Will US lose peace?
Last week we reported the view of US-based Bishop Ibrahim N Ibrahim, an Iraqi national, that while the US would win the war, it would lose the peace in his homeland.
Time will judge the prescience of Bishop Ibrahim’s observation, but early indications are that the United States may indeed find that ousting Saddam Hussein was the easier task of its operation in Iraq.
Bishop Ibrahim predicted that the Iraqi population would harbour a lingering resentment towards the US for the high civilian death toll and destruction of private property. One might have gained a different perception immediately after the fall of the Saddam regime, but enthusiasm for the occupying troops seemed to wane soon after that initial burst of euphoria.
It was always apparent that the real challenge to the US/British governments would not be the invasion of Iraq itself–though that operation clearly did not go entirely according to plan either–but how to control post-war Iraq. It is here that the US has shown surprisingly few signs of being prepared, with no coherent strategy in mind, and little idea of what to expect.
It is difficult to understand how the US could have so clumsily neglected to provide for the inevitable power vacuum that followed the fall of Saddam’s regime, a state of anarchy that led to widespread looting.
It would not be unduly cynical, however, to note that the US did some prior preparations: the contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq’s devastated infrastructure were awarded well before the invasion commenced.
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga’s assessment is chilling: “The true motives of this conflict are already emerging, and there are frightening economic interests involved. For example, destruction is carried out in order to have a pretext for reconstruction.” It is worth noting that the majority of the reconstruction contracts went to Halliburton, a company that until recently counted among its directors US Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Meanwhile the US government’s equivocation over the role of the United Nations in preparing the installation of a representative government in Iraq is a cause for concern.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is correct in saying that “it is important that the reconstruction of Iraq [politically and physically] is not carried out by just one power but by all nations.” To be credible, that process must take place under the aegis of the United Nations.
However, the extent to which the US will consent to the participation of the international community in the reconstruction of Iraq is likely to be determined by the extent to which such cooperation will undermine specific US interests.
Conversely, it is the degree of cooperation granted by the US that will attest to the Bush administration’s ethics in declaring war on Iraq.
While that invasion lacked legitimacy in international law, it provided the welcome result of removing from power a most contemptible tyrant (even if at too high a price).
However, US talk about possible attacks on other sovereign states in the Middle East–the name Syria comes up too often for comfort–lends credence to misgivings that the war on Iraq was after all not about Saddam Hussein or the putative weapons of mass destruction.
In hinting at subsequent wars, the Bush administration risks being seen as conceding that the war on Iraq was an act of aggression aimed solely at furthering US (or worse, personal) interests.
Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in terris (Peace in the World), issued 40 years ago this month, wrote that international disputes should be settled not by military means but through negotiations. Earlier this month, Pope John Paul noted that “unfortunately, this constructive goal of civilisation has not yet been reached.”
It is deplorable that the leadership of one of the world’s great civilisations seems to be so determined to obstruct that goal–and even more so should it emerge that greed and power were its incentive for doing so.