According to the Geneva Convention, however, (article 55 of the fourth convention and article 69 of the first protocol) the US and UK are obligated to pay the cost of providing for the humanitarian needs (food, medicine, water, shelter, etc) of the occupied Iraqi people during the war and its aftermath.
The UN is itself pushing for a central role in that emergency relief – particularly for its large international humanitarian agencies such as Unicef and the World Food Programme. But in a difficult meeting with UN secretary general Kofi Annan in the first days of the war, the US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice essentially claimed that Washington had the right to dictate what role the UN would play in post-war Iraq.
Annan indicated that he didn’t believe the UN should be co-opted into providing the US with ex post facto legitimation for its illegal war. Yet two weeks into the war US secretary of state Colin Powell said: ‘What we have to work out is… how the UN role will be used to provide some level of endorsement for our actions, the actions of the coalition in Iraq.’
The US is determined that its military will rule Iraq when the war has ended. Within the administration there is disagreement as to how power will be divided between the overall Pentagon-chosen viceroy and the State Department-nominated heads of the various shadow ministries. Each of the shadow ‘ministers’ will be assigned several US anointed Iraqi exiles as advisers.
State Department officials fear that Pentagon ideologues are trying to replace their nominees with people like former CIA chief James Woolsey, a long-time campaigner for war against Iraq. But there is no recognition of the international obligations incumbent on what Annan called the ‘belligerent powers occupying Iraq’.
Testifying to Congress on 26 March, Powell described the limits of what the UN’s role would be in shaping the governance of post-war Iraq. A member of Congress asked for assurance that the UN would not wrest control of the country from ‘the coalition’. Powell replied: ‘I don’t even see a possibility of that right now… We would not support… essentially handing everything over to the UN for someone designated by it to suddenly become in charge of this whole operation.’ Later in his testimony, Powell said: ‘We didn’t take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have significant, dominating control over how it unfolds in the future’.
On the parallel question of paying for the costs of emergency assistance and reconstruction, Powell was equally explicit. He said: ‘The UN has a role to play. If we want to get help from other nations, and we ask these nations to go get funds from their parliaments or their legislatures it makes it a lot easier for them to get those funds and to contribute those funds to the reconstruction/ redevelopment effort if it has an international standing… ‘Just give us money to give to the Americans’… will not work. There are a number of advantages to having a UN role in this effort.’
So, while the US expects others to help foot the bill for its own humanitarian obligations, it has no intention of sharing actual authority, power or decision-making with anyone. BBC World quoted a high-ranking Bush administration official who was asked whether France should have a role. The official said: ‘If they want to participate, they can pick up the garbage.’
European governments, including Britain’s, strongly oppose the plans for US military control of Iraq. Tony Blair is leading a European-wide effort to push for greater UN involvement in, and perhaps even control of, the reconstruction process. Blair apparently views this as a way of repairing his damaged relations with European opponents of the war – particularly the French and Germans. UN officials have indicated that they see the British proposal as a useful starting point for determining their role (beyond purely humanitarian relief) in Iraq. But one UN staff member said: ‘Even on that, the Americans have more or less signalled ‘forget about it’.’
After a fortnight of war senior Bush officials stated that ‘the US military will likely need to retain tight control over the country for longer than anticipated’ (The New York Times, 2 April 2003). Plans for announcing the ‘Iraqi Interim Authority’ were shelved. Turning over any local power to Iraqis would be delayed until various conditions were met. These ranged from the complete pacification and defeat of military and paramilitary forces in Basra and other cities, to the seizure of Baghdad and the destruction of the Iraqi regime. Powell did hint, however, that the US might ask Nato to play a role.
Already, the Pentagon has created the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance to be run by former US Army general Jay Garner. Despite his new post, Garner remains the president of SY Technology, which provides technical support for the missile systems used in the Iraq war.
There are numerous problems with the appointment of Garner. First, appointing any American to act as pro-consul in Iraq following an illegal war represents further defiance of the UN. Second, Garner personifies the suspect intersection of military brass and arms manufacturers. Third, he has made provocative statements about the capability of weapons (including a widely disputed claim about the US’s Patriot missile) and Israel (‘Israel has exercised remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority’). He is certain to provoke extreme reactions in the Arab world.
And the man the Bush administration is likely to appoint to ‘oversee’ post-war Iraqi oil production is Philip E Carroll, the former head of Shell. Carroll recently retired as chair and CEO of the Fluor Corporation, one of the five US firms the Pentagon has offered massive contracts for rebuilding Iraq.
But for Iraq to be really free and democratic the UN – not the US – must be in charge of emergency and post-war reconstruction efforts. Humanitarian organisations must be given free access to the country and be allowed to do their work unhindered by military restrictions or sanctions. These organisations must be allowed to make their own decisions regarding when it is safe to enter the country. They must be independent of the US military, and must not act as a fig leaf for US unilateralism. Garner’s authority should be turned over to a UN special representative. As the belligerent powers (and in accordance with the Geneva Convention), the only aspect of Iraq’s reconstruction that the US and UK should assume is its funding.Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think-tank based in Washington DC.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice.
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform