“So, Cherie my dear,
could you leave the way clear
for sex tonight? Tell him,
‘Tony Tony Tony,
I know that you’re horny,
But there’s somethin’ bout that
Bush ain’t right'”
– George Michael, Shoot the Dog
PARIS – It may be this summer’s top blockbuster preview, but America’s first preemptive war against the supreme pillar of the axis of evil is increasingly drawing more than mixed reviews – and not only in the US. Jordan’s Prince Abdullah has just pressed the point face-to-face to George W. Bush: to attack Iraq would be “to open a Pandora’s box.” The prince should have suspected that the analogy spells trouble: Bush may think Pandora is a box of chocolates and the guarantee of a sweet deal.
Turkey remains extremely worried. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said that he is “trying to convince the US administration to give up the operation.” Turkey is alarmed over incalculable further damage to its already fragile economy. It has already been assured by the Americans there will be no independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. But General Arman Kuloglo, the head of the Eurasian Strategic Studies Institute in Ankara, says that Turkey will be forced to tag along, whether it wants it or not. He believes that Turkey might end up occupying crucial oil-rich parts of northern Iraq, including the main prizes, the Kurdish towns of Kirkuk and Mosul.
Europe remains undeniably hostile – as much as the so-called “moderate” Arab regimes. In the latest Franco-German summit last week in Schwerin, northeast Germany, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stressed the same point being repeated all over the European Union: a military intervention against Iraq can only happen through a United Nations mandate. Chirac said that an attack “can only be justified if there is a decision by the UN Security Council. This is the position of France and Germany.”
It is widely known that an attack on Iraq would certainly be vetoed by France, China and Russia at the Security Council. But it is also widely known that the Bush administration’s hardcore, obsessive hawks at the Pentagon don’t give a damn about the UN. They don’t care if there’s no resolution authorizing an attack, and they don’t care if there’s absolutely no proof of close relations between Iraq and al-Qaeda.
In the corridors of the European Union, an attack on Iraq is regarded with plenty of alarm. Diplomats wonder what might happen after a gratuitous attack, not preceded by an act of aggression, by one sovereign country on another, to get rid of a leader who just basically drives them mad. Diplomats are unanimously appalled at the mockery the attack makes of the UN – the whole thing caused by nothing else than vengeance in an ongoing family feud where a stung Bush fils tries to make up for Bush pere.
Not only is the gratuitous aggression challenged, but also all the calls about its moral righteousness, as well as the imperial disdain for the sensitivities of the Arab world and America’s allies. And on top of it all, an attack on Iraq would be an open invitation for more anti-American terrorism. It is also inconceivable in Europe – as much as in the Arab world – that the installation of a puppet regime in Baghdad is a sine qua non condition for the solution of the Palestine tragedy.
France is totally against an attack on Iraq, and prefers to concentrate its intelligence on playing a more active role in the real center of all terrorist-related matters: Pakistan. Bush visited Paris late in May and had crucial talks with Jacques Chirac. From these talks it was established that the CIA and Britain’s MI5 would have direct access to precious French intelligence collected in Afghanistan by the DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure), the French CIA. France has always been behind the Panjshir Lion, the late legendary commander Ahmad Shah Masoud. Now France is exchanging its wealth of knowledge for a frontline position in collecting intelligence in Pakistan. Jean-Claude Cousseran, the DGSE director, highly appreciated by Chirac, recently visited Karachi, where he was alarmed at how the Inter-Services Intelligence was infiltrated by Islamists with extremely close ties with al-Qaeda.
While the French focus on Pakistan – where the real action is – the British are being forced to focus on Iraq. Bush and the Pentagon hawks can count on just one faithful ally so far: British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush’s aides have been madly spinning that Blair has already promised to commit British troops to an attack on Iraq. The helicopter-carrier HMS Ocean and dozens of frigates would certainly be employed. Britain has just repatriated 1,700 men from Afghanistan. But a recent report of a British military exercise in Oman revealed an embarrassment of Monty Python proportions: most of the equipment malfunctioned, tanks stalled after a few hours and even the desert boots melted in the sun.
Blair is a certified hawk on Iraq, but he’s being forced to wage a ferocious internal battle against the doves – the ranks of the Foreign Office. The Labour Party’s left wing also wants an urgent debate in parliament. Sir Michael Rose, former chief of the UN Blue Helmets in Bosnia, says that the best tactics are still the current one-off strikes. Most of all, Labour’s pro-Europeans insist that to act as a blind follower of Washington is to undermine the setting up of a common European Union foreign and defense policy.
British big business – widely present in the Arab world – fears a flurry of terrorist reprisals against thousands of British expats in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The City of London pays a lot of attention to Arab warnings of a serious risk to British interests in case of an attack. Public opinion is not exactly on Blair’s side either. Recent polls in Britain reveal that a majority blames Blair for being too dependent on America’s whims. And most people are against sending British soldiers for a campaign in Iraq.
Plan B, anyway, is in place. A UN team of experts on weapons of mass destruction is being discreetly assembled in a ultra-secret lab affiliated with the Ministry of Defense. This is in case Saddam Hussein again accepts the intrusive and highly-humiliating UN inspections – which have been condemned in Iraq by government officials and civilians alike as nothing more than intelligence-gathering for further attacks.
While the French and German press are extremely critical of an attack, most of the British press is awash in hysteria – with journalists behaving like Britain is America’s 51st state. Even sound-minded people like William Shawcross – who wrote the best book ever denouncing the murderous US sideshow campaign in Cambodia during the Vietnam war – are in hawkish mode. Shawcross reproduces all the nonsensical arguments of the Pentagon masterminds: Iraqis will rise against Saddam, Israel without Saddam will be propelled to peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians, a UN resolution for an attack is not necessary, etc.
Popular sentiment is another story entirely. So no wonder the controversial, formerly-busted-in-a-Hollywood-toilet singer-songwriter George Michael is being hailed by young people from Barcelona to Brussels and Manchester to Milan as the man who dares to say what many are thinking. His new devastating video “Shoot the Dog” was banned in Britain – but airs every few minutes on European MTV. It’s a rude blow for Tony Blair – who prided himself since his election on 1997 on being the hip, kinda groovy PM of Cool Britannia.
In the hilarious animated video, an Americanophile Tony Blair is a good puppy to a dumb-as-hell Bush. George Michael’s inspiration was a Daily Mirror story (headline: “Howdy, Poodle”; subhead: “Blair’s cosy three days on Bush ranch to finalize Iraq attack”) . In the lyrics, George Michael talks about having fun with Cherie Blair while watching the World Cup and “while Tony’s stateside”: “It’s gonna be all right.”
In the end, Bush in cowboy gear and Tony as a Mexican whore dance away in the desert: “See Tony dancing with Dubya, don’t you wanna know why?” Blair’s workaholic spinners may have banned the video. But pop culture is a reflection of popular perceptions. And in our culture, perception is reality. Shoot the dog.