Despite new offers for broader participation in Iraq’s reconstruction bonanza, the United States-convened donors’ conference on Iraq ended in stifled disappointment, with only $13 billion raised–a far cry from the $36 billion target. To dampen expectations further, up to two-thirds of the total pledges will take the form of loans, not grants. And if the Afghanistan fundraising experience is any indication, many of the pledges could still end up being just more broken multi-million-dollar promises.
The international donors meeting beginning in Madrid on Thursday, 23 October, will not come close to meeting Washington’s original goals. Initially called to pressure other countries to contribute significant amounts of money to sustain the U.S.-UK occupation of Iraq, public and governmental opposition in virtually all countries forced a radical downsizing of U.S. aims.
Well-spun by U.S. and British press handlers, the wire services announced the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1511 as a victory for American diplomacy. And so it was, in the sense that a bald man winning a hair brush in a raffle could claim a victory.
The U.S.-driven UN resolution passed by the Security Council provides only an internationalist fig-leaf for Washington’s occupation; the occupation remains illegal and in violation of the UN Charter. The new resolution does nothing to change the fundamental problems of the U.S. occupation of Iraq–its illegitimacy, its unilateralism, and its responsibility for so much destruction in Iraq and for the on-going crisis of violence in the country.
Forget the spin you have been reading about the “failure” of the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun. It was one of the most successful international meetings in years because it redefined how trade can benefit the poor and how the developing world can be real players in these negotiations. In fact, if policymakers and global trade negotiators were paying attention, Cancun could lead to trade talks that actually bring about fair trade, and the benefits to both the developing and the developed world that have long been promised.
Iraq is not the first country the United States has intervened in and then tried to have the United Nations try to clean up after it. Never before, however, have the consequences of a U.S. military action been so tragic for the world body and its dedicated civilian workers.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq posed new challenges to peace and justice activists. The growing credibility crisis of the Bush administration with respect to Iraq, as well as the ongoing crisis on the ground in Iraq, provides us with new opportunities. Below I present four theses on one campaign that could use these opportunities in a creative way: a campaign to turn the administration of Iraq over to the United Nations.
The aftermath of the Iraq War has shown us that good soldiers are not always good cops. They cannot replace a professional international police force able to rapidly deploy and reestablish the rule of law in post-conflict hot spots. Most Iraqis would tell you the world needs such a force right now. The United Nations should be tasked with making this a reality.
The success of peace-building activities in Afghanistan, a nation physically and psychologically scarred by 23 years of internecine conflict, is dependent on the existence of a robust and durable commitment by the international community. British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pronouncement on the eve of the fall of the Taliban, that “we will not walk away from Afghanistan, as the outside world has done so many times before” reassured many that this commitment would be forthcoming (Independent, February 24, 2003). The January 2002 Tokyo International Donors Conference, which resulted in extensive material and moral pledges to rebuild Afghanistan bolstered this initial optimism. The Tokyo meeting rightly recognized that peace building in Afghanistan is a process that must be pursued on two parallel tracks, security sector reform and economic development. “Security and development are two sides of the same coin,” President Karzai affirmed during his opening address at the conference.
In his March 6th prime time news conference, President Bush made his case for why, with or without UN authorization and support, the United States remains adamant that Saddam Hussein and his regime will be removed from power. The reasons proffered were not new: a threat to regional and world stability and peace; disregard for the human rights of Iraqis; links to terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda; and, failure to fully and immediately comply with UN resolutions dating back to 1991.