Senator Ted Kennedy
The Bush Administration's continuing arrogance in Iraq
Sun Oct 19 01:54:10 2003
The Bush Administration's continuing arrogance in Iraq has forced the
best-trained military in the world to act as police officers in a shooting
gallery, to carry out police functions for which they are ill-prepared and
ill-equipped. For Iraq now and for future crises elsewhere, we need to build
support in the international community for a reserve police identified and
trained for post-conflict deployments.
It is shocking that the White House is only now beginning to coordinate which
agency should be responsible for various tasks. This should not have waited six
months. It should have been standard operating procedure from the outset to
outline an integrated strategy that meets our military needs, the needs for
local policing and reconstruction, and the need for progress in achieving a free
and legitimate Iraqi government. They go hand-in-hand. But none can succeed
unless basic security is guaranteed.
The Administration's policy of rushing to put large multibillion-dollar
contracts in the hands of American firms ignores not only the lesson of history
but also the lesson of human nature -- the Iraqi people need to be the real
partners in the reconstruction effort.
The Administration is wrongly working from the top down, rather than the bottom
up, to rebuild Iraq. A new Iraq will emerge neighborhood by neighborhood, town
by town, province by province. How can any Republican President of the United
States disagree that government must be of the people, by the people, and for
We need closer alignment between military units working on reconstruction and
the civilians working at the Coalition Provisional Authority. Our soldiers in
the field are surveying the damage and identifying priorities for repair. They
need local counterparts. We cannot solve every problem from Saddam's palace in
Why not scale back the lavish resources being provided to U.S. contractors and
consultants and provide larger sums directly to the Iraqi people? We could do so
in many cases by developing ties between local councils and the Iraqi Governing
Council. We could work more with local non-governmental organizations and local
businesses. In all cases, we need to insist on transparency in the process, so
we know where the funding is going.
It's the Iraqi people's country. They have the greatest stake in the success of
the reconstruction, and involving them now will enhance the prospects for
In some areas of Iraq, we already have been able to achieve impressive results
with small amounts of money. In one case, we funded the building of a cement
factory for less than $100,000, when the bid by an American contractor for the
same project was in the millions. Why not do more of this with schools, medical
clinics, roads and countless other projects?
Iraq has many of the best-trained petroleum engineers in the world. Why not give
them -- rather than American companies -- a larger role in rebuilding the
industry? Why not create jobs for Iraqis and give them ownership of their
If we insist on saying Halliburton rules, because to the victor belong the
spoils, we won't be the victor for very long.
The Administration's policy in Iraq ignores the indisputable lesson of history
that building democracy is complex and difficult.
When the British accepted responsibility for the new nation of Iraq after the
fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, they encountered enormous
difficulties in creating a stable government across Sunni, Shia, Kurd and other
ethnic and religious groups. Many Kurds wanted their own state – and still do.
Tensions have existed between Sunni and Shia for 13 centuries. Iraq had no
history of unity.
In the words of one tribal chieftain, "History did not die; the tribes and
notables who emerged in 1920 and created our modern state in 1921 are here to
stay with all the others who came into being thereafter."
Instead of learning from this painful history, we condemned ourselves to repeat
it. Instead of anticipating the obviously similar and predictable divisions and
demands when Saddam's regime fell, the Bush Administration believed that a few
favored Iraqi exile leaders, many of them in exile for years, could return to
Iraq, rally the population and lead the new government. That was another
failure. The Iraqi people rejected them from the start and resisted their
The Administration believed that once a few hundred top advisers to Saddam were
removed from power, large numbers of local officials would remain to run the
government. Instead the collapse of government in Baghdad rippled across the
If history is any guide, America will not be able to impose our vision of
democracy on the Iraqi people on our current terms and our timetable. Our
overarching interest is the development of a government that has legitimacy in
the eyes of its citizens, so that the longer process of building durable
democratic institutions can proceed effectively in the years to come. This
process will not be finished swiftly, or easily, and it will not take place
according to our will.
Iraq is a society where, for the full 30 years of Saddam's rule, politics ruled
from the top. It will take time for the Iraqi people to adjust to the new
decentralization of power and to understand how the multiple levels of a working
democratic government can function effectively.
The Administration clings to the hope that the Iraqi Governing Council -- 25
people, many of whom have never worked together before -- can adopt a
constitution in time to hold successful elections next year.
On July 23, Ambassador Bremer said that it "should be possible" to have
elections next year.
On September 26, Secretary of State Powell gave the Iraqis six months to write a
In Bosnia, the United States pressed for national elections the first year,
before viable local democratic political institutions were developed, and it
made the development of democracy more difficult. Based on the historical
precedents, a recent RAND publication suggests holding national elections
roughly two years after reconstruction begins. The International Crisis Group
also reached the conclusion that it could take two years before national
elections should be held.
The lesson is clear. We cannot rush. It is not surprising that our insistence on
such speed is alienating the many Iraqis who know the process needs more time.
The date of their national election should not be determined by the date of
Imposing our will and our timetable on the Iraqi people will undermine our
all-important long-term goal of achieving a legitimate Iraqi government
committed to remaining on the path to democracy. Already, the Interim Governing
Council lacks credibility in the eyes of many Iraqis. On paper, it has broad
power, but that fools no one. It is controlled by the United States, and it
lacks sufficient power to meet the Iraqi people's needs.
The Administration needs to give greater priority to restoring sovereignty and
help lay the groundwork for approving a constitution and holding national
elections. In Afghanistan, we obtained the support of the international
community for an interim government that was not under American occupation. That
process can still work in Iraq, although it would have clearly worked better
from the start. As we did in Afghanistan, we need a process to transfer
sovereignty to the Iraqis, who in turn, can ask the US and UN for assistance.
If the United States is seen as controlling the new government in Baghdad, it
will fail -- if not now, then later; if not while our forces are still there,
then as soon as they are gone. Those who work with such a government are easily
dismissed by the Iraqi people as American puppets. We must take the time
necessary to give Iraqis the ownership of their government, if we expect it to
have any credibility and staying power.
Whether the Bush Administration likes it or not, they need a central role for
the United Nations to help accomplish this goal. Before becoming National
Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice seemed to understand this.
In a January 2000 article in Foreign Affairs, she wrote: "U.S. interests are
served by having strong alliances and can be promoted within the U.N. and other
She wrote: "The president must remember that the military is a special
instrument. It is lethal, and it is meant to be. It is not a civilian police
force. It is not a political referee, and it is most certainly not designed to
build a civilian society."
Condi Rice's words indict the Administration's own policy now. It is essential
to involve the international community as an active and equal partner in the
political transition of Iraq.
We need to give the UN a central role. The Administration's decision to go back
to the United Nations is a first step, but it's meaningful only if the
Administration is genuinely changing its policy. The real test will be whether
the Administration is now willing to make the compromises necessary to persuade
other countries to contribute troops to relieve our soldiers and to bring
stability to Iraq. The jury is still out on whether the UN resolution will mark
a real shift by the Administration.
We know from experience of the past decade in this post-Cold War world, in
Bosnia, in Kosovo, and in other devastated lands, that we can enlist the
international community in a major way. We can share responsibility and
authority, draw on the strengths and the diversity of the United Nations,
achieve security and reconstruction, and an end to the occupation. For many
months, the Administration has been wrong to try to bypass the United Nations by
enticing a few receptive nations to join us if the price is right.
No one doubts that the United States should remain in charge of the military
operation. But internationalizing the reconstruction is not a luxury; it is an
imperative. Sharing authority with the United Nations to manage the transition
to democracy will give the process legitimacy and gradually dispel the current
stigma of occupation -- especially if it is accompanied by the creation of a
more fully representative interim governing council to deal with day-to-day
As soon as possible, we need to redouble the effort to bring in forces with
regional faces-- especially Muslim faces. Nations such as Jordan, Pakistan, and
Egypt could immediately transform this mission with both their diversity and
their expertise. The United Arab Emirates contributed effectively to the effort
in Kosovo. Morocco and Albania have worked with us in Bosnia. That strategy can
work for us in Iraq now as well.
In their joint memoir, "A World Transformed," President George H.W. Bush and his
National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft, reflected on their own experiences
with Iraq and the Gulf War in 1991. They had been criticized in some quarters
for halting that war after their dramatic victory in Kuwait, instead of going on
to Baghdad to depose Saddam Hussein.
Here is what they wrote: "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war
into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing
objectives in midstream, engaging in 'mission creep,' and would have incurred
incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably
impossible...We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule
Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in
anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was
no viable 'exit strategy' we could see...Had we gone the invasion route, the
United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly
hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps
They were right.
It is time for this Administration to admit that it was wrong, and turn in a new
direction. We need a genuine plan that acknowledges the realities on the ground.
We need a plan that gives real authority to the United Nations, so that other
nations truly will share the burden. We need to actively engage the Iraqi people
in governing and rebuilding their country. Our soldiers now risking their lives
in Iraq deserve no less.
Here at home, all Americans are being asked to bear the burden too – and they
deserve more than a phony summons to support our troops by pursuing policies
that will only condemn them to greater and greater danger. Yes, we must stay the
course -- but not the wrong course.
U.S. Sec. of State Colin Powell on 'FOX News Sunday' Fox News, Sun Oct 19 18:50
Main Page - Sunday, 10/19/03
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