Attacking Iraq a prescription for misery
NEW YORK- Christo-pher Buckley, author and humourist, did a brilliant satire last week on a fictional Q and A on the impending war on Iraq.

Asked how long it would take for post-war American reconstruction and "nation building" in a battle-scarred Iraq, Buckley said it could take six to nine months, depending on how long it takes to rapidly deploy McDonalds and Starbucks - not to mention Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut fast food restaurants in Baghdad. Well, how will US soldiers be sure they have eliminated the real Saddam Hussein when there are identical "doubles" of the Iraqi President floating around Baghdad?. With tongue firmly in cheek, Buckley says that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has estimated some 8 million Saddam Hussein look-alikes in Iraq.

After the American invasion, he said, the doubles which are reportedly kept in the basement of presidential palaces in Baghdad, will be individually tagged and taken to the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, where they will be sorted and undergo DNA analysis so that the actual Saddam Hussein can be tried for "crimes against humanity." Even US Secretary of State Colin Powell has not lost his sense of humour despite trying political circumstances. At an after-dinner speech in New York on Thursday, Powell said the US had been scrupulously monitoring elections taking place in several countries in the world last week- in Brazil, Pakistan and even in Iraq.

As Powell would joke, one of Saddam Hussein's senior aides tells the president: "Supreme leader, you have been re-elected president with 99.99 percent of the votes". But the Iraqi leader seems unhappy despite the overwhelming votes in his favour. "What else do you want, Supreme Leader," the aide asks. "I want all those who didn't vote for me," says Saddam Hussein, probably hoping to hang them all, as Powell's audience breaks into laughter. Even the political inconsistencies of the US position on Iraq have lent themselves to satirical barbs.

After all, it was the US which provided Iraq with military equipment, satellite photos and even material for chemical and biological weapons, when the Iraqis were fighting an eight year long war against neigbouring Iran during 1980-1988. While Iraq and the United States are the butt of all jokes here, the UN Security Council struck a serious note last week when the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the largest single political grouping in the 191-member world body, stood firm in its opposition to the impending war.

Speaking on behalf of NAM, South African Ambassador Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo said: "We would rather this be resolved in a peaceful manner."

Contrary to the stand taken by the US, NAM wants the Security Council to allow UN arms inspectors to return to Iraq without further delay.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has already invited inspectors into the country, but the US is seeking a new Council resolution that would toughen the inspectors' mandate before they could leave for Baghdad in search of Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. If Iraq fails to cooperate, the US would automatically launch a military attack.
But an overwhelming majority of member states oppose any spontaneous attacks and want the US to come back to the Security Council for a second resolution authorising the attack.

Addressing an open meeting of the Security Council, Kumalo said that 11 years of UN sanctions have brought "endless suffering to the ordinary people" in Iraq. "We hope that the Security Council would despatch the inspectors to Iraq as soon as possible, and allow the people of Iraq to focus their attention on rebuilding their country."

The Council meeting, which is customarily confined to its five permanent and 10 non-permanent members, was opened to all 191 member states, specifically to debate Iraq. The proposal for an open meeting was initiated by South Africa, on behalf of NAM. Even Sri Lanka, in one of those rare decisions to address the Security Council, took the floor to welcome the Iraqi government's offer to allow UN arms inspectors into the country without any conditions. Ambassador C. Mahendran, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, told the Council: "We hope that Iraq's decision will pave the way for the weapons inspectors to resume their work without further delay in that country towards the elimination of weapons of mass destruction."

The political and economic stability of the Middle East in general, and Iraq in particular, is also an important factor for Sri Lanka because of prolific tea markets in the region.

The Middle East is also home for millions of Sri Lankan migrant workers who are one of the country's biggest foreign exchange earners.

With virtually every single country making a plea against a unilateral US attack on Iraq, there was speculation by late Friday that Washington was willing to compromise by initiating a second round of discussions in the Security Council before launching an attack.

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