In the final stages of Vicente Fox’s six-year term of office as Mexico’s president, the U.S. embassy in Mexico concluded that the greatest and only achievement of the man from Guanajuato had been to win the 2000 election and criticized the indecision of the Mexican government when it came time to support the United States in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The assessment, contained in one of the State Department cables that WikiLeaks turned over to La Jornada, was in every way unjust; Fox did indeed express all the solidarity he could after that date’s attacks. What he did not do was support Washington in the war against Iraq, which broke out two and a half years later; that earned him the White House’s ill will. Thinking better of it, perhaps Fox had at least two achievements: winning the 2000 election and resisting the pressure that he received from many parts to yoke Mexico to that bellicose adventure — neocolonial, disastrous and contemptible as it was. The pressure, it must be remembered, ranged from calls from George Walker Bush to extortion attempts at home carried out by José María Aznar, going through the machinations of Jorge G. Castañeda, secretary of foreign affairs in the Fox administration, who insisted on including Mexico, no matter the cost, in Bush’s violent crusade.
On March 17, 2003, the majority of the U.N. Security Council, including Mexico, denied the U.S. government the authorization it needed in order to initiate a war against Iraq under the pretext that the Arab country possessed weapons of mass destruction. Bush put on his best crazy face and threw out an ultimatum: If Saddam Hussein did not leave power within 48 hours, the United States would launch a total war. He wasn’t alone in this resolve: Accompanying him were his stooges, Tony Blair and José María Aznar, by then the heads of government in England and Spain. I keep thanking Fox — in spite of his frivolity, grubbiness, his non-existent culture, his ineptitude and his unpardonable prominence in the electoral fraud of 2006 — that three years earlier he had a moment of lucidity. He correctly interpreted the feeling of the nation — certainly against sending troops to a remote county that had never caused us harm — and did not yield to the demands of the White House and its agents, open or covert. Another who honorably resisted pressure from his allies was the then-president of France, Jacques Chirac, whose representative before the Security Council even threatened to use France’s veto power if the U.N. gave legal coverage to the brutality because, he rightly said, Iraq did not at the moment represent an immediate threat such as would justify a war.
The war went forward anyway. On March 18, the first U.S. bombs fell over Baghdad, seeking out specific targets (that is to say, Saddam), and on March 20, a massive barrage of shock and awe began that was authorized by the anti-humanitarian then-secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Set off a bomb from time to time and they call you a terrorist. But if in the span of a few hours, you let 3 million of them fall over a terrified and defenseless major city, you will be acclaimed as a statesman. Unless you are so stupid as to lose the war in spite of your arsenal: In that case they will judge you with crimes against humanity.
The U.S. troops deposed Saddam, destroyed the country, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, captured and put to death the leaders of Baghdad’s old regime and committed countless outrageous acts against a defenseless population. But the United States lost the war because it suffered thousands of casualties in it, its government revealed itself to be deceptive and corrupt, society saw its civil liberties cut back, and hopes of prosperity and well-being escaped for good through a hole in the national finances. England and Spain also lost in the conflict; in just a few years they had the war installed right in their capitols in the form of massive and deadly attacks. The war was a win for the fundamentalist factions who wanted to expand their influence in ancient Mesopotamia — to this day they are installed there — and, above all, Bush and his partners — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest — who made fabulous business deals with first the destruction and afterward the reconstruction of the invaded country. And even today, 10 years after the start of that dirty trick, not one of them has been called to appear before a tribunal for his war crimes.