Friday, October 24, 2003

Et tu brute?

In Shakespeare's Julius Casear and Agatha Christie's semi-literary Murder On the Orient Express, the pact between conspirators is sealed by their common participation in stabbing the tyrant, in one act achieving their ends and ensuring their solidarity. Benjamin Franklin chaffed the hesitant signatories of the US Declaration of Independence with his famous observation that "we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Anyone who believes that the Ba'athist regime can be revived in Iraq will be disheartened by the international pledge of billions of dollars in aid to Iraq. Although Boomshock has pointed out that the total amounts and disbursement schedules have been variously and contradictorily reported, the existence of the aid package is not in dispute. The countries who are committed to ensuring a post-Saddam Iraq success are led by the US, with a pledge of $20 billion, followed by:

"Japan, the second biggest donor after the United States, pledged a total of $5 billion over four years. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait each pledged at least $1 billion. The European Union and its member countries have pledged a total of $800 million in Iraq aid for next year."

The rest will be made up of loans by multilateral instutions like the World Bank, and a hodge-podge of contributions from countries as small as Vietnam. Like Shakespeare's characters, we are all conspirators in tyrannicide now. The New York Times observed that "conspicuous by their absence were Germany and France, two of Europe's richest nations but also Europe's two biggest opponents of the war against Iraq". Yet even so they will also contribute, unless they can segregate their money from funds to be provided by the European Union or the World Bank, which will extend loans to the new Iraqi government. While making a big show of missing the train, Germany and France have characteristically purchased secret tickets and will presently board via the back door before the last coach leaves the station.

Where does this leave Saddam Hussein, variously rumored to be plotting secretly in Tikrit or leading the pastoral life of a goatherd in western Iraq? With a dwindling stash of funds. For however large his initial nest egg, coming as it did from emptying the Iraqi central bank cash reserves, it will never grow by a dollar more without access to oil revenues, which are barred to him forever. Where does this leave France and Germany, now making their way toward the dining car after their stealthy entry into the caboose of the aid train? Looking like cheap gatecrashers and not the Great Powers they styled themselves to be. And if they meet with a less than rousing reception, they might remember the bitter observation of Count Ciano, as the fortunes of his Duce dwindled, "victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan."