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- This page: http://www.globalissues.org/article/462/aftermath-and-rebuilding-iraq.
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The speed at which the entire occupation (or liberation or invasion or war or whatever is the appropriate term) took place, and the ease at which the Iraqi forces were decimated suggested that the imminent threat that Iraq had posed (for such a long time) has shown itself to be an exaggeration. This was one of the main justifications for war (that Saddam was a brutal dictator, and the accompanying humanitarian reasons were only used later when the U.S. and U.K. started to lose the propaganda war), as detailed on the propaganda page in this Iraq section. But the issue for Iraqi civilians and society remained throughout. From being under a dictatorship to now being in a power vacuum, occupation, insecurity and instability have become major problems.
This web page has the following sub-sections:
- U.S. or U.N.-led Reconstruction of Iraq?
- Rebuilding and Reconstruction
- Looting and Lost Archeological Treasures
CNN reported that U.S. think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, produced a report in March, that “called on Bush to stress two messages: Explain the United States' vital interest in Iraq's future to the American people, so they will be willing to bear the cost of reconstruction; and to make the public commitment, so Iraqis understand the United States will not walk out before job is done.”
Side Note on vital interest and perception of continued occupation
It would remain to be seen if the “vital interests” are explained in geopolitical terms, or just left as “vital interests” or some other vague term that has often been used to explain geopolitical actions in the past. The second part of the message is interesting because it describes and supports U.S. presence in Iraq as being about not walking out before the job is done.
- Yet, many in Iraq have pointed out that while they are happy Saddam is gone, they would also like to see the U.S. to leave, and allow the Iraqis to get on with the rebuilding of their country.
- For example, on April 18, the BBC reports that thousands took to the streets to “protest against what they see as a foreign occupation of their country” in what was said to be “the biggest demonstration of Arab nationalism since the end of the war, and shows what powerful sentiments the US-led invasion of Iraq has stirred up.”
- Many protests have been going on throughout the weeks because there has been so much chaos after Saddam was toppled. A lot of looting and killings have taken place. The U.S. have tried to even prevent the media from reporting some protests, as the Australian paper, The Age, pointed out (April 16, 2003).
- In another example, the U.S. tried to bring together a number of leaders from various political factions in Iraq in the historic city of Ur. However, one of the largest groups did not attend, and in addition, there were many protests in parts of Iraq, including nearby Nassiriya, as Reuters reported (April 15, 2003) where possibly 20,000 people took part in protests, in fear of U.S. control.
- An additional paradox is revealed by a reporter for the BBC in Iraq, who pointed out (April 18, 2003) that for years, radical Islam was one avenue that oppressed people would turn to. What if the democratic processes lead to Islamic leaders to come into power?
- Another twist that the BBC did not note, (and typically most of the mainstream never has in comparison to say the frequency with which we are reminded of Saddam's brutality), is that for decades, the West, and the U.S. in particular has had the habit of supporting dicatators and other corrupt regimes. In the Middle East, such extreme oppression has often been expressed from a counter extremism of militant Islam, which has been able to readily recruit fresh minds to their causes.
Under the Geneva Conventions, an occupying force has responsibility over security and order, but Iraq has proven to be a difficult place to fully secure, with occupying troops meeting fierce pockets of resistance and anger.
A huge blast at the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad killed at least 24 people on August 19, 2003. It would at first appear odd why the U.N. would be targetted, when previous waves of attacks have been aimed at the U.S. and British troops. While we often see the U.N. and U.S. at odds on most international issues, many in areas such as the middle east have long seen the U.N. as a manipulated arm serving western/U.S. interests. As a result it has been conceivable that the U.N. may have also been a target too. But U.N. Secretary General, Koffi Annan blamed the U.S. for lack of security in Iraq on the whole, while the U.S. military said that the security for the U.N. was a U.N. issue. Quoting from an article in the South African, Daily Mail and Guardian at some length:
Annan criticised the US for failing to secure the situation in Iraq for international humanitarian workers: “The occupying power is responsible for law and order and the security of the country,” he said.
“We had hoped that by now the coalition forces would have secured the environment for us to be able to carry on the essential work of political and economic reconstruction, institution-building and for Iraqis to carry on with their work,” he said.
“That has not happened,” he said, while acknowledging that it was difficult to prevent such an attack.
A US military spokesperson disagreed with Annan, saying the UN was in charge of its own security.
“It was a UN issue to provide their own security,” said Lieutenant Peter Rekers.
“They had a private security company providing security around the [UN] compound,” Rekers said.
The UN and the US have been at loggerheads over the question of security in Iraq, and the UN's role in general.
— Annan blames US for Iraq blast, Daily Mail and Guardian, August 22, 2003
In September, at a major United Nations conference in New York, Annan continued his criticism saying that nations (implying the United States) that take unilateral action risk breeding more terrorism. As Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Mr Annan said the use of military force against terrorist groups could encourage more terrorism, while pre-emptive strikes could lead to a lawless world where nations attack one another “with or without justification”.
Without mentioning the US or its allies in Iraq by name, he told a New York conference on terrorism that nations were deluded if they believed military action alone could end terrorism.
— Caroline Overington and Maggie Farley, US aggression breeds terror: UN chief, Sydney Morning Herald, September 24, 2003
At that same conference, George Bush, speaking after Annan, defended the invasion of Iraq. However, Bush did not seem to get much international support of his speech.
Amongst the various things that Bush mentioned, he stated that another issue we must confront together “is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Outlaw regimes that possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons -- and the means to deliver them -- would be able to use blackmail and create chaos in entire regions. These weapons could be used by terrorists to bring sudden disaster and suffering on a scale we can scarcely imagine. The deadly combination of outlaw regimes, terror networks, and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away. If such a danger is allowed to fully materialize, all words, all protests, will come too late. Nations of the world must have the wisdom and the will to stop grave threats before they arrive.”
Former head of the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq and assistant secretary general of the UN, Dennis Halliday provides a very to-the-point critique of this talk. He noted that Bush's own disregard for international law is contributing to proliferation. “Nuclear proliferation? Does Bush not understand that his military aggression, disregard for the rule of international law and the UN, plus his concept of ‘pre-emptive’ strike is the very cause of proliferation, as countries openly threatened by Washington determine that nuclear capacity is the only defense against American madness?”
In addition, no country has offered troops or financial contributions, as requested by George Bush, according to La Figaro (September 26, 2003). One of the reasons, the article suggests is that other countries do not want to legitimate the role of occupation. It might be early days, and “diplomacy” and such pressures from the U.S. and U.K. might sway some countries into various forms of assistance.
Koffi Annan, at the end of September 2003, ordered a cutback of international UN staff in Iraq, responding to recent security fears. This might be playing into the hands of the terrorists who have bombed the UN, some say, but whether or not, the security of Iraq continues to look shakey for the near future.
U.S. or U.N.-led Reconstruction of Iraq?
At the time of writing, it is unclear what the United Nation's role will be in the reconstruction of Iraq. At different times, media reports from the U.S. indicate that the U.N. will have a “key role” (whatever that means!) and at other times it appears that the U.N. will likely have a role subordinate to the U.S. The United States appear to be keen to run the show, as if it were, while much of the international community want the effort to be headed by the United Nations. Politically, the criticism that would be charged against the U.S. if it were to lead the process would include that again it is usurping international will, and that the U.N. is again subdued by U.S. interests.
As of August 2003, it looks less likely that the U.N. will have the leading role, as the South African Daily Mail and Guardian comments, in an article on the bomb blast that killed 24 at the UN headquarters in Baghdad:
The UN and the US have been at loggerheads over the question of security in Iraq, and the UN's role in general.
According to a report last week in the New York Times, Washington is no longer seeking a major UN role in the occupation of Iraq, and will instead try to enlist individual countries to help the US-led occupation forces.
The report said the US government had specifically opted against giving the UN any authority over security in Iraq.
Other reports have indicated that Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld is strongly opposed to any dilution of military authority over Iraq by involving the UN.
— Annan blames US for Iraq blast, Daily Mail and Guardian, August 22, 2003
Rebuilding and Reconstruction
There has been long concern at where lucrative reconstruction costs and oil contracts are going.
Controversial Reconstruction Contracts
As reconstruction has supposedly begun, even Republicans are criticizing current efforts for not being near enough. For example, UK's mainstream newspaper, The Times, reports (May 23, 2003) that Richard Lugar, the “most senior Republican authority on foreign relations in Congress has warned President Bush that the United States is on the brink of catastrophe in Iraq.” Lugar said that “Washington was in danger of creating ‘an incubator for terrorist cells and activity’ unless it increased the scope and cost of its reconstruction efforts. He said that more troops, billions more dollars and a longer commitment were needed if the US were not to throw away the peace.” The New York Times adds (May 22, 2003) that there has been frustration at the Bush administration's “failure to consult in depth with Congress about the costs, methods and goals of rebuilding Iraq.” (We also begin to get a hint of the enormous challenges involved here in the rebuilding process, whereby some are advocating more U.S./U.K. involvement to prevent more turmoil and conflict, while others (including many Iraqis) suggest that the U.S. needs to withdraw quickly.)
In addition, criticisms about war profiteering by some multinationals, as well as preferential contracts to companies with ties to the U.S. Bush Administration are coming out as well. There are potential hundred of millions to billions of dollars worth of contracts in the reconstruction, and so large companies are of course attracted to this prospect. However, some have also had poor human rights or environmental records in the past as well.
This is quite a large topic to be covered here. Instead, for now, see for the following links for example:
- Well-connected and wealthy: Bechtel wins from Saddam's demise, by Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, May 24, 2003
- UK firms scramble to share in spoils of war by Kim Sengupta, The Independent, May 24, 2003
- War Profiteers Shell, Bechtel, Fluor Take Record of Terror From Africa to Iraq by Dena Montague, San Francisco Bay View, May 21, 2003
- Bechtel Wins Iraq War Contracts by Pratap Chatterjee, CorpWatch, April 24, 2003
- Military Industrial Complex from CorpWatch is a section with numerous articles and analysis on the military and corporate related interests. Some of these articles include those related to Iraq.
Into November 2003, Iraqi local businessmen have been complaining that most reconstruction contracts leave local business out.
Controversial Oil Contracts
Oil of course is an important issue. It turns out that some western companies have already secured some contracts. Critics of opposers of war were quick (and right) to point out that Russia, China, and France, for example, had oil contract interests with the Saddam Hussein regime. Yet, very early on, countries such as the U.S. and U.K. were exploiting their positions to get oil contracts. In the new round of contracts, while China and France managed to get some, Russia didn't get any, and look likely not to. As Pratap Chatterjee notes:
Executive order number 13303 [signed by George Bush, in May 2003] states “any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void”, with respect to “all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein.”
With this, Bush granted Iraqi oil a lifetime exemption provided US companies are involved in the oil's production, transport, or distribution. This order applies to Iraqi oil products that are “in the United States, hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons.” (Under US law, corporations are “persons.”)
“In other words, if ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco touch Iraqi oil, anything they or anyone else does with it is immune from legal proceedings in the US,” explained Jim Vallette, an analyst with the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC.
“Anything that has happened before with oil companies around the world -- a massive tanker accident; an explosion at an oil refinery; the employment of slave labor to build a pipeline; murder of locals by corporate security; the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; or lawsuits by Iraq's current creditors or the next true Iraqi government demanding compensation -- anything at all, is immune from judicial accountability,” he says.
“Effectively Bush has unilaterally declared Iraqi oil to be the unassailable province of US oil corporations,” Vallette added.
— Pratap Chatterjee and Oula Al Farawati, To the Victors Go the Spoils of War; British Petroleum, Shell and Chevron Win Iraqi Oil Contracts, CorpWatch, August 8, 2003
Looting and Lost Archeological Treasures
The terrible scenes of looting due to the power vacuum were initially broadcast all over the media, while the Coalition forces at first appeared to do little to prevent it. This was despite organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Red Cross, and others pointing out that the occupying power, under the Geneva Conventions, has an obligation to provide security and establish law and order. Under public pressure forces eventually started to provide some sort of security. However, looting was still continued for a while, and as the Observer reported (May 25, 2003), gangs and high crime levels have continued to be major problems in places like Baghdad.
Amidst the looting, many of Iraq's archaeological treasures were destroyed or stolen. At first it was reported that these were tragic aspects of looting, though now it is emerging that it was perhaps organized. Some of the treasures have been so valuable that is has been described as the equivaluent to the loss of many Mona Lisa's. A number of the items are some of the oldest archaeological findings (Some of the areas in modern Iraq are regarded as parts of the birthplace of civilization).
Inter Press Service reported during the war on the concerns about the archaeological sites, April 8, 2003. They pointed out the damage from the previous war. They also noted that “Iraqi territory is estimated to hold 10,000 archaeological sites with artefacts and constructions that have yet to be studied and countless secrets to decipher.” In addition, “Much of the country's treasures are in Mosul Nasiriya and Tikrit, three cities that have been bombed heavily by the invading forces.” Before the war began, academic experts met with the Pentagon to tell them about Iraq's most valuable cultural sites. “The Pentagon had a list of 150 important locations. The academic experts handed over a list of more than 4,000 and insisted that they represented just a small percentage of Iraq's rich heritage.”
The Pentagon itself had sent a memo in the early days of the war urging top commanders of U.S. ground forces to protect the Iraqi National Museum and other cultural sites from looters. The Washington Times obtained a copy of the memo. “Coalition forces must secure these facilities in order to prevent looting and the resulting irreparable loss of cultural treasures” the Washington Times reported. The US army had been criticized by the media for failing to do so adequately, resulting in 270,000 artefacts being stolen from Iraq's national museum alone, as mentioned by the Guardian (April 20, 2003).
The US military argued, (as the articles above also highlight), that its primary job in the first few days was to quell armed resistance in Baghdad, and that it could not tackle looters until it had finished fighting a war. U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, tried to fend off some of the criticism, saying that in a war situation such unfortunate circumstances cannot be helped, as it is difficult to stop. However, the head of President Bush's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property, Martin Sullivan, resigned over the issue, as the Guardian also reported, saying “it was ‘inexcusable’ that the museum should not have had the same priority as the Iraqi Oil Ministry” which was secured very soon. “In a pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for” he also added, as reported by Channel 4 News (April 18, 2003).
It is interesting to note above the comment about protecting ministries other than just the oil ministry. Journalist Robert Fisk noted how so many ministries were left burning:
We claim that we want to preserve the national heritage of the Iraqi people, and yet my own count of government buildings burning in Baghdad before I left was 158, of which the only buildings protected by the United States army and the marines were the Ministry of Interior, which has the intelligence corp of Iraq and the Ministry of Oil, and I needn't say anything else about that. Every other ministry was burning. Even the Ministry of Higher Education/Computer Science was burning. And in some cases American marines were sitting on the wall next to the ministries watching them burn.
— Robert Fisk, Interview by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, April 22, 2003
(For more about this aspect, see also the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) web site dealing with Iraq. It will contain more information as it becomes available on the details of the treasures lost, recovered, saved, and so forth.)
This article is part of the following collection:
- Iraq—2003 onwards; War, Aftermath and Post-Saddam
- Iraq - WikiLeaks - More Damaging Revelations for the US
- Iraq War Media Reporting, Journalism and Propaganda
- Aftermath and Rebuilding Iraq
- Iraq: Lack of Security and Deteriorating Conditions
- Justifying the Iraq War and WMDs
- Iraq War and Geopolitics
- Handover of Power to Iraqis
- Iraq Links for More Information