United Nations: Fig Leaf for US War

Socialist Voice supplement, March 1st 2003

Ciaran Mulholland

AS BUSH gears up for war he is making a last attempt to gain the fig leaf of United Nations (UN) support for his invasion. Some anti-war activists place a great deal of faith in the UN. A number will probably abandon opposition to the war in the event of a UN resolution in favour of military action.

Is there any real difference between a war under the auspices of the UN or a war spearheaded by the United States and Britain? The answer, of course, is that there is no difference, especially for the thousands of ordinary Iraqis who will die in either eventuality.

The UN was established in the aftermath of World War Two. All states have a seat in the General Assembly but only fifteen sit on the much more powerful Security Council. Five countries have permanent seats-the US, Britain, France, China and Russia. These five were the victors in WW2 and have the right to veto any resolution. The other ten seats are held by all the other states in rotation. The smaller states are routinely bullied and bribed by the major powers, particularly the US.

Not Impartial

The UN is not an impartial body and has a bloody history. The Korean War was fought under its flag. At least two million civilians were killed in this conflict and North Korea was devastated as US General MacArthur ordered the destruction of "every installation, factory, city and village."

A UN intervention into the Congo in the mid-1960's lead directly to civil war, the assassination of the radical and democratically elected President Lumumba and the installation of the brutal dictator Mobutu. The UN sanctioned the US invasion of Somalia in 1992. By the time the troops pulled out they had killed between 7000 and 10,000 people.

Neither has the UN been a force for good in Iraq. A UN report in October 2001 admitted that up to 6000 children have died in Iraq for every month of the 12 year blockade of that country. When challenged on this death toll US Ambassador Madeleine Albright asserted that "we think the price is worth it".

The UN Sanctions Committee in New York, dominated by the US and Britain, has vetoed or delayed vital medical equipment, chemotherapy drugs and even painkillers. International cancer expert, Professor Karol Sikora, argued with this approach. "We informed the UN that there was no possibility of converting these drugs into chemical agents. We heard nothing more. The saddest thing I saw in Iraq was children dying because there was no chemotherapy and no pain control."

A UN vote against an attack will not prevent a war nor will a vote in favour justify a war. The US will do just as it pleases. The Security Council was still deliberating on whether to authorise an attack on Iraq on January 16th 1991 when a reporter walked in and announced "they're bombing Baghdad. It's on CNN."

Bribes & Threats

The US was sure of a vote in favour in any case. The bribes were lavish. Egypt was promised that $14 billion in debts would be wiped out. Iran was offered previously denied loans from the World Bank. Russia was provided with $4 billion in aid from a number of Gulf States. Zaire had debts written off and was provided with military aid. None of theses states could be reasonably described as a "democracy" at the time. Zaire, the former Congo, was still under the ruthless jackboot of Mobutu.

When the vote came Cuba and the Yemen held out and voted against. Cuba was already suffering a crippling economic blockade. As soon as the vote was taken the US ambassador informed the Yemeni delegate "that was the most expensive no vote you ever cast." $70 million worth of aid was immediately halted and 800,000 Yemeni workers were expelled from Saudi Arabia.

The same approach is in evidence again. By bribery and bullying Bush will get his way and win the vote. If he doesn't, he will have his war anyhow.

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