Iraq, "The White Man's Burden"
By Charles Lambroschini
Wednesday 02 July 2003
In Iraq, George W. Bush is in the process of discovering the paradox of imperialism. As Rudyard Kipling said when he celebrated "The White Man's Burden", there can only be a durable victory if the conqueror becomes the servant of his captives.
Two months after their entry into Baghdad, the Americans, who wanted to be acclaimed liberators, find themselves detested occupiers. Every day soldiers are killed, factories are sabotaged, "collaborators" assassinated, while rumors never cease of Saddam Hussein's imminent return. No one misses the tyrant, but agents provocateurs make hay denouncing the foreign presence, which the population, exasperated by the difficulties of daily life, has already forgotten they owe their freedom to.
Reconstruction sites promises to be immense. Everything has to be redone. Water systems deficient, intestinal illnesses are endemic. In the absence of enough power stations, electricity remains rationed. Hospitals have been looted, schools also, even the ministries have been stripped of their computers.
Putting in place a political system, which, as Washington had promised, would allow giving Iraq over to Iraqis, has been revealed as a no less complex project. The divisions between ethnic groups remain deep and the exiles, returned from the GIs' forges, elicit so much hostility, that it was necessary to renounce the initial project of a provisional government. Since the demographic majority of Shiites, would not necessarily convert to a democratic majority, the Pentagon's ideologues have had to give way before State Department experts. Like the colonial era French or British governors, the Americans administer directly.
Unlike what happened in Afghanistan, abandoned to its warlords, Washington is committed to a long term investment. In effect, Iraq represents a strategic wager: to control this country means to stabilize the Middle East and to secure oil supplies.
Before the size of the task, America suddenly becomes aware that, in spite of its power, it cannot do everything itself. To better finance the reconstruction, to avoid being taxed any further with colonialism by the Iraqis, to keep their own domestic good opinion, the United States is now considering calling on their allies. Some personalities in Congress even recommend that the White House not exclude countries that were hostile to the intervention, notably France.
Will George W. Bush listen to this counsel? He who all too often makes one think of the "Quiet American", this CIA agent let lose in the Vietnam of the French era of whom Graham Greene said in his famous novel: "Never in a man have so many good intentions caused so much damage."
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.