Coalition must come clean on its Iraq policy

21st July 2003, Comments 0 comments

What is the Dutch government's stance on the looming US-war with Iraq? Wobbly and blurry, by the looks of things.

What is the Dutch government's stance on the looming US-war with Iraq? Wobbly and blurry, by the looks of things.

When last we heard anything substantive from The Hague, Foreign Minister Jaap De Hoop Scheffer said the Netherlands would seek a common European Union position on setting a deadline for Iraq to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors.

That nugget of information emerged back in mid February after 70,000 people marched through Amsterdam on the international day of protests against war. At the same time his Ministry proclaimed uncritical support for the US position.

Now a month later it would be nice to have an update, particularly given that our EU neighbours France, Germany and Belgium, have earned American ire by opposing a new pro-war UN resolution.

Yet, a visit to the government's website and the Foreign Ministry's own site does not have any real news to offer. There is a letter sent to Parliament on 11 March but it concentrates on giving a run down of events in the UN Security Council. A short note advising MPs to look at CNN would have been just as effective.

The letter ends with a repeat of the forlorn hope expressed a month before: "The government hopes the Security Council will reach agreement on a new resolution".

Anyone watching CNN could have told De Hoop Scheffer and his team that without a miracle there is not a hope in hell of the Security Council uniting behind the sort of resolution the US wants.

Undaunted, the Dutch government "is actively supporting the work to achieve agreement through diverse prime ministerial and foreign affairs contacts".

But since we all know this is a lost cause, there is far more important question the cabinet have to answer — will the Netherlands support a US attack on Iraq?

It is not really important whether such support is military or purely political. What is important is to know whether, before the event, the Netherlands is willing to ignore its neighbours and fellow founding nations of what grew to become the European Union, to back the US.

More fundamentally, does the government in The Hague feel that an unsanctioned US attack on Iraq is acceptable.

These are questions the Dutch government just refuses to deal with and the Dutch media and public blindly accept this.

agree on a programme for government.

They have been sounding each other out since the both emerged victors from the general election on 22 January 2003.

Balkenende and Labour leader Wouter Bos promises to put a government together quickly but there must be a sneaking suspicion they hope they will be beaten to the draw by the US.

It would make life so much easier for the new government if the war had already started; A fait accompli would absolve The Hague of the need to take a stance.

14 March 2003

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