U.S. should lead reconstruction

Tom Hyde

To listen to the French, German, Chinese and Russian diplomats discuss the reconstruction of Iraq in a post-war period, one might think that these two countries have made some sort of significant financial investment in the liberation of the country that warrants their presence in such negotiations.

French officials have demanded recently that coalition forces not take a major lead in the reconstruction contracts, a position refuted by many Washington lawmakers.

Essentially, the question over Iraq is not whether the coalition will militarily crush Saddam’s regime – that much seems certain.

The multi-billion dollar contracts needed to re-develop the country after major damage to infrastructure and natural resource reserves will likely end up being the central focus of anti-war coalition nations; a proposition that is frighteningly out of touch with the real priorities in re-building the decimated nation.

It is logical (in at least one humble opinion) to conclude that France has actually had a de-stabilizing effect on the peace process in the Middle East, more specifically, in Iraq.

As Iraq’s number one trade ally in 2001, French exports to Iraq made up over $650 million of the economy, mainly in essential goods. For the past five years, France has won the gold medal in Baghdad’s annual commerce fair that showcases each of Iraq’s trade partners to strengthen the position that Hussein’s regime has many tactical and economic allies.

President Bush and Secretary Powell have articulated the coalition stance that the Iraqi government harbors terrorism, endorses crimes against humanity and has utilized economic ties to fund brutal campaigns against human rights in and around Iraq.

The question that remains is why the United States has been so reluctant to formally degrade the French to the international community for their role in supporting state-run terrorism, as well as the rest of Iraq’s innumerable human rights offenses.

Because Saddam Hussein had literally total control over the government and the civilian population in his country, doesn’t it make sense that the imports, which he readily used to fund his lavish lifestyle at the expense of his people, have been powerful tools in securing his regime?

Is it logical to assume that once this regime is ousted, former partners in economic aid to his terrorist government should then be rewarded with contracts for the redevelopment of the country they helped to destroy?

The answer is clearly and concisely “no.” This may elicit some of the deeper reasons that the French alliance has been so reticent about an incursion into Iraq.

Replacement of their main trading ally, Saddam Hussein, coupled with the risk of international exposure for this support may be politically fatal for the floundering French status as an international power.

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to deny any American funds to France, Russia, Germany and Syria in securing reconstruction contracts. The Republican-led initiative does not exclude these countries from bidding in the process, but does outline the United States’ goal of securing Iraq’s resources for the betterment of all Iraqis.

In essence, the French have helped to oppress the Iraqi people over the years by supplying their government with the funds and alliances needed to maintain power.

Now, as we head towards a certain post-war period with U.S.-led forces at the forefront of securing liberation for the imprisoned civilian population, there is no need for the United States to offer these lucrative investments to countries which have themselves aided and abetted the military regime there.

Insistence by anti-war countries that the U.N. and the European Union have a lead role in re-constructing Iraq’s government may be valid; however, countries which have not financially invested in overthrowing the dictatorship should not have financial benefits from its demise.

After all, it is the United States that is prepared to spend an estimated $100 billion of its own money to defeat the Iraqi regime once and for all, and then re-build the country.

The solution to this latest conflict with the French should be handled with skilled diplomacy and a commitment to maintaining the legitimacy of the international community’s role in defining post-war reconstruction.

If the French really want to prove that they are committed to rebuilding the war-torn nation, they should follow the age-old clich