7 May 2004

deplanning from Iraq

Richard Woolcott, who is about as heavy a retired diplomat s Australia can produce, writes in todays Sydney Morning herald:

First, US and British occupying forces should be withdrawn and replaced by a UN peacekeeping force composed mainly of Arab and other countries not tarnished by the invasion of Iraq and its subsequent occupation. The high cost of such an operation should be born mostly by the architects of the present situation, the US and Britain.

Such a UN force should maintain the peace while a genuine democratic election, supervised by the UN, is organised, to produce a new government for Iraq.

The Interim Governing Council, hand-picked by the US, has no credibility and even the alternative appointment with the help of the UN of a technocrat administration can only be an interim arrangement.

It may be too late now but it would also seem preferable to look to an Iraqi federation of three states, rather than the unitary nation originally planned by the US.

The reality is that, despite continuing US Administration spin, invented 'facts' and wishful thinking, the creation of a functioning democracy in a reconstructed Iraq will take years if, in fact, it can be fully achieved. If Australia does 'stay the course' for political reasons, some Australian forces could remain in Iraq for many years.

The so-called transfer of sovereignty on June 30 will not be a transfer of sovereignty to an elected government responsible for Iraq's defence and security. It is no more than an American political device.

George Bush may want to 'change the world' but ultimately the future of the people of Iraq must be determined in Iraq and with the assistance of the UN, not in Washington or London.

I'd go a lot further. Westerners (especially those in the coalition countries) should stop making plans for Iraq's future. We never really had the ability to see into Iraq's future and Abu Ghraib certainly excludes us from any moral claim to do so. What will work in Iraq is what Iraqis decide. While I hope they do it in an open and transparent process the West does not have the capacity or the right to force that cause of action.

The neocon dream was always silly. Let us not now play variations on a theme gone bad by producing neo-progressive plans or neo-whatever plans. Let's just find a dignified way to go away.

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