The $87 billion question


Issue: "California's new governor," Oct. 4, 2003

As postwar Iraq enters crucial fall months, prescriptions differ-even among conservatives and supporters of the war-on how best to bring stability to Baghdad. Here are seven differing opinions:

Secretary of State Colin Powell

"How long will we stay in Iraq?" he asks in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. "We will stay as long as it takes to turn full responsibility for governing Iraq over to a capable and democratically elected Iraqi administration." Mr. Powell, voicing the Bush position, insists on an interim Iraqi government to draft a democratic constitution. That should lead to a government ready to "take full responsibility and enjoy full legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people and the world," he says.

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The present Iraqi Governing Council has been under attack in the region for its stilted ethnic makeup and fraternity with U.S. occupiers. Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the council, was shot and fatally wounded on Sept. 20 outside her home in western Baghdad. Opponents of the new Iraqi order have gone from targeting U.S. soldiers, to international aid workers (witness the Aug. 19 suicide bombing at UN headquarters in Baghdad), to sniper attacks on Iraqis who cooperate with coalition forces.

Religious Iraqis(Adel Abdul Mahdi)

Iraq's U.S.-appointed administrators, it turns out, aren't all toadies for the Americans. "We had militias ready to protect people, but the Americans came in and dissolved everything and created a power vacuum," said Adel Abdul Mahdi, a senior official in the main Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Mr. Abdul Mahdi and others devised a plan to send American troops back to their bases and turn over police duties to militias working with local civic and tribal leaders under the supervision of the national government. "The soldiers and the police are not going to eliminate the remnants of Saddam Hussein," Mr. Abdul Mahdi said. "Only the local forces who know the Baathists can do that."

Mr. Abdul Mahdi claims that at least 40,000 idle members of the various militias should be put to work. Ten thousand members of his party's militia, the Badr Brigade, are providing armed security for pilgrims to the holy city of Najaf after a car bomb exploded outside a shrine there last month. But U.S. forces, say their Iraqi allies, aren't utilizing them enough to do jobs they are ready for.

Secular Iraqis(Ahmad Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress)

The head of the Iraqi Governing Council, and leading opponent to Saddam prior to the war, warns that tension between leaders of free Iraq and American officials is about to boil over. The free Iraqis, with minimal authority under the U.S.-appointed governing council, want more control of their own affairs. Restoration of sovereignty to Iraq, says Mr. Chalabi, "would make the Americans look like liberators again" because "Iraqi people don't understand the logic of occupation."

But the State Department is no fan of Mr. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, and has tried to block the Pentagon's attempts to hand the group greater responsibility. "The United states should not keep missing opportunities to become more popular in Iraq," Nibras Kazimi, director of research for the INC, told The New York Sun. "The daily grind of the occupation is very unpopular. Iraqis are saying 'we can handle it,' and the U.S. should trust us if they're asking us to reciprocate."

Ethnic Iraqis, the Kurds

Longtime supporters of U.S. military action in Iraq, Kurdish parties in the north agree with the Governing Council that there should be "more Americans out back and more Iraqis out front."

One source in northern Iraq told WORLD: "The United States is doing too many things that Iraqis are perfectly capable of doing. They should be allowed to take responsibility for the security of their own country." Kurdish forces, which fought Saddam Hussein's regime before the first Gulf War and fought alongside U.S. forces in the latest war, should be guarding public facilities, including oil pipelines, said the source.

Conservative libertarians

"What's needed is an exit strategy," argues Ted Galen Carpenter of the libertarian CATO Institute.

Mr. Carpenter said the U.S. effort to win international support via a new UN resolution is nothing more than an effort "to create a UN fa?ade for what would remain a U.S. mission." U.S. officials are increasingly aware that they cannot maintain order in Iraq with 140,000 troops, an effort that costs the United States $4 billion per month. Under those circumstances, turning back to the international community is understandable, said Mr. Carpenter, who is CATO's vice president for defense and foreign policy studies.


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