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United Nations Day?

Today marks a less known holiday around the globe – United Nations Day. Although the holiday has been in existence since 1945, not much has been made of it.

After calling the United Nations “irrelevant” and going over the Security Council’s head in regards to Iraq, I doubt President George W. Bush will be throwing a block party in Washington. He should. As a matter of fact, he should throw an all inclusive steak dinner.

The only problem is that this hypothetical dinner would be well attended. Today and tomorrow, representatives from countries around the world will be meeting in Spain for the international donor’s conference, a meeting that seeks to raise money from other nations to aid in rebuilding Iraq. It doesn’t look good. The Bush Administration’s foreign policy has severed ties with many of our allies. Bridges haven’t just been burned; they have been entirely torn down. Professional construction companies working on the “Big Dig” would have trouble fixing this debacle.

This two-day donor conference looks to raise $36 billion on top of the $20 billion the United States has already signed away on. A total of $56 billion, just to kick start Iraq’s economy. So far, the effort hasn’t been entirely terminal. Almost $3 billion has been raised, Japan heading the list along with Spain and the U.K.. All in all, the pledges received so far are about as significant as a deck chair on the Titanic.

The problem is that the heavy hitters aren’t coming to the table. France, Germany and Russia, all nations whose interests were snubbed by Bush this past year, have said they probably won’t offer any monetary support. Poor Colin Powell, a man who was leery about this war to begin with, is stuck begging for money, telling France the whole ‘freedom fries’ thing was a mistake.

Bush’s trillion-dollar tax cut for the wealthiest people in this country leaves the rest of us forking over the dough for Iraq. We are going to inherit a national debt of more than $4 trillion.

The reconstruction plan is enough to cause some outrage. Our country is building $400 million jails in Iraq with $50,000 beds in each cell. We are spending $100 million on 2,000 trash trucks and $9 million to establish zip codes.

Meanwhile, back at home the statistics are mind-boggling. Since, the current administration has taken office, the stock market is down 11 percent. The unemployment rate is up 50 percent; thousands of jobs are being lost a month. A budget surplus has turned into a deficit of drastic proportions. And as for Iraq, it looks as if we are in this alone.

Our relationship with our allies has weakened. Nuclear proliferation has increased. Our homeland security has not been upgraded; instead of putting money into the fire departments, police units, and border control, it is being shipped overseas to reconstruct Iraq.

I hope this donor conference goes well. I hope we can rally some monetary support for this endeavor that has morphed into a daily catastrophe. I hope that soon we can gain more ally troop support for the region, but then again, that doesn’t look too promising either.

More than 391 soldiers have been killed on duty in Iraq. These are young men and women – 18, 20, 30 years old. They are not trained for guerrilla warfare; they are ill equipped, some reportedly with defective bulletproof vests, and forced to buy their own equipment. They are dying daily, and supposedly the major combat is over.

It is a shame that our leaders, who are placed in office to make decisions for the welfare of our nation, did not respect the organization we celebrate tomorrow, the United Nations. If they did, maybe the current situation would not look so glum. Maybe our economic future would look more promising. Maybe today’s donor conference would not have to take place. Maybe our soldiers would not be suffering in a desert thousands of miles away from their families. Certainly, it is hard to look back now. But nevertheless, have a happy U.N. Day.

Peter Trovato, Massachusetts Daily Collegian, University Massachusetts-Amherst.