Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Gya: Swoof! swoof! what in hell is this editorialist smoking?

The UN Security Council (SC) ended a year-and-a-half of conflict and confrontation among some of the world's major powers when on Tuesday, June 8, it adopted unanimously a resolution terminating the occupation of Iraq and endorsing the formation of a sovereign interim government. The London newspaper The Independent headlined the story as 'The Re- United Nations.'

What was remarkable was not only that unanimous agreement had been reached but that the matter had in fact been brought before it by the US (together with the UK) whose President George Bush had a year before denounced the UN and the Security Council as irrelevant. It will be recalled that in February 2003 when the Bush administration had already secured Congressional approval for the war against Iraq, the US sought SC support for a resolution authorising the use of force against Saddam Hussein. However, there was little support in the SC for such a resolution with three of the Permanent Members announcing that they would use the veto against it. In that situation the US and the UK withdrew the resolution, with President Bush asserting that the world body would "fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society."

The rest is history; shortly thereafter the coalition of the willing (the US, together with the UK and Australia as the only other elements) launched the war. In going to war Bush was involving the National Security Strategy announced by his government in which it had been propounded that in the age of terror one should not wait to be attacked but should exercise a right to pre-emptive strikes.
...
So why did Bush choose to return to the SC, not only to return but with a previously unheard of flexibility and willingness to compromise? The main reasons do not lie mainly with the action of the international community, although their withholding of forces and assistance from Iraq played an important part. The main factors driving the return to the SC were on the one hand the situation of chaos in Iraq as a result of action of the resistance movements, and on the other the changing views of voters in the US towards Iraq as the country moves to a presidential election.
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It has long been clear that the US, even with its coalition of the willing which had begun to crack with the Spanish withdrawal of troops, could no longer contain the instability in Iraq. It was essential to get the UN to return; it had withdrawn after the suicide bombing of its offices and the killing of its staff. Only the rejected stone of the Security Council could provide the foundation for an exit strategy which would not look like a retreat - as had been the case in Vietnam. The comparison, despite the differences in scale, keeps breaking through.
...
However, the persisting problem may be the presence of the US army. The US administration wants its army to remain, not only to assist the interim government with security. The unpublicised reason is that it is required to provide protection for the huge volume of US investment which has flowed into Iraq. Iraq under Bremer, who before going to Baghdad was a high-level consultant on security for US corporations overseas, has become a bonanza for investment.
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PM Allawi may have made a fundamental political mistake when he sent his letter to the SC requesting that the coalition army stay in Iraq. The interim government clearly needs the US army to help maintain security. But it is at least arguable that it is the presence of that army which is the main cause of the insurgency. With the hand-over of power to PM Allawi and his government next week Wednesday, a new chapter in the woes of the people of Iraq may be just beginning with continuing grave implications for the US and the UK and the international community as a whole.
This is what happens when bias masquerades as journalism. On 18 March, the Baghdad Broadcasting Company, er, BBC, at the end of a snarky column, produced this list of the countries prepared to liberate Iraq:
Full list of coalition countries:

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.
However, two days later, the White House released this list of 46 countries who had consented to join Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Even if the editorialist disbelieved the WH list, he would have known from reading the very anti-American BBC that the coalition consisted of more than the Australia, the UK, and the U.S. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that he wished to assert, as the WH does, that not all of the 46 countries in the coalition provided military support or participated in the initial invasion, surely he could have made that claim without presenting a falsehood? What creates the falsehood? The editorialist's use of the adjective "only." Had he said "primarily" or "largely," there would be no quibbling from this quarter. When he asserted "only" he lied, inasmuch as there were other countries participating militarily. On such technicalities are reputations lost and won.

I remain at a loss to comprehend the Caribbean's fascination with the U.N., and the inability of many in the region to appreciate the utter irrelevance and cowardice of that eminently racist institution. In my less charitable moments, I'm inclined to think that the affection for the U.N. is derived from the Caribbean delight in fine-sounding words, to such an extent that it is often immaterial that no action may result from them. The perfection of the word can be such that action to realize the dreams/goals/policies described thereby can only lead to disappointment as much is lost in translation in the move from orality to practicality.

Given the wilfull dismissal of U.N. fecklessness and abject indifference in Rwanda, Kosovo, Serbia, Darfur (all of which involve acts of genocide), and sexual abuse of children in West Africa and the Congo, it is possible that Caribbean nations prefer to have the U.N. as a glorified debating society in which is heard high-sounding words (how else to explain that they also ignore the anti-Semitic rants often heard in that glorified parking garage for despots and scofflaws?) simply because belonging to it creates the illusion of parity and power with the big dogs. When the small dogs get together, they can, in the General Assembly, bring the big dogs down. In sum, the U.N. may be that refuge wherein the powerless retire to seek revenge against the powerful. That the actions of the organization are passively malevolent doesn't matter. What matters is that the small dogs get to nip at the heels of the big dogs.

(To be continued)

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