The role of the United Nations in the Iraq war - reply to Yoshie Furuhashi

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Fri Jul 25 22:11:27 MDT 2003

In previously posting on Marxmail List the remarks of Kofi Annan, as
reported in Granma, calling  for a rapid end to the military occupation of
Iraq (during a debate initiated on July 22 in the UN Security Council), and
affirming the right of the Iraqi people to decide their own future, I am
under no illusion about the crimes of the UNSC in endorsing genocide and an
illegal war, which violates UN statutes and principles. I merely note this
as a significant trend, reflecting something about world opinion.

The UN as mediator can only mitigate or compensate for the interests and
effects of imperialism, not cancel them out. Increasingly however the UN has
become a more direct conduit for imperialist policies, and not just a means
for "mopping up" the social, political and economic effects of those
policies. Thus, in an increasing number of countries, UN troops are
stationed and function to "maintain order" more or less permanently.

The early opponents to the US invasion of Iraq argued, that the US should
not go to war without the approval of the UN. Implicitly, this position gave
support to the war however. It never queried the assumption that the US had
the right to invade Iraq in the first place, nor did it denounce Bush's
false claims. The Democratic Party politicians and the big American trade
union apparatuses tried to respond to unease about the war among Americans,
pretending to oppose the drive to war, when they really didn't. They
obediently fell in line, and supported Bush, as soon as he invaded Iraq,
even although the UN did not approve the war.

Not only did the UN fail to stop the war, it didn't even call the US to
account for its invasion, despite the fact that international law prohibits
such an invasion of one country by another, never mind the killing of
civilians, as does the UN charter itself. Legal argument didn't stop the US
from invading, nor did it prevent the UN from openly collaborating with the
US and the UK in the war. In the final weeks leading up to the war, the UN
in fact cut off food shipments and other humanitarian aid which the Iraqi
regime had already paid for, in the oil-for-food program - a direct blow at
the Iraqi population itself. Once the US and UK  launched the war, the UN
stated its readiness to accept any role that the US and UK might give it, to
ease the burden of the occupation in post-war Iraq.

In reality, the UN earlier supported, and provided cover for, the first Gulf
War, and the murderous economic blockade of Iraq that followed. UN weapons
inspections provided the pretext for the blockade, and the inspectors also
illegally provided military intelligence for US and UK bombing campaigns
such as "Desert Fox" and "Shock and Awe." UN actions in Iraq over the last
13 years have objectively encouraged the imperialist powers, primarily the
US, in their bid to gain more control over the situation in the Middle East,
and have in practice promoted genocide in Iraq.

Over the last half century,  the UN either supported invasions of countries,
such as the US invasion of Korea, or else did nothing to stop wars, coups
and invasions of countries, especially by major imperialist countries
against poor countries (like Vietnam). Its military and non-military
interventions were mainly intended to restore order and save lives,
subsequent to imperialist attacks or else redress or mitigate the
social-political effects of imperialism and its legacy.

While claiming to be an organization of peace, the UN continues to be
dominated by the interests of the big industrial and imperialist powers.
This is reflected in the very composition of the Security Council,
comprising its five permanent members holding veto powers over critical UN
decisions and interventions. In fact, the UN is really no different in
function from the League of Nations, which collapsed when World War II broke
out. History shows that both international organizations were in fact set up
by the main imperialist powers to facilitate their political and economic
domination of the rest of the world.

If the Cuban Communist Party does report e.g. Kofi Annan's own stance as a
progressive indication, that is because the Cuban Government cannot very
well abstain from participation in international forums such as the UN, and
in fact also continues to draw substantial benefits from the UN. Even if the
UN bureaucracy is only essentially a mediator, lacking real political clout,
and unable to block the designs of the imperialist countries, the
international political situation would actually deteriorate even further
without it being there, and certainly Cuba would be worse off. Moreover,
Cuban participation in the UN is linked to participation in many other
international forums essential to improving the situation of Cuba.

The position of socialists towards the UN is the same as the socialist
position towards bourgeois parliaments - without any illusions about their
real nature, we are prepared to participate in them politically as required,
to express our views and policies, and advance the interests of our own
constituency in every possible way. Abstaining from participation in such
forums as a matter of principle would be an ultra-leftist error. It is not a
question of either exaggerating or underestimating the influence of the UN,
but of finding conduits for the advancement of our own socialist policy. The
only reason for not participating in such bodies would be that socialist
policy would be decisively compromised and co-opted in so doing, but that is
rarely something one can say in advance of actual participation. The real
question is how an intervention in international forums can be made, that
does have a positive effect, from a socialist point of view.


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