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Another World is Possible

In early 2003, who correctly predicted the consequences of an invasion of Iraq?

March 20, 2007

In early 2003, who correctly predicted the consequences of an invasion of Iraq?

Editor’s Note: Today marks the beginning of the fifth year of the Iraq war. The following is an excerpt from the speech given by Dominique de Villepin, France’s foreign affairs minister, at the United Nations Security Council on February 14, 2003. One month prior to the onset of the war, he spoke about the importance of diplomacy and the need to do everything possible to avoid war in the region. In this excerpt, he discusses a variety of options to war:

There are two options:

  • The option of war might seem a priori to be the swiftest. But let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace. Let us not delude ourselves. This will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq’s unity and restore stability in a lasting way in a country and region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.
  • Faced with such perspectives, there is an alternative in the inspections which allow us to move forward day-by-day with the effective and peaceful disarmament of Iraq. In the end, is that choice not the most sure and most rapid?
  • No one can assert today that the path of war will be shorter than that of the inspections. No one can claim either that it might lead to a safer, more just and more stable world. For war is always the sanction of failure. Would this be our sole recourse in the face of the many challenges at this time?

    So let us allow the United Nations inspectors the time they need for their mission to succeed. But let us together be vigilant and ask Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei to report regularly to the Council. France, for its part, proposes another meeting on March 14 at the ministerial level to assess the situation. We will then be able to judge the progress that has been made and what remains to be done.

    Given this context, the use of force is not justified at this time.

    There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq via inspections. Furthermore, premature recourse to the military option would be fraught with risks:

  • The authority of our action is based today on the unity of the international community. Premature military intervention would bring this unity into question — and that would detract from its legitimacy and, in the long run, its effectiveness.
  • Such intervention could have incalculable consequences for the stability of this scarred and fragile region. It would compound the sense of injustice, increase tensions and risk paving the way to other conflicts.
  • We all share the same priority — that of fighting terrorism mercilessly. This fight requires total determination. Since the tragedy of September 11, this has been one of the highest priorities facing our peoples. And France, which was struck hard by this terrible scourge several times, is wholly mobilized in this fight which concerns us all and which we must pursue together.
  • Ten days ago, the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, reported the alleged links between al Qaeda and the regime in Baghdad. Given the present state of our research and intelligence, in liaison with our allies, nothing allows us to establish such links.

    On the other hand, we must assess the impact that disputed military action would have on this plan. Would not such intervention be liable to exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples — divisions that nurture terrorism?

    France has said all along: We do not exclude the possibility that force may have to be used one day if the inspectors’ reports concluded that it was impossible to continue the inspections. The Council would then have to take a decision, and its members would have to meet all their responsibilities.

    In such an eventuality, I want to recall here the questions I emphasized at our last debate on February 4 which we must answer:

    To what extent do the nature and extent of the threat justify the immediate recourse to force?

    How do we ensure that the considerable risks of such intervention can actually be kept under control?

    In any case, in the eventuality of war, it is indeed the unity of the international community that would guarantee its effectiveness. Similarly, it is the United Nations that will be tomorrow at the center of the peace to be built whatever happens.

    To those who are wondering in anguish when and how we are going to cede to war, I would like to tell them that nothing, at any time, in this Security Council, will be done in haste, misunderstanding, suspicion or fear.

    In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience. The onerous responsibility and immense honor we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament in peace.

    This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent like mine, Europe, that has known wars, occupation and barbarity. A country that does not forget and knows it owes everything to the freedom-fighters who came from America and elsewhere.

    And yet, France has never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind. Faithful to its values, it wishes resolutely to act with all the members of the international community. It believes in our ability to build together a better world.