International peacekeepers needed in Iraq

Hal Sundin

Iraq: Where do we go from here?

With the war in Iraq essentially over, there remains the question of what are the future consequences, both for Iraq and for the United States in the role it intends to play in Iraq.

The immediate issue is how we go about establishing a democratic government and getting the country’s economy back on its feet. With Iraq’s billions of dollars of oil riches, economic recovery should be comparatively easy – just get the oil flowing and the dollars will follow.

Building a democracy in Iraq is a much tougher task due to a number of issues, including internal religious and ethnic divisions exacerbated by external influences, and the very oil wealth that is key to Iraq’s future economic health. The Shiite majority, which was oppressed under the rule of Saddam Hussein, sees “democracy” as a golden opportunity to turn the tables on the Sunni minority and even an old score. Since the Shiites are the majority, democratic elections would put them in the driver’s seat. The Shiite mullahs, aided and abetted by the ayatollahs in Iran, are salivating over this opportunity to establish a theocratic government in Iraq under their control. And they are exploiting the continuing presence of U.S. forces to whip the masses into a nationalistic frenzy to support their cause.

This creates a dilemma for the U.S. military occupation. The longer we stay in Iraq, the more unpopular we will become, which aids the cause of the mullahs; but if we leave too soon, we will abdicate the country to these same mullahs. Rumsfeld’s solution to this problem is to tell the Iraqis that they can have democracy so long as they elect people acceptable to us. And in the Kurdish northern part of Iraq, Turkey is intervening to be sure things go their way.

The other concern is that the billions of dollars of future oil money will attract greedy and corrupt individuals who would try to take over the country – like the one we just got rid of.

So how long must we stay in Iraq? After World War II we were in Japan for seven years and Germany for 10. We’ve been in Kosovo for four years, keeping the Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Albanians from each other’s throats, and after a year in Afghanistan we have accomplished virtually nothing outside of the capital city, Kabul, in our attempt to create a stable national government.

The only way for us to avoid becoming the occupying conqueror in the eyes of the Iraqi people, incurring their wrath and fomenting acts of terrorism, is to turn the interim peace-keeping role over to an international police force like the UN or NATO. The Iraqi people are suspicious of the motives of the U.S. and its president. They think we are after their oil and construe Bush’s conspicuous Christian rhetoric as a threat to Islam.

As a consequence we have to be extremely careful to avoid the appearance of interfering in Iraq’s affairs and trying to impose hand-picked candidates to control the country’s future. For example, if we are seen as favoring Ahmad Chalabi, who has returned to Iraq after two decades of exile, we will only confirm their suspicions. And the worst thing we could possibly do would be to allow organizations headed by arrogant fundamentalist preachers like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, to send missions into Iraq for supposedly humanitarian purposes as a smoke screen for their evangelistic agenda. These self-styled “men of God” have called Islam an evil religion, branded Muhammad as a terrorist, and consider it their mission to convert Muslims to what they call the only true religion. The only response to their presence would be a Muslim Jihad.

The sooner we turn the peace-keeping role in Iraq over to an international authority, the better the chances for a successful democratic state. As solely a United States venture, it will be doomed to failure.

Hal Sundin is a Glenwood Springs resident. His column runs every other Thursday.

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