Bush’s Backpedal

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Bush’s Backpedal
The oft-dismissed United Nations is once again in the news. With public support for the occupation in Iraq sliding lower and lower, to many (including a Republican lawmaker), last weekend’s protests in Basra were more evidence in support of the case for another United Nations resolution on Iraq.

Frustrated at Washington’s failure to provide basics like electricity, protesters in Basra reminded the world that US reconstruction and peacekeeping efforts in Iraq have so far been lacking. As Asia Times’ Stephen Zunes points out, Washington’s invasion of Iraq and its shortcomings in post-war construction have been the spark to light anti-American sentiment in Baghdad:

“The apparent eagerness of the United States to invade Iraq, the gross exaggeration by US officials of Iraq’s military capabilities and its ties to terrorism, and many of the policies pursued by US military authorities since the collapse of the Iraqi government have led many to see the US invasion and occupation of Iraq not as an act of liberation but an act of imperialism.

As a result, there is a growing opposition in Iraq to the US occupation, including a low-level armed insurgency against US occupation forces, which has resulted in the deaths of scores of American servicemen. Most evidence suggests that these anti-American demonstrations and guerrilla attacks come not as much from supporters of the old regime but from ordinary Iraqis who resent a foreign military occupation of their country.”

The Bush Administration appealed to the international community for more help late last month. The response, however, was lackluster. USA Today’s Tom Squitieri, reports that the Pentagon has received about half the troops it was expecting — many of which are not fit for combat:

“The Pentagon has said it expected some 30,000 foreign troops to replace war-weary U.S. combat forces. But dozens of interviews with foreign political and military officials found that so far, 29 countries have committed only about 15,500 troops.

About a third of those are either unqualified for combat or deliberately barred from combat operations by their governments, the foreign officials say. That could limit their usefulness in the violent, guerrilla-style war coalition forces are now waging in Iraq.”

And many countries are unwilling to send in their troops unless there is a greater UN presence in Baghdad, writes Zunes:

“There are quite a few countries, including major Western European allies, which are currently unwilling to contribute troops under what they see as an illegal US occupation, that would be quite ready to submit forces under a legitimate UN operation.”

Although the Bush Administration is not ruling out a new resolution, it has said that it doesn’t see the need for a new one because the current resolution already allows UN member states to commit troops, reports Doug Lorimer writing Australia’s Green Left Weekly:

“While US officials insist that UN Security Council resolution 1483, adopted on May 22 (which anointed the US and Britain as the occupying powers), already provides a ‘legal basis’ for UN member states to commit troops to the Iraq occupation, they have not ruled out seeking a new UN resolution.

US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the US Senate foreign relations committee on July 28 that while Washington ‘would welcome any resolution that would make it easier for countries to contribute peacekeeping troops,’ he would be ‘very concerned’ about one that would ‘put limitations on what [US] ambassador [Paul] Bremer and our people can do in Iraq.'”

But, some US lawmakers, like Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, are pushing hard for a new UN resolution, arguing that it would promote greater international backing for reconstruction and peacekeeping efforts. The United Press International reports:

“Lugar said a new resolution would convince more countries to get involved in Iraq.

‘We really do need help from other countries,’ he said. ‘It is regrettable that some countries still believe that this is our mission entirely. And the U.N. legitimacy, and reaching out to these other countries, is of the essence, not only in the short term, but in the intermediate term.'”

According to Reuters, Washington is backing a draft resolution authorizing a UN assistance mission in Iraq, but the draft does not address the need for more international participation in peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts.

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