Even before the crucial February 14 meeting of the Security Council (after this issue went to press), a significant milestone was reached in the form of the proposal by France, Germany and Russia–later joined by China–to strengthen UN inspections in Iraq, and the opposition of France, Germany and Belgium to NATO war aid to Turkey. These diplomatic setbacks to the US war timetable drew cries of outrage from the Administration and its supporters in the media. Instead of discussing France’s proposal reasonably, Secretary of State Powell dismissed it as unleashing a bunch of Inspector Clouseaus. Such is the level of debate by US officials and their apologists. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld lumped Germany with Cuba and Libya, and his sidekick Richard Perle proclaimed the United States must have a strategy to “contain” France, “our erstwhile ally.” The New York Times‘s Thomas Friedman sneered, “France is so caught up with its need to differentiate itself from America to feel important, it’s become silly.” Now members of Congress are yelling for trade sanctions against French products and reduction of US forces in Germany.

Far from wanting to “contain” France, many Americans applauded its proposals and found that its president spoke for them better than their own. Even before the antiwar rallies on February 15-16, it was clear that there was tremendous European support for the French and German position, including in Italy and Spain, whose governments are pro-US. With a recent poll showing 57 percent of Americans favoring an attack on Iraq, there is a desperate need here for a broad-based peace movement–one that avoids acts of petty sectarianism like the exclusion of Rabbi Michael Lerner from speaking at a San Francisco rally. Lerner, who has opposed the policies of Israel’s Likud government, was blackballed for having criticized the anti-Israel line of ANSWER, one of the rally’s sponsors. Lerner showed the right spirit when he said he would still demonstrate: “I’m very much opposed to the war, and I don’t want Michael Lerner to become the issue.” (For information on antiwar demonstrations, see www.thenation.com.)

Also disturbing was New York City’s denial, on security grounds, of a permit for a February 15 peace march to the United Nations. This trampling on freedom of speech and of assembly fits the mold of serial assaults on civil liberties by this White House (which sent US Attorneys to argue for the ban) after 9/11. A federal court’s easing of guidelines restricting NYPD surveillance of political groups and the Center for Public Integrity’s report that the Administration is drawing up a sequel to the USA Patriot Act, which would allow secret arrests and deportations for political associations, are warnings of pitfalls ahead.

Beyond this, George W. Bush has deployed policies that isolate the United States and undercut the UN. He would take this country into a war under false pretenses. His doctrine of pre-emptive attacks on nuclear proliferators, starting with Iraq, is demolished by Jonathan Schell in his article on page 11. As Schell writes, the policy of “pre-emptively using overwhelming force has no application against a proliferator” with nuclear weapons. CIA chief George Tenet just testified that more countries than ever before are seeking nuclear weapons. Bush’s doctrine endangers US security because it encourages them to acquire such weapons faster and defy the United States, as North Korea is now doing.