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 MILITARY.

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 Rumsfeld.

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.