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The UN and the US Predicament in Iraq
Publication date: 2003-08-21

The Reasons for the Iraq Violence and Can the US Bring Iraq to Normality?

The Americans occupied Iraq in pursuit of their new policy, which is based on the War on Terror doctrine, adopted by them after the incident of the 9/11.

Now the Americans are faced with daily guerrilla‐war type attacks against their own troops, and even the UN headquarters in Baghdad was attacked.

Although initially the Americans wanted to rule occupied Iraq by themselves, now they are looking for others to share that burden with them, while maintaining overall control.

But why do Iraqis attack Americans, and even the UN?

The main reasons for the hostility of the Iraqis towards the Americans are as follows:

  1. The general distrust of Asians and Africans towards the Europeans1 as a result of the attempts of the Europeans to conquer and colonize Africa and Asia. Although this is a historical issue, and most former European colonies have become independent countries, a general feeling of distrust towards the Europeans still remains. And any attempts at domination by Europeans increases this distrust and turns it into active hostility. This distrust can be only overcome by a prolonged experience of honest dealings on equal terms.

  2. The general distrust of Muslims towards the Europeans (Christians) going back to the Crusades. Although this is a historical issue, this distrust is re‐awakened by any acts of hostility or dishonesty on the part of Europeans towards Muslims. This distrust can be only overcome by a prolonged experience of honest dealings on equal terms.

  3. The general hostility of Arabs towards the Americans due to their support of Israel in the Israeli‐Palestinian conflict. This hostility can be only overcome by the Americans adopting an honest and impartial position towards that conflict and resolving it on the basis of justice.

  4. The hostility generated by hostile activities of the American troops in Iraq. Any acts of killings, arrests, searches, destruction of property of the Iraqis by the Americans generate strong hostility. This hostility can be overcome only by cessation of such activities by the American troops in Iraq. But, because the Americans are operating in a hostile environment, and their troops are trained for combat roles, it is difficult to see how such activities can be stopped.

  5. The hostility of an occupied people towards the occupiers. Although some Iraqis had welcomed the removal of the Saddam Hussain government, they are still hostile towards Iraq being occupied by foreigners. This hostility can be overcome only by cessation of the foreign occupation of Iraq.

  6. The hostility generated by the chaos caused by the American occupation. This hostility can be overcome only by restoration of normality2 in Iraq. Restoration of normality in Iraq will not, however, eliminate the above sources of hostility, and while the above sources of hostility remain, it will be practically impossible to restore normality in Iraq.

From the above it follows that the Americans cannot restore normality to Iraq without overcoming the hostility3 of the Iraqi people. And because the main cause of the hostility of the Iraqis towards the Americans is caused by the American presence in Iraq, there is little prospect of the life in Iraq returning to normal while the Americans remain there.

Even if the Americans replace their troops in Iraq with some other troops, as long as these troops are seen as acting on behalf of the Americans, they will be treated with the same hostility as the Americans themselves. And how long will any non‐American troops be willing to put their lives at risk by being targets of the Iraqi hostility towards the Americans?

But why the hostility towards the UN?

Because the UN is seen as a tool of the Americans.

To be respected as an effective supra‐national institution the UN will have to become such supra‐national institution. As the Iraq war has proved, at present it is not such an institution. And it will take more than good intentions to make it one.

And even if he UN would become such institution, it would still take time before it is accepted by the people as such. A reputation can be ruined by a single act of failure, to re‐build a reputation would require years of successful performance.

So how will normality be restored in Iraq?

A government consisting of Iraqis appointed, or even just influenced by the Americans, will not be accepted by the Iraqis. And even if such government is backed by a UN resolution, it still will have no legitimacy among the people, because it will be seen as a US imposed government backed by a UN resolution. And without an effective Iraqi government accepted by the Iraqi people it will be impossible to restore normality in Iraq.

The combination of American presence with absence of normality will lead to increased opposition from the Iraqi people. Eventually an independent Iraqi government will emerge from this opposition. Sooner or later the Americans, and any other troops acting on their behalf, will be forced to leave Iraq, and this independent Iraqi government will take over. And this independent Iraqi government will restore normality.

And sooner or later the Americans will accept that one nation state, no matter how powerful, cannot rule the world. The world can be ruled only by an impartial supra‐national government. And the acceptance of this fact will be the positive outcome of the American War on Terror.

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1) Although geographically Americans are not Europeans, the United States of America is seen in Asia and Africa as a nation dominated by people of European descent. The fact that some American officials or soldiers might be of Asian or African origin does not change this view. So generically “the Americans” are seen in Asia and Africa as Europeans and are associated with Colonialism, Slavery and the Crusades. This is in spite of the fact that America was itself a British colony, and the Crusades took place before the establishment of the USA. So for purely historical reasons beyond their control, the Americans have to share the legacy of the “White Man's Burden” of the old European empires.

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2) By “normality” we mean basic maintenance of law and order and reasonably functioning basic services, like electricity, water supply and sanitation. After the Gulf War of 1991 there was no brake down of law and order in Iraq, as it happened in the current war. But there was some disruption of basic services due to American bombings. At that time the government of Saddam Hussain was able to restore the basic services within matter of weeks. Had the Americans not encouraged the breakdown of law and order in Iraq in the initial days of the occupation by allowing and even encouraging looting, and had they taken a swift action to restore the basic services within the initial weeks of the occupation, and had they been able to establish an effective Iraqi government, and then promptly withdraw, then they would have been able to avoid the present chaotic situation in Iraq. But having brought Iraq to its present chaotic state, there is little prospect of the Americans regaining control of the events ‐ they have become an occupying power fighting a resistance war in a hostile country. The more they try to establish control, the more opposition they will provoke. In the end the occupation will become unmaintainable and they will have to withdraw.

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3) It should be noted that none of these hostilities towards the Americans existed in Germany after World War II, which enabled the Americans to help rebuild Germany after that war. So, the comparison of the present American occupation of Iraq with the Marshall Plan is not valid.

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