Saddam’s capture rocks world |

Saddam’s capture rocks world

Alan Braunholtz

The news of Saddam Hussein’s capture jolted me.

In a world where we manage to skip through most media on a fairly stable keel, this rocked. Wow!

I’ve seen his face above disturbing stories for 20 years and finally one of the world’s bad guys is on his way out and looking very miserable at the same time. Too often the world allows the Idi Amins, the Baby Docs, the Somozas, the Pol Pots, the Pinochets and others to live out their lives or melt away to luxurious exile.

Saddam is gone. That is good for the world and great for the Iraqis. Along with the halting of the genocide in Kosovo, this is one of the better acts the U.S. has done for a few years.

The initial arguments for war regarded Saddam’s oppressive brutality as a secondary issue. He’d been doing it for 25 years with all the world’s powers (except Israel) turning a blind eye as it suited them, so no rush there, apparently. To our shame, we were his ally in the 1980s when he attacked Iran.

Our original reason for war – the obstruction of U.N. inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction. The rush to war focused on the speculation that these WMD posed an immediate threat. No weapons found (as yet) may support arguments against this haste, but they don’t change the basic arguments provided by his continuous obstruction of inspections. Saddam never complied with his agreement to allow these.

Politics is a strange world, and one chooses the arguments that will work as opposed to the ones you most believe in. In the end, does it matter what reasons are behind good deeds? The people of Iraq probably couldn’t care less about any missing WMD.

When the U.S. military admits the war planning overshadowed the planning needed for rebuilding, it reveals a mind-boggling oversight by the Pentagon. Rebuilding always posed more unknowns than the fighting. Perhaps the Pentagon believed its own PR too much, expecting Wal-Marts, Mickey D’s and democracy to spring up spontaneously as the natural end form of human civilization.

I can’t understand how any politician, after voting for the war, then turns around and votes against President Bush’s requests for rebuilding funds. You can’t vote for a war when its popular, then wash your hands of it when unpopular costs mount. Even if you opposed the war (or rush to one), we can’t turn the clock back. We’re there and shouldn’t leave until the country is not only better than we found it, but a country the Iraqis and we can be proud of.

This is where any “rush to war” arguments should be focused. By rushing in, we precluded the United Nations. We effectively asked the U.N. to rubber stamp a decision we’d already made, and out of a mixture of pride and principle they refused. Many say that a U.N. presence would help. It’d undermine all those criticisms of imperialism and spoils of war.

Any deployment of Islamic troops from Indonesia or Turkey, except in the Kurdish part of Iraq, would reduce all those cultural and communication problems. Those spiffy blue helmets are also naturally disarming. Sure we’d lose some control, but we keep saying we’re not there for oil interests or ourselves anyway.

The capture of Saddam and the symbolic jolt this represents give us another chance to restart the rebuilding within Iraq. It could also unbalance the stalemate we have with a few reluctant allies. The pride-principle of certain nations’ refusal to help until the U.S. has ceded some control is political game playing.

The reluctance to risk troops in an unpopular situation not of your making is obvious, but again the invasion happened and a failure to create a viable Iraq would be a disaster for the European world even more than the U.S. Hopefully, the leaders of the U.S. and Europe can slide their pride aside and work together.

Since Saddam’s capture, France and Germany have tentatively agreed to forgive billions of dollars in old Iraqi loans, so that’s sort of a first step. While I understand the popularity of (mainly) US dollars only for coalition countries, why make an in-your-face “no contracts for you guys” statement? I’m sure everyone understood the realities of the situation before, but now we have this challenging line in the ground that someone has to lose face and step over. Quiet diplomacy can work wonders.

A larger U.N. role would save the Iraqis and ourselves lives and money. It would also bolster the idea of multilateral cooperation. Some sort of multilateral world would be good for us, since in 50 years or so we might not be the dominant economic power in the world.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.

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