Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

What U.S. Owes Its Friends

September 23, 2003

Now, more than ever, the annual address by the president to the United Nations cannot be a bravura declamation of "our way or the highway." Yet reports from Washington indicate President Bush will rigidly insist in his speech to the world body today that the invasion of Iraq was correct and it's up to nations that opposed the war to get over their distaste and bail the U.S. out of a deadly jam.

Nearly 17 years ago, President Reagan publicly admitted that "mistakes were made" in his administration's secret contacts with Iran. Bush should follow that model. Supporters of Saddam Hussein are killing U.S. soldiers and Iraqis who cooperate with the occupiers; many Iraqis still go without electricity, water and jobs. Administration assumptions about the occupation clearly were mistaken.

The United Nations has suffered greatly, too. Last month, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. official in Iraq, and more than a dozen others were killed in the bombing of their Baghdad headquarters. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed himself and an Iraqi guard in a parking lot behind the U.N. headquarters in the capital. Small wonder if U.N. officials believe Bush was condescending in remarks to Fox News that the U.N. could help write an Iraqi constitution because "they're good at that," or oversee elections, as part of an expanded role.

Bush today will address nations wondering why they should provide soldiers and money when they opposed the invasion and see U.S. soldiers continuing to be killed.

This isn't an abstract matter of duty; there are real national and global interests at stake. Peaceful nations cannot let Iraq, strategically and politically key to its region, slide into the terrorism-breeding chaos that prevailed in Afghanistan before 9/11. That would threaten not just the U.S. but also France, Germany, Russia and Japan -- all of which experienced domestic or foreign terrorism before Al Qaeda's attack on the U.S. Nor can countries dependent on imported oil -- most of the world -- make sound economic plans when attacks cripple Iraq's oil production.

In his speech to Americans two weeks ago, Bush said Iraq was proving "difficult and costly" and asked to spend at least $87 billion more on the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. He also said U.N. members have a chance "and the responsibility" to help Iraq become a democratic nation. Today, he should acknowledge what those other countries want: a larger U.N. role in rebuilding Iraq and a handoff of authority to the Iraqis more quickly than Washington wants.

The administration rejected the best advice at home and abroad on difficulties it would face when it became an occupying power. It's time to admit mistakes, listen to -- not lecture -- nations that for years have been U.S. friends and try to satisfy their objections.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|