Senator Joe Lieberman, D-CT
The Boston Globe
May 19, 2003
IN IRAQ, shock and awe is giving way to stumble and fumble. Weeks after a brilliant military victory, the Bush administration is failing to secure the peace.
Law is still absent and disorder is widespread. High-level American officials are being replaced with frequency. The Bush administration is now seeking to gain complete coalition control over Iraqi oil during the transition. And many of the most sensitive facilities in Iraq - sites we believed to house weapons of mass destruction - were left unprotected and were looted after the fighting ended.
I raise these concerns as a strong supporter of the war, not as a lingering critic. The world is safer because America had the will and way to remove a repressive and homicidal tyrant from power.
But the ultimate measure of a war is the peace that follows. Last October and again this February, before the war in Iraq began, I urged the Bush administration to heed the lessons of Kabul. After seeing how the administration allowed post-Taliban Afghanistan to regress into violence and instability, I warned that without a strong reconstruction strategy, postwar Iraq could degenerate into chaos. I offered detailed proposals on how to secure the peace after Saddam's ouster, and urged President Bush to come forward with a plan of his own.
But the president stayed largely silent, and today, his administration seems to have been unprepared for the quick victory it predicted.
First, the administration has failed to secure known sites of weapons of mass destruction. According to credible reports, military units assigned to finding chemical and biological weapons were not properly equipped to inspect sites or file encrypted reports from the field. Some of those originally put on the job were moved to other duties before they had a chance to do their work.
For days after the fighting, the most sensitive possible weapons sites were left completely unsecured. As a result, they were looted, ransacked, and burned. Documentation, computers, and even toxic materials may have been lost for good, possibly ending up in the hands of rogue regimes or terrorists.
Before the war began, I urged the president to form task forces to swiftly locate and secure all suspect sites the moment the shooting stopped. To those of us who supported Saddam's removal, this was a critical priority. Yet it was not done - and the failure to do so might someday be measured in American lives.
Second, the administration has mishandled the management of the Iraqi oil industry.
Before the war began, I urged the administration to guarantee that all financial benefit from Iraqi oil be invested directly in the country's reconstruction. I said the Iraqi oil industry should be managed by the capable Iraqi professionals who had been managing it. And I called for the creation of an Interim International Oil Oversight Board, made up of Iraqis and international members, to oversee that management, audit all oil agreements, and ensure full public disclosure of oil revenue.
In February, President Bush seemed to agree. He said, ''We will... ensure those [oil] resources are used for the benefit of the owners - the Iraqi people.''
But it was recently reported that the administration's proposed Security Council resolution would give the United States and our coalition partners control over the Iraqi oil industry and oil revenues during the transition to self-government, a period that may well last a number of years. The administration has apparently decided to establish an international audit board like the one I recommended - but without any real authority. Instead, authority over Iraqi oil rests with the United States.
There is no better way to deepen the world's suspicions about American motives in Iraq - and no worse way to gain the confidence of the Iraqi people. President Bush must immediately hand control of the oil back to the Iraqi people.
This underlines why we should be moving to put in place an international administrator - preferably a high-ranking official from an Arab nation - rather than a long string of American officials. The world needs to be shown, not only told, that this is not an occupation.
The liberation of Iraq was noble and necessary. The men and women of our armed forces performed brilliantly. Their victory now gives us the opportunity to win a battle in the war on terrorism, which is not only a war to capture and kill Al Qaeda, but ultimately to win over the hearts and minds of the Islamic world to the cause of freedom. The Bush administration has a choice to make quickly: to help build on our victory over Saddam or to squander it.
Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is a Democratic candidate for president.