Regarding UN in Iraq

BY DRINKERM@LAW.HARVARD.EDU

Regarding UN Plans for Iraq (593 words)

As the UN puts forward plans to transfer sovereignty to a new caretaker government in Iraq, one might pause to question their motives and expected role in the reconstruction of Iraq. The UN might be expected to refrain from exercising such a role. The ‘I-told-you-so’ instinct being a potent emotive force, one can hardly blame UN diplomats for wishing to wash their hands of the burden America now seeks to share with them in order to extricate itself from the sandy pit its leaders so blithely leapt into.

UN officials like Sergio Vieira de Mello have made the same tragic sacrifices that over 690 slain and 9000 injured coalition soldiers and civilians are now making. Should the UN accept this thankless burden, the same Americans who crowed at the elimination of secret Iraqi facilities for constructing weapons of mass destruction, which they assumed were buried under a heap of rubble but have yet to locate, will most likely turn about and shift the blame to the UN for failing to pick up the pieces.

The project of removing the tyrant Saddam Hussein may have been initiated with the best of intentions, but the cliché about the road to hell should have served as warning to those who embraced this cause. Perhaps a superior insight about good and evil denied to more common folk animated our leadership’s judgment, but so elitist a presumption is hardly democratic.

So it comes to the UN–itself hardly a democratic institution–to determine whether it will accept a greater share of the burden of midwifing the new Iraq. By abstaining, the UN might seek to teach Americans a lesson, and in the process, prevent similar future projects. With every billion dollars spent and every body bag shipped home, Americans might learn to question their government and thereby return to the founding principles that call for challenging the President and every other officer so that liberty might be preserved.

But perhaps Americans will learn a different lesson, and condemn those who contest this war as traitors rather than patriots exercising constitutional prerogatives. Similar sentiments have been expressed by President Bush towards those comparing this war to Vietnam.

In any event, human beings are suffering in Iraq, where estimates of the Iraqi dead rise to 10,000, and an unknown number of Iraqis have been injured, many of whom were doubtless innocent of any insurgent conduct but were merely caught in the cross-fire. There is no way to ascertain the eventual American perspective on this war; only history will tell. But in the face of the suffering on the ground, those who are empowered to act to alleviate it must strive to do so, particularly when it is their sworn duty.

A mess has indeed been made, a vicious, bloody mess, which like every bloody mess is described by those who made it as a necessity and a noble cause, as if that changed the pain of those affected by it. The unmaking of that mess is a task demanding unknowable costs and risks, but these are costs that will ultimately be born, either by Iraqis in some course of time, or by others sharing in the common cause of the present.

The lesson of this war should be that aspirations of staunchly advocating justice must, at some time, give way to mercy and reconstruction. I hope the UN perceives this and fully assumes its obligations. I hope my own country may come to perceive it as well. As I prepare to leave law school, I hope at least I have learned this much about justice.

Donovan Rinker-Morris

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