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imperialism & war | legacies

The US Iraq Policy and Combating Terrorism

"America has the duty of the superpower to combat terrorism with political wisdom, not only with military superiority. Terrorism/s causes must be understood and tackled.."

By Hans Christian Graf von Sponeck, Geneva

[This article originally published in: Zeit-Fragen Nr.32, August 23, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/ARCHIV/ZF_1206/INDEX.HTM.]

The American Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of three goals of this war at the start of the offensive war of the US and England against Iraq in March 2003:

Protection of the American people from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction;
Destruction of terrorists in Iraq;
Freedom and humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people.

The question that must be raised is whether such an approach had even a trifling chance of solving the Iraq conflict in the interest of the Iraqi people and the Security Council. Events since the war's beginning give clear evidence. The war had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction since they didn't exist. No terrorists were found. The Iraqi people have hardly received freedom and humanitarian relief. Global security has deteriorated considerably.

The majority of the members of the UN Security Council decisively rejected the Anglo-American declaration of war. The governments in Washington and London were denied international legitimation for their policy of war. The United Nations held to the international law of the UN charter and stood its ground as an institution of peace.

The time since the end of the war in April 2003 is too brief to fully grasp the historical significance of this decision of the UN Security Council. However this was an important milestone for the future of the United Nations. The international public desired a clearer and more critical renunciation from the monstrousness of the American-British action.

The single-handed effort violating international law of two founding members of the United Nations will enter the world's history books as a tragic mistake. The catastrophic consequences for the Iraqi people and the weakening of the United Nations are reasons for this judgment. In the long-term, the Anglo-American action will lead to a dangerous escalation of worldwide terrorism. Whoever only worries about the symptoms of international resistance toward western or American hegemony and refuses to see the causes of the burning global anger will only foment terrorism and never contribute to ending terrorism.

Understanding the dignity of people, religious tolerance and the pain and despair of poverty are imperative. Observing the human rights conventions, a democratic political engagement and a far greater readiness to share wealth are vital. The world economy has enough for everyone. Responsible policy must help everyone benefit from the gained wealth. This involves justice, not ideology. Without these basic tendencies, there will be no worldwide stabilization or lasting peace.

Whoever defends present American foreign policy and idly watches is partly responsible for the consequences. The many honorable persons who resist the imperial claim of the American government should not be condemned as anti-Americans. This condemnation is a silly and emotional act of despair where rational arguments are blocked. A large part of the American population would become anti-Americans.

The policy of the US government is described clearly in the documents of the so-called "Project for a New American Century" and the "National Security Strategy of the United States" (September 2002). Reaction to this policy must also be clear.

With this "mad" policy of the US that contains the seed of self-destruction, understanding and sympathy for Washington's attitude are hardly possible. Understanding and sympathy are necessary to protect the world from further extremism and its consequences. The American psyche was deeply struck by September 11, 2001. The US experienced on that day in a tragic way that it is morally, economically and politically vulnerable. Friends of the US made clear to the American government that the US would pay a great price for its power politics based on self-interest until it abandoned this policy and returned without preconditions into the community of nations.

Cooperation with dictators for years, even with Iraq's Saddam Hussein, financial support of undemocratic governments in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East that didn't want to know anything about human rights and the constant adjustment of "truth" to US national interests bear bad fruits. The direction and substance of American policy are unquestionably rejected and detested by the large majority of the people of our world. Whoever dismisses this as anti-American rhetoric doesn't contribute to the greatest challenge of our age of ending fundamentalism and imperialism.

America has the duty of the superpower to combat terrorism with political wisdom, not only with military superiority. Terrorism's causes must be understood and tackled. This includes understanding other people better in their cultural and civilized characteristics, accepting global diversity, affirming equality to the beliefs and values of others and supporting politically and economically the reduction of world poverty.

The events in Iraq since the end of the unlawful war in April 2003 show that the American government and its proxy installed in Baghdad are not ready to correct their misguided policy. Chaos grows from day to day. The population waits for the promised improvement of living conditions. The reality is that the provision of electricity has become much worse. In Baghdad, there were two hours of electricity after three hours of interruption in the spring of 2004. The water- and sewage situation has hardly improved. Unemployment is far above 50 percent. The poor security conditions prevent a normal day. Many parents do not take their children to school because they have fear of incidents. The number of ethnic and religious conflicts seems to be increasing. Who the causal agents are is in no way clear. Barbed-wire policy, attacks of the American military on whole communities as for example Falluja, Baquba and Tikrit and arrests of alleged resistance-fighters in droves have increased the wrath of the people.

The question what must be done to end the chaos must be raised to the Iraqis, the occupying powers and the international community. This will be very difficult in the short-term. The government in Washington must recognize that the American way to Iraqi peace has failed. America's call for international assistance in the interest of the Iraqi people should be heard on this basis. This includes the following concrete conditions:

1. A UN High Commissioner for Iraqi reconstruction should assist the civilian Iraqi administration.
2. The American military should be less visible, withdrawing to certain concentration points and only appearing directly for special security problems. Iraqi police should have responsibility for daily security.
3. A clear timetable for the gradual withdrawal of the occupying forces should be coordinated with the governing council and other leading Iraqis like Ayatollah Al-Sistani.

In addition the international community should consider the following points as trust-building measures:

4. Representatives of Sunnite tribes should be included in the negotiations over Iraq's future. Non-Iraqi authorities should be completely excluded from local political discussions.
5. Multinational institutions as for example the United Nations and others that seek the beginning of stabilization in Iraq should hold conversations with all formal and informal groups in Iraq to reduce Iraqi suspicion toward the motives of foreigners.
6. The United Nations in cooperation with South Africa should convince Iraq's political leaders to approve the institution of a national truth- and reconciliation commission.
7. The possibility of convening a nationwide national assembly should be discussed on the eve of a new constitution and the election of a parliament.
8. The desire of responsible Iraqis to keep the oil industry in state ownership should be supported internationally.
9. All invitations to competition for international trade contracts should be made to Iraqi groups.
10. Job creation, training and institutional rebuilding should be priorities in the cooperation between Iraq and the UN High Commissioner for Reconstruction.
11. The future of Iraq's debts should be discussed by Iraqis. The UN compensation commission should be dissolved without delay.

Europe has the clear obligation to leave the political sidelines and support rebuilding Iraq. Europe should combat the dangerous global disorder and champion multilateral initiatives in international conflicts and in the long-term the renewal of transatlantic relations. One can only agree with US president Bush when he emphasized recently: "The price for indifference would be catastrophic."

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