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[casi] The UN - NO dustbin for failed American adventures

1) Get real - Driven by a neo-conservative dream, the US is loath to
relinquish control in Iraq. But the price for Washington's stubbornness may
be failure

2) Beware the bluewash - The UN must not let itself be used as a dustbin for
failed American adventures



Get real

Driven by a neo-conservative dream, the US is loath to relinquish control in
Iraq. But the price for Washington's stubbornness may be failure, writes
Brian Whitaker

Tuesday August 26, 2003

Talk of impending failure in Iraq may sound like whinging when it comes from
those who opposed the war, but last week the unspeakable seven-letter F-word
was uttered by one of the bastions of US neo-conservative hawkery.
Under the headline "Do what it takes in Iraq", an editorial in the Weekly
Standard called for a huge commitment of more troops, more money and more
civilian workers to fend off disaster.
"Make no mistake," the magazine said. "The president's vision will, in the
coming months, either be launched successfully in Iraq, or it will die in
Iraq ... the future course of American foreign policy, American world
leadership, and American security is at stake. Failure in Iraq would be a
devastating blow to everything the United States hopes to accomplish."
Unfortunately for President Bush, this is true. He has left no face-saving
escape route for himself or his country.
The neo-conservative solution is to devote to Iraq whatever it takes and for
as long as it takes, for a whole generation if necessary. The Weekly
Standard wants an immediate allocation of $60bn (£38.4bn) for
reconstruction. If the Bush administration is serious, "then this is the
necessary down payment," it said, while the official Washington line has
been that reconstruction will be funded by Iraq's (still largely
non-existent) oil revenue.
Only total commitment on a scale not seen since the end of the second world
war can ensure US success in Iraq, the Weekly Standard insisted, but the
problem for George Bush is that he can't give that commitment, at least not
if he values his presidency.
Many US voters don't share the neo-conservatives' obsession with redesigning
the Middle East with Texas as a model, and they can quite reasonably ask
what they are getting for their money. For the $100bn or so spent on the
invasion, they have seen the welcome departure of Saddam Hussein, but that
was supposed to be the grand finale of the war, not the overture. Instead,
they are stuck with an open-ended military occupation costing $4bn a month
and which could drag on for years.
Despite the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad last week and the
continuing sabotage and killings, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld,
and Paul Bremer, the chief civilian administrator in Iraq, both insist there
is no need for extra troops.
A different view came recently from James Dobbins, who helped to manage the
reconstruction of Bosnia and Kosovo, and also served as a special envoy for
Bush in Afghanistan. Dobbins looked at the size of the stabilisation forces
previously sent to Bosnia and Kosovo - both considered successful
operations - and adjusted the figures to take account of Iraq's larger
Using the Bosnian model, he concluded that to be effective in Iraq the US
would need 258,000 troops on the ground. Using the Kosovo model, that figure
rose to 526,000. The current deployment in Iraq of some 170,000 troops, of
which 148,000 are US forces, suggests a serious shortfall.
But the Bush administration can do little about it without getting egg on
its face. The three possible options are (a) send more US troops, (b) create
a multinational force under UN auspices or (c) reconstitute the Iraqi army.
Although neo-conservative dogma favours the all-American option, the US does
not have troops to spare, and training more would take time and money.
Seeking to expand the army for a war that was supposedly won four months ago
also would be far too hazardous politically as a presidential election
Militarily, the UN route is a worse option, raising a host of issues about
the differences in language, capabilities and equipment of a multinational
force, as well as difficulties with command and logistics. The US resists
the UN option for ideological reasons.
That leaves the option of reconstituting the Iraqi army that was disbanded
as part of the sweeping US de-Baathification programme. Currently, most of
its 400,000 officers and men are being paid between $50 and $150 a month to
stay at home.
Recalling the Iraqi troops looks like a quick and easy solution, but the US
insists there is no point at present. Apart from questions of allegiance,
they don't have the required training, officials say. So the Iraqi army is
being rebuilt slowly from scratch. It is expected to number just 12,000 men
by the end of this year, and 40,000 by the end of next year.
For anyone interested in knowing more about the military options, Anthony
Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies explores
them in detail in his paper, What is next in Iraq.
When Rumsfeld and Bremer say there is no need for extra troops, what they
really mean is that it is preferable to tolerate the current level of
casualties and sabotage than it is to expand the security force. They are
also gambling on a gradual reduction in violence as those responsible for
attacks are rounded up or killed, and hidden supplies of explosives and
ammunition start to run out.
The danger, of course, is that it won't turn out like that. Most of the
trouble so far has come from Sunni Arabs around Baghdad but the Shia
communities - who form the majority - now look increasingly restive. And
then there are the foreign militants, an unknown quantity at present and
potentially a highly destabilising influence. Efforts to placate ordinary
Iraqis by repairing the country's infrastructure could also worsen the
security situation, by creating more soft targets in need of protection.
There is another danger to stability in Iraq that is less often mentioned.
It is Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority. The CPA is the temporary
civilian power, but it is not just paving the way for a new Iraqi
government. It is trying to reshape the country by implementing the
neo-conservatives' "clean break" philosophy.
"Clean break" is a truly revolutionary approach. There are no quick fixes.
If something doesn't work, you knock it down and start again. One example of
this is the extreme lengths that de-Baathification has gone to. Ghassan
Salamé, a UN political advisor in Iraq reported that 1,832 university
professors and 14,000 secondary school heads had been sacked, even though
most of them had only joined the Baath party in order to get a job.
According to the French magazine, Le Nouvel Observateur, it's much the same
with dentists. But if you've got toothache, you don't really care whether
the man with the drill is a Baathist or not.
Politics apart, there is certainly a lot that ought to change in Iraq:
rooting out corruption, making government accountable and transparent, etc,
etc, etc. But as a maximalist approach, "clean break" also maximises the
risk of failure. The neo-conservatives are wedded to it because of their
wider agenda - to create a western-orientated democracy in Iraq that can be
exported to Iran, Syria and other "problem" countries in the region.
But turning Iraq into a neo-conservative paradise - a process
euphemistically and patronisingly described as "nation-building" - cannot be
done in a hurry, and that is the heart of the CPA's problem. Bremer keeps
urging patience, but time is not on his side.
The main political divide in Iraq at present is not between Sunni and Shia,
or between Arabs and Kurds. It is between those who are willing to accept
the US occupation in good faith and those who aren't. Currently, the US
still has the benefit of the doubt, but the longer it seeks to retain
control, the more that will change.
US reluctance to cede control to Iraqis stems from a fear that the wrong
sort of people might get into power and blow the project off course. But
delays can blow it off course too. Iraqi members of the new governing
council - a largely cosmetic body despite its name - must consider their own
credibility with the electorate. There's a limit to how long they can
co-operate with the US and have nothing to show for it.
Not ceding control to Iraqis also creates another problem. It ensures that
all the many grievances and grumbles of ordinary people are directed against
the United States. Giving real power to the governing council would redirect
complaints and focus attention on possible solutions. A report, Governing
Iraq, issued yesterday by the International Crisis Group, highlighted the
CPA's problems.
"It is not realistic, on all available evidence to date," it said, "to
expect the CPA to be capable by itself of adequately caring for the
population's essential needs and successfully ruling Iraq. Nor is it
realistic to imagine that Iraqis will view the present interim governing
council as a credible, legitimate and empowered institution."
The report proposed restricting the CPA's activities to overseeing security,
law and order, and reconstruction. The governing council would then take
charge of day-to-day government through an appointed cabinet, and would
become accountable not to the CPA but to the UN.
That, of course, would be a bitter pill for Bush to swallow, and it would
signal the end of the neo-conservative daydream. But it might be the only
way to avoid the F-word.



Beware the bluewash

The UN must not let itself be used as a dustbin for failed American

George Monbiot
Tuesday August 26, 2003
The Guardian

The US government's problem is that it has built its foreign policy on two
great myths. The first is that it is irresistible; the second is that as
time advances, life improves. In Iraq it is trapped between the two. To
believe that it can be thwarted, and that its occupation will become harder
rather than easier to sustain as time goes by, requires that it disbelieves
all that it holds to be most true.
But those who oppose its foreign policy appear to have responded with a myth
of equal standing: that what unilateralism cannot solve, multilateralism
can. The United Nations, almost all good liberals now argue, is a more
legitimate force than the US and therefore more likely to succeed in
overseeing Iraq's reconstruction and transition. If the US surrendered to
the UN, this would, moreover, represent the dawning of a fairer, kinder
world. These propositions are scarcely more credible than those coming out
of the Pentagon.

The immediate and evident danger of a transition from US occupation to UN
occupation is that the UN becomes the dustbin into which the US dumps its
failed adventures. The American and British troops in Iraq do not deserve to
die any more than the Indian or Turkish soldiers with whom they might be
replaced. But the governments that sent them, rather than those that opposed
the invasion, should be the ones that have to answer to their people for the
The vicious bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad last week suggests
that the jihadis who now seem to be entering Iraq from every corner of the
Muslim world will make little distinction between khaki helmets and blue
ones. Troops sent by India, the great liberal hope, are unlikely to be
received with any greater kindness than western forces. The Indian
government is reviled for its refusal to punish the Hindus who massacred
Muslims in Gujurat.

The UN will swiftly discover that occupation-lite is no more viable than
occupation-heavy. Moreover, by replacing its troops, the despised UN could,
in one of the supreme ironies of our time, provide the US government with
the escape route it may require if George Bush is to win the next election.
We can expect him, as soon as the soldiers have come home, to wash his hands
not only of moral responsibility for the mess he has created, but also of
the duty to help pay for the country's reconstruction. Most importantly, if
the UN shows that it is prepared to mop up after him, it will enhance his
incentive to take his perpetual war to other nations.

It should also be pretty obvious that, tough as it is for both the American
troops and the Iraqis, pinned down in Iraq may be the safest place for the
US army to be. The Pentagon remains reluctant to fight more than one war at
a time. One of the reasons that it has tackled Iran and North Korea with
diplomacy rather than missiles is that it has neither the soldiers nor the
resources to launch an attack until it can disentangle itself from Iraq.

It is clear, too, that the UN, honest and brave as many of its staff are,
possesses scarcely more legitimacy as an occupying force than the US. The US
is now the only nation on the security council whose opinion really counts:
its government can ignore other governments' vetoes; the other governments
cannot ignore a veto by the US. In other words, a handover to the UN cannot
take place unless George Bush says so, and Bush will not say so until it is
in his interests to do so. The UN, already tainted in Iraq by its
administration of sanctions and the fact that its first weapons inspection
mission (Unscom) was infiltrated by the CIA, is then reduced to little more
than an instrument of US foreign policy.

Until the UN, controlled by the five permanent members of the security
council, has itself been democratised, it is hard to see how it can claim
the moral authority to oversee a transition to democracy anywhere else. This
problem is compounded by the fact that Britain, which is hardly likely to be
perceived as an honest broker, is about to assume the council's presidency.
A UN mandate may be regarded by Iraqis as bluewash, an attempt to grant
retrospective legitimacy to an illegal occupation.
None of this, of course, is yet on offer anyway. The US government has made
it perfectly clear that the UN may operate in Iraq only as a subcontractor.
Foreign troops will take their orders from Washington, rather than New York.
America's occupation of Iraq affords it regional domination, control of the
second biggest oilfields on earth and, as deputy defence secretary Paul
Wolfowitz has hinted, the opportunity to withdraw its troops from Saudi
Arabia and install them in its new dependency instead. Republican funders
have begun feasting on the lucrative reconstruction contracts, and the
Russians and the French, shut out of the banquet, are being punished for
their impudence.

Now that the US controls the shipping lanes of the Middle East and the
oilfields of central Asia and West Africa, it is in a position, if it so
chooses, to turn off the taps to China, its great economic rival, which is
entirely dependent on external sources of oil. The US appears to be seeking
to ensure that when the Iraqis are eventually permitted to vote, they will
be allowed to choose any party they like, as long as it is pro-American. It
will give up its new prize only when forced to do so by its own voters.

So, given that nothing we say will make any difference to Bush and his
people, we may as well call for a just settlement, rather than the diluted
form of injustice represented by a UN occupation. This means the swiftest
possible transition to real democracy.
Troy Davis of the World Citizen Foundation has suggested a programme for
handing power to the Iraqis which could begin immediately, with the
establishment of a constitutional convention. This would permit the people
both to start deciding what form their own government should take, and to
engage in the national negotiation and reconciliation without which
democracy there will be impossible. From the beginning of the process, in
other words, the Iraqi people, not the Americans, would oversee the
transition to democracy.

This is the logical and just path for the US government to take. As a
result, it is unlikely to be taken. So, one day, when the costs of
occupation become unsustainable, it will be forced to retreat in a manner an
d at a time not of its choosing. Iraq may swallow George Bush and his
imperial project, just as the Afghan morass digested the Soviet empire. It
is time his opponents stopped seeking to rescue him from his

· George Monbiot's book The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World
Order is published by Flamingo.

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