The Star says...
IT IS only too easy to assume that the fighting in Iraq is over. The massive bombing raids may have faded away, but skirmishes continue in parts of the country.
None other than US military commander Gen Tommy Franks admitted just yesterday that pockets of resistance had still to be brought under control. He added that until then, it was too early to declare the demise of the Saddam government or the end of the war.
In the meantime, civil unrest continues despite US and British claims of returning the country to some semblance of order.
How can any country be expected to function satisfactorily if a shooting war continues, in the absence of any proper governing authority?
As critics around the world have warned, the invasion of Iraq has caused death, misery and pain for the Iraqi people.
Any attempt by the invading forces to assist the people has come too little and too late.
The bombing of Afghanistan over the past two years failed to produce a settled country, leading instead to the bombing of that country. Now the devastating bombing of Iraq, before it can produce a competent government, looks set to spread farther afield to countries like Syria.
Until now there is still no sign that the United Nations will be doing anything substantial to help in administering Iraq. US-style unilateralism is moving briskly from confrontation to war to recolonisation in Baghdad, then to confrontation and conflict against Damascus.
Even a US “dove” like US Secretary of State Colin Powell has threatened diplomatic and economic sanctions against Syria. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon weighed in yesterday with ominous warnings against Damascus.
Through all this, the UN has joined much of the rest of the world on the sidelines, watching in mute horror.
There is hardly another moment in world history when UN multilateralism has been so deeply fractured.
Yet the occupying forces talk of an “Iraq for the Iraqis.” Even if anything of that nature is imaginable from the invading forces, it will certainly not also be an “Iraq of and by the Iraqis.”
The US plan begins with an interim administration led by American officials, headed by former Gen Jay Garner, reporting to Gen Tommy Franks.
This has all the trappings of a post-invasion colonial administration, being neither acceptable to many Iraqis nor favoured by various countries including even Britain.
This administration is then supposed to lead to an “Iraqi” government led by the likes of Ahmad Chalabi, air-flown from London and escorted into Iraq by US Special Forces troops.
It is a formula that would not only exclude the deposed Ba’ath Party and the largest (Shi’ite) opposition party in the country, but also many Iraqis opposed to US intervention.
Such a government would lack the popular credibility needed for stability to take root and democracy to work.
For the moment, Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit exemplifies the difficulty of managing Iraq’s power play by remote-control continents away in Washington.
Fighting in Tikrit continues, just as sporadic attacks and resistance are likely to continue in parts of the country indefinitely.
So far the military success of the invading forces is measured only by the collapse of government resistance in Baghdad and several other major towns. Winning the peace is a lot more difficult, yet that is a necessary precondition for any meaningful administration of the country.
But even the swiftness of the war does not justify it in the slightest. All the reasons that made the war a wrong cause and a bad move remain.
A concerned world that seeks to prevent spillage of the conflict abroad must do more to speak up and act out against it.
These are important responsibilities for individual countries as well as for the UN system itself.