America’s Iraq policy

“We are impatient, sure, but you have to make a judgment,» said US Ambassador Thomas Miller at a press conference last week. It was the phrase that stuck in the minds of the five journalists who had the privilege of meeting him last week. As it was the day after US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the evidence Washington claims to have against Saddam Hussein’s regime, we knew in advance that we would be presented with more justification for the inevitable, as it now seems, intervention in Iraq. «Ask me whatever you want,» Miller told us, claiming that he liked to answer difficult questions, particularly coming from those who disagreed with US policy. «One argument is that this is all about oil; that this is being driven by oil. If you look at our problems and conflicts over the last century, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the Yugoslav crisis and the first Gulf War, in none of these things has it ever been about economic gain,» was Miller’s first argument. «The Russians have got a tremendous amount of investment in oil fields in Iraq, as well as the Germans, the French and Italians. There are no US companies (there) and there are very few prospects that there will be. This is not about oil.» He was just as categorical in his reply to the question why Washington did not wait a few more months until tangible proof had been found that Iraq did in fact possess weapons of mass destruction. «We are still at the UN, still working together. The answer to that is that UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which is not an American resolution but a unanimous resolution by the Security Council, including the Syrians, does not talk about a smoking gun. Paragraph 4 of 1441 talks about two things – full disclosure by the Iraq regime and full cooperation, and if there isn’t full disclosure and full cooperation, then it is called a material breach with serious consequences,» he said, adding: «The point is that if anyone is expecting that you’ve got to find this big cache of biological or chemical or nuclear weapons before military action is justified, it’s probably not going to happen because the Iraqis have demonstrated that they have the ability to hide it pretty easily,» he added, reiterating that Resolution 1441 had been unanimous, and that the USA «would like to have another UN resolution, if we can get it.» Miller denied that the USA was acting unilaterally and outside the bounds of international law, arguing that «all nations, including Greece, pursue their national interests and that is what they should be doing.» He referred to the fact that several months ago, Greece had told the rest of Europe that if Cyprus did not get into the EU, Greece would veto the EU accession of the other nine candidates for membership. «It was in Greece’s national interest. Was that unilateral?» he asked. Asked whether the crisis was at risk of spreading throughout the broader region, the ambassador said that if the problem remained unresolved, it would get worse as other countries could acquire weapons of mass destruction. However, Saddam Hussein’s regime has shown that it would not hesitate to use them. It was the events of September 11, 2001 that changed the way the USA looked at the world. «It lowered our feeling about the threshold of danger. We were living in a security bubble that burst,» said Miller, emphasizing that no US government had the right to sit back in the face of an existing danger and that this is something the world had to recognize. «We just do not believe that we can live with this kind of threat that is out there,» he said. «You ask, ‘Will the problem go away?’ if you try to ignore it. For us there is an overwhelming sentiment that it won’t, that it will get worse and that it would be irresponsible of us, after September 11, to see a danger that was so obvious and do nothing about it.» Asked whether Washington understood the reasons behind the anti-war demonstrations in the USA and Europe, Miller spoke of democratic countries where everyone had the right to disagree, quoting Voltaire’s famous phrase, but he did not say whether Washington would pay heed to the dissent by reviewing its already foregone decisions.