Our Well-Meaning President

The Moral Obligation to Rebuild Iraq

I don’t like President Bush.

There, I said it. I don’t think he makes many wise decisions. I didn’t support his decision to go to war, and I suspect that he has ulterior motives with regard to the oil-rich Middle East.

However, I also think that President Bush means well despite my disagreements with his policies.

I believe President Bush thinks that he’s doing a good thing, that the Iraqi people will be better in the long run than they were under Saddam. He feels that he is triumphing over evil in a way that will bring peace to a region that hasn’t known peace. The citizens who cheered coalition forces and thanked President Bush for overthrowing Saddam show that, in some ways, President Bush has succeeded in what he was trying to accomplish.

The future begins now
However, the question that remains is “Now what?” Does President Bush begin rebuilding an Iraqi government that can eventually govern itself? Do Vice-President Cheney’s cronies at Halliburton benefit by getting free reign to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry (in fairness, perhaps they might be the best qualified to do this anyway?)?

Most importantly, after bombing many of Iraq’s cities and towns, what will President Bush do to insure that the Iraqi people can survive? How will the injured receive medical care? While President Bush always points to Saddam’s torture of the Iraqi people, I wonder what he’ll do now for those who have felt the torture of war?

This war, despite the good intentions of our President, inflicted pain and suffering on those who are innocent of wrongdoing. It placed people in harm’s way in an ironic effort to liberate them from tyranny. In short, war is messy. Innocent people die, young soldiers get killed, and destruction knows no boundaries. Bad things happen to good people because of the good-intentioned actions of those in power.

For the record
After the last Gulf War, Americans failed to rebuild the infrastructure that was bombed and left civilian casualties behind to die. Hospitals couldn’t get electricity, supplies, and clean water. People couldn’t communicate that they needed help. Unhealthy conditions caused dysentery, diarrhea, and a host of other diseases to plague the country. The lack of clean water alone caused countless deaths.

A Harvard University study after the Gulf War in the spring of 1991 predicted more than 170,000 young children would die in the coming year from malnutrition, gastroenteritis, cholera, or typhoid; Human Rights Watch regarded those numbers
as conservative. A 1999 UNICEF report calcuated that 500,000 more children
under five
died in the seven years after the war (and under sanctions) than pre-war child mortality rates would have allowed. I haven’t even mentioned those who were innocent victims of the bombing itself. American forces got the credit for the liberation of Kuwait without taking further responsibility for reconstruction.

Intentions and obligations
While American forces
may have been more careful to not bomb the infrastructure of Iraq this time out and while they were also cautious about civilian casualties, the horrors of war continue to happen. The President and we Americans have a choice now. We can take the lead in rebuilding a country and get aid to the desperate and injured, or we can return to our own self-interests and leave the Iraqi people to rebuild what we destroyed. I think the President and we as Americans have a moral obligation.

While President Bush may have good intentions, we need to remember that the bombing might be ending but the war has just begun. The real war and the real work have to start now.

Getting specific
President Bush
has promised to rebuild but has offered no direct plan on how that will take place. He hasn’t mentioned a reconstruction budget or a timeline for reconstruction. He simply hasn’t promised to foot the bill and my greatest fear is that he’ll begin repairing the damage and then abandon this “project” once it starts getting difficult or costly. As the people of Afghanistan already know, President Bush has a history of attacking and fleeing.

The Red Cross, the UN, and other humanitarian aid organizations require first the protection of the armed forces and then in the long run the assurance of incoming American dollars. The President can insure that Iraq gets justice and a new way of life with a concrete commitment to completely rebuilding this country no matter how long it might take or costly it may be.

Perhaps that’s what our well-meaning
President needs to know. I pray that his good intentions don’t stop with the ceasing of American bombs.

Photo credits: 1. Eric Draper, 2. U.S. Army Photo, Spc. Daniel T. Dark, 3. U.S. Army photo, Sgt. Kyran V. Adams; all from White House website.