FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Post-War Iraq

The frustration of the American officer on the streets of Baghdad was almost palpable in the CNN report: “They’ve got 25 questions. I’ve got 5 answers.”

That was Tuesday, April 8, the same date President Bush, during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, declared: “Rebuilding of Iraq will require the support and expertise of the international community. We’re committed to working with international institutions, including the United Nations, which will have a vital role in this task.”

Without question, the participation in UN-sanctioned peacemaking and peacekeeping missions by U.S. military units trained in the techniques of these operations often has been vital to their success. The mere presence of strong military forces from “coalitions of the willing” frequently was enough to re-establish the security and stability that are the prerequisites for the work of international institutions and nongovernmental humanitarian relief organizations. This was clearly the case in post-civil war Bosnia, where earlier the insufficiently armed UN peacekeepers could not prevent atrocities, and in Kosovo, where the U.S. took the lead in halting Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing campaign.

But Iraq is not Bosnia or Kosovo–nor for that matter East Timor (to which the U.S. provided materiel support but no combat forces) or Afghanistan or Haiti. Moreover, the troops who have fought their way to Baghdad over the past three-plus weeks are psychologically primed to perform traditional warfighting roles: destroying things and killing people, not peacekeeping roles. These realities raise questions of who, how, and what will be done in and for Iraq–and the region–in the post-Saddam era that is just now unfolding.

Ever since the UN Security Council refused to endorse the U.S. contention that Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002) authorized military action if Saddam Hussein failed to actively cooperate with UN inspectors, administration spokespersons have insisted that members of the military “coalition” would be the dominant contributors in Iraq’s reconstruction and re-integration into the world community. Despite Mr. Blair’s attempted gloss concerning the depth of UN involvement in the process the U.S. would allow, President Bush was quite explicit in the limits he envisaged. While praising as “a positive step” the appointment by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of a “personal representative to the process,” Bush essentially relegated the UN to a subordinate role. “Well, it’d be a vital role as an agent to help people live freely. That’s a vital role, and that means food. That means medicine. That means a place where people can give their contributions. That means suggesting people for the IIA [Iraqi Interim Authority]. That means being, you know, a party to the progress being made in Iraq.”

The Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, headed by retired U.S. General Jay Garner, is to run Iraq in the initial post-war occupation phase. Its missions encompass reconstituting basic services such as electricity, water, sanitation, and medical care; screening the remnants of the Iraqi civil service for individuals acceptable for retention under a new democratic government; and coordinating humanitarian aid programs run by the World Food Program (WFP), UNESCO, the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and private aid agencies.

Difficulties with this arrangement, which is not yet even in place, are already apparent. Despite the efforts of the British forces in Basra, distribution of relief supplies–a duty of an occupying power under international law–has been a shambles. Looting has been rampant. Without the cooperation of the Iraqi public, the number of British troops in-country simply are not enough to create and maintain physical security. And this is for a city of only 1.3 million; Baghdad, which will be the responsibility of the United States, has 5 million people. Euphoria may dampen appetites for a short time, but clean water and nourishing food will soon be demanded.

Moreover, General Garner’s superior is General Tommy Franks, the warfighting Central Command commander. For those in the world who resent the dominating power of the United States, the narrow base of influence on which Iraq is to be reconstituted will be seen as proof of U.S. imperial ambitions–including bases in Iraq and control of its oil–potentially spurring recruitment into extremist groups and raising the risks of terrorist actions. If, as the President consistently alleged, Iraq under Saddam was a threat to the world, reconstituting and re-integrating Iraq into the international community is the responsibility of the world.

Then there are the costs. As Senators Biden (D-DE) and Hagel (R-NE) recently pointed out, “Iraq is saddled with UN sanctions, an estimated $61 billion in foreign debt, and approximately $200 billion in reparations claims through the UN Compensation Commission.” And the estimated costs for post-war security, humanitarian aid, and reconstruction run from “$20-25 billion per year over 10 years.” There is no logic in the administration’s insistence that, because the U.S. chose to bear the main coalition burden in lives lost and treasure spent, the country should also choose a course restricting or even excluding many other countries that might be willing to contribute to the post-war reconstruction effort–particularly those that abstained from supporting or actually opposed military operations.

Finally, as happened after the U.S.-influenced meeting in Bonn, Germany that established the interim ruling authority in Afghanistan, the selection by the U.S. of the Iraqis who will constitute an Iraqi Interim Authority could raise doubts as to the independence of that Authority, even among Iraqis. This is more likely in Iraq than in Afghanistan, for there are more exiles with little direct, recent experience in-country vying for positions and influence in Iraq. Moreover, should those who obtain positions in the interim authority succeed to positions in the subsequent government, the suspicion will arise that the “fix was in” from the very beginning.

Afghanistan does offer a cautionary note in this regard: despite U.S. backing and fairly wide international support, the interim authority in Afghanistan controls little outside Kabul–and even that is due to the International Security Assistance Force. More telling is the fact that the U.S. military supplies the personal protection force for Afghan interim president Hamid Karzai.

Internationalization and United Nations are not four-letter words, literally or figuratively. Only the UN, as flawed as it may be, can lay claim to neutrality and global legitimacy. The U.S. recognized the status of the UN when it sought–but failed to get–endorsement of, and thus at least the passive participation of Member states in the war against Iraq.

Now it is time to secure full UN participation in meeting Post-War Iraq’s humanitarian, reconstruction, and political needs. In particular, a new UN Security Council resolution providing for a UN leadership role in Iraq would help heal the breech created in the international community in the period leading to active hostilities.

That much also would help relieve the American officer’s frustration over his 5 answers for the 25 questions.

Col. Dan Smith is a military affairs analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus (online at www.fpif.org) and a retired U.S. army colonel and Senior Fellow on Military Affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.) He can be reached at: dan@fcnl.org

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail