The collapse of Saddam Hussein’s statue in central Baghdad’s Fardous Square will be counted among the 20th century’s breathtaking images of oppressed people smashing the icons of their tormentors. People throughout the world watched in as a U.S. flag, and then a pre-Saddam Iraqi flag, covered the imposing statue before its cracked and broken body was defiled by Iraqis overflowing with emotion. The images were reminiscent of 1989, but incredible challenges for the people of Iraqi lay ahead. Now that the Battle for Baghdad is finished and a vicious dictator has been relegated to his fate, it is essential that the United States start taking measures to ensure that the people of Iraq enjoy the fruits of a future that bears no resemblance to the tyranny of Saddam and the Baath Party. The most difficult stage of the conflict has begun.

The humanitarian situation in Iraq’s cities merits immediate attention. The looting and water shortages that are endemic from Baghdad to Basra have left much of the country in a precarious state. These conditions have already complicated the future of Iraq. Although images of ships chock full of relief aid in Umm Qasr have been shown on television multiple times, even people in this port city do not have enough food or water. If the Iraqi people are going to tolerate any sort of transitional government, the coalition forces must immediately begin to get running water, sanitation and more relief to Iraq immediately.

The United States must begin to solicit the United Nations’ help in such matters, as well as in the political reconstruction of Iraq.The U.N. has organs that have experience in dealing with these matters that would be invaluable in post-war Iraq. The Bush administration cannot let grudges against nations that did not support the war disallow the United Nations from taking a meaningful role in Iraq. Unfortunately, if Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz’s testimony to Congress yesterday is any indication, it appears as though the Bush administration is intending to grant the U.N. a minor role in post-war Iraq.

The allies must also be careful in how it creates a transitional government. The insertion in Iraq of Ahmed Chalabi, president of the Iraqi National Congress, could create serious credibility problems for such a government. Since Chalabi has numerous years, there is a serious possibility that he will be perceived as a puppet leader of the United States. He lacks the stature among Iraqis to effectively govern and unite the diverse peoples of the Iraqi state. The allied forces should find an Iraqi with better nationalist credentials and that leader must receive the mandate of the Iraqi people if he or she is to have any domestic standing.

If the United States does not accomplish these goals, it will lose serious credibility throughout the world for years. It is also imperative that the Bush administration show that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. The assertion that the military has not found these weapons because it was busy fighting sounds suspect, as special forces were sent into Iraq very quickly to dismantle any such weapons so that they could not be used against coalition forces. Now that victory is apparently at hand, the military must find these weapons or divulge what they have already found to prove that the administration’s accusations had any basis in fact.

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