Savoring this moment in history - Ed Brock

Take the good with the bad, mingle the joy of the Iraqi people and the families of our newly released POWs with the sadness of 12-year-old Ali Ismail, the Baghdad boy who lost both arms to an American bomb.

Both emotions are legitimate and hard earned. Both should teach us to respect this piece of history.

And don't forget, it's not over yet. Almost, but not quite.

Still, there were any number of impressive moments. The sight of a platoon of American soldiers kneeling before an angry mob of Iraqis to prove we were not there to destroy the mosque the Iraqis were defending. And then there's the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, a testimony to her bravery, the skill and courage of her rescuers and the humanity of the Iraqi lawyer who told us where she was.

There were some bad moments, like the many civilian deaths and injuries and the looting of hospitals and private businesses along with the symbols of Saddam's gluttony that were rightfully taken from his fetid, gilded palaces and redistributed to the people.

Our armed forces have done an outstanding job, now it's time for our politicians to live up to their end.

The fact that everybody is glad Saddam Hussein is gone is no surprise. But how long will it last if we don't make the right move and bring the United Nations in as the leading agency for restructuring Iraq?

President Bush and, I'm sad to say, Colin Powell are reaching when they say "We paid the cost for Iraqi freedom in blood, we should decide what comes next."

British soldiers poured their blood into that freedom pool, but their leader accepts the need for an objective agency to help the Iraqis set up the democracy we promised them. Even if the Bush crowd doesn't have its own agenda in starting this war (we'll talk about Halliburton in a second) the perspective throughout the Middle East is that they do. Anything we do will therefore be suspect, no matter our true intentions.

Putting that American flag over the face of Saddam's statue was a well-intended mistake that firmly set that impression in many Arab minds.

And while on the surface it may be acceptable to use the Free Iraqi Forces, the militia run by Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, the implications are not so good. Would the man said to have "more influence along the Potomac than along the Euphrates" according to a "Time" magazine report be the best person to run the interim Iraqi government?

However, apparently we are interviewing other candidates as well. After all, as an unidentified U.S. official said in a CNN story, "Let's at least have the appearance of democracy and giving people a voice."

But I just can't help but think it's downhill from here. The glaring obscenity of granting Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton Co. what could be a $490 million contract (with up to 7 percent profit) to clean up the Iraqi oil fields without even taking bids from other companies, American or foreign, discourages me greatly. Does anybody actually believe it's OK because Cheney resigned from his position as CEO of the company three years ago? Or, as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commander Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers put it in a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., that bidding out the contract would have been a "a wasteful duplication of effort" because Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root was hired under an existing contract? Or because they were the only ones who could do the job in the time allowed?

Waxman didn't buy it, and correctly pointed out that bidding the contract out, while it would be a duplication of effort, is standard practice in selecting competitive bids and would have allowed the Army to ensure that it was receiving the best plan at the best price."


Now's a good time for Bush and his lot to prove me wrong. I'll bow my head and take my come-uppance gladly if he does so.

If not, then I'm afraid it's out of the frying pan and into the fire for all of us, and only in the brief span of time between the two will happiness be found.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at ebrock@news-daily.com.