Destroy and rebuild: It's business at White House
NEW YORK - Dag Hammarskjold, a former UN Secretary-General, once remarked that the United Nations was not created to take mankind to paradise, but merely to save humanity from hell. And most middle-aged Americans, who harbour painful memories of the US military debacle in Vietnam in the 1970s, know that war is nothing short of hell.

The irony of the current war is that even before the US has destroyed Iraq's infrastructure with its heavy-handed bombing, the White House has already picked some of its politically-favoured big corporation cronies for multi-million dollar contracts to rebuild bridges, roads, hospitals and schools that will be reduced to rubble.
In reality, however, the US may have lost the war against Iraq even before the first shots were fired on Wednesday night.

Since the military attack was launched without UN authorisation, the US has defied the Security Council, violated international law, derided the concept of multilateralism, split the trans-Atlantic Western alliance, angered the Islamic world and provoked global anti-war protests in virtually every major capital in the world.

Is a US military victory against a rag-tag Iraq army worth the massive political and diplomatic losses, which the Americans will have to endure for the rest of their lives? As every military analyst knows, the Iraqi military forces are no match for the overwhelming American fire power. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman reduced the argument to the simplest equation: the most recent US military budget was a staggering $400 billion compared with Iraq's $1.4 billion.

At the UN last week, the US also suffered its biggest diplomatic humiliation when it failed to garner nine votes in the 15-member Security Council despite heavy economic pressure on countries such as Cameroon, Guinea and Chile.Facing strong opposition for a British-American-Spanish resolution implicitly calling for a military attack on Iraq, the three Western allies decided to forego a vote rather than accept defeat.

But US President George W. Bush vented his anger at the UN because the world body refused to give him the legitimacy he desperately needed for a military attack on Iraq.
The rocky road to Baghdad was not paved with good intentions because the US "never intended anything but a war", according to senior French officials. Bush was looking for political cover for a military conflict which was already pre-meditated.

A visibly livid Bush told reporters last week that the UN had failed miserably in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "The United Nations didn't do its job," he said. "We hope tomorrow the United Nations will do its job. If not, all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to make the United Nations work better." The hidden message in his statement was that UN did not do his bidding - and therefore it is an "irrelevant debating society."

But 48 hours after the bombing of Baghdad, the US has announced plans to come back to the same UN for help to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilians caught in the crossfire. As French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters at the UN last week: "One country can by itself win the war in Iraq, but no country by itself has the means to build Iraq's future".

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has pronounced that under international law, the responsibility for protecting and caring civilians is in the hands of the belligerents. "And in any area under military occupation, responsibility for the welfare of the population falls on the occupying power," he said. But still the UN has offered to do whatever it can to help rebuild the country -- even as it is in the process of being destroyed.

In the past 20 years, Iraqis have been through two major wars, internal uprisings and conflicts, and more than a decade of debilitating sanctions. The current military conflict can only make the existing situation worse - "perhaps much worse," the Secretary-General warned.

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