The UN, Iraq and the Bush Administration
by Joel Wendland
April 19, 2004

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Last January, Tareeq Al-Shaab, the newspaper published by the Iraqi Communist Party and the first non-government newspaper to appear in Iraq after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, editorialized that "It is well known that the occupation forces did not want, from the start, to give the UN a central and 'vital' role to the international organization for various reasons. Among the most important reasons was the desire to control the progress of the political process and its outcome in accordance with their interests and the objectives they had drawn up for their presence in Iraq."

Bush attacked the UN during its apparently successful weapons inspections in the period just prior to the war in order to demonstrate the failure of multilateralism. He claimed that weapons inspections were wasting time and that we couldn't wait for "a mushroom cloud." He convinced many people in the U.S. that an attack form Iraq was imminent. Now even the Bush administration admits that skepticism of the intelligence of WMD and Iraq's supposed connection to Al-Qaeda was warranted.

It was clear that Bush wanted to escalate the conflict and the international community was slowing him down. Then as the war took place and the occupation set in, he refused any real role to the UN in the reconstruction process, saying that they had refused to participate in the war so they shouldn't play a part in determining the future of Iraq. They didn't "share the risks" was his argument. Essentially, the Bush administration wanted to limit international oversight or scrutiny of the billion dollar reconstruction contracts that went exclusively to U.S.-based corporations such as Halliburton with its strong ties to the Bush administration.

Other possible explanations are that the Bush administration wanted to have full control over the search for missing WMD and to be able to control the public relations spin needed to cover for their absence. Additionally, the far right ideologues who support Bush don't like subordinating their political, economic, or military objectives to the international community, especially to countries who might outright oppose those objectives.

In an interview with Political Affairs, Salaam Ali, a spokesperson for the ICP, told PA readers that the U.S. had all along opposed UN leadership in dealing with Iraq. Before going to war, Ali said, "The US managed to impose its will and sideline the United Nations and go ahead with its war."

He also explained the ICP's decision to participate in the Iraq Governing Council. "The setting up of the Governing Council came as a compromise when the occupying authorities rejected the popular demand of the Iraqi people and their political forces for the setting up a transitional coalition government, which would have full authority to oversee the process of reconstruction as well as ending the occupation....The Party considered the setting up of this council, having limited authority, to be a positive step in the right direction of handing over political power. The Party considered this to be an arena of struggle, one of the ways and means of enabling the Iraqi people to get back their sovereign rights and power."

The Iraqi Communist Party, on this level of activity, sought a peaceful route to restoring Iraqi sovereignty while working to rebuild the democratic and working class movements in Iraq that had been either destroyed or corrupted by the Hussein regime, as Ali states.

It is now possible with the escalation of violence in the last 3 weeks that the Bush administration recognizes the failure of its unilateralist policy. Despite overblown claims about a "coalition" of countries who participated militarily in the war and now in the occupation, Bush's recent overtures about greater UN involvement puts that lie to rest.

Last January, months before the April 1st uprising and a new nadir in security and stability for the occupiers, the AP reported on an exchange between the Bush administration and UN officials. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan hinted that the international body might be prepared to return to Iraq to take on some of the work of overseeing the transition to Iraqi control of the country.

Others in the UN Security Council were more skeptical. AP reported that "Some critics on the Security Council suggest US efforts to lure the UN back to Iraq are motivated by the need to share the risks in a presidential election year." As the election campaign heats up and the Bush administration has staked its reelection on the Iraq war and its aftermath, this statement rings never more true.

The AP story continues: "With the June 30 deadline looming and threats of protests against the US plan growing, US officials said the Bush Administration now recognised changes had to be made in the US transition plan and that there was no alternative but for the UN to achieve both Iraqi and international legitimacy. 

The necessity of appearing to continue the process of transition and of preserving stability in Iraq has forced the Bush administration to appeal for a multilateral strategy and the likelihood of limiting its control over the outcome.

Pressuring the administration on the UN issue (in both administrative and security capacities) is of vital interest to the Iraqi democratic movements as well as for the peace movement which seeks a return of U.S. military personnel.

International oversight over the transition process would also decrease the likelihood of U.S. domination of political and economic reconstruction. This point is highlighted by a growing number of bribery scandals that have rocked the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by Paul Bremer in Iraq. A report in the Sunday Times (London, April 18, 2004) quotes numerous sources that say that bribes were made by certain corporations seeking favoritism from the CPA in contract selections.

The Times quoted Claude Hankes-Drielsma, the former chairman of the management committee of accountant Price Waterhouse who is advising the Iraq Governing Council as saying, "There hasnít been transparency in the awarding of contracts and allegations of corruption have been brought to my attention." Hankes-Drelsma added that "several key contracts...were made without due consultation." He further indicated that much money was overspent and that Iraq may have not received the best services in return.

Another CPA official said that there is "a lack of transparency" in the process of awarding contracts by the CPA. Some businesspersons (Iraqi and international) were told to pay money to CPA officials in order to receive more consideration for their bids. Other contractors described these practices as "shocking," "secretive," "corrupt," and lacking in "oversight."

Perhaps most importantly, international oversight portends the possibility of lessening the violence in Iraq that will lead to greater destruction of the Iraqi people, its environment, and its infrastructure. It could prevent the U.S. from using its current tactic of violence and military tactics to achieve political and economic aims in Iraq.

Joel Wendland is managing editor of Political Affairs magazine, a member of UAW Local 1981 (National Writers Union), and writes a blog at http://classwarnotes.blogspot.com.

Other Articles by Joel Wendland

* Bush and Armageddon



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