Iraq, and this
should continue under Malaysia’s
leadership. At its February summit, it
passed a resolution against US/UK military action against Iraq. However, not all NAM members
held to that position, and 13 (out of 116) appear on the President’s list:
Afghanistan, Angola, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Kuwait, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Panama, Rwanda, Singapore, Uganda
But, apart from Kuwait, none of them contributed anything to the
action in Iraq.
Afghanistan is the only Muslim member of the
Coalition, apart from Kuwait.
This is hardly surprising, since the US is in a uniquely powerful position to
influence Afghan affairs, providing as it does Hamid Karzai’s bodyguards, local Afghan bodyguards having proved
to be untrustworthy. For Karzai to oppose the US would be, literally, suicidal.
In the past, the US could normally rely on Latin America for support in international
affairs. But on this occasion the major
Latin American states, including Mexico and Chile who are on the Security Council, sided
with France, as did Canada.
Only Colombia, which is heavily dependent on the US for military and economic aid, and six
Central American states – Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – are on the President’s list.
A striking feature of the list is how few
Commonwealth countries are on it. Of the
54 members of the Commonwealth, there are only 4 apart from the UK itself – Australia, Singapore, Solomon Islands and Uganda.
By contrast, all the Francophone countries in the world sided with France.
There is a Francophone organisation, similar to the
Commonwealth, called International Organization of la Francophonie,
which like the Commonwealth has observer status at the UN. It has over 50 members, mostly former French
colonies in Africa, but also including Canada, Vietnam and Lebanon.
Its Secretary-General is Butros Butros-Ghali, whose tenure as UN Secretary-General was not
renewed because he wasn’t sufficiently co-operative with the US.
Coincidentally, last autumn when a heated debate was going on in the
Security Council over 1441, it held its 9th summit in Beirut, and unanimously supported the French
position on Iraq.
France also holds regular France/Africa summits
to consolidate its influence, most recently on 19-21 February 2003. This one, the 22nd to be held,
attracted the wrath of Britain because Robert Mugabe
was invited. Every African state apart
from Somalia was represented, and here again there was near
unanimous support for the French position on Iraq.
There are, however, 5 African states on the list – Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda.
The plain fact is that Bush and Blair failed, to a
remarkable degree, to get the support of the world’s governments for their use
of force against Iraq, and failed miserably to get the support
of the world’s people. When they
embarked upon it, there wasn’t a state in the world, not excepting the US and Israel, in which popular support for war
exceeded that for the continuation of inspections.
In so far as Bush and Blair got support from
countries for the war, it was contrary to the wishes of the people in those
countries. Much has been made of the
difference between “old” Europe
and “new” Europe on this issue, but in one respect there
was no difference – popular opinion in both was overwhelmingly opposed to
war. In this respect, Poland was little
different from Spain or Italy (or France): according to a Pew poll of opinion
in eight European countries published
on 18 March 2003, there was a majority of 73/21 against war in Poland, 81/13 in
Spain, 81/17 in Italy (and 75/20 in France)
Commenting on its findings, the Pew organisation
“Anti-war sentiment and disapproval of
President Bush's international policies continue to erode America's image among the publics of its allies.
US favorability ratings have plummeted in the past
six months in countries actively opposing war France, Germany and Russia as well as in countries that are part
of the ‘coalition of the willing’. In Great Britain, favorable
views of the US have declined from 75% to 48% since
“In Poland, positive views of the US have
fallen to 50% from nearly 80% six months ago; in Italy, the proportion of
respondents holding favourable views of the US has declined by half over the
same period (from 70% to 34%). In Spain, fewer than one-in-five (14%) have a favorable opinion of the United States. Views of the US in Russia, which had taken a dramatically positive
turn after Sept. 11, 2001, are now more negative than they were prior to the
“More generally, criticisms of US foreign policy are almost universal.
Overwhelming majorities disapprove of President Bush's foreign policy and the
small boost he received in the wake of Sept. 11 has disappeared. As a
consequence, publics in seven of the eight nations surveyed believe that American
policies have a negative effect on their country. Only the British are divided
on the impact of American foreign policy on their country.”
The British spin on the road to war is that the
international consensus on Iraq last autumn expressed in Security Council
resolution 1441 was sabotaged by France, thereby making war unavoidable. This ignores the fact that the consensus in
the Security Council last November was not for war. Quite the contrary: the unanimity was
achieved because the US/UK backed down on their attempt to get the Council to
vote for war. The unanimity was for
inspection, followed by assessment of inspection reports by the Council, on the
basis of which the Council would decide on further action.
France has been demonised by the US/UK for
refusing to vote for war, and a pretence is made that
by so doing they reversed their position of last autumn. In fact, France maintained a consistent position
throughout, a consistent position with which a large majority of the Security
Council, and the states of the world, agreed.
Of course, the story put about by the British
Government was that France sabotaged support on the Council for a
second resolution authorising war by stating that it would use its veto. In that regard, President Chirac’s remarks in
a TV interview on 10 March 2003 (English translation of interview here)
were a godsend to the British Government.
What he actually said was:
“My position is that, regardless of the
circumstances, France will vote ‘no’ because she considers this
evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal
we have set ourselves, that is to say, to disarm Iraq.”
What he clearly meant was that, in the circumstances
existing at that time France would use its veto. But the use of the phrase “regardless of the
circumstances” allowed the Government to pretend that he had ruled out force
for all time – and by so doing had torpedoed a second resolution.
In fact, Blair and Bush didn’t come within an ass’s
roar of convincing a majority on the Security Council to vote for war – and France’s opposition had little to do with
it. After Hans Blix’s
report on 14 February only two non-permanent members – Bulgaria and Spain – were willing to vote for war and a
month later on 17 March when Britain gave up trying to get a vote for war the
US/UK still had only two supporters.
(Also, there is real doubt about the constitutional validity
of Bulgaria’s support for war in the Council, and subsequently
as part of the Coalition. The Prime
Minister, Simeon Saxecoburggotski, was responsible
for this, but the President Georgi Parvanov opposed Bulgaria’s participation, and queried whether the
decision to participate in the Coalition had proper parliamentary approval, as
the Prime Minister asserted.)
Chirac’s remarks provided the basis for the
remarkable proposition advanced by the British Government that France is responsible for the war, even though
it was opposed to it and didn’t take part in it. Repeated at nauseam wrapped
in anti-French hysteria in the week up the Commons vote for war on 18 March 2003, this proposition kept
the Labour rebellion in the Commons within bounds.
Blair and Straw are still advancing this proposition today.
The proposition is, of course, daft. It begins with the assumption that, had France voted to threaten imminent war if Iraq did not account for its “weapons of mass
destruction” within a few days, there would have been a majority on the
Security Council for it. It continues
with Iraq, faced with this united front in the Council,
coughing up weapons that probably don’t exist, or in a few days proving to the
satisfaction of the US/UK that they had been destroyed, something which Iraq has tried and failed to do for the past
But let us suppose that this highly unlikely sequence
of events did occur. To believe that war
could have been avoided, we have to believe that at this point George Bush
would have reversed gear, and taken his troops home, leaving Saddam Hussein in
power, having spent the past year telling the American people that he was a
dangerous tyrant who had to be removed (and whom around 50% of the US
electorate believe was responsible for 9/11).
That would not have been a sensible move for a President seeking
re-election next year, and it’s an absolutely safe bet he would not have made
It is absurd to believe that, if France supported the US/UK in the Security Council,
war could have been avoided. Yet that is
what Blair and Straw continue to tell us.
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