There's a potential disaster brewing in the Bush administration's apparent attempt to deploy some sort of "faith based" relief strategy in Iraq.
'Spiritual warfare' looms
- Washington is trying to portray its battle as one of liberation, not conquest, but Iraq is about to be invaded by thousands of U.S. evangelical missionaries who say they are bent on a "spiritual warfare" campaign to convert the country's Muslims to Christianity.
Among the largest aid groups preparing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraqis ravaged by the war are a number of Christian charities based in the southern United States that make no secret of their desire to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and win over Muslim souls.
It's been clear for awhile that, although the Bush administration so far has done reasonably well at keeping the War on Terror from inflating into a global Islam-vs.-the-West conflict -- which of course has been Osama bin Laden's agenda all along -- Bush has no clear idea on how to handle the reconstruction of Iraq.
Currently the plans for handling postwar duties is for the Pentagon to take charge. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is engaging in a turf scrum with Secretary of State Colin Powell over the matter, and appears to be winning. And Rumsfeld's plan moreover evidently consists of handing it over mostly to a handful of Iraqi exiles whose popular support appears to be mostly nonexistent, and getting the hell out as soon as possible. And it appears that indeed there will be an emphasis on "faith based" humanitarian aid:
Occupation Struggle Pits Pentagon Against Powell, Europe
- The Pentagon recently vetoed as many as eight current and former State Department officials for key posts in the occupation administration, according to the Washington Post. Excluded were a number of former ambassadors and high-level foreign service officers (FSOs) with expertise in the Arab world.
Some sources said they were vetoed because they were "run-of-the-mill" and not "doers," while others revealed they were opposed by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who has supported Israel's Likud Party in the past and is said to consider some candidates to be too pro-Arab, a bias that neoconservatives believe is endemic to the State Department's Near East bureau.
Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld has also reportedly insisted that all relief and aid work come under the jurisdiction of ret. Army Gen. Jay Garner, the coordinator of the Pentagon's office of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, who will report directly to the chief of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks.
So far, they haven't even been close to being up to the job:
Post-War Iraq: Asking the Right Questions
- The Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, headed by retired U.S. General Jay Garner, is to run Iraq in the initial post-war occupation phase. Its missions encompass reconstituting basic services such as electricity, water, sanitation, and medical care; screening the remnants of the Iraqi civil service for individuals acceptable for retention under a new democratic government; and coordinating humanitarian aid programs run by the World Food Program (WFP), UNESCO, the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and private aid agencies.
Difficulties with this arrangement, which is not yet even in place, are already apparent. Despite the efforts of the British forces in Basra, distribution of relief supplies--a duty of an occupying power under international law--has been a shambles. Looting has been rampant. Without the cooperation of the Iraqi public, the number of British troops in-country simply are not enough to create and maintain physical security. And this is for a city of only 1.3 million; Baghdad, which will be the responsibility of the United States, has 5 million people. Euphoria may dampen appetites for a short time, but clean water and nourishing food will soon be demanded.
Not only are there serious questions about whether they are up to the task, but one has to wonder how well this kind of naive evangelism is going to mix in such a volatile environment. More than likely the situation is going to chew them up and spit them out. In the process, there may even be some incidents of violence.
And this, of course, will play directly into the hands of those who wish to see this become a global war. People like Osama bin Laden.