A cynic might add that it was rather bad luck on the part of the Vietnamese that they won their war with the Americans.
With the US paying the bills, it is quite clear that American companies are going to get the eagle's share of the work: he who pays the piper calls the tune. It is equally certain that if the Americans have a say in the matter, and they most certainly will, French commercial interests are in for a thin time.
In any event, the large American construction companies are probably better suited than most others to clean up the mess. But after that, you come to the improving of Iraq: a job that the Americans clearly intend to undertake. The building of hospitals and schools, and the supply of water to communities where water never flowed before will form a programme of "good works" to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. As Iraq is set to become a democracy in an area strewn with dictatorships, both Britain and Australia will be at the front of the queue to win this work.
The droppings from the rich man's table can, on occasion, be very sweet. Both Britain and Australia have supported America in her Iraqi venture, in our case not only with words but also with troops on the battlefield. It is inconceivable that the Americans will not reward this loyalty, as they will try in some way to punish their critics.
God forbid that this sanctimonious government should allow British money to help British interests
Delightful as the idea seems of building in Iraq on preferential terms, it seems most British contractors would regard it as an act of folly. Physical dangers remain: despite the obvious PR disadvantages of blowing up workmen trying to build a hospital, it is doubtful if the fallen Iraqi regime can now control its band of supporters. In the weeks and months to come, that band that will become increasingly hard to locate. Fanatical terrorism knows no sense: revenge may well become the order of the day.
Any contractor ready to undertake work in Iraq should at least have a track record of work in the Middle East. Bovis Lend Lease seem an obvious candidate, as it is both Australian and British. Even more obvious is Multiplex, an Australian contractor that now has a British arm. Apart from being a highly competent operator, Multiplex has a long and successful track record of work in the Middle East.
It has always shown high sensitivity to political situations, so the complexities of the new Iraq should be meat and drink to it. As Americans go about delivering aid to other countries in a pragmatic manner, this rough, tough and highly efficient company can be expected to pick up a sizeable portfolio of work.
The British government, of course, is already playing the shrinking virgin. The UK government's Department for International Development last week ruled out the possibility that it would relax its rule on humanitarian aid funding for the rebuilding of Iraq. "There will be money earmarked for reconstruction," a spokesperson said, "but we will channel the funds through the UN and other aid agencies." The DFID spokesperson added that "any specific construction contracts will be open to tender in the normal way to British and foreign companies alike". God forbid that this sanctimonious government department should allow British money to help British interests. The British taxpayers who provide this money must be delighted with this news, not to mention the British soldiers who fought in the desert at the behest of the same government.
Lord McAlpine is a writer and former treasurer of the Conservative Party.