Magazine article The Nation

The Reckoning in Iraq. (Editorials)

Magazine article The Nation

The Reckoning in Iraq. (Editorials)

Article excerpt

Emerging from their meeting in Belfast the day before US forces announced Baghdad had fallen, George W. Bush and Tony Blair insisted that the United Nations would play a "vital role" in rebuilding Iraq. But from the lack of specifics in their statement it was clear that once again Bush was toying with his staunchest transatlantic supporter, who is under pressure from British voters to reconcile with Europe. Bush allowed that the UN might be enlisted in humanitarian efforts, but when reporters asked for details, he bridled, "Evidently there's some skepticism here in Europe about whether or not I mean what I say. Saddam Hussein clearly knows I mean what I say."

Bush left little doubt that the United States intends to run the show. Despite infighting between State and the Pentagon, it appears that Washington will install its own Pentagon-branded reconstruction and humanitarian aid coordinator, Gen. Jay Garner (retired), a walking conflict of interest, under Gen. Tommy Franks as US proconsul (see Geoffrey Gray on page 5). And the Pentagon has also groomed Ahmad Chalabi, the shady banker and long expatriated leader of the Iraqi National Congress, to run an interim government that would succeed a military authority.

The UN is more capable than a US military government of dispensing aid, the need for which becomes daily more urgent. Even before the war Iraq had the highest malnutrition rate in the Middle East, and civilian and military casualties are flooding understaffed Iraqi hospitals. Private humanitarian groups will be indispensable, but they are reluctant to work under the US military, an association that could endanger their workers. Only the UN will be able to attract donations from member nations. As the (illegal) occupier of their country, the United States has the primary responsibility under international law to provide for the Iraqi people's health and welfare, but rather than bearing the cost it would prefer a collections box with a UN logo. …

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