MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  

Is this a true transfer, or a sophisticated fake-out?
by Phil Steger, Executive Director, Friends for a Non-Violent World

Published June 27, 2004, Star Tribune Sunday Op/Ex

A lot is riding on the Iraq sovereignty transfer: the safety of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians, the future independence of Iraq, stability in the Middle East, America's standing in the world and Americans' sense of who we are.

Whether we succeed or fail depends on whether the Bush plan provides for a genuine transfer of true sovereignty to Iraq, or a sophisticated fake-out. Security in Iraq starts with sovereignty, and sovereignty depends upon U.S. integrity. As long as Iraqis believe that Americans are calling the shots to serve their own self-interest, the insurgency will grow and U.S. troops and innocent Iraqis will die.

Unfortunately, President Bush's current plan fails to provide Iraqis with the two principal rights of sovereign nations: control over national security and over the national budget. So long as the president and the Pentagon control these, it will not take long for Iraqis to realize that "sovereignty" simply reshuffles a marked deck in a game that moves the property and wealth of the players into the dealer's hands.

Meanwhile, the president's plan for internationalizing the security force in Iraq, critical to reducing U.S. troops in Iraq, is destined to run aground on the rocks of international bitterness and mistrust that he himself has cast into the water. So long as the president controls Iraq's future, the electorates of the nations we need to help us won't send their sons and daughters to die for it.

We are caught in an impasse that makes a game of chicken out of U.S. troops' and Iraqi civilians' lives. Surely it is time for a bold and principled solution -- a road map out of Iraq.

Whoever the next president of the United States will be, unless a real route with specific signposts to Iraqi independence and U.S. withdrawal is charted now, he will inherit the violence and failure of Iraq.

To tell the world that we're serious about Iraqi sovereignty, the United States must seek and win a follow-up Security Council resolution that:

• Places all foreign troops in Iraq immediately under U.N. authority and defines their mission as a peacekeeping force.

• Provides for the rotation of foreign troop commitments to the peacekeeping force in order to replace U.S. troops by a specified date.

• Provides for U.N. oversight of free elections, and grants the elected government of Iraq full power to order the departure of U.N. peacekeepers.

• Places reconstruction budgets under the sole control of Iraqi ministries and local councils, and ensures that contracts go to Iraqi companies and workers first.

• Legally establishes the power of the elected government of Iraq to renegotiate and dissolve any contracts brokered by the occupying power or its appointees, the interim councils.

• Calls for the United States, Britain and its "coalition of the willing" to establish a Marshall plan for Iraq, and provide long-term financial support for its full reconstruction.

Americans want their sons and daughters to come home. At the same time, many of us feel profoundly responsible for correcting the chaos and devastation the occupation has caused ordinary people. Finally, we realize that a full withdrawal of all U.S. forces is a massive logistical undertaking that can't be accomplished successfully in a totally insecure environment. These are not either/or propositions.

The signposts outlined above would send a real, not just a rhetorical, message that the United States is serious about leaving the political and economic future of Iraq to Iraqis. They would satisfy the conditions necessary for Iraqis to trust in the transition and invest in free elections rather than insurgency. And it would enable the international electorate to give their governments the go-ahead to provide peacekeepers, without which U.S. troops can't come home.

Perhaps as important, it would meet Americans' desires not for a return to the way things were -- which we know is impossible -- but for a redemption of the way things are.

Our leaders better believe it's worth the risk.


Phil Steger, St. Paul, is executive director of Friends for a Non-Violent World

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