What's next? Win the peace
by Jim Wallis
The first phase of the war in Iraq is nearing an end, mostly due to
the overwhelming military superiority of the American forces. With
every report of more civilian casualties (even if unintended), the
death of each young American soldier, and the high number of dead Iraqi
soldiers, I grieve that our political leaders didn't find a better way
to deal with the dangerous dictator and continue to believe they could
have. But that is behind us now and, beyond the grieving and protesting
of the war that still goes on, many are asking "What's next?"
We suggest three things.
First, we have to continue trying to protect civilian lives,
especially in the final days of the military conflict. There is no
doubt in my mind that the importance the churches and the peace
movement placed on protecting the innocents during the pre-war debate
was very influential in keeping them from being directly targeted by
military planners. Still, many have died because of the nature of war,
despite technological boasting of precision bombing, and large numbers
of people could be at risk in the last stages of the active war.
Holding the U.S. and U.K. military accountable to their promises to
avoid civilian casualties is a vital peacemaking task.
Second, we must ensure that humanitarian aid begins to flow
immediately after the initial military conflict, and be adequately
funded by those who, by initiating this war, are now morally
responsible for the aftermath. Most critically, we must insist that
such aid be coordinated by the United Nations and administered by the
non-governmental organizations who have always done so, NOT BY THE
Third, we must also ensure that the post-war reconstruction of Iraq
be the first step to peace, instead of creating the conditions for more
conflict and further wars. That means an international collaboration in
rebuilding Iraq (again led by the United Nations) and helping to create
new governing institutions, instead of trying to run Iraq with American
generals, former CIA directors, and oil companies from Texas.
Let me be blunt about this challenge. It is the Pentagon, and
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in particular, who, having run the war
effort, now want to control post-war reconstruction and even the
distribution of humanitarian aid. U.S. and international aid agencies,
including faith-based organizations, are being told they must follow
Pentagon leadership and, courageously, most are refusing. Military
control of humanitarian aid violates the time-tested protocols of good
practice and policy of aid distribution, not to mention international
law. Most importantly, total Pentagon control of post-war Iraq, even in
aid distribution, puts the Iraqi people completely at the mercy of the
military agenda, and reduces humanitarian aid to what Rumsfeld has
incredibly referred to as "force enhancement."
Further, to put a military viceroy in charge of Iraq, only to
subsequently install a puppet government largely under U.S. control
(they have already flown in their favorite Iraqi exile with his troops
this week), would be the worst outcome following this war. The dangers
are many, including retarding genuine Iraqi democracy, creating
long-term guerrilla resistance, further inflaming Arab resentment
throughout the region, and setting the stage for future wars. The
regimes in Syria and Iran have already been named as potential
adversaries by President Bush, and, this week, by Defense Secretary
The Pentagon has won an easy war, but it will never win the peace.
U.S. ally Tony Blair and the British government are pushing for a
strong U.N. lead in humanitarian aid and post-war reconstruction in
Iraq. Even the State Department and moderate Republicans in Congress
are opposing the Defense Department's control of post-Saddam Iraq. The
churches will support humanitarian aid organizations over the Pentagon
to lead relief efforts, and they will support a U.N. lead for post-war
reconstruction. The Pentagon is the wrong choice to lead the post-war
effort, and Donald Rumsfeld's agenda must be defeated.
Tomorrow, we will send you a crucial action alert around these
three points of protecting civilians, ensuring properly funded and
administered humanitarian aid, and advocating U.N. coordination in
post-war Iraq. We will help you send your message to key members of
Congress, the White House, State Department, and to Donald Rumsfeld
himself. We hope you will send this critical action alert to your
friends and colleagues around the country and the world. It is the next
step for peace.