International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

December 12, 2003

December 12, 2003





**  Global media denounce the U.S.' reconstruction "blacklist" as "petty" retaliation.


**  Such "exclusion" reopens old wounds, alienates allies and will set back U.S. efforts in Iraq.


**  It fuels the leftist theory that the U.S. wants to exploit Iraq reconstruction for its own gain.


**  Wolfowitz gets blamed for the "hostile" edict; national security rationale is "hypocritical."




'Clearly a punitive measure' against allies, but U.S. 'revenge' will only hurt Iraqis--  Euro papers found the U.S.' "crude display of pettiness" and "blunt retaliation" against those countries that did not support the U.S. in Iraq hard to fathom and "an unnecessary affront" to traditional U.S. allies.  France's right-of-center Le Figaro held that the Pentagon's "posturing" was done with "a degree of rudeness that comes close to provocation."  But the "real scandal," noted a German paper, is that Washington "settles old accounts on the backs of the Iraqis."  Canadian reaction to America's "inept insult" of a "principled ally" was mixed, but writers agreed new PM Martin must "take the high road" and not renege on the $250-million Iraqi aid pledge.  One Toronto columnist instead derided the outcry by those expecting "equal status" with a country whose soldiers are coming home in body bags "as chutzpah on a grand scale."


Pentagon revives pre-war 'animosities' just when the U.S. 'desperately needs help'--

Observers were dismayed that after months of ostensibly trying to "mend the rifts with Old Europe" and to garner NATO intervention, the U.S. had suddenly "closed the door to dialogue."  Britain's Financial Times could not see how "gratuitously alienating important allies" around the globe can "enhance U.S. security."  Even war supporters, such as Spain's conservative ABC, feared Wolfowitz's action "threatens to revive the upheaval" that had started to dissipate.  Echoing sentiment in Europe and the Americas, Beijing's official China Daily termed the decision another example of U.S. "unilateralism that does nothing to help heal the deep wounds" left by the war and "a setback" to efforts to win international support in rebuilding Iraq.


The U.S. is 'dividing the spoils of war' for its own commercial benefit--  Though a few conservative and financial Western dailies found "some basis" in the exclusion, more writers adhered to the "deep-rooted leftist cliche" that the U.S. was trying to take the "lion's share" of Iraqi business.  Editorials in Indonesia and Uganda accused the U.S. of "looting and "plunder," with Kampala's state-owned New Vision claiming that the U.S. and UK  want to recover the cost of the Iraq invasion by "steering juicy contracts to their own companies."


Wolfowitz left a 'disastrous' impression, personifies the 'hubris' that led to war--  The Deputy Secretary of Defense's national security justification for the "blacklisting" was "more than hypocritical."  Critics complained the U.S. was banning Berlin while allowing Riyadh to take part and limiting competition while proclaiming itself "an advocate of free trade."  Further, such reprisals, noted Tunisia's independent French-language Le Quotidien, "represent a new excess on the part of the Hawks" in Washington who use the Iraqi pie as a "tool of pressure."


EDITOR:  Irene Marr

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 46 reports from 24 countries, December 11-12.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "How Not To Make Friends And Influence People"


The independent Financial Times editorialized (12/11):  "The Pentagon's decision to bar countries that opposed the war from bidding for 26 reconstruction contracts in Iraq is, to put it mildly, impolitic....  The Bush administration had to work hard on Congress to ensure this was provided to Iraq in the form of aid, rather than as loans to be repaid by future Iraqi oil revenues, as several Republican members wanted.  Payback in the form of contracts limited to companies from U.S. and Iraq coalition countries was very probably part of the horse-trading....  Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary and architect of the Iraq war strategy, says in his 'finding' that limiting competition for these contracts 'is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States'.  It is hard to see how gratuitously alienating important allies in Europe, the Americas and the Islamic world can enhance U.S. security....  Most of all, the contracts edict shows yet again the Pentagon's preference for sticking to its own alarmingly overoptimistic postwar scenarios....  The besetting problem with this unfortunate 'finding' is the hegemonic whiff it gives off.  The U.S. desperately needs help in Iraq and this is not the way to get it."


FRANCE:  "The Pentagon’s Posturing"


Pierre Rousselin commented in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/11):  “What is unpleasant is that this has been done with a degree of rudeness that comes close to provocation....  For the U.S. it is very unfortunate that President Bush’s policy is once again being presented in such a petty-minded way.  Anti-Americanism, which we are right to fight, will be awakened.  Many will wonder whether the war in Iraq was not conducted in order to keep a hand on oil contracts.  Although the real reasons for the war are different, the impression stemming from Paul Wolfowitz may prevail in the end....  The impression left by his directive is disastrous.  The U.S. can hope to convince a majority of nations to help in stabilizing Iraq only if it approaches it as a common objective and forgets about past quarrels.  The State Department’s realists--Colin Powell in Washington and Paul Bremer in Baghdad--know this.  It is too bad Paul Wolfowitz and the Pentagon’s ideologues...continue with their posturing in the hopes of ‘punishing’ those who did not follow them from the start.”


"America’s Monopoly In Iraq"


Guillaume Goubert held in Catholic La Croix (12/11):  “Resentment is tenacious....  While the Iraqi contracts do not, legally, fall under the jurisdiction of the WTO, the fact is that America’s rigid stance does not favor an international consensus to come to the aid of Iraq.  On the contrary it proves that Washington continues to consider this question in light of a power play rather than cooperation....  Coincidentally, Kofi Annan has rejected the idea of a rapid return of the UN to Iraq.  It is clear that the UN returning to Iraq is hard to imagine as long as Washington continues to consider that country as its own personal business.”


"America Does Not Share"


Bernard Guetta remarked on government-run France Inter radio (12/11):  “The...message clearly says that...the U.S. does not easily forgive when it is offended....  This is the schizophrenic logic of a nation where one ministry out of two apparently does not understand that alone America cannot hope to get out of the quagmire it has put itself and the world in.”


GERMANY:  "Insincere"


Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger argued in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/11):  "Despite all statements to the contrary, all sides involved have not yet recovered from the inner-western clash in Iraq.  This is the only explanation of the Pentagon's disciplinary measure....  We can certainly understand the annoyance in Washington that it wants to use U.S. money according to its own discretion, but the reason for the exclusion--the United States must safeguard its security interests--is grotesque, at least insincere.  But the main thing is that this is a bad policy, which is detrimental to itself and does not aim at gathering the western partners, old one and new ones, behind the stabilization project, a move that would be in the interest of all.  On the one hand, the Bush administration wants material support (from taxpayers money) and a relief of the military burden, but, on the other hand, it pursues a policy that awards contracts that uses political and economic sanctions as an instrument.  This does not fit.  It is bad style and leads to irreconcilability in the Alliance."


"Revenge Of The Pentagon"


Stefan Kornelius noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (12/11):  "Wolfowitz did not say how U.S. security interests could be violated if a German company drills wells in Iraq.  But with this remark he again proved what kind of lousy strategist he is....  Of course, it is understandable that the Bush team in Washington has difficulties with the Schroeder team in Berlin, but national chauvinism is clearly coming to the fore when taking revenge and when using a collective punishment that does not differentiate between politics and the economy, between politicians and peoples....  This Paul Wolfowitz...personifies the hubris, which made Washington go to war and act against the UN and which, with arrogant stubbornness, has allowed the disintegration process in Iraq to happen, because any sign of cooperation, every compromise would be an even greater sign of weakness."


"Classical Self-Inflicted Wound"


Washington correspondent Michael Backfisch judged in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (12/11):  "From a mere legal point of view, this decision is correct...but small-minded legalism is counterproductive in this case.  The fact that Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz used 'fundamental U.S. security interests' as a reason for this step is more than hypocritical....   With painstaking and detailed diplomatic work, President Bush tried to open the international money coffers for reconstructing the Gulf.  But due to the most recent U.S. decision, the generosity of the excluded countries will be limited.  This is detrimental for Bush's appeal to act closely in the fight against international terrorism.  The U.S. government tore open the old wounds over the Iraq war--and George W. Bush gave himself a classic self-inficted wound."


"According To The Saddam Principle"


Dietmar Ostermann argued in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (12/11):  "Simple retaliation is involved in the U.S. move.  It is indeed up to Washington to decide on the use of U.S. taxpayers' money.  This is why the exclusion may be shortsighted as far as foreign policy is concerned and problematic with respect to trade policy.  The real scandal is not that German or French companies will only have a chance a sub-contractors in U.S. financed reconstruction programs in Iraq.  The real scandal is that the Bush administration settles old accounts on the backs of the Iraqis."


"Who Can Be So Naïve"


Washington correspondent Malte Lehming filed the following editorial for centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (12/11):  "Many arguments could be raised against the U.S. decree.  First, its arbitrariness....  Second, it is hypocritical...and third, it widens the transatlantic gap...but the objection we hear again and again is that the reason should return to international politics and not the urge for revenge.  But it is not that easy.  The Iraq war inflicted wounds on both sides of the Atlantic.  It is not possible to convey to many U.S. taxpayers, who have to pay the bill of the Iraq war, why Russians, French, and Germans should now make a profit by helping reconstruct Iraq."


ITALY: "Peace Is Well Worth A Contract"


Boris Biancheri opined in centrist, influential La Stampa (12/12): "The decision by the U.S. to exclude certain unwelcome countries from the contracts for Iraqi reconstruction like France, Germany and Russia, evoked in the respective capitals--and even more so in Brussels--stupefying indignation. The decision can be evaluated from various points of view: from the U.S. domestic policy viewpoint it's completely understandable, from a juridical perspective it's questionable, from a general political standpoint it not only appears wrong but also contrary to Washington's strategic interests....  From the perspective of international law, the decision is dubious. It contradicts the spirit, if not the letter of the World Trade Organization and the international agreement on contracts signed by the U.S. in Marrakech.... But where the Americans are most wrong is in underlining with this gesture the importance of economic aspects tied to the Iraqi matter and in reserving the benefits for itself and for its friends. One of the most diffused and deep-rooted leftist clichés which European public opinion has inherited is that behind the ethical precepts, behind the mission to bring democracy to the world, the U.S. goal is to colonize the planet economically.  Now, the stabilization of Middle East and Gulf area, beginning with Iraq, is a legitimate interest not only of the U.S. but of everyone: it should not be confused with national interests, as difficult as it is to get an average American to accept this--even at the cost of sacrificing a few billion dollars with respect to the many billions of dollars that the Iraqi operation has already cost."


"Old Europe and America Clash Again"


Stefano Trincia noted in Rome center-left Il Messaggero (12/12): "Bush's special envoy James Baker, former Secretary of State and respected diplomat is leaving for Europe.  He was supposed to discuss with Russia, France, Germany, Italy and Great Britain the issue regarding the writing-off of the Iraqi debt. Now, with the U.S. State Department's evident embarrassment and the strong annoyance of the White House, he will have to soften the counterblows to the U.S. decision to exclude Paris, Moscow and Berlin from the multi-billion dollar contracts for the reconstruction.... But President Bush's firmness could not hide the controversy in the U.S. capital. According to revelations obtained by the New York Times from State Department sources, Bush is angry with the Pentagon and particularly with Paul Wolfowitz for having prematurely diffused the edict on the contracts via Internet."


"This Is How Bush Divides Up The Contracts To Remain At The White House"


Vittorio Zucconi commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (12/11):  "Those who were suspicious of the 'idealism' as the motive for the new U.S. policy of global military projection may find bitter comfort in learning today that Washington has decided to keep the loot for the reconstruction and from the oil for themselves and to distribute the crumbs to the auxiliaries and to punish France, Germany, Russia and Canada, who are all excluded from the post-Saddam banquet.  But we must give this administration credit for one thing--of having always said so and of having clearly warned the unruly that to oppose the war would have cost them a high price."


"In Europe, Astonishment And Indignation"


Mario Maggiore noted in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (12/11):  "Astonishment, indignation and a query hover about the faces of European diplomats....  What is the meaning and the use of such a hostile behavior?  The Europeans don't understand.  They don't understand why the U.S. has spent the last few months trying to mend the rift with the Old Europe due to the Iraqi crisis, trying to re-unite the Atlantic Alliance also in light of a possible NATO intervention in Iraq, and then, suddenly closing the door to dialogue in the name of 'U.S. national security.' "


RUSSIA:  "The U.S. Risks Turning Off Allies"


Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (12/11):  "The Pentagon's decision to 'excommunicate the apostates,' countries that refuse to send troops to Iraq, is nothing out of the ordinary.  Even in the spring, soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, the Pentagon sought to restrict access to the Iraqi heritage for allies as well as the apostates.  The Pentagon's logic, as straightforward as any military's, is quite clear.  Choosing between stick and carrot in its relations with the new Entente, the United States has picked the former.  But it is far from certain that the renegades will be so scared, they will rush to toe the line drawn by Donald Rumsfeld and his assistant Paul Wolfowitz, the guy at the Iraqi pork barrel tap....  Were the new Entente [of France, Germany and Russia] suddenly to accept Paul Wolfowitz's rules it would have to forego the principles it stands for in the UN.  It won't do that, of course.  As for the United States, which prefers stick to carrot, it risks turning off the allies and being left to handle Iraq on its own.  It is a big question, who is going to lose in the end."


"The U.S. May Lose Support"


Aleksey Tikhonov remarked in reformist Izvestiya (12/11):  "The United States may lose support from the international community once and for all."


AUSTRIA:  "Unnecessary Affront"


Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer commented in liberal Der Standard (12/11):  "The critics of the war in Iraq have been debating for a while now whether they should ‘help’ the Americans in Iraq, or whether the U.S. should be left to face the music, which it has brought about more or less by itself, on its own....  The conclusion usually was that a failure of the U.S. in Iraq would have far too dramatic consequences for the entire international community, and thus should not be allowed to happen, let alone be gloated over.  After the war, a fresh start seemed to be the only way forward, especially in transatlantic relations, and similar signals also came from Washington.  That was obviously a misconception.  The members of the anti-war camp are now being punished by the U.S. for their opinion--which in the meantime has been confirmed--that the threat constituted by Iraq was not a sufficient reason for the war.  Free competition, free markets, yes, definitely--but not for unruly countries that dared to disagree with U.S. politics....  It has always been clear that the lion’s share of the Iraq business is going to go to the U.S. anyway.  This new affront to drive home the message was thus doubly unnecessary."


BELGIUM:  "Rebuilding Iraq"


Chief commentator Paul Geudens commented in conservative Christian-Democrat Gazet van Antwerpen (12/11):  “Iraq must be rebuilt.  However, the cost is much higher than the American citizens can afford and, consequently, the government is looking for foreign sponsors of military and financial means.  The announcement that companies from non-coalition countries are excluded from contracts in Iraq must be seen in that framework.  Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said it openly.  It is a measure ‘to urge countries to join the coalition.’  That is pure blackmail.  One can find that arrogant and discriminating, but is it not incomprehensible.  Almost every day the Americans see body bags with dead American soldiers.  They are also paying an extremely high price for the war.  Therefore, they would not accept that companies from countries that do not want to have anything to do with the war are making money from it.  An American president would not be able to explain that to his voters.  That explains everything.”


"Rather A Stick Than A Carrot"


Deputy chief editor Bart Sturtewagen held in Christian-Democrat De Standaard (12/11):  “Countries that refused to join the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein must not count on lucrative contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq.  That is the message from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz....  In his view, it is a matter of national security.  Above all, however, it is a means to make legal action against this decision difficult.  A blunt refusal to allow competition might be challenged in American courts as well as in the WTO....  It shows again that when things really matter the Bush administration opts for the stick, rather than for the carrot.  It prefers to wrest cooperation from other parties, instead of trying to obtain it via diplomatic means.  It is the style of the house and there is no improvement in sight....  Diplomatically, Washington is making a blunder.  The goodwill that could be created by an open competition for the reconstruction of Iraq is essential.  Since the fall of Baghdad eight months ago, the American regime in Iraq has changed its mind four times....  The Americans must realize that they will be the biggest losers if the situation [in Iraq] derails.  That should make them understand that they must seize every chance to tear down the walls between the camps that were created by the war.  Again, one of those opportunities was not exploited.”


CROATIA:  "Time For Consequences"


Jurica Korbler commented in Zagreb-based government-owned Vjesnik (12/12):  "The Pentagon's retaliation obviously hasn't arrived at the right moment.  Through painstaking diplomatic action, step by step, America has been attempting to mollify its would-be allies and the United Nations to get involved in reconstruction of Iraq, and both sides have accepted it with a sour smile....  Bush could thus start losing many allies one by one, and be accused of setting in motion war machinery with the goal of securing good business deals after the war.  On the other hand, Pentagon creators of this decision claim that time has come to reward those who have borne the largest brunt.  The Iraqi knot is getting more and more complicated and entangled every day, and the Pentagon's decision certainly does not contribute to forgetting the old antagonisms.  Retaliations and revenge are what America now needs the least."


IRELAND:  "Double Speak"


The center right, populist Irish Independent (12/12):  "At the height of the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Ahern seemed to eschew his normal constructive ambiguity to declare that he 'presumes' Ireland is one of the 15 countries 'assisting' the U.S. in the Gulf....  But last night as it emerged that Ireland was not on the list, and so not in a position to pitch for contracts in Iraq, Mr. Ahern was unabashed.  Despite exciting the wrath of more than 100,000 anti-war demonstrators in the capital and allowing Shannon to be used by the U.S. for refueling, he was adamant: 'Didn't I oppose the war throughout?  It was just a few people who didn't really understand and who believed I was supporting the war'....  A ban at Shannon would have cost us dearly.  It was quite simply pragmatism over principle.  It would have been some trick to have passed ourselves off as having been both for and against the war simultaneously."


FINLAND:   "Reward And Punishment"


Finland's largest regional daily, right-of-center Aamulehti editorialized (12/11):  "While the U.S. can use its tax dollars any way it wants, dividing countries into sheep and wolves is an unfortunate precedent.  The pattern here is:  if you are not with us, you are against us and will suffer."


NORWAY:  "The True Face Of The Occupant"


Independent Dagbladet commented (12/11):  “Paul Wolfowitz used 'national security reasons' as an argument for the blacklisting.  This is a ridiculous accusation.  The fact is that the U.S. wants to revenge itself on countries that didn’t wag their tails when Saddam Hussein was to be thrown out of office....  If anyone were in doubt before, Wolfowitz’s announcement shows that the U.S. is simply an occupying power in Iraq and nothing else....  Did anyone speak about introducing democracy in Iraq?”


POLAND:  "From Politics To Money And Vice Versa"


Robert Soltyk wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (12/12):  “Washington has toughened its tone on the Iraq contracts because its European allies had left unanswered its appeal for increased presence of NATO in Iraq.… When diplomatic efforts failed, the proponents of a ‘tougher course’ in the U.S. gained the upper hand, convinced that blackmail would be the best method to deal with the E.U.  The Americans, however, still make it clear that they are ready to allow the Union to the Iraq contracts if it supports the idea of NATO’s bigger involvement in Iraq.”


"Empty Gesture Or Something Else"


Editor-in-chief Grzegorz Jankowski noted in tabloid Fakt (12/11): “The Americans showed to their critics that they may have to bear the consequences of their policy [choices].  It is a positive signal.  Politics, international politics also, lacks responsibility.  I wonder, though, whether the Americans will prove equally tough when it comes to rewarding their most faithful allies.  Poland still hopes to get Iraqi contracts.  As well, we have been pleading in vain for the lifting of American visas.  Should it turn out that nothing comes out of this, Wolfowitz’s statement will be an empty gesture.  What use is criticizing the opponents if friends get nothing?”


ROMANIA:  "Bush's Circumstantial Friends"


Foreign policy analyst Carmen Avram opined in the financial oriented Ziarul Financiar (12/12): 

“As we could expect, George Bush is now living the apogee of his satisfaction.  At his feet, France, Germany and Russia are waiting, with their hands stretched out for a piece of the cake that the American President is waving under their noses....  It’s just a blackmail invented by the president’s vengeful mind.  Is it childish?  Of course.  What seems really incredible is the authentic shock of the three countries.  As if they hadn't been told.  As if they didn't know.… I wonder if we, President Bush's circumstantial friends, should be relaxed in the temporary comfort offered by the incumbent American administration?  Isn't it clear that, at the first false tone in a speech, at the first incident in which we won't follow the U.S., we will be doomed to the same fate?  Being annulled, scolded, chased away, blamed, ignored by the Republican from Texas.…  Bush is a President who had lost contact with reality.… Life, peace, friendship are not integrated in the values that he believes in.”


"Reconstruction Contracts"


In the financial oriented Ziarul Financiar, foreign policy analyst Mirela Luca opined (12/11):  “The U.S. decision may launch a new dispute inside NATO and the UN Security Council.  The countries known for their hostility against American policy in Iraq, who had refused to send troops, were excluded from direct contracts.  In this situation, important countries, such as France, Germany, Russia, Canada will be able, at best, to obtain subcontracts, more precisely, only part of the executed contracts....  By limiting the access to the Iraqi reconstruction contracts, the American authorities are favoring Great Britain, Italy and Spain, which have sent troops to Iraq, and whose companies were excluded in the first round, for the benefit of American companies.”


SLOVENIA:  "On Whose Side"


Sasa Vidmajer opined in left-of-center Delo (12/12):  “Since February, the U.S. included Slovenia in the 'coalition of the willing' and it seemed that there was no way out.  No matter how Slovenia explained [the circumstances related to the V-10 Protocol], it could not escape from it....  The Slovene PM distanced himself from V-10, but the U.S. Department of State denied his statement with a sneer.  Slovenia even refused the dollars, which Americans--faithfully following the principle that there is no such thing as a free lunch--wanted to give to us.  Only last summer and autumn, once all 'new European' countries except Slovenia more or less symbolically participated in the occupation of Iraq, it became evident that Slovenia was a stain in the group photo of the East which is madly in love with the U.S....  Slovenia should feel relieved with its being excluded from the list this time.  For Slovenia, this is the longed-for escape....  It is high time for Slovenia to profile itself as the only 'new European' country with a pro-European position.”


"The Pentagon Is Dividing The Spoils Of War"


Left-of-center Dnevnik observed (12/11):  “[The list] demonstrates what critics of the military deposing of Saddam Hussein have been repeating: that democracy, human rights, and international security were just a decoration on a big barrel of oil.… Slovenia--with its indecisiveness--had evaded the Congress'...and the government's...punishment...but it could not avoid the more orthodox Pentagon, which did not pardon Slovenia for its fence sitting by having signed the V-10 declaration.… Like the United States, France, Germany, and Russia had had their plans in Iraq.  No one has ever believed that [France, Germany and Russia] have just been defending the international law and supporting a bigger role for the United Nations. They have more than once demonstrated that their actual power - or lack thereof - is the only thing that separates them from American imperial logic.…  And Slovenia? Only SCT (Slovene road-construction company) has some reason to be sorry.… The rest is just policy. The Iraqi policy led by the Slovene Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed entirely.  It failed to such a degree that Slovenia had supported the pillage of the self-appointed liberators, but remained empty handed when the spoils were distributed.  Slovenia also deserves to be punished by the other side in order to pay the appropriate price for its unprincipled behavior.”


SPAIN: "Reserved Contracts"


Centrist La Vanguardia asserted (12/12):  “The U.S. President is possibly right, but it is evident that the Pentagon’s decision...arrives at a especially delicate moment, when Washington is trying to get an international agreement for reorganizing the Iraqi debt, which is estimated at $125 billion approximately.  Moreover, the exclusion of the awards because of plainly political reasons may contravene international laws.  Specifically, it may infringe on the regulations laid down by WTO on the matter.  Another legal slap for the U.S. at that organization, after the one relative to the dispute on steel tariffs--subsequently ended--would be particularly embarrassing for Washington.…  The row is taking place in the environment of general suspicion about the defense of specific private interests by Washington, which has accompanied this war from the beginning.”


"Reconstructing Iraq By Adding"


Conservative ABC remarked (12/11):  "The inflexible severity with which U.S. policy was criticized is now exacting a price....  Anyway, it seems evident that the definitive pacification of Iraq needs a keen strategy which tries to alleviate the tensions of the past.  The United States and Europe should attain a total understanding which safeguards the full stability of Iraq.  Without stability, the future of the country and the region will be seriously threatened.  That is why it is an inevitable priority attaining consensus on this subject....  The decision announced by Paul Wolfowitz...threatens to revive the upheaval which was starting to be, at last, left behind....  The formula to participate in [the contracts] admits a gradation.  [Participation] does not have to be decided radically and with roughness....  Generosity is sometimes a diplomatic tool which should be administered with intelligence and subtlety.  Above all when what is at stake is the victory of the allied strategy in Iraq and, with it, in the whole Middle East."


"Another Slap"


Left-of-center El País held (12/11):  "The decision has been announced by Paul Wolfowitz, and has confirmed that the worst 'hawks' of the Defense Department are leading U.S. foreign policy. (This policy) maintains the tendency to the use of force that distinguishes the Bush Administration and causes a rift between a big country and a huge part of the planet that felt solidarity after September 11.  Wolfowitz's pretext is also startling: the defense of the U.S. 'essential security interest'.  It is also regrettable that the U.S. that proclaims itself as advocate of free trade should limit the business in a third country....  Due to the chaotic situation in Irtaw. U.S. needs to increase its alliances.... With new slaps it won't be possible to stanch the wounds of this conflict and to repair a consensus that will let the UN to assume  the pacification in Iraq, the recovery of the sovereignty and the democratization....  Aznar's justifying with a participation in the sharing of the booty, a policy which most of the country (Spain) opposed to and which causes death and anguish, does not show ethical and political leadership."




TUNISIA: "The Cake Of Discord"


An editorial by editor-in-chief, Chokri Baccouche, in independent French-language Le Quotidien (12/12) stated: "The U.S. decision to bar opponents to the war from (reconstruction) contracts generated outrage in Europe.  Hence, France, Russia and Germany, considered as fierce opponents to the war in Iraq, are reaping Washington's economic revenge. These kinds of expected U.S. reprisals...represent a new excess on the part of the Hawks in the American administration....  The U.S. that proclaims to be a champion of free trade competition has decided to 'violate' the rules that govern international trade. The Iraqi pie, which arouses so much greediness, has become a tool of pressure in the hands of the U.S. administration's hawks. This decision risks increasingly harming the chances of restoring a weak and chaotic country.... It is in the U.S. interest to review its decision in order to achieve an efficient reconstruction of the country. Iraq should not be used as a way to raise the stakes and to jeopardize the fragile peace and stability of an unstable world."




CHINA: "Unilateralism Hurts Iraq Reconstruction"


Hu Xuan commented on the official English-language newspaper China Daily (12/12):  "Alienating its major allies, the U.S. on Wednesday vigorously defended the decision, contained in a Pentagon memo, to formally bar firms from France, Germany, Russia and other war opponents from prime contracts for Iraqi reconstruction projects. With the schism within the world body over the rights and wrongs of using force in Iraq still pervasive, the policy was simply another example of the Bush administration's unilateralism that does nothing to help heal the deep wounds left by the war.  The decision was in sharp contrast with the Bush administration recent efforts to solicit international support for rebuilding Iraq....  It is selfish that Washington has been lobbying other countries into paying the bills of the financially draining reconstruction work, while attempting to keep its dominant role in the war-torn country."


CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Favoritism Undermines Iraqi Reconstruction"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post stated (12/11):  "This time last year U.S. President George W. Bush was preparing for war, pushing regime change as the official policy on Iraq and building what he called a coalition of the willing - a list of countries that would back military action even if the United Nations did not endorse it.  This week's announcement that lucrative reconstruction contracts would be open only to those allies that have supported America's Iraqi campaign would seem to be the reward for such support.... The pity is that the list excludes a number of countries that have a history of working in Iraq and could contribute greatly to the rebuilding effort.  It also represents a step backwards in the U.S. effort to put a more international face on the reconstruction effort.  Rather than seizing a prime opportunity to increase the credibility of American administration of the country, the White House seems intent on reinforcing the message that the U.S. is determined to create a moral and economic world order of its own, with rewards only for those nations that jump on the bandwagon....  If the U.S. wanted to bring credibility to the efforts to restore Iraqi infrastructure and to help the people become self-reliant, it would try harder to avoid the impression that diplomatic favoritism or cosy arrangements have more sway than competitive bidding and professional qualifications.  Indeed, this is especially necessary when the funds will be coming from the United Nations, international donors and U.S. taxpayers."


INDONESIA: "Let Us Batter Iraq"


Muslim-intellectual Republika commented (12/12): “This is what we call looting: The U.S. is distributing Iraq reconstruction projects among its allies only.… Where do the funds come from?  From Iraq’ oil that is now fully under U.S. control, or from the loans from second or third parties that the Iraqi people later must repay.…  That is to say, the Iraqi people have to suffer because their country has been devastated by all kinds of bombs...and now they have to pay dearly to rebuild it.…  Therefore, the many reasons for the invasion that the U.S. keeps raising are nothing more than a reason to hide their evil intention: draining Iraq’s oil to the extent that the people will be crippled and always dependent on the U.S.”




INDIA:  "Shake Your Booty"


The nationalist Hindustan Times (12/12):  "If there was one thing the U.S. could have done without in Iraq, it was to add to its problems of getting international involvement in the war-ravaged country.  But then, going by the arrogance with which George W. Bush decided to bar countries opposed to the Iraq war from bidding for reconstruction contracts worth over $18 billion, the American president doesn't seem to think there's any problem in the first place.  That the fine print in the Pentagon directive does let other countries (read: those who opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq) to act as 'subcontractors' may be too little--and too late--to do much by way of damage control.  For one thing, this puts the U.S. in an embarrassing situation as Washington tries to explain to its strategic allies like Israel--and potential trade partners like China--why they are off the exclusive list, when countries like Uganda and Samoa can compete for contracts.  For another, the flames of anger this policy fans in Russia, France and Germany is bound to take quite a bit of diplomatic fire-fighting to douse.  It's curious that Mr. Bush decided to cut out those very countries that could have contributed to the largely isolated American effort in the desert.  If, indeed, he thinks that domestic support for the unilateral American occupation of Iraq is on the upswing--as some polls indicate--he's mistaken. Because whatever Foggy Bottom's promises about the best deals in Iraq going to U.S. companies, it will still be American taxpayers who must wonder why they have to pay for the Iraqi imbroglio."


 "India Shut Out"


Washington-based K.P. Nayar averred in the centrist Telegraph (12/11): "India, along with leading opponents of the war in Iraq...has been barred from contracts worth $18.6 billion to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure, which are to be awarded by the Americans shortly.  In a memo issued by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz...but made public...the Bush Administration has claimed that the exclusion is necessary to protect 'the essential security interests of the U.S.  Wolfowitz made it clear that reconstruction bids are also being used as carrots to get more countries to contribute troops to Iraq and to ensure that governments which have already sent troops do not buckle in the face of continuing death and mayhem created by insurgents opposed to U.S. occupation.... The U.S. decision drew stinging criticism from countries that have been made ineligible for participation in the rebuilding effort.... India has not yet commented on the U.S. decision, but Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov showed what could be a model for India to follow. Ivanov threatened that Russia would not restructure the debt owed by Baghdad to Moscow, as sought by Washington.... The U.S. is expected to ask India to write off the money it is owed by Iraq when presidential envoy James Baker travels to Delhi shortly....  India has pledged its taxpayer's money for humanitarian work in Iraq."




UGANDA:  "Plunder Of Iraq"


The editorial carried in the state-owned New Vision held (12/12):  "The U.S. government has said that only companies from the United States and coalition countries will be able to take on reconstruction contracts in Iraq.  Initially 26 contracts worth US$ 19billion are at stake but the ultimate cost of reconstruction is likely to be much higher.  French and German companies have been specifically excluded from tendering because the Americans allege that they would be a security risk. What a lame excuse!   France, German and Russia were historically big players in Iraq and it could have been cheaper to get their companies to rehabilitate the infrastructure that they originally constructed.  Furthermore the USA has been trying to persuade these three countries to write off tens of billions of dollars of debt owed to them by Iraq.  Debt write-off is now a non-starter after this slap in the face. Other countries excluding from tendering have contributed to the reconstruction effort. Will they now withdraw their funding?  It looks as though the USA and Britain want to recover the cost of the Iraq invasion by steering juicy contracts to their own companies.  Moreover several members of the Bush administration are shareholders in favored companies like Halliburton that are already taking up contracts in Iraq.  The American government needs to revisit this issue and allow companies from outside the United States and Britain to tender for reconstruction contracts. It is Iraqi oil that will pay and surely Iraq is entitled to award contracts to the cheapest compliant tender."




CANADA: "Canada Has No Call On Iraq Contracts"


Columnist Marcus Gee commented in the leading Globe and Mail (12/12):  "Let me try to understand this: Canada sat on the sidelines as its greatest friend went to war against a vicious tyranny in Iraq, and now it's offended that Canadian companies might not get to take part in Iraq's reconstruction? Come on, Canada. It is the Americans and their allies who are fighting and dying in Iraq. It is the United States that is putting up most of the tens of billions of dollars needed to rebuild the place. Is it so outrageous for Washington to say that only companies from the United States and allied countries will get the right to bid on reconstruction contacts?... To suggest that Canada should get equal status with countries whose soldiers are coming home in body bags is chutzpah on a grand scale.... Well, let's be clear. Ottawa sent troops to Afghanistan at least in part so it wouldn't have to send troops to Iraq. With our soldiers tied up in the Afghan mission, Ottawa can say to Washington: Hey, we'd love to come help you in Iraq, but we have a previous engagement. Very convenient.... As for our non-military aid to Iraq, Canada has spent $225-million so far -- a tidy sum, but a raindrop in the sand compared with the more than $80-billion that Washington plans to spend just for starters. The fact is that Canada stayed out of the war in Iraq and has stayed out of the postwar fight as well. Right or wrong, that decision has consequences....  Essentially, then, the message to the United States from Canada and the other anti-war countries is this: We won't put a single one of our soldiers at risk to help you rebuild Iraq, but we demand that our companies get a share in profits. The nerve, to use Mr. Manley's term, is 'shocking.'"


"Figure It Out, Paul"


The conservative tabloid Calgary Sun commented(12/11):  "Paul Martin is in the dark.  He can't 'fathom' a U.S. decision to bar Canadian firms and those of other countries that refused to participate militarily in Iraq from bidding on $18 billion worth of reconstruction projects there.  We have a feeling most Canadians would be happy to shed light on the situation for our soon-to-be prime minister....  It is one thing to refuse to participate in the U.S. action in Iraq.  Quite another to go out of your way to insult and antagonize a country with which Canada has enjoyed such a long and strong bond....  Certainly, the war was controversial with Americans themselves, but the images of their young men and women dying are difficult to erase....  Granted, it is a little confusing the U.S. cited 'essential security interests' of the U.S. in refusing to allow a nation like ours to bid for contracts, when a hotbed of terrorism like Saudi Arabia is on the list of those which can bid.  And given the fact our soldiers are on the frontlines of 'the war on terrorism' in Afghanistan, we can understand how deeply the U.S. blacklist cuts with many Canadians.  This is an alarming signal of just how low relations have sunk between our two countries.  Instead of feigning astonishment, Martin must acknowledge we have a very serious problem here and make it a top priority when he takes over as prime minister tomorrow."


 "The Iraq (Bidding) War"


The conservative National Post judged (Internet version, 12/11):  "Magnanimity in victory is laudable.  Unfortunately, when it comes to awarding infrastructure contracts in post-Saddam Iraq, Washington isn't displaying much of it....  From a moral point of view, there is some basis to the exclusion:  having refused to risk our soldiers for the liberation of Iraq, it is perhaps fitting that we will profit little from the industrial boom taking place in its wake.  On the other hand, it is plainly ridiculous to argue that involving Canada--a close military ally of the United States--in Iraq's reconstruction would compromise America's 'essential security interests.'  Moreover, the fiat gives false credence to leftist conspiracy theorists who argued the Iraq war was merely an indirect means to subsidize Mr. Bush's corporate pals.  Despite all this, we hope Canada will take the high road.  John Manley, Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, has...hinted Ottawa might reconsider the $250-million we've promised in reconstruction aid.  Reneging on this pledge would be a mistake....   Surely, the success of Iraq is no less important just because our companies are in Washington's bad books."


"U.S. Slaps At Friends"


The liberal Toronto Star observed (Internet version, 12/11):  "U.S. President George Bush...has chosen a graceless way to welcome incoming Prime Minister Paul Martin, punishing Canada for being a principled ally and even implying that we're a threat to U.S. 'security interests.'...  We don't deserve to be stiffed for our principles, or bribed to park them at the door.  Just this week, U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci praised us for our 'pretty significant' help in Afghanistan and for being 'quite generous' with Iraq aid.  He had reason.  Canada has earmarked $10 billion to carry our share of North America's military defence and security after 9/11.  Our troops fought and died in Afghanistan with our U.S. ally. Some 2,000 Canadian soldiers are in Kabul now, leading the force there.  And Ottawa has budgeted $300 million directly to help rebuild Iraq, at Washington's request.  Yet that's not enough for Bush, it seems.  He demanded our moral acquiescence to his unnecessary war and now seeks our participation in an increasingly violent occupation.  To this, Martin can have only one answer:  Canadians won't be browbeaten, bullied or bought.  But nor should we react with Bush-style pettiness to this inept insult.  Deputy Prime Minister John Manley suggests we may reconsider our $300 million aid. That would only hurt Iraqis, who have suffered enough....  Let's spend the money as planned.  That said, Ottawa should feel no compulsion to send troops, police or other personnel to Iraq to help extricate Bush from the quagmire he has encountered there....   And the next contribution Canada makes to Iraq's rebuilding should be to a duly elected Iraqi government, not to a puppet regime run by people who can't tell friends from foes."


ARGENTINA:  "Europe Irritated Because U.S. Prevents It From Doing Business In Iraq"


Araceli Viceconte, Berlin-based correspondent for leading Clarín, wrote (12/11): "Germany, France, Russia and Canada were shocked by the U.S. decision to exclude their companies from the reconstruction of Iraq in blunt retaliation for having opposed war.... Far from apologizing, the White House defended its decision through its spokesperson Scott McClellan. Rather than a punishment, the exclusion of 'rebels' is a sort of forced invitation to cooperate. In fact, the strategy has already been successful because 'allied' countries are sending an increasing number of troops to Iraq, while the U.S. maintains its number of troops in 120 thousand. Even McClellan himself underscored that whoever wants to participate should make a military contribution....  The collection of money for the reconstruction of Iraq is making slow progress. Until now, only 600 million dollars were collected out of the three billion dollars promised in the conference of donors held in Madrid. The U.S. urgently needs the money because its military expenditure continues increasing."


"About Toads And Scorpions"


Marcelo Cantelmi, international editor of leading Clarin, commented (12/11): "If the game is reaching extremes, where exaggeration prevails, the U.S. decision to leave aside Europeans from the reconstruction of Iraq wins the prize by far.... The White House is bogged down in a swamp.  The Gulf Campaign is everything but successful. The possibility to break unilateralt in search of consensus aimed at alleviating the disaster before it continues refueling, would be a sacrifice for the sake of intelligence. Some bridge to do it is reconstruction. But there is something that goes beyond the borders of common sense: this business was not planned to be shared. It is like the fable of the scorpion that stings and kills the toad no matter if it is carrying it on its back to the pond. The scorpion could not help it: it is in its nature."


BRAZIL: "Bush Counter-Attack"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (12/11): "Retaliation took some time but it has come: the U.S. has excluded companies from nations that did not participate in the war in Iraq from bidding on the reconstruction of the country's infrastructure.... Only U.S. companies and those of Iraq and of 61 nations considered 'partners of the coalition' can bid on the US$18.6 billion worth of contracts.... The decision affects nations important to U.S. relations, such as France, Germany, Russia and Canada. Brazil, which came out against the war, has been excluded too. The document [signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz] creates particular unease when it states that the decision is justified by the 'U.S.'s essential interests in regards to security.' The text does not explain, however, why the companies of the excluded nations would represent a threat.... At a moment when the U.S. needs to increase support for the occupation [and is] seeking more troops and resources, to revive the animosities that preceded the attack -- instead of letting them heal over -- would not seem to be the best policy."


MEXICO:  “Washington's Reasons”


Business-oriented El Financiero stated (12/11):  “The decision of the U.S. government to exclude from the reconstruction of Iraq the companies of those countries that in March opposed at the U.N. the invasion of this Arab country is--even though the White House and the Department of Defense deny it--a clearly punitive measure in contradiction of statements made by President Bush (at the U.N. General Assembly) when he called upon the international community to overcome their differences and work for the good of Iraq.”



Commentary from ...
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere

This site is produced and maintained by the U.S. Department of State. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Back To Top

blue rule
IIP Home  |  Issue Focus Home