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Finishing the job in Iraq

Peter Quaranto | Tuesday, October 7, 2003

There is little doubt that the United States won the war against Iraq quickly, but two questions still remain: Was the war just, and is Iraq currently on the road to peace? To both of these questions, the answer is no.

In light of the unrest in Iraq that has led to the bombing of U.N. headquarters, the deaths of many U.S. soldiers and the numerous riots, it is evermore important that we evaluate our country’s past and future actions in regards to Iraq.

On Feb. 5, Colin Powell reported to the U.N. Security Council that the United States had information that Iraq had both weapons of mass destruction and strong ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist group. Powell made the argument, based on these two tenets alone, that the United Nations should support the United States. in waging war against Iraq.

During that time, scholars and leaders, ranging from the realist John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago to Pope John Paul II, challenged the United States’ case for going to war. These voices, especially the 10 million of them that gathered on Feb. 15 throughout the world to protest this war, were blatantly ignored by the Bush administration.

In the past months, reports by both United States and other organizations have shown that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction and has no ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Evidence has surfaced from the House Intelligence Committee that President Bush presented the American public with faulty information about Iraq. This deceit by our political leaders is outright wrong when the lives of soldiers are at stake.

As result of this news, many proponents of the war have shifted their arguments to claim this war was about humanitarian intervention. It is interesting, though, that the administration rarely mentioned this point in the months leading up to the war. The thousands dead from the war bring this argument into question. Also, currently Iraq has rampant insecurity, looting and unemployment, along with a total lack of basic resources. The fall of Saddam’s oppressive regime is a positive thing, but the situation in Iraq remains horrible.

This is a good lead into the question of humanitarian priorities. President Bush is currently asking for $87 billion to rebuild the destruction caused in Iraq, after spending $80 billion on the war. This money is necessary to fulfill our promise to rebuild Iraq and help its people, but it is important to note the potential this money had to do humanitarian good.

According to the United Nations, $40 billion would be enough money to end world hunger, while providing every child with clean drinking water, basic health care and education. That is not to mention the good that money could have done with our country’s current rising rates of poverty and unemployment. Or even the good it could have done to help veterans’ benefits, which are currently being cut by the Bush administration.

The dialogue about the justice and appropriateness of this war is a legitimate one because we need to judge whether it was right for the Bush administration to put U.S. troops in such danger. Yet, a question of more relevance now is the question of what the United States should do in order to secure the peace in Iraq.

First, it is important to note that the current situation in Iraq is hardly one of peace, as Iraq has become a state of insecurity, ethnic conflict and antagonism. Much antagonism has been directed against U.S. troops who are seen as invaders. Some claim, with immense irony, that Iraq has become more of a terrorist breeding ground as a result of American intervention.

The main key to bringing peace to Iraq is getting international involvement. The United States lacks the resources to single-handedly rebuild Iraq and maintain peace. Also, U.S. unilateral involvement perpetuates the image of foreign invaders. This unilateral foreign policy, which continues in rebuilding Iraq, is also hurting foreign relations.

Kofi Annan has stated that the United Nations is poised to take a larger role in enhancing the current situation in Iraq. Currently, President Bush is asking for U.N. aid and support, but he is unwilling to give the United Nations authority in the situation. France, Germany and a number of other nations that opposed the war are willing to provide aid and troops, but only if the United States compromises on its unilateralism.

The United States needs to turn over authority to the United Nations in order to secure the peace. With U.N. guidance, a border-monitoring system can be developed, along with a true “transitional government” that includes representation from all of the ethnic groups. This new government could work with the United Nations and United States to administer funds, draft a constitution and ensure basic resources for the people.

Here on campus, the most important thing that we can do is to keep talking about the war and situation in Iraq. This Wednesday, the Notre Dame Peace Coalition will be sponsoring a forum titled “FOCUS IRAQ: Questions of Justice and Responsibility” that will feature a number of professors with different perspectives speaking about Iraq. The forum will begin at 7 p.m. in 102 DeBartolo Hall. May this be the beginning of much needed dialogue about the war.

Peter Quaranto is a sophomore political science and international peace studies major. He is involved with the Notre Dame Peace Coalition. Contact him at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.