An apparent suicide truck bomb attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad happened a today, killing at least 20 people and wounding over 100. ***extra: Salam Pax has just reported from Baghdad and says that Sergio de Millo, the UN special representative to Iraq, was pulled out of the rubble but has died of his injuries.***
Reuters has video from the scene here...
This attack could be hugely damaging to reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in no small part because the U.N. itself plays a big part in the reconstruction, and is also the bellweather that other organizations use to decide if a country is stable enough for workers to come in and rebuild. After this attack, foriegn businesses, humanitarian aid workers, and other countries that are being asked to send troops will seriously have to think twice about whether they want to have anything to do with Iraq and putting their people in harm's way.
Also, this attack may serve to weaken the Iraqi provisional governing council, since the U.N. attack could be seen as revenge for recognizing the council. There will be the natural tendency of the U.S. to respond to the attack in a headstrong, unilateralist way, which also serves to undermine self-determination in Iraq.
It's a horrible, awful, destabilizing, and inhumane attack that could lead to tougher times for the Iraqi people. It is also the most crippling, effective attack that the insurgents have launched to this date, because the longer that Iraqi reconstruction is too dangerous to fully proceed, the more widespread Iraqi resistance to foriegn occupation will be.
What this really means to the U.S. is a longer, bloodier, more expensive reconstruction -- one which may never fully happen until after U.S. forces withdraw, at which point Iraq might find itself embroiled in civil war, as rival factions fight for control.
It's sad to think that just six months ago, a different UN flag brought me some degree of hope.