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Iraq and the Peace

(published in the Montreal Gazette, Friday, May 16, 2003)

The war in Iraq was won as the result of excellent military planning and overwhelming force, but the peace is being lost because of bad planning and a lack of force.

The United States did arrange for engineers to follow immediately behind the troops in order to protect the oilfields, but the schools, hospitals, police stations, museums, libraries, businesses and public and private infrastructures have not been protected and there is a lack of troops and personnel to do so. In Afghanistan, which should have been a lesson to the Bush government, the occupying forces are bunkered down in a few armed cities and the warlords have resumed power in the rest of the country.

Today's appalling conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq did not need to happen, particularly because history provides many examples of what conquering and occupying powers should do.

The Articles of Capitulation of Quebec in 1759 after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham are instructive. Article 2 reads: "That the inhabitants be preserved in the possession of their houses, goods, effects, and privileges." Art. 4: reads: "That the effects of absent officers and inhabitants shall not be touched." Art. 9 reads: "That before the surrender of the gate and of the entrance of the town to the English troops, their General will be good enough to send some soldiers to be placed as safe-guards over the churches, the convents, and the principal residences."

Admittedly the circumstances in Quebec, 250 years ago are different from Iraq and Afghanistan today, but even General Townshend, who was in charge, seems to have known what to do, although completely out of touch with his superiors in London.

Article 4 of the Capitulation of Montreal, one year later in 1760, read: "The militia, after evacuating the above towns, forts, and posts, shall return to their homes without being molested on any pretence whatever, on account of their having borne arms." Article 6 reads: "The subjects of his Britannic Majesty, and of his Most Christian Majesty [France], soldiers, militia, or seamen, who shall have deserted or left the service of their sovereign, and borne arms in North America, shall be on both sides pardoned for their crime. They shall be respectively returned to their country; if not, each shall remain where he is without being called to account or molested."

America, on the other hand, for over a year, has imprisoned an undisclosed number of Afghanistan combatants in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, (estimated between 350 and 1500) without any rights whatsoever. They are in particular unable to communicate with their families or a lawyer and are disappeared persons, as in the worst regimes of South America of the past.

What will happen in Iraq?

The British and American governments expect to go from tyranny straight to democracy, but they might well hearken back to Plato, who in his Republic noted that after tyranny (dictatorship), one passed into aristocracy (rule by philosophers) and then timocracy (rule by warriors) followed by oligarchy (rule by the rich), before democracy (rule by the people).

The philosophers are such persons as Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Luti, his Deputy and the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans under Abraham Shulsky, who convinced President Bush that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction and had contributed to the Al Qaeda attack of September 11. They also convinced Bush that such an attack was necessary, without the United Nations and without delay.

The warriors, led by Donald Rumsfeld, are the American troops, but there is not enough of them. The rich are the American businessmen, who hold contracts for reconstruction and the controlling of the oil reserves, some of which contracts were written months before the war began. But the philosophers, the warriors and the rich seem to be connected and are often the same persons, while democracy is not their first preoccupation.

America's plan for Iraq, presented recently to the United Nations, calls for troops and material aid, including food and medicines, from United Nations members, but gives them no part in the planning or the decision making, including the handing out of contracts.

Attaining democracy is a long process, as Plato noted, and is a long way off in both Iraq and Afghanistan, because of insufficient forces and bad planning. America attained its goal of toppling tyrants, but hopes to leave the important task of achieving democracy to others. Oligarchy is the result so far.


William Tetley

(William Tetley, Q.C., was a Liberal Member of the Quebec National Assembly and Minister in the Bourassa government from 1970 - 1976. He is presently a professor, McGill Law Faculty)