Opinion

Last January, Tareeq Al-Shaab, the Iraqi Communist Party’s (ICP) newspaper, editorialized, “It is well known that the occupation forces did not want, from the start, to give the UN a central and ‘vital’ role 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 objectives.”

Bush attacked the UN during its successful weapons inspections and tried to show that multilateralism had failed. 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 from Iraq was imminent.

It was clear that Bush wanted to escalate the conflict and the international community was slowing him down. Then as the war and the occupation set in, he refused any real role to the UN in the reconstruction process. The Bush administration wanted to limit international oversight of the billion-dollar reconstruction contracts that went exclusively to U.S.-based corporations such as Halliburton.

The Bush administration also wanted to have full control over the search for missing WMDs and to be able to control the public relations spin needed to cover for their absence.

In a recent interview with Political Affairs, ICP spokesperson Salam Ali said the U.S. had all along opposed UN leadership in dealing with Iraq. Before going to war, Ali said, “The U.S. managed to impose its will and sideline the United Nations and go ahead with its war.”

After the fall of the Hussein regime, the ICP 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, Ali stated.

Perhaps, with the escalation of violence in the last few weeks, some in the Bush administration recognize 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 interest in greater UN involvement puts that lie to rest.

Last January, months before the April 1 uprising and a new nadir in security and stability for the occupiers, the Bush administration made overtures to the UN. 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. According to an Associated Press report, “Some critics on the Security Council suggest U.S. 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, with the Bush administration staking its re-election on the Iraq war and aftermath, this statement rings true.

Unfortunately, increased clashes with Iraqi militants sparked by Bush’s siege operations in cities like Falluja and Najaf have meant that UN countries are not as eager to take over for Bush now that he has created such a mess.

Spain had set UN leadership by June 30 as a key condition to that country keeping its military contingent there. When a new UN resolution didn’t appear to be forthcoming, Spain announced its withdrawal.

The necessity of appearing to continue the process of transition and provide stability in Iraq has forced the Bush administration to appeal for a multilateral strategy, which is likely to limit 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 to the U.S. peace movement, which is calling for U.S. troops to return home.

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 plagued the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by Paul Bremer.

Perhaps most importantly, sincere international oversight will increase the possibility of lessening the violence in Iraq, which has led to additional devastation of Iraq’s people, its environment, and its infrastructure. UN leadership could prevent the Bush administration from using further military actions to achieve its own political and economic aims in Iraq.

Joel Wendland is managing editor of Political Affairs. He can be reached at jwendland@politicalaffairs.net.

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