Two days ago, the world watched as the United States toppled Saddam’s regime in Baghdad and as Iraqi civilians, aided by U.S. Marines, flooded into the city’s streets and destroyed symbols of Saddam Hussein’s regime. That same day, two Michigan families mourned the loss of loved ones who died fighting in Iraq, and U.S. officials reminded the country that future dangers lay ahead.
Yesterday, as the military operations in Iraq came closer to nearing an end and students continued to await the safe return of family and friends in Iraq, many questions surrounding Operation Iraqi Freedom remained.
A divided panel of Law School professors sought to address some of those questions in an open forum and dialogue with University community members yesterday evening.
Who should lead Iraq once the war is over? What has been accomplished? How will history view the war? Have the motivations for the war been justified?
“How you end a war is very much as important as how you start a war,” Prof. Joel Samuels said, discussing U.S. plans to go about taking the next step toward a regime change. “Here we arrive with no budget in place, no clear plans for leadership and no police force.”
He said although many people believe “it was our money, our blood, it is our right to govern postwar,” he does not believe the United States will have the tools necessary to create a new government without the help of the United Nations and other countries.
Samuels named two possible U.S.-backed leaders – retired U.S. general and Iraq interim administrator Jay Garner and Iraqi exile and Iraqi National Congress head Ahmad Chalabi – but said problems exist with both candidates, including Chalabi’s long-term absence from the country. Chalabi, now 57, left the country when he was 12.
Although many people, including Iraqi exiles, are stating their opinion on who should lead Iraq once the war is over, Samuels said there is one voice being left out of the debate.
“We have no sense of what Iraqis in Iraq think we should be doing,” he said.
Law School Prof. Dino Kritsiotis added that the end of the war and regime change will most likely not be resolved quickly, no matter who is in charge.
“It is quite possible that there will be an uprising after the war is over,” he said.
“Futurology is always dangerous and usually wrong,” said Law School Prof. Brian Simpson before sharing his “gloomy” outlook with other panelists.
Repeating the infamous adage “all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Simpson expressed concern that the United States, by committing to the war despite lacking United Nations approval, had become too powerful and too disrespectful toward international laws.
Law School Prof. James Hathaway agreed, stating that the war against Iraq is “an illegal act” because it is “about two powerful states having determined that the government of another state should be overturned” and not humanitarian intervention or self-defense.
He said international law states that only the Security Council can choose which government is a threat to peace and that the United States and Britain were acting outside their jurisdiction in declaring Iraq a threat to peace.
“I am very skeptical to the idea that kicking a little butt in the Middle East is going to restore peace in that part of the world,” Simpson said.
But Law School Prof. Robert Howse disagreed, stating that the war is “just and justifiable” and that the United States had no choice but to go to war without U.N. Security Council approval once France and Germany threatened to veto any ultimatum given to Saddam that included the threat of military action.
“(Saddam) was calling the (Security Council’s) bluff on the use of force,” Howse said. “Saddam Hussein showed that he could play those games better than the people on the Security Council.”