- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The guns have not stopped firing but already the same people who gave you the unenforceable U.N. Resolution 1441 and the 16 that preceded it are urging the Bush administration to go back to the United Nations for assistance in healing postwar Iraq.
The New York Times, editorially damning private enterprise reconstruction of Saddam Hussein's bordello, drawing an outrageous analogy to mid-19th century efforts to build the Suez Canal (by the French no less), and in a non-sourced Washington story calling for "a phased withdrawal of sanctions", is leading the ignominious parade domestically as usual.
In fact, the United States has a splendid opportunity to move quickly to drain the swamp of corruption and injury inflicted by the United Nations on the Iraqi people.
How can anyone logically call for continuation of sanctions intended to curb the megalomaniacal designs of Saddam Hussein who wherever and whatever else, as Secretary Rumsfeld says, is at least no longer running the country. Bringing representative government and a market economy to Iraq has to be fundamental to any U.S. program there as we try to end the occupation as soon as possible and turn Iraq back to the Iraqis.
In a twin controversy brought on by noises from Paris and Moscow, the centers which propped up Saddam a similar strategy is suggested for the U.N. oil-for-food program. Its temporary 45-day extension ends May 12th. This North Delegates Lounge scam was supposed to feed the Iraqis while preventing Saddam from rearming after his spectacular defeat of 1991.
Instead, young American Marines and soldiers, on the hour blowing up incredibly large munitions stocks stored in school houses, mosques and residential neighborhoods, give the lie to all that. Looters broke open food hoards of Saddam's "security" apparatus, an extension of the international network of corruption and intrigue that created the menace which brought on the call for U.S. arms.
The United Nations says there is $12.5 billion yes billions in the pipeline under the program. (One can only guess who is collecting interest on the escrow.) With the lack of transparency Claudia Rosett has laid out details in the International Herald Tribune we can only guess how little those orders fit the needs of an Iraq putting itself back together under American aegis. There is an additional $3 billion not yet grabbed by the politically connected suppliers. Those funds could go a long way toward meeting emergency needs of a shortly to be constituted Iraqi provisional government.
The United States, as so often pointed out by those who opposed the war, has the requirement as the conquering power under the Geneva Conventions to be the custodian of the interests of Iraqis. That obligation dictates that we end the sanctions immediately. Where are all those humanitarians now who argued that the sanctions were punishing the Iraqi people?
Similarly, U.N. oil-for-food should soon be a bad memory. The Bush administration, taking a leaf from the Quai d'Orsay's bag of tricks, should announce it will use its veto to oppose further extensions. Iraq has had a professional oil ministry, and if needs be with the help of its Arab oil producing neighbors, that bureaucracy can quickly be put back in place. It would have to be a high priority in any case in order to rebuild the oil industry's infrastructure whose profits too long were siphoned off for Saddam's weaponry.
It comes as no surprise that Paris having booby trapped the State Department so successfully so many times in the Security Council is not only calling for these programs' continuance but also suggests Syria should be a route for aid. This kind of collaboration with Damascus would sabotage the second phase of Mr. Bush's Mideast program driven by our ally Prime Minister Blair and "Old Europe." That's the implementation of the so-called "roadmap" for establishing an independent, democratic Palestinian state.
It takes no imagination to understand that Mr. Bush's friend and ally in the campaign against terrorism, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, cannot move his country toward this objective without ironclad assurances that Syrian support and direction (in concert with Iran) of terrorists in Lebanon, on the West Bank and Gaza has ended. Damascus, shorn of its illegal Iraqi black market oil (through evading the sanctions for two and a half years) and its ill gotten transit fees for Saddam's munitions, must make some "regime changes" in the face of crippling economic problems. Keeping the pressure on is the only way to force some common sense decisions on the shaky Ba'ath regime of President Haafez. That's the message, surely, Secretary of State Powell should be taking to Damascus when he visits in the next few days. And it is that solution, obviously, that Washington hopes for rather than taking direct military action against Syria, the longstanding sanctuary for a half-dozen international terrorist organizations and a potential base for troublemaking in Iraq.

Sol W. Sanders, longtime foreign correspondent and editor, writes a weekly column for www.worldtribune.com.

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