January 30, 2003 – days closer to War with Iraq. This time, the enthusiasm to assemble a “coalition of the willing” was considerably less than before. Despite President Bush’s almost non-stop mantra of Weapons Of Mass Destruction – and dire warnings that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was fully prepared to launch a missile attack with deadly chemicals at a moments notice – Europe was, for the most part, non-plussed and deeply divided. And proof of the existence of these lethal weapons was becoming less credible as the days wore on. As of press time, there were only 8 countries signed on to give support.
Still, President Bush, along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, were whipped into a state of hysteria, and war was going to happen – whether there was a coalition or not. The time-table was still being set, and Tony Blair was employing some last minute arm-twisting with shuttle diplomacy to Madrid and meetings with Prime Minister Aznar to drum up support. Meanwhile, President Bush was reported to have said he would support a proposal for exile for Saddam Hussein, should he decided to give up and go quietly.
An open letter, with the 8 countries pledging support for Bush’s plan to disarm Hussein, was published in a dozen newspapers throughout Europe, was intended to illustrate solidarity with Washington over Iraq. But the letter had only highlighted disagreements over Iraq. Germany and France, who were opposed to military action weren’t invited to sign the open letter. And Greece, which held the European Union Presidency attacked the letter as divisive. After Prime Minister Aznar, Tony Blair was scheduled to fly to Washington to meet with President Bush. The actions and divisions signed the struggle to win hearts and minds over the Iraq situation.
And that’s just a small slice of what went on in the world, as reported by BBC Radio 4 News on January 30, 2003.