Peaceful solution

The evidence that US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented at the UN Security Council yesterday neither altered the parameters of the Iraq issue nor refuted the arguments of the countries that remain skeptical about war. This is less because the data fall short of providing foolproof evidence and more because they are insufficient cause for military action. Powell demonstrated that Saddam Hussein wishes to and has tried to rearm. But he failed to prove that the attempt by the Iraqi regime poses any immediate threat and, most crucially, he failed to make clear why a war is a better response (a response which according to international law and Western values ought to respect the principle of proportionality between means and ends) than thorough inspections and the systematic monitoring of Baghdad. It would not be an exaggeration to argue that in his effort to prove the need for war, Powell has in fact succeeded in demonstrating the need for further weapons searches. The UN inspection team is reported to have carried out very useful work. But though the searches to date have produced suspect findings, there are no clear signs of the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Inspectors are not asking for bombings, but for more time to carry out their mission. The governments which back the inspectors’ demand are only showing respect for the opinion of experts who have been appointed by the international community. Snubbing the experts’ recommendations or sidelining their proposals for a few satellite photos and tape recordings would mean that the UN disregards its team, giving them the mission merely for show. Powell’s presentation suggests the need to extend the searches and give the UN inspectors every possible assistance they need to complete their mission. Under the embargo and the no-fly zones, Iraq poses no immediate military threat. Rather, it is a «suspect» which must be monitored and investigated, with further UN inspections and coordinated pressure on Baghdad so as to enable inspectors’ access everywhere. We should bear in mind that war, to invert the remarks made by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, not only entails regional destabilization but above all humanitarian consequences for innocent people. The West, which has rightly taken pride in its humanist tradition, should not pull the trigger before doing its utmost to achieve a peaceful solution.