VIEW: Afghanistan vs Iraq
By Farrukh Saleem
34 countries, including Pakistan, officially condemned the invasion of Iraq, and it prompted protests across the world
On October 7, 2001, the United States of America attacked Afghanistan. Casus belli, or the justification for the attack: Al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 and Afghanistan under the Taliban regime was Al Qaeda’s sanctuary. America’s stated purpose: “To capture Osama bin Laden, destroy Al Qaeda and remove the Taliban regime.” Result: Al Qaeda’s training camps were destroyed and the Taliban regime was overthrown.
The US attack on Afghanistan was initially supported by the United Kingdom. Later, 46 countries, including Pakistan, joined in support of this mission.
Currently, the UK has numerous military units, from the army and the air force, deployed in Afghanistan. Similarly, Canada has 2500 military personnel stationed in Afghanistan, with another 450 on the way. Australia and the Netherlands also have their people in the country helping with special tasks and reconstruction.
Add to that several units of the French army, nearly 2000 Italian personnel, 3500 German soldiers, hundreds of soldiers from the Danish Defence Force and the Portuguese army’s Rapid Reaction Brigade. Then there is a tri-nation detachment of Danish, Dutch and Norwegian F-16 ground attack fighters. And let’s not forget that Poland is sending an additional 1000 troops to add to its existing presence in the country.
On March 20, 2003, the United States of America attacked Iraq. Casus belli: Iraq’s “development of weapons of mass destruction.” America’s stated purpose: “To bring down the Saddam regime and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Result: the Baath Party was ousted, Saddam Hussein was executed but no weapons of mass destruction were found.
34 countries, including Pakistan, officially condemned the invasion of Iraq, and it prompted protests across the world. It is estimated that between January and April 2003, “36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the war on Iraq.” 3 million protested in Rome, 2 million in London, 600,000 in Madrid, 300,000 in Berlin with additional protests in Paris, New York, Washington, Damascus, Oslo, Stockholm, Brussels, Johannesburg and Montreal.
Further, a BBC World Service poll has concluded that “73 percent of the global population disapproves of the US handling of the Iraq War.” Other polls show similar disapproval of the Iraq war, and majorities in the UK and Canada believe it to be unjustified. The Pew Global Attitudes Project, one of the most respected surveys of global opinion, suggested that majorities in several countries across the world — the Netherlands, Germany, Jordan, France, Lebanon, China, Spain, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Morocco — considered the world safer before the Iraq War. In the US itself, reliable polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS found that 61 percent of Americans feel that the US should have stayed out of Iraq.
Note the contrast in state and public opinion from around the world in these two wars. When Afghanistan was attacked following 9/11, hardly anyone, except for some hardliners, protested. There was also significant state support such as the use of facilities and air space allowed by Pakistan and Uzbekistan. There was a global consensus that Al Qaeda was a threat to security around the world and that the Taliban were an oppressive regime that was harbouring these terrorists. This resulted in significant support for the mission.
On the other hand, the reasons provided for the Iraq War — WMDs and links to Al Qaeda — have been not been substantiated. Thus the US faced global and internal condemnation for this mission. These cases show the importance of international consensus in gaining support, both moral and material, for such campaigns.
Dr Farrukh Saleem is an Islamabad-based economist and analyst
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