Sharing authority with the UN?
Other questions rather more interesting than the minutiae of who attended Alastair Campbell’s interminable meetings (and who didn’t attend them, such as Mr Hoon) relate to the future of our Iraq policies, as well as their past. It seems to be generally accepted now that the security situation in the country is deteriorating all the time. Hardly a day passes without an American soldier, sometimes several, being killed, and increasingly often British soldiers too. The bomb attack on the UN headquarters and the murder of the outstanding, indispensable Sergio Vieira de Mello, outstanding UN diplomat, Human Rights Commissioner reluctantly taking time off to head the UN effort in Baghdad, has highlighted the extent to which even the most selfless aid workers and international civil servants, in Iraq to try to help the Iraqis, have become associated with the occupation forces and so come to be regarded as fair game for bomb and bullet. Things clearly can’t go on like this. It may go against the grain for the UN (in the form either of other countries acting under a UN mandate, or of the UN as an institution under the sure-footed Kofi Annan) to come to the aid of the Americans and the British, thus granting them a kind of unearned retrospective legitimacy and rescuing them from the consequences of their own folly, misjudgements, illegalities and lack of foresight. But without international intervention now, under a blue UN flag of some sort, it is the Iraqis who are going to suffer even more than the invaders and occupiers. The fascinating question now is how far the Americans will agree to go in eating humble pie by asking the Security Council to help bail them out, and how far they will agree to share authority with the UN for both security and political governance (i.e. mainly accelerating and managing the restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqis), as well as humanitarian aid and reconstruction. But if the necessary temporary administration is to have any credibility with the Iraqis and with international opinion, and to win the cooperation of Iraqis without that cooperation branding them as collaborators with the invaders, the UN must be seen to play a leading and independent part, in partnership with the Americans and not subordinated to them. Do the imaginations of Messrs Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and of Ms Rice run to that? Colin Powell, and (one hopes) Tony Blair, even Jack Straw on a good day, could probably have a stab at it. But how would the bewildered man in the White House square it with his conviction that in toppling Saddam and installing Mr Bremer in his place, he has won a smashing victory in the "war on terrrrism"?