JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, the United Nations role debate, the new one about who calls the shots after the war in Iraq is over. Pres. Bush described his view of U.N. Involvement last Tuesday at his meeting with British Prime Minister Blair in Northern Ireland.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: When we say vital role for the United Nations, we mean vital role in all aspects of the issue -- whether it be humanitarian aid or whether it be helping to stand up a interim authority. The Iraqi people will decide who is on the Iraqi -- the interim authority. The interim authority is a transition, quasi government until a real government shows up, until the conditions are right for the people to elect their own leadership.
JIM LEHRER: But in a meeting that ended today in St. Petersburg, Russia, the leaders of three major nations that had opposed the war, Russia, France and Germany, said the U. N. should play a central role to give post war Iraq legitimacy.
We air the debate we air the debate now, with. William Luers, a retired American diplomat and now president of the privately-run United Nations Association; and Randy Scheunemann, a former foreign policy adviser to Senators Dole and McCain, now president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He also recently served as a consultant to the secretary of defense on Iraq policy.
Mr. Scheunemann, should the United Nations and Britain stand aside now and let the U. N. run reconstruction of Iraq?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: Absolutely not. It would be the wrong moral and strategic choice. The United Nations has a sordid track record that helped keep Saddam Hussein in power, to give the U. N. a leading role gives France a veto, and I don't think anyone believes that France has to interests of the people of Iraq as its first primary motivation. Finally, the U.N.'s record in political administration is not very good, and I don't think we want to replicate the experiment of Kosovo, for example, in Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: Amb. Luers, do you agree or disagree?
WILLIAM LUERS: Jim, I disagree with that to begin with I don't think it's either or. To begin with, I think the United States would be foolish not to draw on the expertise of the people who have worked on building nations for the last 20 years. We need all the help we can get; this is going to be a very tough task. Nobody suggests that I it should be either all the U.N. or all some other international group. The U. N. record has not been that bad. In fact, what happened in Kosovo was better than the alternative. They did a good job, by and large. They put East Timor together -- in Afghanistan the U. N. role has been very supportive of the Karzai government. And I think mainly in U.S. interests, this country does not want its soldiers doing non-soldierly work. It does not want to have the full burden of a disaster in putting together this very complicated country. And it wants to share the cost. The American people say over and over again, Jim, that they want their government to share the burden, the cost, the responsibility, of such complicated international activities. And I think the president should be there.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Scheunemann, why not share it with the international community?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: Sharing is fine. The problem is going to be if we allow the U.N. a controlling role. I think Pres. Bush has said he would welcome a vital role for the U. N., a specialized agency as a provision of humanitarian aid, resettling refugees should that become an issue, the provision of food. The real question, though, comes down to what's going to happen when we go to the U. N. Security Council because we will need a resolution to lift the sanctions that have been in place since 1990 when Saddam invaded Kuwait, and how the French and others are going to react, and if in fact they are going to support the lifting of sanctions on a liberated Iraq the way they supported the lifting of sanctions on Saddam Hussein, or whether in fact they try to leverage the need to lift sanctions into a greater political controlling role for the U.N..
JIM LEHRER: Do you see this, Mr. Scheunemann, as an issue about France, Germany, and Russia, more than -- in other words if they had supported the resolution would you have a problem with the U.N. having a controlling role?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: Absolutely, it's more than the coalition of the unwilling in St. Petersburg today. It has to do with the record of the U. N. itself. Kofi Annan went in 1998 and cut a deal with Saddam dam that undermined the UNSCOM arms inspection regime. The oil for food program has strengthened Saddam's repressive apparatus, and also perversely given a huge incentive to the United Nations to keep it going. They've gotten over a billion dollars from it, they employee 40,000 people. Listening to Kofi Annan on Iraq you like listening to Arthur Andersen on Enron.
JIM LEHRER: What about that, Mr. Ambassador, the U.N.'s role vis-à-vis Iraq, how would you judge it compared with what Mr. Scheunemann just said?
WILLIAM LUERS: I just can't understand how such a strong critique of the oil for food program, nearly $44 billion was spend over 8 years for the oil, in the oil for food program to feed 60 percent of the population. The oil for food program wasn't to buttress the government. The oil for food program was a reaction of the world community to the fact that millions of Iraqis were starving, suffering, children dying, because of this government was not providing the opportunity to feed and protect and provide medicines for the population. That was not a support structure for the Iraqi regime. The main thing now is the moment, it seems to me, where the president should lead, should mend fences, and should try to create a community to support this dramatic change in the situation in Iraq. Everybody thinks the military did a good job getting us to where we are. The next phase is going to be extremely complicated. This is not a time for hubris. This is not a time for gloating over what happened. It's not a time for vengefulness against the French and the Germans.
JIM LEHRER: Is that what you think's going on here?
WILLIAM LUERS: I think that is lot of that. I think there's a lot of that in the Security Council. My sense is that there's still not even talking about this next resolution, which has been mentioned. There will be a resolution. But it's oh so tough to talk about it yet, because of the difficulty in the French, German relationship with the United States and the U.K., and we should be big enough to say, okay, we want everybody in this. The French and Germans around going to get a big piece of the economic action, but we want their expertise, we want their support, we want this new government to emerge to have the backing of the whole world community, particularly the neighbors of Iraq. And you'd get that not by going it alone, you get that by incorporating as many of the major world powers as we can in the process. And the U. N. has worked in the past very well with the United States. In Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in East Timor, we have shared in much of the responsibility. There's a longer history than has been mentioned in terms of how well the United Nations has been able to field a team to could the job that has to be done.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Scheunemann, just to follow up on that, what would the United States have to lose by turning this over in a way to the United Nations? In terms of the United States -
WILLIAM LUERS: I didn't say turn it over.
JIM LEHRER: I'm just asking, not turn it over, but that's really, everybody says share, but the real issue is who controls the process, right, Mr. Ambassador? Isn't that the issue?
WILLIAM LUERS: The issue is who controls it in the sense of who by law is going to be governing the process. But the United States is the most powerful nation in the Security Council. And it's extremely unlikely that they would be able to do anything that we don't agree with.
JIM LEHRER: Now, your position, Mr. Scheunemann, is that U. N. Security Council should have nothing to do with this?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: No no -- no. I think that we would welcome a resolution that blesses participation, that facilitates the IMF and World Bank going in, that facilitates U.N. specialized agencies. The problem comes exactly as you said, on the issue of control. I think it would be a little easier to think the French actually cared about the people of Iraq if their position were they were going to forgive the $9 billion of debt that they accumulated with Saddam Hussein, and if they renounce their sweetheart oil deal that is they signed with Saddam Hussein. The reality is, I don't think the people of Iraq believe, and I certainly don't believe, that the French have an interest in building democracy in Iraq. Neither does much of the United Nations Security Council. We do. We shed American blood to build, to liberate the people and to build a democracy there. I don't think China has that interest. I don't think Russia has that interest.
JIM LEHRER: And because we shed the blood, then we have the right to control the process?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: We certainly have a right to ensure that our goals, which are the betterment of the Iraqi people, the liberation, the building of a free market economy, and a building of pluralistic political institutions, is the outcome of the process, for the benefit of the people of Iraq, not for the benefit of the United States or France.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador?
WILLIAM LUERS: I still think there's a diplomatic deal there. We don't want to do this alone. It would be a huge mistake for the --.
JIM LEHRER: Why would it be a huge mistake?
WILLIAM LUERS: Because we haven't got the capacity, we haven't got the experience. The military are very good at what they did. We know that, they're excellent. They're not good at building nations. We haven't got a great record ourselves in building nations. We tried to build South Vietnam, we failed miserably. The fact is we have the capacity to draw on the best in the world to have them work with us, join with us. We have to build a judicial system, create a law system, create a new police force.
JIM LEHRER: But you're saying that should go through the U. N. Security Council under the auspices of the U. N. Security Council rather than --
WILLIAM LUERS: The U. N. Security Council.
JIM LEHRER: Rather than the United States to invite the U. N. Security Council to participate in our program, we should be participating in a U. N. Security Council program, right?
WILLIAM LUERS: Absolutely. And the U. N. Security Council should set up a special representative of the secretary general who would work side by side with the United States, as we do in Kosovo. The U. N. Works side by side with NATO, with the OSCE from Europe, with the World Bank. And they're all working together. And it's not possible, it seem tolls me, for us to try to have a military commander or a appointed official of the United States, the government, to which the Security Council and the U. N. reports.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Scheunemann?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: In Kosovo, the United Nations mission in Kosovo or UNMIC is known as UNMICKistan --as a colony. The people of Kosovo have issued a plea to the people of Iraq and said keep them to humanitarian aid only. They have not built a private sector there because the kind of bureaucrats the U. N. brings in don't believe in the private sector, they don't understand the private sector.
JIM LEHRER: What about the ambassador's point that he just made that it's impossible to set up a situation where the U. N. would be reporting to an American official?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: If the U. N. doesn't want to report to an American official, that's fine. U. N. Specialized agencies can come in and do what they do well. I don't think dredging up the experience of South Vietnam serves the purpose of arguing the United Nations can build nations better. I don't think anyone argues, perhaps even the ambassador won't argue the U. N. should have a leading security role in Iraq. After all, they had a leading security role in Rwanda and we had genocide and in Srebrenica, and we had genocide. I don't think we want to go down that road again.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador -
WILLIAM LUERS: Let me just say.
JIM LEHRER: Go ahead.
WILLIAM LUERS: On that road, in Rwanda, and Srebrenica, the reason they failed is not the U.N.'s fault, the United States decided not to provide sufficient support for those two operations. And it's clear in the record that this is a U.S. failure along with its European allies to provide sufficient military support to allow the U. N. to do the job it had to do. And yet to this day it's been blamed incorrectly for those errors.
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask each of you quickly before we go -- Mr. Ambassador you said something a while ago, you think this can be worked out. I don't see any evidence of it here in the last few minutes. But do you think there can be a solution here that can please both the U. N. and the, I mean the U. N. Security Council members like France, and the United States?
WILLIAM LUERS: As the U.S. begins to see how extremely complicated this has been, in beginning to create stability they're going to see that they're going to need help.
JIM LEHRER: So you think it --
WILLIAM LUERS: I think it can be worked out.
JIM LEHRER: You think it can be worked out?
RANDY SCHEUNEMANN: I think it can be worked out as long as the French don't insist on the U. N. calling all the political shots in the aftermath.
JIM LEHRER: Well, I tried to negotiate it here and it didn't work -- thank you both very much.