A coalition of the willing to be paid

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[Note: Though Congressman Waxman’s letter challenging the President about the forged Niger uranium documents, carried on this site recently, has as yet received no significant attention in the mainstream media, Mother Jones on-line ran a good summary article on the subject (A Spurious ‘Smoking Gun’ by Chris Smith ) and Si Hersh took up the subject of the forged documents themselves in a piece in this week’s New Yorker.]

It’s worth recalling that, in the Vietnam era, there was also a “coalition of the willing” that was heavily subsidized. In particular, the United States paid to have many thousands of South Korean troops fight in Vietnam. Now, with the administration’s offering of an initial $75 billion budget for the first stages of the war, we get a peek at some of what we’ve paid to assemble our own coalition of the willing which, as Eric Leaver and Sara Johnson of the Foreign Policy in Focus website, point out is something closer to a laughing stock than a coalition of anything.

In only two countries — Israel and the United States — in our newly renamed Coalition to Disarm Iraq, they report, is support for this war over 50% and some countries like Colombia seem to have been “drafted” into the cause, learning about their support only through the media. More strikingly (see Adam Hochschild’s “Ending the Age of Human Rights?”, last Saturday’s tomgram), our “coalition” to bring democracy to Iraq is not exactly a grouping of leading democracies and, as Leaver and Johnson indicate in the impressive chart they’ve compiled to accompany their piece, a few of our junior partners have “have human rights records that rival Saddam Hussein’s.”

A recent Reuters article (that appeared in Forbes) laid out some of what this Coalition of the willing to be paid is likely to get out of its membership in cold cash. There are many other dubious perks as well. And finally, Jim Lobe, in a piece also posted at the Foreign Policy in Focus website, considers what the real economic costs might be of creating a world in which anyone could claim that our coalition-of-the-willing-to-be-paid is a stand-in for the United Nations, democratic nations of the earth, or much of anything else.

Lest anyone imagine that wartime has changed American foreign policy, even as Tony Blair was pleading with Washington to mend fences with former allies and include the UN in its postwar plans for Iraq, the TV news last night announced that the President was served “Freedom Toast” (or was it “Freedom Fries”?) on his Air Force One flight to Centcom Florida; and our ambassador to the Great North, Paul Cellucci, in a speech to a Toronto business audience sternly rebuked the Canadian government for failing to support the United States in its war (this despite the fact that the reluctant Canadians, as the New York Times reports today, have made a “quiet” effort in the Gulf that is “more significant than those of most of the nations explicitly backing the war”). Evidently he also threatened some kind of “short-term consequences,” according to a Canadian Broadcasting Company report, causing a political storm (no sand) in that country and a discussion within the governing party about whether to censure or expel the ambassador. Atta way to go! Kudos for the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, diplomatically speaking.

A final footnote: under the category of big-enough-to-be-counted-but-too-small-to-be-noted, in the very last of the New York Times‘ paragraph-a-story “World Briefing” section today — right after, that is, “Australia: Rare Silvery Gibbon Born” — came this note in full about one of our coalition partners: “Dominican Republic: Minister Quits Over Iraq War. Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo Tolentino Dipp resigned, saying he disagreed with President Hipolito Mejia’s support for the war in Iraq. “I cannot contradict the position of the government I serve,” he said. Mr. Jejia’s office had no comment. Frank Guerrero Pratts, head of the Central Bank, was appointed to replace Mr. Tolentino.” Tom

A Coalition of Weakness
By Erik Leaver and Sara Johnson
Foreign Policy in Focus
March 2003

March 2003

As U.S. officials look for political cover after losing the drive for a second UN Security Council resolution, the recently renamed “Coalition to Disarm Iraq” is the Bush administration’s only opportunity to salvage a semblance of international legitimacy for war. A closer look at the countries involved reveals that claims to multilateral action in the name of democracy are grossly exaggerated. In reality, the U.S. is isolated internationally, and a few of the countries signing on to “liberate” Iraq have human rights records that rival Saddam Hussein’s.

On Tuesday, March 18th, the State Department released a list of 30 countries willing to be named as part of the coalition, while President Bush raised the count to 35 in his speech on March 19th and this list was raised to 45 by March 21st.

Erik Leaver <[email protected]> is an Associate at Foreign Policy in Focus (online at and Sara Johnson is a researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies (online at

To read more of Leaver and Johnson, and view their superb chart of the human rights policies of the countries of the “coalition” click here

Billions of dollars slated for Iraq coalition allies
By Adam Entous
March 25, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) – It can pay to be a member of President George W. Bush’s coalition against Iraq.

Wrapped into the $75 billion war budget he proposed to Congress on Tuesday, were grants and loans worth billions of dollars for what he called “partners and friends” in the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

Assistance is also being offered to many less obvious members of Bush’s so-called “coalition of the willing” from Afghanistan and Colombia to the Philippines and Slovakia, which Bush said will help them “wage the broader war on terror.”

Administration officials say the U.S. aid is urgently needed to cushion the economic shock of war in the Middle East and beyond.

To read more of this Reuters piece click here

Multilateralism Under Siege
By Jim Lobe
Foreign Policy in Focus
March 21, 2003

As the war proceeds in Iraq, debates have already begun over the impact that the war will have on the economy. Perhaps lost amidst this debate is the key question raised by Business Week this week in a lead article headlined “The High Price of Bad Diplomacy.” Citing growing fears about instability and the implications of an open-ended “Bush Doctrine” to fight evil and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) wherever they raise their heads, it noted with characteristic understatement, “It is not a picture conducive to worldwide economic growth and prosperity,” citing as an example the long-running economic impact of the Vietnam War on the 1970s U.S. economy. “It may even get worse than that,” the magazine’s editorial page editor Bruce Nussbaum went on. “Chief executives are beginning to worry that globalization may not be compatible with a foreign policy of unilateral pre-emption.”

It’s about time.

Jim Lobe <[email protected]> is a political analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus (online at He also writes regularly for Inter Press Service.

To read more Lobe click here