On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Learn to listen, Bush

On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said
there was no proof that Iraq
was making these bombs at a former site previously destroyed by United Nations'

The world also wants the United
States to prove that the Saddam regime has
links with the al-Qaeda or any other terrorist groups.

The United States
itself had worked with Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan
to fight the Russians previously, but with the new political scenario these
groups have been relegated from being freedom fighters to Islamic extremists.

Such hypocrisy is not unusual. What US
President George W. Bush is saying is that no other country should have nuclear
weapons except the United States
because the United States
is the good guy and the rest are bad guys.

Neither does he want the world to remember that since the
1991 Gulf War – in which the United States and its allies dropped 88,500 tonnes
of bombs on Iraqis – innocent children and the elderly have died because of the
embargo on medicine and equipment.

I am not being anti-US, neither am I an admirer of
Saddam. He is no different from Arab princes who treat their nation's wealth as
their personal property.

The United States
has painted Saddam as a rogue leader and a financier of terrorists to justify
its imminent attacks.

Less mentioned is the fact that Iraq
is a good catch because it has large reserves of oil and water.

Unlike other Arab countries that have few skilled
workers, Iraq
has a substantial number of scientists and engineers in most of West
Asia, with the exception of Israel.

Then there is local American politics. With US
congressional elections just around the corner, a war will help the
Republicans, if there are not too many body bags returning from the war front.
A well-executed air strike against Iraq,
with no ground combat, would certainly make Bush look good.

But the cost may be too high . It will certainly fuel
anger among the Arabs. There is already much antagonism against the United
States for its blind support of Israel
in its persecution of the Palestinians.

The bitterness against Tel Aviv will continue to fan
hatred against the United States
among the Arabs and Muslims in general.

The divide between the US
and Muslim  worlds will become bigger if
Bush decides to go to war with Iraq.
Muslim leaders who had previously supported Bush in  American fight against the al-Qaeda network
will no longer have the same enthusiasm.

In fact, an attack on Iraq
may make global terrorism more difficult to contain and could result in
retaliation against the United States.

war drums continue to sound, the rest of the world should convince Iraq
to allow UN inspectors to re-inspect the country's technical facilities, which
the United States
has claimed to be nuclear installations.

It's not good enough for Iraq
to conduct a media tour of suspected sites because journalists are not experts.
If indeed Iraq
has nothing to hide, then it should be prepared to be more transparent.

The United States,
on its part, cannot talk about the rule of law and justice if it continues to
be unilateralist in its international policies. There has to be some order in
running world affairs and the United States
has a responsibility to act lawfully. It cannot ignore international public

So far, only British Prime Minister Tony Blair has come
out to back Bush. It is one thing to be an ally of the United
States, but Blair need not be a lackey.

The United States will inflict more damage on the war
against terrorism if it makes the wrong move against Iraq – Bush should do more
listening instead of talking tough.