Paulo Coelho Says Thank You

This morning I discovered the German version of the following letter to George W. Bush by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho [biography in German] in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Thanks to google and newsallergy I discovered an English version, which I do not intend to withhold from you, my gentle readers.

I have highlighted the parts I find most interesting, for they eloquently illustrate in a few words just how badly the US administration handled their diplomatic agenda.

No surprise, some *very* informed, rather atlanticist scholars of international relations, like Christoph Bertram, currently head of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, start to accept the idea that one of the non-disclosed reasons for the current US policy on Iraq is to teach the rest of the world a lesson. Tonight, on ZDF television, he said something along the line of – [i]f the only remaining superpower is having trouble making a case that the veto players would buy, then it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this was the original intention.

He’s not the only one. More and more people are starting to wonder if a US administration could indeed act as diplomatically unskilled as this one has simply due to incompetence or if there’s something else going on. Personally, I am undecided what would be worse.

NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman clearly belongs to the first group of people, [as does W’s dad, Bush 41, by the way] the ones that do not want to believe that more than incompetence is at stake – I guess he’s still pro warNow!, but he’s not so sure anymore…

Some days, you pick up the newspaper and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Let’s see, the prime minister of Serbia just got shot, and if that doesn’t seem like a bad omen then you missed the class on World War I. Our strongest ally for war in Iraq is Bulgaria – a country I’ve always had a soft spot for, because it protected its Jews during World War II, but a country that’s been on the losing side of every war in the last 100 years. Congress is renaming French fries „freedom fries.“ George Bush has managed to lose a global popularity contest to Saddam Hussein, and he’s looking to build diplomatic support in Europe by flying to the Azores, a remote archipelago in the Atlantic, to persuade the persuaded leaders of Britain and Spain to stand firm with him. I guess the North Pole wasn’t available. I’ve been to the Azores. It was with Secretary of State James Baker on, as I recall, one of his seven trips around the world to build support for Gulf War I. Mr. Baker used the Azores to refuel.“

And when I watched CNN Newsnight at some point last week, I was startled by the fact that some senior political correspondent, whose name I have forgotten, told the American public about the longstanding neoconservative plans to invade Iraq – as if this were some kind of news. Well, I guess it must be, to those whose worldview only consists of CNNmomentstm. So probably Paul Krugman is summarizing the current informed and semi-informed US media climate rather accurately by saying –

„[o]ver the past few weeks there has been an epidemic of epiphanies. There’s a long list of pundits who previously supported Bush’s policy on Iraq but have publicly changed their minds. None of them quarrel with the goal; who wouldn’t want to see Saddam Hussein overthrown? But they are finally realizing that Mr. Bush is the wrong man to do the job. And more people than you would think – including a fair number of people in the Treasury Department, the State Department and, yes, the Pentagon – don’t just question the competence of Mr. Bush and his inner circle; they believe that America’s leadership has lost touch with reality.“

That’s clearly what Maureen Dowd has been saying over and over –

„Everyone thinks the Bush diplomacy on Iraq is a wreck. It isn’t. It’s a success because it was never meant to
succeed. For the hawks, it’s a succès d’estime. (If I may be so gauche as to use a French phrase in a city where federal employees are slapping stickers over the word „French“..:“

Maybe history will tell. But likely, we won’t have the time asking her while being busy rebuilding Iraq. I know that mocking W is not too difficult, which is, I would like to add, why I have often resisted to do so – insisting that mockery would likely result in underestimation.

But now I don’t know anymore.

Anyway, over to Paulo Coelho.

Thank you, George Bush, the Great Leader.

First of all, may I thank you for showing all of us the danger which Saddam Hussein represents. Perhaps many of us might have forgotten that he used chemical weapons against his own people as well as against the people of Iran. Hussein is a blood-thirsty dictator, and certainly an embodiment of evil in the world today.

However, that is not the only reason why I am thanking you. In the early months of 2003, you helped show us, sir, many important things about the world, and it is for this that you have my gratitude. I was taught as child to always say „thank you“ to someone who has done me a favor, and it is in that spirit that I write these words.

Thank you for showing us all that the people of Turkey and their Parliament are not for sale, not even for $26 billion dollars.

Thank you for showing us clearly the enormous abyss which exists between the decisions taken by leaders of nations and the true desires of their people. Thank you for helping us see with painful clarity that whether it is José Aznar of Spain or Tony Blair of the UK, that our so called elected leaders don’t have the slightest regard or respect for the fact that over 90% of their population are against war. Thank you for allowing us to witness the ease with whichTony Blair was able to blithely ignore the largest public protest held in England in the last 30 years.

Thank you, because your insistence on war forced Blair to go to Parliament with a plagiarized dossier which consisted of notes written ten years ago by an arab graduate student. As a result we were able to witness the unbelievable farce of Blair insisting that these notes represented “proof” gathered by the British secret service.

Thank you for for making Colin Powell descend to the ridiculous by showing the UN Security Council photographs, which a week later were publicly denounced by Hans Blix, the weapons inspector responsible for verifying the disarmament of Iraq.

Thank you, because your position on war resulted in the French Foreign Minister, Mr. Dominique de Villepin, in his speech against war on Iraq, being honored by a standing ovation. This is an honor which, if I am correct, has only happened once before in the history of the U.N., and that was during a presentation by Nelson Mandela.

Thank you, because due to your strenuous push for war, for the first time the Arab nations of the Gulf, usually so divided, have found a reason to unite and have recently issued a joint resolution in Cairo condemning your proposed invasion. You have brought about a unity of opinion amongst the arab nations, that they had not achieved on their own.

Thank you, because as a result of your administration’s rhetoric blasting the United Nations as “irrelevant”, even the most undecided and reluctant nations have been inspired to take a position against your country’s attack on Iraq.

Thank you for your extraordinary foreign policy. Attempts to defend your ambitions have caused British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, to attempt to argue a case for a “moral war”, and with each attempt lose more international credibility.

Thank you for attempting to divide Europe, which after a century of war and upheaval has been fighting for unity. This was a warning clearly seen by all of us, and it will not be forgotten.

Thank you for finally managing to achieve what few have managed in the past century: to unite millions of people, across the continents and give them a common cause to fight for, even if that cause is the exact opposite from yours.

Thank you for letting us feel that even if our words are not being heard, they are at least being repeated. This will give us strength in the future.

Thank you, because without your esteemed help, we wouldn’t have known the extent to which we were capable of mobilizing. Perhaps this appears useless today…but it will serve us in the future.

Thank you.

So, now that the drums of war seem to beat with unstoppable ferocity, I want to add an insight, words uttered by an ancient European King to a would-be invader:

“May your morning be glorious and May the sun shine brightly on the armor of your soldiers, because in the afternoon I will defeat you.”

Mr. Bush, thank you as well for visibly trying to stop a movement which has already begun. We will pay attention to the feelings of impotence, and the sensations it arouses within us. We will learn to deal with those emotions, and we will transform them.

In the meantime, may you enjoy your beautiful morning, and all the glory that it may bring you.

Thank you, because I know you will not listen to us, nor take us seriously. Know, however, that we have listened to you and heard you clearly, and we will not soon forget your words.

Thank you, George W. Bush, the great leader!
Many thanks to you.“

The writer, Paulo Coelho, is the author of “The Alchemist”, amongst other works, and is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Arts & Letters. A Folha de Sao Paulo, March 8, 2003