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Europe

Opinion: Bush Must Keep His Word

With a divided Europe, damaged United Nations and international distrust of Washington, the only way out of this mess is for a joint, U.N.-led reconstruction of Iraq, argues DW-RADIO's Ute Thofern.

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"A moral victory"

The war against Iraq hasn't ended yet, but the government has certainly met its fate. And this time, Saddam Hussein shouldn't be given another chance. The US and Britain are determined to fight their war to the end. The capital and large parts of Iraq have already been brought under the control U.S. and British forces, and Saddam's regime has been broken. The United States and Britain have offered the Iraqi people a future of peace and freedom, and the reactions appear to vindicate their military campaign.

Nothing could more effectively support the coalition than Wednesday's images from Baghdad that were carried live around the world -- the toppling of a bronze statue of Saddam Hussein as liberated Iraqis cheered. It was one of their moral victories.

Yet despite this victory, peace still remains distant. The fact that there is a no trace of Saddam Hussein doesn't play a small role in that fact. Any resistance from Saddam's final troops should easily be broken. And as we learned in Afghanistan, military success alone is no guarantee for postwar order -- for he who holds a city doesn't necessarily hold the key to an entire country.

Additionally, the United States still hasn't verified the very grounds upon which it justified this war. There is still no evidence that Saddam Hussein is in possession of weapons of mass destruction, that he has harbored terrorists or that he was making any plans for an attack.

For that reason, it's even more important for the U.S. government to steer ahead with an eye to the future. In order to keep the "liberated" from becoming the "conquered," a civil interim authority in Iraq needs to be established as quickly as possible -- one that fulfills a number of conditions.

First, care of the civilian population needs to be secured. Second, though aid organizations need to be coordinated, they must not be led by the strings of the Americans. Third, all Iraqi religious and ethnic groups must have a place at the table in the new administration. Fourth, the new political order in Iraq must not awaken the distrust of Iraq's neighboring countries or endanger them.

But crucial elements of a postwar Iraq -- like providing aid and building trust, ensuring order, guaranteeing freedom of opinion, fostering democracy and ensuring the diplomacy isn't neglected -- can only happen under the leadership of the United Nations. That's too great a challenge for the U.S. alone to undertake -- not because it is incapable but rather because the United States is a superpower and also a party to the current conflict. The abstract aspects of the crisis -- fears of American unilateralism, the crusading mentality of Americans and hatred of Islamic fundamentalists -- cannot be overcome if the U.S. demands a leadership role. To that end, Britain's Tony Blair is striving to build bridges.

U.S. President George W. Bush would be well advised to show his gravitas by simply being content with the military safeguarding of postwar order in Iraq. Fundamental differences over the war have already damaged the United Nations and divided Europe. An international reconstruction program led by the United Nations would strengthen the organization, unify Europe and lend credibility to the United States.

Before the war, Bush declared that a better Iraq and a better world was his goal. Now he needs to prove he meant it seriously.

Chefredakteurin DW-RADIO Uta Thofern

Chefredakteurin DW-RADIO Uta Thofern

Ute Thofern is the editor in chief of DW-RADIO.