Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2003 / 28 Elul, 5763
Lies in need of correction
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | President Bush's address to the General Assembly will not make sense, entirely, if the reader has fallen for the false media account of the sequence of events. The first thing to grasp is that the U.S. appeal for United Nations help in Iraq and Afghanistan is nothing new. It is the continuation of an appeal that began more than a year ago, when Mr. Bush last addressed the General Assembly.
The fact that UN members have been remarkably uncooperative in the meantime does not make this latest speech surprising. I, personally, may disagree with the Bush strategy, in having gone to the UN at all, but the administration has been perfectly consistent, and almost inhumanly patient. The rebuilding of Iraq -- which necessarily involved the removal of the totalitarian dictatorship of Saddam Hussein -- has been U.S. policy continuously. And so has been the U.S. appeal for help. They didn't get much of it for the invasion, they are still hoping for more in the apr guerre.
As Mr. Bush affirmed, this is a U.S.-led project. It cannot be otherwise -- no one else volunteered for the job. Politically, the Bush administration must take the lion's share of credit for what is being achieved in Iraq -- there are few saints in high political office. But then it deserves the credit, from doing the lion's share of the work.
As he also hinted, there would be no point in muttering ungraciously if France, Germany and other powers, which got conspicuously in the way, now want to be included in the prize round. The world is the world, it needs mercy more than justice. The second big lie, in urgent need of correction, is that the United States expects much from the UN itself. The haplessness of that organization has already been demonstrated, with an abundance exceeding farce. What the United States instead needs is a resolution from that augustly fickle body. It can then use the resolution to collect on promises from not only France and Germany, but more particularly such countries as India and Turkey, which said they'd send troops and aid of various kinds, but have used the lack of a UN resolution as an excuse for dawdling.
What the UN itself can do, are the few things it has proved good at: the academic game of constitution-writing, and sending observers to monitor free elections. It has other skills, which were previously requested, such as the art of processing and sustaining refugees. But as there appear to be no refugees to process or sustain, they may turn their attention back to the various human catastrophes in sub-Saharan Africa. (Interesting fact: I learn from someone inside the Canadian refugee claims bureaucracy that not one Iraqi has applied for refugee status in Canada since May 1, which as The New York Times says in its malicious daily mantra on sniping incidents, was "the day President Bush declared an official end to major combat operations.")
What the UN can also do, is get right out of the way of efforts to attract foreign investment to Iraq, and to develop and export its oil resources. Aid commitments are useful for the short term, and anything that can be spent intelligently on Iraq's physical infrastructure is helpful. It is not war damage that needs recovering from: this was merely incidental. Decades of Saddamite tyranny left the country, like so many others in the Middle East, with an infrastructure designed for the benefit of the country's military and political elites. It is time now to beat swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks.
In the longer run, it is better if Iraq pays for its own reconstruction. It sits on the second-biggest oil reserve, after Saudi Arabia's, it should not be hard to make ends meet, and the discipline is important. The U.S. taxpayer has been hit fairly heavily for the cost of the country's liberation, and need not follow this up by cultivating a form of welfare dependency. Afghanistan, lacking oil, has anyway the greater need.
As to the UN itself, President Chirac of France, and Kofi Annan the Secretary-General, have been displaying more than their wonted openness towards institutional reform. It would be nice if we could have a United Nations in which, for instance, such vicious governments as those of Libya, Syria, Cuba were viewed as the pariahs, instead of such bourgeois democracies as Israel and USA. But that is asking more than I think is obtainable from an organization ultimately controlled by the votes of its 191 members, the majority of which are unspeakable despotisms, and most of the rest ruled, democratically or otherwise, by cynical, posturing hooves (like our own dear Prime Minister). For the foreseeable future, sweetness and light should be sought more practicably, as socialism once was, "in one country" at a time.
Iraq, and Afghanistan, now offer the world, and the Islamic region,
an unprecedented opportunity to pursue good works -- to raise
men up from squalor and slavery to prosperity and freedom.
Through its courage and persistence, the Bush administration and
the United States have created this opportunity. It is beyond the
moral and intellectual capacity of much of the world to
acknowledge this fact, but let them at least act in subconscious
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