OPINION

After the war

The precipitate shake-up of Washington’s postwar Iraq administration and the information that the US task force seeking weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is winding down its hunt have fueled renewed skepticism over the objectives and the consequences of the Iraq campaign. Despite the coalition emphasis on the liberation of the Iraqi people, a shadow still looms large over the grounds for launching the attack and over the true intentions of the occupying forces. As concerns the reasons for war – which caused the death of more than 1,500 civilians and the destruction of infrastructure and cultural monuments – the pending termination of the search for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons betrays that such weapons do not exist – at least, not in such amounts as to justify military intervention. Having in the meantime shifted the public focus onto Saddam’s fall, Washington feels that it can drop Baghdad’s banned weaponry as its excuse. However, for those who objected to the war, including the thousands of Americans who took to the streets to protest, Washington’s demeanor reaffirms the fact that the campaign was not launched for the reasons given. Restoring normality in Iraq is an even more essential issue, since it affects the short-term and long-term future of millions of Iraqis, which will determine their lives more than the war itself. In a country which mourned more victims from postwar sanctions than the 1991 war itself, the American administration had pledged to lay especial emphasis on restoring decent living standards, freedom and security for the people. The poor record in these areas so far highlights the fact that US authorities did not make the restoration of normalcy a top priority. The replacement of the US diplomat in charge of central Iraq and the departure of the overseer of postwar reconstruction confirm their failure – even if the shake-up was partly decided with an eye on the internal balance between the State Department and the Department of Defense. No doubt it is the winners who write history. But the crumbling allegations of Iraq’s alleged WMD arsenal and the locals’ increasing frustration are challenging Washington’s version of history. Franco-German reservations before the war clearly did not indicate a tendency to duck the issues or cozy up to Saddam; they were a reaction mandated by the principles of Western humanism.