Saturday, October 11, 2003

Bush losing the peace

That's the headline from today's editorial in the Irish Independent. As I'm not on the ground in Iraq, it's hard for me to accurately judge whether this is true or not. All I have to go on is the press, some of which is negative and some of which is positive about developments in Iraq. But, there are points here that do need to be addressed.

First, there were some contracts awarded to US business interests since the war ended. It's US taxpayer money, predominantly, that is rebuilding Iraq. However, as this article makes clear (referenced below), it has not been all going the way of American commercial interests.

Second, it seems beyond dispute that there was a general breakdown in law and order in the days following the fall of the regime. However, it also seems clear to me that oil wells are military targets and would be captured by invading forces, whereas the looting and disorder in the cities was more a result of the power vacuum that arose when the Iraqi military and police just vanished from Baghdad on April 9. An argument can be made that the Americans should have seen that coming, but I don't think it was in any way a deliberate strategy. The Americans expected to work with the Iraqi police force when they had ousted the regime, which is what they did in Europe and Japan after WWII.

Third, most of the rebuilding that the Americans have to do has almost nothing to do with the bombing. Other than the communications infrastructure, most of the rest of the rebuilding work that has to be done is the result of neglect by Saddam's regime. The Americans are rebuilding schools, hospitals, roads up and down Iraq. Almost none of these were damaged by military action. In fact, I believe that the administration may not have paid sufficient attention to reports that much of Iraq's infrastructure would have to be rebuilt. The oil industry is a good example of that.

And, in the most amazing section of this editorial, the writer notes that Iraqis are "resentful that the US has not been able to give them a better life". I'm not sure that's true at all and it seems to fly in the face of the poll of Iraqis taken in late September.

I think this Indian article is a better summary of Iraq today.