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The United States has to answer: Now what?

Few will mourn the ousting of Saddam Hussein — gone, but not forgiven. Even if, like John Paul II and myself, one was opposed to military intervention, there is no denying the sheer joy of a people celebrating the end of a regime as repressive as Saddam Hussein’s was.

Unfortunately, it looks like Saddam Hussein has gotten away — off to join Osama bin Laden in the boogey man hall of fame. If there’s any justice, one of his minions will have swiped his personal fortune, forcing the deposed leader to find a job that guarantees anonymity: sewer inspector or wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Granted, there may be a good number of oppressed people around the world asking themselves “What about us?” and with good cause. Without discovery of the much-debated weapons of mass destruction, the case made for war in Iraq would, in fact, justify at least two dozen wars around the world. The pictures of celebrating Iraqis must produce mixed emotions for persecuted citizens of countries, such as North Korea, Burma, Liberia and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, just to name a few.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Iraq, looting, water shortages and power outages rapidly turned celebration into discontent. In Baghdad, goodwill for U.S. forces seems to have vanished faster than the televisions in shop windows. In the past few days, Shiite protesters in Nassiriya greeted the Pentagon’s “man who would be king” General Jay Garner with cries of, “No to Saddam, no to occupation.” In Baghdad, some 10,000 Shiite and Sunni faithfuls united to call on U.S. troops to leave. The liberation honeymoon is over.

U.S.–Iraqi relations were further soured by what Iraqis perceive as the United States’ emphasis on preserving the Iraqi oil industry above all else. Some Iraqis have pointed to the early deployment of ground troops to secure oil wells before they could be sabotaged and the non-targeting of the oil ministry in Baghdad as proof of where Washington’s priorities lie. The fact that Iraq’s national treasures and antiquities were being looted while U.S. troops guarded the still-pristine oil ministry has hardly helped dispel Iraqi concerns about U.S. motives.

Of course, the administration will simply claim that it is preserving the oil for the future of the Iraqi people. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated again and again prior to the war that the oil in Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. Sounds like socialism to me — can the American people have their oil back, as well?

The Bush administration is faced with a difficult situation. The United States cannot simply walk away before stability has been returned to the country. Conversely, the longer U.S. troops remain in Iraq, the more Iraqi resentment is likely to fester.

Meanwhile, the United States and France are at loggerheads again, this time on the ending of economic sanctions against Iraq, essentially the right to sell oil on the world market.

In this instance, to the victor should not go the spoils. Post-war Iraq is not the United States’ economic prize. United States and British lives were forfeited to bring about Iraqi self-determination, not to boost the profits of Bechtel and their ilk.

France’s posture, which would deny the Iraqi people much needed revenue, is equally cynical, but the French are correct in advocating a central role for the United Nations. Many economic analysts doubt that revenues from Iraqi oil will be sufficient to meet rebuilding costs in the next two to three years. Unless the United States, already burdened with a huge budget deficit, is willing to pay for rebuilding, the new Iraq will need aid and debt relief from around the world.

Chris O’Donnell is a sophomore majoring in mass