On the case against Iraq: national vs. international response

Colin Powell this morning presented to the UN what the US government considers undisputable evidence that Iraq has not cooperated with UN weapons inspectors and is concealing weapons of mass destruction. Powell cited recorded telephone conversations and satellite photographs among his evidence (transcript, to see Powell's slides, click 'Gallery' in the Key Points section of the CNN article)

Certainly, this was a huge media event. According to a recent Gallup Poll:

"Close to nine in 10 Americans say the presentation will be important in determining their view about an attack on Iraq, including six in 10 who say it will be "very" important. The poll also shows that, while there is majority support for an invasion, more than half of all Americans say they could change their minds one way or the other. "

Yet the different reaction by US media and international media has never been starker (at least from what I know). Google News currently lists Powell's speech and the international reaction as the top story, listing 1953 related articles [the link to related articles changes every time the news page is refreshed]. First, the American media headlines:

From these US headlines, one wonders how we couldn't go to war with Iraq. But what's brewing on the other continents?

But this is just part of the international press. China says The Legal Basis for War in Iraq Is Watertight (opinion). Many sources have two articles, one saying 'Powell accuses Iraq', and the other, 'Iraq denounces US claims'.

Interestingly, American and Middle Eastern press seem to agree that Powell's speech won't swing key countries: Iraq rejects Powell accusations; China, Russia and France unmoved by U.S. presentation (albawaba.com, Middle East Gateway) and Speech Seen As Strong But Unlikely to Sway Skeptics (NY Times).

Virtually every media source has a graphic of Powell addressing the Security Council, except al Jazeera, which features the Iraqi ambassador (Arabic, no translation available).

On a related note, I think that people are too mistrusting of the US government. Certainly my perspective is tainted, being on a liberal college campus. Before you scoff, I completely agree that it is the responsibility of every citizen to keep a watchful eye on the government. It's a precaution against corruption and tyranny. On the other hand, any given government official probably knows a lot more about the Iraq situation that any given citizen. Clearly, the Bush administration has made a priority of bringing Iraq into compliance with UN Resolution 1441. This strikes a large segment of the population as illogical, since we haven't had a problem with Iraq in years. That segment reacts by accusing Bush and his 'war hawks' of pursuing self-serving oil interests and warmongering. I am skeptical of this criticism because (a) Bush certainly doesn't want to be remembered as a warmonger and (b) the benefit the US would reap from access to Iraqi oil is complicated and people usually don't know what they're talking about.

I think it's much more likely that the government is performing that task we elected it to do: serve our best interests. The decision-makers have more intelligence information than the populous. The populous elected the decision-makers because they would make the best decisions. So, if the administration makes this a priority, let's cut them a little slack.

And to address anyone who objects that elected officials don't serve the public, but rather serve wealthy special interest groups and fat cats protecting their money, I say this: it's still one person, one vote. And who controls special interest groups? Corporations and shareholders. Where do they get their money from? Consumers. So, if you think your vote is ineffectual, use your dollars. If you don't use your vote and your dollars, then whines will fall on deaf ears.

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