Jewish World Review May 19, 2004 /28 Iyar, 5764
Edward I. Koch
We should not be pleading with the U.N. for help we should be demanding it
On March 17, 2003, the United States issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein stating that if war was to be avoided, he and his sons, Uday and Qusay, must leave Iraq.
When the CIA learned that Saddam Hussein and his sons were in a hotel two days before the expiration of the ultimatum, the US aimed "smart bombs" at the site but failed to kill or wound any of them. In the war that followed, a relatively small contingent of U.S., British and other coalition forces advanced against Iraqi units and won a rapid victory on the battlefield. On May 1, 2003, on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President George W. Bush declared that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." He did not say the struggle was over.
Then followed a nightmare for the forces. Instead of being universally welcomed, coalition forces were faced with attacks by some adherents of the Shia Muslim faith, who had been oppressed by Saddam Hussein. They also faced guerrilla action in the south and major attacks involving suicide bombers, missiles and mines in the north in what became known as the Sunni Triangle. Since the end of major combat operations, the U.S. armed forces have suffered 637 deaths, 456 of which were combat-related and 3,786 casualties.
At the beginning of the liberation, there was an enormous amount of looting of Iraqi state facilities, e.g., museums and state offices, which is not surprising when you consider that prior to the coalition attack, Saddam Hussein emptied his prisons, turning loose more than 100,000 criminals, many of them violent felons. Consider the chaos that would be created in the streets of America if the U.S. emptied its prisons.
Probably the single greatest mistake made by the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, was his decision to discharge the entire Iraqi army. Bremer was understandably concerned about joining forces with this army, which had been used as an instrument of violence and oppression against the Iraqi people. However, his decision left a power vacuum on the streets of Iraq.
Military support from the United Nations has not been forthcoming. Spain, a major coalition partner, having suffered a terrorist bombing by al-Qaeda in Madrid causing 191 deaths and an estimated 1800 casualties, has withdrawn its forces from Iraq.
Adding to the woes of the U.S. is the discovery of the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, the prison operated by the U.S. Army in Baghdad. There is no doubt that U.S. military personnel violated the Geneva Convention to the shame of all Americans, placing the security of American and coalition military forces in even greater danger. The only question is how far up the chain of command, direct and indirect, responsibility will fall.
In a major effort to improve the situation, the coalition forces announced they would be turning over civil authority to a new Iraqi administration on June 30, 2004. National elections are scheduled for next year, 2005.
Virtually everyone in and out of government has an opinion on what should now be done in Iraq. The U.S. policy has been informally expressed by Secretary of State Colin Powell as reported in The New York Times on May 15, "Were this interim government to say to us 'We really think we can handle this on our own, it would be better if you were to leave,' we would leave."
I believe it would be a major mistake to remove the coalition forces from Iraq. The danger is great that Iraq will descend into anarchy and civil war with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups filling the power vacuum. Instability in Iraq would also pose a grave threat to Iraq's neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Russia. They have far more at stake than we do. Iraq is no longer a worldwide threat. It is a threat to its regional neighbors.
We should not be pleading with the U.N. for help. We should be demanding it. We should explicitly state that unless all nations, especially Muslim nations, participate in policing Iraq and sharing the casualties and deaths that will ensue, we will depart within 90 days taking all coalition personnel with us, except for military detachments to be offered to the Kurds in the north to protect them from hostile Iraqis or Turks. The Kurds have supported us and we should protect them. In addition, we should remove our remaining troops - not stop with the 4,000 recently ordered withdrawn - from South Korea and remove all troops from Germany and relocate them to the Persian Gulf, to the U.S., or to the new NATO nations in Eastern Europe that are now part of the European Union.
In my judgment, the adversity which we are suffering is not fatal to our efforts in Iraq. Wars have ups and downs. At the end of 1942 there was little reason to think that Hitler could be defeated. But I now think it's time to turn on those who have sat on the sidelines and watched our agony in Iraq with so much delight. There isn't space in this column to speculate on what caused our former allies in NATO and others to take their positions, but we do know that many leaders and others in those nations were bribed by Saddam Hussein with billions from the U.N.'s so-called "oil for food" program. Kofi Anan's son, according to press reports, is implicated in that scandal. Our Secretary of State Colin Powell has far more strength in his arsenal than he or others think.
I continue to support President George W. Bush and the Bush Doctrine of victory in the war against international terrorism.
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© 2002, Edward I. Koch