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George W. Bush's Demons

George W. Bush is being haunted by dueling demons. They sit on his shoulders, whispering the sweet nothings of empire and occupation in his ear.

One voice belongs to the neoconservatives, telling him to “stay the course” in Iraq and not allow the ongoing chaos to undermine their efforts to dominate the Middle East for United States interests. They want to make sure that tax dollars are used to reconstruct Iraq and that the United Nations stays out of the process, to ensure that the government that emerges is fully subservient to U.S. interests. The other voice belongs to more traditional conservatives, who are alarmed at the rising cost of the occupation, both in financial and political terms. They want us to simply pull out of Iraq and force the Iraqis to pay for rebuilding their shattered nation. Both are mistaken.

The United States should admit it was wrong to invade and occupy Iraq -- and we should clean up our mess.

Those concerned with democracy and human rights should oppose any attempt for the U.S. to shirk its responsibility in rebuilding Iraq.

Everyday, the occupation of Iraq increases in cost, both in human and economic terms. Traditional conservatives backed the war drive because they were fooled into believing that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction. They were assured that Iraq poised a threat to the United States, a claim that we now know was false. Faced with the staggering cost of occupying and rebuilding Iraq, as well as the almost daily deaths of our soldiers, more and more conservatives are breaking ranks with the Bush Administration. Instead of going along with the current proposal to spend billions of tax dollars rebuilding Iraq, they are offering alternatives that would minimize U.S. participation and responsibility in reconstruction efforts. Rep. Tom Freely, a Republican from Florida, recently wrote, “Dollars for rebuilding this nation should not be given, but rather loaned, to Iraq…these loans should be collateralized against the future profits of the Iraqi oilfields.” Paying for the reconstruction in this way will diminish the influence of United States policymakers in the new government, as Iraqis will rightly demand full authority over how such dollars are spent. More importantly, such a plan would effectively sidestep United States responsibility for the destruction wrought upon Iraqi society during the war. As the election season comes closer, the traditional conservative voices will become louder calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq. While they won't admit that the war was fought under false pretenses, they will clamor for a more “realpolitik” approach to the Middle East.

At the same time, neoconservatives want the United States to pay the full reconstruction cost, with little or no oversight from the international community. They plan to ensure that the United States has full control over the new Iraq, with the windfalls of rebuilding the shattered infrastructure going to a select group of corporate partners. Not surprisingly, these companies have close ties to members of the Bush Administration.

But the motives are not purely economic. Along with constructing roads and power grids, the neocons have plans for at least four military bases, located in key strategic points throughout Iraq. These bases are part of an overall strategy that is designed to further the overwhelming economic and military dominance of the United States over world affairs. Weakening systems of international law is a crucial part of this plan. For this reason, neoconservatives cannot allow the United Nations play a serious role in Iraq. The United States must be able to act with full immunity from the constraints of the UN Security Council and any other structure that attempt to hinder unilateral action.

Those concerned with democracy and human rights should oppose any attempt for the U.S. to shirk its responsibility in rebuilding Iraq. At the same time, they should reject neoconservative attempts to portray the occupation as a successful military operation. Those who opposed the war should demand that the United Nations oversee the reconstruction effort, with the nations that waged war footing the bill.

President George W. Bush should admit that he lied about the reasons for going to war. As soon as possible, governance of Iraq should be handed over to the Iraqis. Such a path will serve to strengthen international law and diplomacy, undermine the neoconservative agenda and hopefully provide the people of Iraq a chance to rebuild their shattered society and begin down a path of democracy and self-determination.

Ben Waxman is a student studying politics at Juniata College.