April 14, 2004

Iraq and U.N. Involvement

Wonderful commentary in today's National Review: bq. As violence flairs in Iraq, so does Washington discussion over the United Nations role in Iraq. Speaking to reporters in New Hampshire on April 12, Senator John Kerry suggested U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as a possible success to Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer. And more: bq. The problem is what denotes legitimacy on the Foggy Bottom and Capitol Hill cocktail circuit and what Iraqis see as legitimate are two very separate things. And more: bq. As violence ignited last week, U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi returned to Baghdad. According to John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Brahimi's mission was among "the highest U.S. policy priorities involving the U.N." Perhaps Brahimi is welcome in New York or Kabul, but he is not in Baghdad. How do Iraqis view Brahimi? Kurds express disdain for Brahimi. "All we need is another Arab nationalist," one Kurdish human-rights worker said. "Throughout the Oil-for-Food program, the U.N. seemed more concerned with giving Palestinians jobs than giving Iraqis medicine," a physician in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah said. "As undersecretary of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991, Brahimi stood by as Saddam Hussein conducted an "Arabization" campaign to drive Iraqi Kurds from Kirkuk and surrounding villages. Brahimi did nothing as the Iraqi government dropped chemical weapons on Halabja, killing 5,000 civilians. So we can see that the U.N. Special Envoy does not necessarilly have the interests of the Iraqi people at heart. And more: bq. Any moral standing the U.N. possessed ended soon after U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq. On January 25, 2003, 29-year-old Adnan Abdul Karim Enad jumped into a U.N. inspector's jeep, screaming "Save me! Save me!" As television cameras rolled, U.N. security guards dragged him from the vehicle and handed him to Iraqi soldiers. The same day, an Iraqi government worker forced his way into the U.N. compound, pleading for protection. U.N. guards evicted him. Hans Blix, then chief weapons inspector in Iraq, criticized the Iraqi asylum seekers, saying they should find "more elegant ways" of approaching U.N. staff. They cannot. Both men apparently disappeared in Iraqi custody, likely executed soon after Blix's team turned them over to their persecutors. Rather than show remorse, Blix suggested to the Danish daily Jyllands Posten on April 7, 2004, that Iraqis were better off under Saddam. With telephone lines open and long-time exiles returning to see their families, the incidents of that day, not broadcast on Iraqi television, have become known. To Iraqis, the U.N. represents moral ineptitude. "They investigated the U.N. workers who allowed the massacre at Srebrenica. How come they don't hold accountable those who handed that poor boy to his death?" one Shia Iraqi asked as we sat in Baghdad living room. And one more to show some peoples complete misunderstanding of the matter: bq. United Nations involvement will hamper, not help. Militant Islamists and remnants of Saddam's regime interpret our turn to the U.N. as sign of weakness, while Iraqi democrats see the U.N. role as a sign of abandonment. Both associate the U.N. with corruption. Ironically, while administration officials and senators seek greater U.N. involvement to pacify Iraqis, their calls have the opposite effect. Washington's hand-wringing is a sign of weakness welcomed only by those we fight. The author -- Michael Rubin -- spent 16 months in Iraq, most recently as a Coalition Provisional Authority governance adviser. This is someone who not only talks the talk, they walk the walk too... Posted by DaveH at April 14, 2004 2:25 PM