Hypocrisy triumphant at the Brussels NATO Show

22 February 2005

Hypocrisy triumphant at the Brussels NATO Show

Everything inside NATO is hunky dory, or so US President George W. Bush would have us believe. Bush was in Brussels today meeting government leaders from other NATO member states and was full of enthusiasm about future co-operation within an alliance which has recently been so divided. As expected, Prime Minister Balkenende declared his immediate support for Bush’s statement, concluding that it meant that an end had been put to the bad atmosphere within NATO since the controversial US-British invasion of Iraq.

The message from Bush and Balkenende stands in stark contrast to the recent assertion by the German Chancellor Gerhardt Schröder to the effect that NATO was no longer the most important forum for North Atlantic relations. Bush’s “together we are strong” theme also conflicts with the clear statement from his own Defence Minister Donald Rumsfeld that in the future the US “will let the mission determine the coalition.”

The “everybody happy” story from Bush fits even less comfortably with the harsh tone evident in NATO’s parliamentary assembly, held last weekend in Brussels. SP Senator Tiny Kox, a member of the Netherlands delegation, said: “Within the assembly we have in fact just seen a long series of serious conflicts, differences over the war in Iraq, over America’s military threats against Iran, and over the lifting of the weapons embargo against China by a number of European NATO members. And if the US intends to choose her military coalition partners on a case-by-case basis, some are saying that this would in reality mean the end of NATO.”

Not all conflicts within NATO pit one side of the Atlantic against the other, as Senator Kox observes: “The Netherlands has – and, I might add, on the basis of a proposal from the SP in the national parliament – also criticised the lifting of the weapons embargo against China. A proposal from the French president of the NATO assembly to allow China access to arms on condition that she help to persuade North Korea to give up her nuclear weapons demonstrates that hypocrisy is not confined to the United States. To arm the elephant if it helps to disarm the mouse doesn’t seem to us such a good idea. But for the Americans to put forward human rights abuses as an argument for the embargo is just as cynical, notably at a time when new revelations are coming out about the brutal mishandling of prisoners of war by US personnel, this time in Afghanistan, an outrage about which the American delegation refused once again to speak during the meeting of the assembly. There appears to be no shortage of hypocrisy in NATO, wherever you look.”

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