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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Saturday | May 03, 2003

Why should we have our future decided by others? What we won in Iraq

When you look at Iraq today, it's clear that we've walked into a situation only President Bush's most ardent defenders would describe as positive.

Kate Adie, a BBC reporter in Basra, asked Iraqis how they felt about their new occupiers.

"Why should we have our future decided by others?" he asks.

The diminutive head of the cancer unit at the main hospital - with fond memories of the Brompton Hospital in London - has no desire to see American business take over his health service: please go home, he says politely.

They listen in alarm to the news of demonstrators in northern towns quelled by coalition gunfire.

They gossip about the less honourable moments that are emerging from the fog of war: the prisoner-of-war camp where a food riot was put down by the Americans with bullets - with two bodies left among the spilt bowls; the border town where a US unit was seen to hammer machine-gun fire repeatedly at civilians; the widespread use of depleted uranium in weapons.

There's no way of knowing if Saddam Hussein has gone for good
The stories circulate, and resentments fester.

To be liberators, there has to be honour and respect and a plan for the future.

It is a lot to ask of 18-year-old soldiers who have a very basic grasp of Islamic religious factions and Mesopotamian social structure - and who just want to know how long they are going to stay in southern Iraq - and why they should stay.

It is a lot to ask of those who have just emerged from a dictatorship, who have a very basic grasp of what is being plotted in the faraway White House, but who long for the foreigners to leave.

First, Iraqis want us to leave, not all of them, but enough so that we've won resentment

They don't like us killing their family members. That should be evident. Every dead Iraqi is a poster child for whomever wants us to leave Iraq to the Iraqis. Iraqis are educated, literate and intelligent. They simply do not feel the need for a US occupation, especially one which is being planned largely in secret.

Every order given, every robbery, every day of drinking polluted water means we're blamed for it. Iraqis are hardly flcoking to our banner. France, 1944, this is not. The anger, the distrust, the feeling of oppression haunts our every act in Iraq. Saddam was evil, but he was evil and Iraqi, Americans are neither. And while they don't mind the lack of evil, any act by US troops could be resented. The grenades tossed by angry people, relatives or no, are just the beginning.

Second, the Arab world gets the same news we get and they dislike what they're seeing. So we've won mistrust.

Blathering about invading Syria was the first mistep among many. The second was refusing UN help, like it was optional. The UN, for the slow among us, provides political cover for the west. If the UN doesn't get the water running right away, Kofi Annan is blamed. No one shoots UN peacekeepers for that.

How safe do you think US Administrators will be in Iraq? They aren't wanted. What better way to send that message than by attacking American civilians. The handing out of contracts to Bush campaign contributors was another mistep and an amazing one. The UN allows us to do things which accomplish Ameircan policy objectives without stamping the stars and stripes on them. Our new, ad hoc, method of nation building., stinks of insider dealing and payoffs to the President's friends.

Now, we plan to divide Iraq into three zones, American, British and Polish. Take that France and Germany.

Third, we toppled Saddam so now we've inherited the burden of reconstruction.

No matter what form the government of Iraq ultimately takes, the fact is that we are stuck with most of the bill. Other countries are not obliged to help uis fulfill our colonial responsibilities. We are on the hook for billions to rebuild Iraq, even if they kick us out.

The question is if the next Congress will want to pay for this burden and that's no guarantee.

I've just finished Michael Beschloss's The Conquerors, a history of the decisionmaking behind the Occupation of Germany at the end of WWII. There was an intense, years long debate over the fate of Germany involving all of the major federal departments. It became a campaign issue in 1944. None of the kind of thinking behind that has been evidenced in our planning for iraq. Instead, we've done everything on the fly, hoping for the best and doing everything the hard way.

As a result, people are dead, we are resented and Iraqis are suffering. Liberation is not an excuse for anarchy. Which is what we have visited upon Iraq.

The US has a set of expectations for Iraq which are fantastic at best and impossible at worse. We expect them to elect secular leaders, when Saddam left only the clerics alive. Most of the exiles we're relying on have scant knowledge of Iraq, 2003. Chalabi left as a 13 year old, others left 20, 30 years ago. Iraqis don't know these people or their ideas.

The absolute worst thing to do would be to impost the government we like to achieve some result determined by a cabal. The Iraqis will resist that by all means necessary.

Steve Gilliard

Posted May 03, 2003 02:06 PM | Comments (122)


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