In his article in the Taipei Times the American Institute of Taiwan's Director Douglas Paal paints a rather glowing portrait of America's accomplishments in Iraq, since the collapse of former president Saddam Hussein's regime ("One hundred days in the New Iraq: a US diplomat's assessment," Aug. 14, page 9). In Paal's view, Iraqi security, economic fundamentals, availability of basic services and democratic institutions are gradually improving. To support these claims, he provides a list of accomplishments.
He points out that former soldiers of Saddam's regime are being paid a stipend, that banks are opening, that newspapers are flourishing, that universities are completing examinations, that soccer players are practicing without fear of torture and that the Baghdad symphony is performing for the public. While these accomplishments are good, they should not distract us from the broader, deeper issues of the day: Were the US and its allies justified in waging war on Iraq in the first place? Also, what burdens might we all shoulder because of the invasion of Iraq?
Remember how we were once told repeatedly by US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of how Iraq was a menace to international peace and stability? Remember the claims about how Iraq was trying to purchase raw materials from Africa to support its nuclear weapons program? Remember the claims we heard about how Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) could be launched against other countries in just 45 minutes? The US, Britain and Australia based their case for war against Iraq primarily because of its alleged possession of WMD, which would have been a violation of UN restrictions.
Yet nearly four months since the cessation of major military operations in Iraq, no one has been able to discover Saddam's allegedly mighty WMD program. Moreover, media reports indicate that all Iraqi scientists in US custody have steadfastly denied the existence of an Iraqi WMD program, corroborating what Iraq's government under Saddam had been saying prior to the invasion.
Given the questionable pretext for the invasion of Iraq, and given the humiliating defeat brought upon Iraq by the US, Britain and Australia, it should come as little surprise that some Iraqi partisans have begun a guerrilla campaign against the occupying armies. For not only did the invasion remove Saddam's brutal regime, but also it removed what was left of Iraq's infrastructure after 10 years of brutal US-led UN sanctions.
At least some in Iraq want revenge for their predicament. There are lethal, almost daily attacks against American soldiers in Iraq. There have also been devastating assaults against Iraqi-owned (but American-controlled) oil pipelines. Yes, it is possible to dismiss these activities as the last, desperate punches of Baath Party stalwarts. However, even in Basra -- an area populated by Shiites who suffered persecution under Saddam's iron-fisted rule -- riots have erupted against foreign occupation.
Although Saddam was hated and feared by many Iraqis, the English-speaking occupation forces are hardly loved. In the words of Sabri Zugheyer, 45, a restaurant owner in Basra, "The British promised to make everything better, but now it's worse. Even in the old days it was never as bad as this." Four months following the cessation of major military activities, the Iraqis are enduring the misery and humiliation of a broken economy, a collapsed former government, an army of occupation, a foreign-appointed civil administrator a foreign-appointed Governing Council. At least one influential cleric in southern Iraq is now calling for the formation of an Islamic Army, presumably one to operate beyond the jurisdiction of the Governing Council and the English-speaking armies of occupation.
The legacy of aggression and deceit surrounding the invasion of Iraq has the potential to undermine international stability, even in areas far beyond the Middle East.
Consider Taiwan's situation. China has threatened to apply military force should Taiwan go too far in seeking its own sovereignty. In the face of this, the US has been attempting to serve as a calming influence in the region, urging both sides to work out a peaceful solution to the Taiwan Strait problem. Unfortunately, hard-liners within China's government and military may now argue -- with some persuasion -- that the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies on trumped-up charges provides a precedent for the resolution of political and diplomatic differences through military might. Certainly, the US -- thanks to the Bush administration -- has lost much of the moral high ground when arguing for the peaceful resolution of differences between the two sides of the Strait.
In short, as an American living in Taiwan, I see little to be proud about in America's invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nonetheless, I am optimistic about the future of American foreign policy, as there will soon be a presidential election in the US and, hopefully, a badly needed regime change in Washington.
Nathan Jones is an associate professor in the department of foreign languages and literature at National Tsing Hua University.
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