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
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.
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.
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
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
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
This issue of powerful nations using their might and possibly causing other countries to consider their
nuclear options is discussed more on this site's sections on arms control
and the arms trade.
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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).
(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.)