UN authorization can't make rank imperialism just
walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Mar 14 04:22:02 MST 2003
Though I haven't til now written on this thread,
and I think that the Cuban approach to this
(pointing out how the UN has not backed the
US war on Iraq and how it's bad for the UN
and the world if the US does proceed as it's
saying it will), I DO have an opinion about it,
one expressed more eloquently and in more
detail than I could, in today's Z comment.
Let me add also that the news in today's NY
Times that the US is about to proceed with
no backing from the UN is helpful in that it
clarifies just how isolated Washington really
is on the world scale. Perhaps and indeed,
probably, that's the real agenda of the Bush
administration. I recall back in the sixties
that the John Birch Society and other
rightist groups campaigned demanding:
"Get the US out of the UN and the UN
out of the US" and it now seems clear
that's the most likely outcome of all this.
The UN really has become an obstacle, a
fetter, a nuisance to Washington, like many
other institutions which have long existed.
Sorry, but I don't know why people find this
so difficult to understand. The UN is a very
weak reed, not much more than a forum to
discuss issues, and a body in which some
cooperation on technical issues can occur.
Cuba's current efforts to strengthen up the
Non-Aligned Nations is a recognition of the
weakening of the UN. The Cubans of all in
the world know just how weak the UN is.
Look at all the UN resolutions against the
blockade, or against Israel's occupation of
Palestine! But the Cubans haven't thrown
the UN away. They have, however, tried to
build up any positive alternatives to it that
could now be built. Time will tell just how
successful their efforts will be. Cuban
perspectives on this issue are available:
UN Resolution or Not, this War Violates
International Law March 14, 2003
By Rahul Mahajan
The majority of the antiwar movement has made a mistake in
emphasizing the unilateral nature of the war on Iraq and the
need for United Nations approval, and we may well reap the
consequences of that mistake.
The argument has made major inroads with the public; polls
consistently show that the majority of Americans oppose a
unilateral war without international support and the latest
poll in Britain shows only 15% of the population supports a
war without a second U.N. resolution.
It's also an entirely unobjectionable argument in a negative
sense - without a Security Council resolution, the war is
clearly a violation of international law, as U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recently pointed out.
It is, however, possible for a war fought with U.N. approval
still to be a violation of international law.
That is the fundamental question -- not whether our "allies"
support us, not whether we can strong-arm and browbeat
enough members of the Security Council to acquiesce, but
whether or not the war is illegal.
Interestingly, in this, as in so many other things, the Bush
administration turns this question on its head and claims
that the war is necessary in order to uphold international
Let's start with that argument.
Iraq is threatening no country with aggression and its
violations of Security Council resolutions, while clear, are
technical, mostly a matter of providing incomplete
documentation about weapons that may or may not exist,
and for the use of which there are no apparent plans.
At the same time, Israel is in violation of, at a very
conservative count, over 30 resolutions, pertaining among
other things to the very substantive issue of the continuing
illegal occupation of another people, along with violations
of the Fourth Geneva Convention through steady
encroachment on and effective annexation of that land.
Indonesia, another U.S. ally, violated U.N. resolutions for
a quarter of a century in East Timor with relative impunity.
Morocco is illegally occupying Western Sahara. In each of
these cases, the United States wouldn't be required to go to
war to help uphold international law; it could start simply
by terminating aid and arms sales to these countries.
The United States is also a very odd country to claim to
uphold such a principle. Ever since a 1986 International
Court of Justice ruling against the United States and in
favor of Nicaragua, the United States has refused to
acknowledge the ICJ's authority (the $17 billion in
damages it was ordered to pay were never delivered).
Shortly after that judgment, the United States actually
vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on states to
respect international law. Of course, the United States
doesn't itself violate Security Council resolutions, since
it can always veto them -- as it did when the Security
Council tried to condemn its blatantly illegal invasion of
Panama in 1989, and on seven occasions regarding its
contra war on Nicaragua.
For the sake of argument, let's forget about the
international double standard and focus just on Iraq.
Even without reference to anything else, one can
argue that repeated U.S. violations of international
law when it comes to Iraq and in particular of the
specific "containment" regime instituted after the
Gulf War release Iraq from any obligations.
To start, Iraq has been under illegal attack for the past
decade, with numerous bombings including the Desert Fox
campaign, even as it was being called on to start obeying
The United States also took numerous illegal or questionably
legal steps to subvert the legal regime of "containment" --
passing the "Iraq Liberation Act" in October 1998, which
provided $97 million for groups trying to overthrow the
Iraqi government, a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty and
a violation of international law; stating that only with
regime change would the sanctions be lifted, in violation of
UNSCR 687; and using weapons inspections to commit
espionage, the information from which was then used in
targeting decisions during Desert Fox.
Is the War Itself a Violation of International Law?
Perhaps the most cogent argument, however, is the
fact that the war the United States is planning on
Iraq is an act of premeditated aggression.
All the signs point in the same direction.
First, in August, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered that
the list of bombing targets be extended far beyond any goal
of enforcing the no-fly zones to include command-and-control
centers and in general to go beyond simple reaction to
threats. According to John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, this
was "part of their strategy of going ahead and softening up
the air defenses now" to prepare for war later.
By December 2002, the shift could be noted in a 300%
increase in ordnance dropped per threat detected -- a clear
sign that simply defending the overflights was no longer the
primary aim of the bombings. According to the Guardian,
"Whitehall officials have admitted privately that the
'no-fly' patrols, conducted by RAF and US aircraft from
bases in Kuwait, are designed to weaken Iraq's air defence
systems and have nothing to do with their stated original
Weakening air defense and command-and-control are the
standard first steps in all U.S. wars since 1991, so the
first salvoes in the war were being fired even as
inspections continued. In the first two months of this year,
bombings occurred almost every other day.
Even worse, according to strategic analyst Michael Klare,
by February 2002 it had become clear that all of the
administration's supposed diplomatic activities in the Fall
of 2002 and early 2003 had merely been a smokescreen.
The war was being seriously planned from at least the spring
of 2002, but in the summer there was a serious internal
debate in the military between a so-called "Afghan option"
with 50-75,000 troops and heavy reliance on air power and
Iraqi opposition forces and the eventual plan, "Desert Storm
lite," with 200-250,000 troops and a full-scale invasion.
The decision was made in late August, but the more involved
plan, according to Klare, required at least a six-month
deployment. Ever since then, the timetable has not been one
of diplomacy, U.N. resolutions, and weapons inspections, but
rather one of deployment, strong-arming of regional allies
needed as staging areas for the invasion, and, quite likely,
replenishment of stocks of precision weapons depleted in the
war on Afghanistan.
For over a month, as inspections increase in effectiveness
and scope, as Iraq dismantles its al-Samoud missiles, and as
it struggles desperately to find ways to reconcile questions
over biological and chemical agents, the White House has
contemptuously dismissed all efforts. The constant refrain
is that time is running out, with no explanation of why the
time is so limited. The reason is simple; it's not because
of any imminent threat from Iraq, it's just because the
troops are there and ready to go.
The obvious conclusion is that the war was decided on long
ago, irrespective of Iraq's actions. Nothing Iraq could have
done short of full-scale capitulation and "regime change"
would have stopped the United States from going to war.
That makes this war a clear case of aggression.
Even the fig leaf of another U.N. Security Council
resolution will not change this fact. Nor will it confer any
legitimacy on the actions, because of the massive attempts
by the United States, documented in the study "Coalition of
the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?" by the Institute
for Policy Studies, to coerce, bribe, and otherwise exert
undue influence on other countries, including key undecided
Security Council members, to support the U.S. position.
Above all else, if other countries acquiesce to U.S. plans,
it will be because of the constant refrain of the Bush
administration -- that the United States will go to war with
or without their consent, so there is nothing to be gained
(and much to be lost) by resisting.
In fact, the U.S. war on Iraq is itself the most fundamental
violation of international law. In the language coined at
the Nuremberg trials, it is a crime against peace. Former
Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor
at the first Nuremberg trial, called waging aggressive war
"the supreme international crime differing only from other
war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated
evil of the whole."
It surely is unprecedented in world history that a country
is under escalating attack; told repeatedly that it will be
subjected to a full-scale war; required to disarm itself
before that war; and then castigated by the "international
community" for significant but partial compliance.
Rahul Mahajan is a founding member of the Nowar Collective
(http://www.nowarcollective.com) and serves on the National
Board of Peace Action. This article has been excerpted from
his forthcoming book, "The U.S. War Against Iraq: Myths,
Facts, and Lies,"
His first book, "The New Crusade: America's War on
has been described as "mandatory reading for all those who
wish to get a handle on the war on terrorism." His articles
can be found at http://www.rahulmahajan.com He can be
contacted at rahul at tao.ca
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