- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

Saddam Hussein’s threat to international peace and security has ended. The region and the world are safer and more secure thanks to the leadership of President Bush, the leadership of British Prime Minister Blair and other members of the coalition of the willing and the bold and flexible war plans. Most importantly, this could not have been achieved without the skill and courage of American men and women and other soldiers who fought to end Saddam’s threatening menace and his brutal tyranny.

The Iraqi people are liberated. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction are being sought out and they will be secured. Now we are engaged in helping Iraqis rebuild their country: establish order under the rule of law, provide humanitarian aid; rebuild and improve the nation’s infrastructure (too long ignored as oil resources went to build Saddam’s palaces rather than to help the people); facilitate a new Iraqi government chosen by the Iraqi people; and help the Iraqi economy to get up and running. All these tasks will be addressed in the days, weeks and months ahead.

The continued leadership of the coalition of the willing is critical to the success of this endeavor, and that leadership will be provided. But the coalition will not remain in Iraq longer than required.

The U.N. Security Council failed to meet its responsibilities on Iraq when it failed to pass an 18th resolution on Iraq. This Security Council failure will have long-term repercussions. The United Nations has been diminished. The U.N. failures in Rwanda, Kosovo and now Iraq raise serious questions.

Nonetheless, the United Nations is able to make a contribution in many areas, including in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and post-conflict Iraq. It is a good thing that the Security Council has lifted the sanctions on Iraq oil, sanctions imposed due to a tyrant now gone and a threat now lifted. It also is good that the U.N. Oil for Food program will be phased out. Like the sanctions, it is a program established for a different time and unnecessary going forward.

The Security Council resolution passed yesterday also formalizes the vital U.N. role in Iraq: humanitarian assistance. This will be helpful. U.N. specialized agencies such as the World Food Program, UNESCO and others can make very useful contributions to post-conflict Iraq.

Some have said that this new U.N. resolution “legitimizes” the coalition action against Saddam. Others argue that Operation Iraqi Freedom was not legitimate because there was no 18th U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq.

Neither view is correct. Legitimacy does not emerge from politicians and diplomats sitting around the U.N. Security Council table.

Legitimacy comes from the legal and moral foundation for action, and legitimacy ultimately rises from a people.

Based on Saddam’s breach of 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions and the inherent right of self-defense, which is embraced in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, Operation Iraqi Freedom was legal.

Based on ending Saddam Hussein’s reign of brutal tyranny, in which torture was an everyday tool of control, in which genocide of Iraqi Kurds and Iraqi Shi’ites was well documented, and in a country with more than 16,000 unexplained disappearances, Operation Iraqi Freedom had a clear moral imperative.

But, far more important, legitimacy arises from the Iraqi people.

Like millions of others, I watched and was moved by the broadcast from Baghdad of the Iraqi people pulling down the large metal figure of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square and beating on the metal head of Saddam with their shoes, while they cheered in celebration of their liberation.

The next morning, I went over to the U.N. Security Council. Before the meeting, the Bulgarian ambassador, Stefan Tafrov, came over to me. Over the past 16 months, he has become my friend. Mr. Tafrov’s father had been imprisoned by the communists in Bulgaria, because he had defended dissidents after World War II. A former journalist, Mr. Tafrov had been persecuted by the communists. Mr. Tafrov told me he had watched the television images of Firdos Square over and over again. His eyes teared up as he told me that watching those liberated Iraqis powerfully and emotionally reminded him of a similar scene in Sofia, Bulgaria, when he was part of a jubilant crowd that pulled down the communist red star. Then Mr. Tafrov reached out, shook my hand and said, “Thank you. You are the good guys. America stands up for freedom.”

As Mr. Tafrov turned to go to his seat at the U.N. Security Council table, I thought that that was legitimacy enough for me.

U.S. Ambassador Richard S. Williamson is alternate representative to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs. He also served as a senior staffer in the Reagan White House and as ambassador to the U.N. Offices in Vienna.

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