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UN should let the USA and the UK take control of post-war Iraq, because they must take responsibility for what they have done to the country and not run away as the USA did in Somalia, Lebanon and Afghanistan. (U.S. Navy)...




Let USA face the Iraq music

April 10, 2003 3:19am

UN should let the USA and the UK take control of post-war Iraq, because they must take responsibility for what they have done to the country and not run away as the USA did in Somalia, Lebanon and Afghanistan, writes SIMON JENKINS UNITED Nations, stay out of Iraq. Leave it alone. It’s being conquered by America and Britain and conquest is followed by either anarchy or military rule. Since the latter is preferable, a clear line of governing command must be installed, with a policing force at its disposal.

  Realpolitik demands that the Anglo-American forces now take full responsibility for what they have unleashed. They must restore order and reconstruct this wretched country. The spoils of war must become the toils of peace.

On Tuesday night, the military phase of the Iraqi adventure appeared to be coming to an end. Some thought that victory would be quicker, others thought that it would be slower. Western soldiers have done their job with the same brutal efficiency against lesser forces that once made the Roman legions unbeatable. But soldiering is straightforward. Now the politics begins.

Jack Kingston, an American Congressman, spoke on Tuesday for many in his country when he laughed the UN out of court. It should ‘‘stick to cocktail parties and international gallivanting’’, he said, ‘‘and worry first about rebuilding itself’’. Americans had gone to war and won the right to determine the peace.

Let them. For all the emollient words of George Bush in Northern Ireland on Tuesday, those clearly deciding Washington’s policy on Iraq hate the UN. They find it indecisive and wimpish. For six months, spin doctors have hurled at it the Big Lie, that the UN never grasped the nettle of Saddam. They ignore the fact that the UN did exactly what the USA and the UK told it to do, sanctioning and impoverishing Iraq in pursuit of their chosen policy of containment. At no point till the end did the UN Security Council deny Washington anything, even when most of its members rightly thought that bombing and sanctions were counterproductive to toppling Saddam. For Washington to accuse the UN of not grasping this nettle is outrageous.

Now that the USA and the UK have grasped it, they had better hold on to it. As Kingston waves his Tomahawk over his head and cries: ‘‘Get lost, world’’, the world should retreat. Iraq will need ruling with a rod of iron. It will be a place awash with revenge squads, Sunni-Shia rivalry and gangsters fighting over reconstruction largesse. Such confederations need a strong central authority with armies to hold them together. Saddam and his Baathists were that. The coalition has destroyed such authority. It is inconceivable that it can be replaced in three months.

The most dangerous talk at present is British ministers pledging ‘‘Iraq to be run by Iraqis’’. That is what happened in 1991 and it was a recipe for mayhem. Baath fascism will not die with Saddam, any more than the Taliban’s ejection from Kabul meant the end of Al-Qaida (so we are told).

There is no responsible alternative to long-term US governorship of Iraq. The Baath party is the only political entity on the ground. It ran government, police, utilities, even education. It can’t be entrusted with a return to formal power.

Much abuse has been hurled at Donald Rumsfeld’s plan for the military government of Iraq under a retired general, Jay Garner, and exiles headed by the discredited Ahmad Chalabi. The prospect of Chalabi heading anything appals UK and US diplomats, including publicly the entire state department. The latter’s slate of nominees for senior posts in the new regime was vetoed by Rumsfeld as too liberal and replaced by Pentagon right-wingers. Such is Rumsfeld’s power. Even Gen. Garner is said to oppose Chalabi. He might repeat Wellington’s remark on being sent a list of crony-generals by the War Office: ‘‘I hope they terrify the enemy as much as they terrify me.’’ The structure of this new regime, with American soldiers and civilians governing Iraq alongside each other, is eerily similar to that established in 18th-century India by an earlier precursor of empire, the British East India Company. Nor do I envy these men. Like those previous sons of empire, some may not return home alive.

What matters at present is not which personalities run Iraq but who ‘‘owns’’ the settlement. It must be owned by the USA, especially by Bush and Rumsfeld personally. Whatever consultative body is suggested by Bush to appease Blair and Clare Short, the new Iraq will be a Pentagon colony. Only if that is clearly understood will Washington find it hard to walk away, as it walked away from Afghanistan, Beirut and Somalia after likewise promising to stay. Rumsfeld must rule Iraq, staff it, finance it and police it, especially if he means to use it as a springboard against Syria and Iran. Above all he must defend it against the hysteria of Arab states desperate to avenge their present humiliation. This victory against terrorism may yet give that word a new dimension.

If I were the UN I would wait. I would not move a muscle. I would expect the USA to assert its conquest and apply victor’s justice to the vanquished. Washington has already rejected any recourse to the International Criminal Court. I would expect the USA to seize the oil wells and direct their revenue to American construction companies. There will be trouble between Kurds and Turks: I would expect the USA to sort it out. I would expect car bombs and vendettas and warlords and want no part of it. I would expect the USA and the UK to harvest what they have sown. I would do this because I can’t stop it and because any interference by the UN risks diluting the responsibility now clearly lying with Bush and Blair. Legitimacy is not at issue. These men have made Iraq theirs by right of conquest, not law.

They will need the UN in time. There is a limit to what any country can do to police the world on its own. Iraq is said to require $20 billion a year for ten years. Even now a UN decision is needed to lift sanctions, or US firms rebuilding Iraq will be trading illegally. There needs to be UN approval for World Bank guarantees to be forthcoming. The USA will need a UN resolution to change the oil-for-food regime, whereby the UN has been feeding 40 per cent of the Iraqi people. Someone will have to decide what happens to the oil revenue, since the UN using it for food will clash with claims of US building contractors and Iraq’s many international creditors, including France and Russia. If Gen. Garner starts shipping oil to which he has no legal title, foreign courts might declare it the product of theft and banditry.

Once upon a time, British taxpayers might also have claimed reparation for the GBP3 billion they have spent pre-empting the ‘‘imminent and catastrophic threat’’ that Blair told us Iraq posed to Britain. If this threat was real, sovereign compensation should be payable from Iraq’s oil. If it was not real, who then should pay? War is never this tidy, but the ‘‘new world order’’ desires closure, as in Yugoslavia. The path to peace across West Asia is now in thrall to US arms. In time that hegemony will seek legitimacy. It’ll seek it from the UN because it has the only legitimacy in town.

I have little doubt that the USA, so quick to go to war, will tire of peace when Saddam is gone and something else seizes the TV screen. It tired of Afghanistan, even without Osama bin Laden being caught. In West Asia its one commitment is to Israel, and that won’t change, vastly complicating its rule of Iraq.

As occupation turns sour, the USA will see the UN as it did in 1991, not as a problem but as a solution, a dump truck on to which can be loaded the disposable refuse of military adventurism. Someone must guarantee Iraq’s internal security when it starts to bore the Americans, or Iraqis will kill each other again.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan should bide his time. He should say nothing and do nothing. He should sit in his office and let the used-car salesmen of empire come to him. They will offer him an old banger of a country, careless owner, badly dented. What would he need to take it off their hands? Then he can name his price.

— The Times, London.

Publication: The Statesman (India)


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