Looking to the Marshall Plan as an Iraqi Model

By Gus Tyler

Published April 25, 2003, issue of April 25, 2003.

The following is an open letter to President Bush on rebuilding Iraq.

Dear Mr. President,

The big shooting is pretty much over in Iraq. What you have done will undoubtedly make history.

Now, as you know, comes the hard part. How to make peace — a peace that will win back old friends and make it clear that Uncle Sam had and has no imperial ambitions in its pre-emptive war in Iraq.

Our suggested model is the Marshall Plan. After World War II Europe was, according to Winston Churchill, a “charnel house,” a place to store dead bodies. We did what was, I believe, unprecedented. Instead of punishing and bleeding our enemies, as was customary and justified with the slogan, “To the victor belong the spoils,” we did just the opposite. We gave money to the damaged lands to put them back on their feet.

We did not stipulate that the money could only be used to contract with American companies to do the rebuilding. Whoever received money under the plan was free to use it as they thought best.

In your case, such an act of far-sighted generosity would do more than the Marshall Plan. It would serve to dispel the widespread impression that the rebuilding of Iraq in your hands has become a way of rewarding corporations and individuals who backed you in the last presidential elections.

Yes, there are such rumors in circulation. They create a macabre picture of gargantuan corporations, with whom some government officials close to you have been associated in the past, applauding each time another vital piece of Iraq was destroyed. They are applauding because it meant big bucks in their pockets.

Indeed, some corporations have already been exploiting the situation to “leak” information to the public that they have been secretly chosen. This was seen as a way to boost their stock on Wall Street. Whether this is ethical or even legal is dubious. But the impression of corporations behaving like scavengers among dead and decaying debris is widespread.

Indeed, some wit — or nitwit — has cooked up a couplet in which such profiteers get together and sing in chorus: “Man, do we have luck/ Another bomb, another buck.”

May I suggest, Mr. President, that you go beyond the Marshall Plan, which was, fundamentally, a unilateral act. Think of all the plaudits Uncle Sam would get if you were to go to the United Nations and say, “We think it a good idea for the United Nations to work with the newly elected government of Iraq to get together on a long-range plan to rebuild Iraq — with funding coming not just from the United States but from every affiliate of the United Nations.” (By the way, this move may also make it somewhat easier for us to deal with our frighteningly huge budget deficit.)

Once more we would be embraced as a member of the family of nations. Most certainly, no one could even whisper that the United States was, in its pre-emptive strike against Iraq, just another in the line of overweening and oppressive empires reaching out to dominate the world and all its riches — oil or otherwise.

Think it over, Mr. President. If you do it, my guess is that it will go down in history as “the shout heard ’round the world.”



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