Cohn-Bendit and the Zionist ideologist Perle debate Iraq in 2003
- From: HHW <coaster132000@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2008 10:24:16 -0700 (PDT)
Blessed Are the Warmakers?
By Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Richard Perle
Page 1 of 2
Posted May 2003
The United States and the European Union both want peace in the Middle
East--but that's about all they agree upon. While Washington believes
that regime change in Iraq will usher in an era of regional peace and
stability, Brussels worries that U.S. adventurism will make the clash
of civilizations a self-fulfilling prophecy. Will war in Iraq prove to
be an act of creative destruction, or simply destruction? Two
outspoken thinkers from opposite sides of the Atlantic--Richard Perle,
a key national security advisor to the Pentagon, and Daniel Cohn-
Bendit, leader of the European Parliament's Green Party--traded views
and barbs at a recent debate in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of
Helga Flores Trejo, the new Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
Cohn-Bendit (left) and Perle (right) debate at the Heinrich Böll
By Travis C. Daub
Daniel Cohn-Bendit: If I could sit down with the president of the
United States, I would say, "Mr. Bush, I am no pacifist, and I know
military intervention can be absolutely necessary. When the Allies
landed in Normandy in 1944, my parents took the first opportunity to
conceive a child as a celebration of their new freedom."
Richard Perle: I never imagined we owe you to former U.S. President
Cohn-Bendit: That's life. But recently, your government has been
behaving like the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution. You want to
change the whole world! Like them, you claim that history will show
that truth is on your side. You want the world to follow the American
dream, and you believe that you know what is best for Iraq, Syria,
Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Africa, Liberia, Yemen, and all other
countries. Like every revolutionary, you have good ideas, but your
problem lies in the means you want to use to realize them. Suddenly
you want to bring democracy to the world, starting with Iraq. What
happened to this administration, which began with promises and plans
for a humble foreign policy and nonintervention?
Perle: A fair question. We are interested in democracy in Iraq because
we are, in the first place, interested in disarming Saddam Hussein.
Now, if we are going to remove Saddam to get rid of his weapons of
mass destruction, consider democracy as an added benefit. The Middle
East is unstable, and, in many ways, it is becoming more unstable.
Democracies do not wage aggressive wars. We want to bring real
stability to the region. That's why we want to change the political
system in Iraq.
Cohn-Bendit: I do not question the value of democracy. On the
contrary, I am asking how best to achieve democracy. First of all,
remember former French General and later President Charles de Gaulle,
who insisted to Dwight Eisenhower in 1944 that he, as a French leader,
had to enter liberated Paris, however weak he was. The point was that
only the French themselves--not an American general--could remake France
after the shame of the country's collaboration with the Nazis. Second,
you are making a mistake as you try to lead the region down the path
toward democracy. The key to a peaceful and stable Middle East is
Iran. In contrast to Iraq, Iran has a strong, organized civil society
that is already very close to making a breakthrough toward
democratization. Or, in a different category, we should really solve
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel does not comply with U.N.
resolutions any more than does Iraq. You will say that I cannot
compare the two. But the Arab population makes this comparison. And as
long as many people do not believe in you, you will have a difficult
time in Iraq.
Perle: You are imagining a U.S. general riding roughshod over Iraqis
and confirming the worst fears of Muslims around the world that we are
an aggressive, imperialist power. I have another view. We have Ahmed
Chalabi, chief of the opposition Iraqi National Congress, to enter
Baghdad. Ending the current Iraqi regime will liberate the Iraqis. We
will leave both governance and oil in their hands. We will hand over
power quickly--not in years, maybe not even in months--to give Iraqis a
chance to shape their own destiny. The whole world will see this. And
I expect the Iraqis to be at least as thankful as French President
Jacques Chirac was for France's liberation.
Cohn-Bendit: Oh, come on. It's not true.
Perle: Nobody has to say, "Thank you." It is quite sufficient for us
to know that people in Iraq will no longer live in abject fear.
Cohn-Bendit: With Iraq, you are talking about nation building. Yet we
have not finished our job in Afghanistan. We see a backlash against
women and deteriorating security. We have barely secured the capital,
Kabul. It is my biggest fear that Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
will take over Kabul while you are fighting in Iraq. After the war,
you will neglect Iraq and shift your attention to Syria, then Saudi
Arabia. Because you are Americans, you have the biggest army in the
world--you can do anything you want. This is revolutionary hubris.
Perle: I do not know that this is any American official's view.
Cohn-Bendit: Don't say that. After the war in Iraq, you will adopt
this view. Syria is financing the Hamas terrorist organization, right?
Perle: Yes, and Syria is not alone. But I think we will have a very
good opportunity to persuade Syria to stop sponsoring terrorism. I
promise we will be more effective in that if we remove Hussein, rather
than crawling back from where we are today, throwing up our hands, and
saying, "It's too hard. We couldn't do it, we had too little support."
Would you rather talk with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about
terrorism before or after the liberation of Iraq?
Perle: You think you would achieve anything?
Cohn-Bendit: That's why I am saying. Let's change the agenda together!
Europe and America have to agree on means and ends if we want to
trigger a peaceful domino effect in the Middle East. Solving the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be part of this agenda. I accept
wars that are necessary, but I still believe that war against Iraq is
not necessary. I have proposed to contain Saddam Hussein with U.S.
troops in the Gulf, and to convene a summit like the Helsinki
Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975. The U.N.
should declare a Palestinian state, and, with an international
mandate, we should secure Israel and Palestine. This is where we could
reach a mutual understanding! And if you put this project on the
agenda, the whole region will look at America with different eyes.
Perle: The chances for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict will improve as soon as Saddam is gone. Iraqi opposition
leader Ahmed Chalabi and his people have confirmed that they want a
real peace process, and that they would recognize the state of Israel.
There is no doubt about that if they come to power. We cannot expect
the peace process to be any more promising than it is now as long as
Saddam Hussein actively works against it--including raining rockets on
Israel as he did during the 1991 Gulf War. President George W. Bush
presented his vision for the Middle East on June 24, 2002. Yet his
plan has not received the attention it deserves. Bush said, if the
Palestinians establish themselves as interlocutors who operate without
corruption and terrorism, then the United States will support the
creation of a Palestinian state. Yet the Europeans are supporting
Arafat and sending checks from Brussels. We have reached a dead end.
The checks are standing in the way of the kind of democratic reform
needed in the Palestinian National Authority that can open the door
Cohn-Bendit: This difference of opinion is not limited to Arafat.
America has to learn that, after a war with Iraq, the trans-Atlantic
relationship will change. Hitherto, it has been like a traditional
male-female relationship: Man calls, woman follows. Then, there was
emancipation. I do want something new in Europe, and not the French way
--anti-Americanism no matter what. Europe can take on responsibilities,
and I dream that it will be able to handle alone something like Bosnia
in the future. This new relationship is not against America, but it is
not for America either. It is for Europe. European interests are not
equal to American interests. You Americans did not believe in Europe
before, with the euro. You laughed at us. We did it, and it is not so
bad. And you will see, we will do much more. We have differing views
on the Kyoto Protocol, and on the International Criminal Court. I
understand the American position, because the two continents have
completely different understandings of sovereignty.
Perle: If my prediction--that everything will go well with Iraq--becomes
reality, then the damage recently done to trans-Atlantic relations
will rapidly be repaired. We will still have the problem of French
ambitions to build a Europe in opposition to the United States. And if
the French are indeed creating a counterweight, do not call their
relationship with the United States an alliance anymore. In that case
we, as Americans, will have to consider how we deal with this European
departure from the trans-Atlantic axis.
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