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Western Press Review: U.S. Needs Help In Postwar Iraq

Prague, 22, May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- As the UN Security Council prepares today to vote on a new resolution on Iraq, one topic dominates commentary in Western newspapers surveyed by RFE/RL today: rebuilding the country.


Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" says in an editorial that the new head of the U.S.-created Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Development in Iraq, diplomat Paul Bremer, is forced to start over the task first entrusted to -- and misled by -- retired U.S. Major General Jay Garner.

The newspaper says: "Mr. Bremer is right to take things slowly. Order must be restored to the streets of the capital and other cities, and for that more troops are required. The unanimous agreement by NATO members yesterday to meet Poland's demands for logistical support in keeping the peace between Baghdad and Basra is a welcome step in that direction.

"Second, the seven-party national convention that forms the nucleus of the government-to-be needs to be expanded by the inclusion of independents."

The editorial goes on: "In widening the convention, his main challenge will be to communicate his ideas to an Iraq beset with transport problems and short of telephones and electricity. In such fraught circumstances, it is important that the outside world set aside the differences that have surrounded the second Gulf war.

"After a series of revisions to a draft submitted by America, Britain and Spain last week, the Security Council is today likely to approve a resolution ending sanctions imposed on Saddam after he invaded Kuwait in 1990."


In an editorial, the "Chicago Tribune" concurs that the United States made a poor start in returning stability to Iraq, and that seeking international help is a proper move. The editorial says, "It is becoming more obvious by the day that the United States cannot afford to go it alone."

The newspaper says: "Now is the right time for the United States to make strong efforts to enlist the international community, particularly NATO, to send peacekeeping troops. It appears that NATO may be warming to the task, preparing to help Poland run its peacekeeping force. The United States also should accept UN help in seeking weapons of mass destruction."

It continues: "The rebuilding of Iraq will take time and patience, commodities often in short supply in American foreign policy. Bush administration officials must be worried about American resolve as the story slides off the front pages and the troubles mount. There's a presidential election approaching, and chaos in Iraq isn't much of a vote getter. Worse, it's a potential cudgel for the Democrats.

"But doing a half-baked job in Iraq would squander a singular opportunity to reshape the Middle East. The Bush administration created the opportunity. Now it must level with the American people and devote the resources -- military, diplomatic and financial -- to get the job done right."


An editorial in "The New York Times" joins the chorus of commentary calling for international and UN cooperation in Iraq. It says: "When American and British officials first presented the resolution earlier this month [seeking UN Security Council endorsement of the U.S. role in Iraq], it contained a minimal role for outsiders. It called only for a 'special coordinator' from the UN and entirely bypassed the international body on weapons inspection.

"The modified resolution upgrades the UN official to that of 'special representative,' includes the UN weapons monitors by pointing to 'the intention of the [Security] Council to revisit the mandates' of the inspection teams and enhances the UN's authority to honor existing contracts. It also calls for a review within 12 months.

"By opening the door to a bigger and more independent role for the UN, Washington acknowledges that it cannot and should not seek to rebuild Iraq on its own."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" cites the sad case of a 21-year fugitive from Saddam Hussein's regime to refute critics of the U.S. attack on Iraq. Juad Amir Sayed lived all that time in a hole in the ground to escape Hussein's wrath.

The newspaper says: "The uncovering of mass graves, torture chambers and other evidence of a systematically brutal regime in Iraq hasn't deterred those who assert the war was all for naught. There are no weapons of mass destruction. Iraqis aren't really happy to be liberated. The war was illegal, unjustified, immoral. American postwar leadership is chaotic. Postwar Iraq is dominated by looters, and closet Ba'athists.

"And then we read about Juad Amir Sayed. Mr. Sayed deserted from the Iraqi Army as a 24-year-old, burned his ID card, buried his books and dug a tunnel under his home, building a [1 meter by 1.5 meters] cell. He spent the next two decades hiding from Saddam's executioners (he was wanted by Saddam's agents also for being a follower of a Shi'ite theologian), receiving food from his mother through a trap-door and glimpsing sunlight only through a small hole in a corner of this oversized coffin."


Commentator Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor-at-large at "The Washington Times," writes in that newspaper that Belgium provides a possible model for a government to be created for Iraq.

De Borchgrave expands the thought: "Like Iraq, Belgium is divided into three parts -- Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Walloonia and bilingual Brussels, and like Iraq's Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'as, they cordially loathe each other. [Each has its] own government, parliament and limos for the ministers. Add to the mix a tiny German-speaking entity near the German border, with a population of 600,000 German-speakers, which also has all the accoutrements of an independent entity, including the limos."

The writer concludes: "Belgium has been building its unique brand of democracy since it broke from the Netherlands and became an independent state in 1831. Nothing will be quick in Iraq, either. Whether the United States will have the patience to stay with the program 'as long as it takes,' as Mr. Bush pledged, and despite growing opposition from a destitute population is unanswerable. But the future of American relations with the entire Arab world now hinges on the solidity of this very long-term commitment."


Two students of nuclear arms control write in the "Los Angeles Times" that "time is running out in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. The writers are Valerie Lincy, a research associate at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in Washington, D.C., and Kelly Motz, associate director.

They comment: "Saddam Hussein's regime has been deposed, and the world is slowly losing interest in Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. There are even some who suggest the weapons don't exist. But this is dangerous. If they still exist -- as much evidence indicates -- those weapons could make their way into the wrong hands. And the time to prevent this is growing short."

Lincy and Motz continue: "To solve the Iraqi weapons puzzle, we need to throw everything we have at the problem, which means more troops for better site security and more inspectors who know what they're looking for. We should also use the experience of the United Nations, which has the best lists of what Iraq had and where it was. In particular, the nuclear inspectors need to get back in as quickly as possible.

"As long as uncertainty remains as to the location and quantity of Hussein's mass-destruction arsenal, the threat to our security has not disappeared; it has only shifted. Until these weapons are accounted for, the war to disarm Iraq will not be won."


Writing in the "International Herald Tribune," William Pfaff satirizes the attitude of the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush toward France's "bad example."

Pfaff writes from Paris: "The French are being discreet and 'constructive' about a Security Council resolution on the coalition's occupation powers and Iraqi oil. The Bush circle is nonetheless afraid of France because it is the only European country that says U.S. power should be contained.

"The French obviously do not have the means to do this themselves, nor have they any current chance of mobilizing the European Union to make such an attempt. But they give people ideas.

"They are a bad example to the other Europeans. They have a coherent position and a tradition of Gaullist independence that has always stuck in Washington's craw.

"Recent U.S. unilateralism and brutality have encouraged certain others, such as the Germans and the Belgians, to listen to the French. The Europeans are no longer docile allies. This concerns Washington and motivates American attacks on the French."


Another commentator, Jim Hoagland, writes in "The Washington Post" that the U.S. military victory in Iraq was a "catastrophic success."

He explains his oxymoron: "As the phrase suggests, the speed of the Iraqi collapse helped create an appalling aftermath, in which a capable and compact U.S. war-fighting force has not been able to establish a credible pacification program."

Alongside other commentators' calls for international cooperation, Hoagland urges greater coordination within the U.S. government. "The United States must now dedicate itself to a larger and more aggressive effort to root out the Ba'athist remnants as part of a military occupation that cannot be conducted on the cheap or the quick. The stronger the effort now, the shorter the time of occupation may eventually be.

"This will require the White House to work more closely than it has with Congress, which must be involved in designing and funding a large effective occupation force. Senator Richard Lugar's Foreign Relations Committee is the place to start that effort.

"And in Iraq, the Bush team must now put into place a political process that transfers authority and responsibility to democratic Iraqi hands. That must be done sooner rather than later, and with a new clarity and discipline. Infighting continues: No sooner had Bush's new envoy, Paul Bremer, banned prominent Ba'athists from holding office than a State Department officer in Baghdad labeled his move 'fascistic' to her colleagues. That's no way to run an occupation."


In a commentary in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Nikolas Busse says that U.S. unilateralism arouses concern among the German public. He writes: "Germans were particularly taken aback by the American cold-blooded exertion of power. The fact that the United States, as the leading world military power, took it upon itself to attack a country without asking anyone else's permission, upset the sense of justice of many Germans."

Busse seems to lament that nations' rights are of a different character than the rights of individuals, offending a German sense of order. He says: "Decisive is the fact that there is no classic way of warding off violence [toward nations]. There is no independent police force. There are no independent judges to deal with a violation of agreements. In the event that states agree to courts, tribunals or arbitration, they do it of their own free will. This is as if citizens could choose whether a law applies to them or not."

The writer concludes: "This state of affairs -- anarchy in international politics -- is shown most profoundly in the way the United Nations functions. What is permissible internationally is decided by an assembly of states the majority of whom are not democracies. This leads to noninterference being the highest norm in international law, which in practice supersedes human rights. In exceptional cases, countries with veto powers in the Security Council, a purely power-politics group assembled 50 years ago, maintain the right to the last word."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)