How US Policies Made the UN a Target

August 30th, 2003 - by admin

by Sara Flounders / Centre for Research on Globalisation –

(September 4, 2003) Workers World — Whoever bombed the United Nations headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad on August 19, killing 23 and injuring over 100, mostly UN personnel, the act has raised questions about the UN’s role in Iraq.

Though this may come as a surprise to some, the UN hardly played a humanitarian role in its recent history in Iraq. Its own former officials will testify to how the UN has made itself hated among Iraqis.

Dennis Halliday, a former assistant secretary general and senior UN official in Iraq, resigned in 1999 rather than administer the UN blockade. He is a predecessor of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN special representative killed in the August bombing.

Halliday, who was nominated for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, described the UN role in Iraq:

The West sees the UN as a benign organization, but the sad reality in much of the world is that the UN is not seen as benign. The UN Security Council has been taken over and corrupted by the US and UK, particularly with regard to Iraq, Palestine and Israel.

In Iraq, the UN imposed sustained sanctions that probably killed up to 1 million people. Children were dying of malnutrition and water-borne diseases. The US and UK bombed the infrastructure in 1991, destroying power, water and sewage systems against the Geneva Convention. It was a great crime against Iraq.

Thirteen years of sanctions made it impossible for Iraq to repair the damage. That is why we have such tremendous resentment and anger against the UN in Iraq. There is a sense that the UN humiliated the Iraqi people and society. I would use the term genocide to define the use of sanctions against Iraq. Several million Iraqis are suffering cancers because of the use of depleted uranium shells. That’s an atrocity. Can you imagine the bitterness from all of this? (Sunday Herald (London), August 24, 2003).

Senior UN Official: Attack Was To Be “Expected”
Hans von Sponeck, a former assistant secretary general and the senior UN official in Iraq who replaced Dennis Halliday, also resigned in protest of the UN role in 2000. On August 20, Von Sponeck said on the radio show “Democracy Now” that while the attack on the UN was horrible it could be “expected” because the Iraqis were so provoked by the US occupation.

The UN exists in a world where the capitalist market ruthlessly decides political and economic relations. It is a body that almost exclusively represents capitalist governments that do not represent the people or their interests. The United States, as the undisputed military and economic super-power, has overwhelming influence.

The UN’s humanitarian agencies provide assistance to war refugees, food to famine victims and medical care to people in impoverished countries. These agencies’ thousands of civil servants may be deeply committed to providing emergency relief. But the UN budget for humanitarian assistance is not even a band-aid.

To put it in perspective: Socialist Cuba, a relatively poor country with only 11 million people, provides more free doctors and medical teams to developing countries than the UN World Health Organization.

1991 War and Sanctions
One of the greatest crimes against humanity — the 1991 bombing of Iraq and the 13-year starvation sanctions levied against that country — was carried out as a UN-authorized action.

Based on resolutions that the United States pushed through the UN Security Council, the devastating 42-day bombing of Iraq in 1991 took place under the UN flag. The bombs reduced Iraq’s earlier accomplishments of free education, free health care, electrification and modern infrastructure to rubble.

Then 13 years of devastating sanctions were implemented through the UN Security Council. The sanctions caused the death of more than 1.5 million Iraqis.

US veto power kept the sanctions ruthlessly in place once the UN Security Council had voted for them. For the people of Iraq there is little perceived difference.

As an international movement arose to demand an end to the sanctions, the United States implemented — again through the Security Council — the Oil for Food Program. This program allowed UN sanctions to continue while allowing Iraq to sell a severely restricted amount of oil. The controls were so onerous that they drove both Halliday and von Sponeck to resign.

The entire sanctions regime was an effort to totally destroy Iraq, based on the now exposed myth that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

The UN Security Council, through UNSCOM, carried out more than 9,000 intrusive weapons inspections. Vital Iraqi industries were systematically destroyed because the sanctions program judged countless industrial processes to have a potential “dual military-civilian use.”

The entire UN inspections program was later exposed as a thinly veiled US spy operation. The UN weapons inspectors were always based at the Canal Hotel.

It was only in March 2003 that the UN Security Council refused to pass a vote authorizing US bombing and invasion of Iraq. Nevertheless, the Bush administration rushed ahead with a war that was unprovoked, criminal and illegal against a sovereign but defenseless country.

UN Voted to Support the Military Occupation
A month after the Pentagon blasted its way into Iraq and the sheer brutality of the war had overwhelmed the mass movement, the same UN member states that had refused to authorize the war voted (with the exception of Syria) for a resolution that gave the United States and British military occupation full “authority.”

This was the most sweeping authorization for colonial domination in UN history.

After the Baghdad government collapsed, there was a growing effort to again make the UN part of the US-British occupation machinery and to line up countries to send foot soldiers, while keeping total US command and control.

On August 14, the UN Security Council passed a resolution welcoming Washington’s handpicked “Iraqi Governing Council.” The UN vote established the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, called UNAMI. UNAMI sent 300 advisors to Iraq to work on such “humanitarian” missions as training a new Iraqi police force.

In the August 20 British Independent newspaper, reporter and Middle East expert Robert Fisk wrote that the August 19 bombing of the UN building “proves that no foreign organization, no NGO, no humanitarian organization, no investor, no businessmen can expect to be safe under America’s occupation.”

Who Are the Foreign Terrorists?
Virtually all the U and British corporate media claim foreign forces are pouring into Iraq to fight the US occupation. They accuse the Al Qaeda network, the Ansar Al-Islam group, Syrians, Saudis and Iranians of slipping across the border. The Financial Times speculated that 3,000 Saudi volunteers had infiltrated Iraq from the north — although the Saudi border is on Iraq’s south.

These unsubstantiated reports are a feeble attempt to downplay the breadth and depth of Iraqi resistance. Iraqis are skilled, highly educated, have military training and are furious over the US occupation. They can organize their own resistance.

A guerrilla struggle has quickly developed using a diverse range of tactics involving ambushes, land mines, trip wires, car bombs, drive-by shootings and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Today, Iraqis consider the more than 140,000 US troops and 10,000 British troops to be the main foreign terrorists in Iraq.

Meanwhile the Bush administration is in a wild scramble to increase foreign intervention in the service of the US occupation. Through bribery and heavy political arm-twisting Washington has forced others to pledge support.

Forty-four countries have agreed to send some military forces to operate under the Pentagon’s command. Five other countries are discussing the possibility. Although few troops have actually arrived, approximately 22,000 are pledged.

UN under US Command?
Less than 48 hours after the explosion at the UN offices in Baghdad, Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the UN to press for a new resolution that would convince member states such as France, Russia, India, Pakistan and Turkey to provide troops for a proposed multinational force.

Powell made it clear that the United States is unwilling to give the UN authority in Iraq. The other imperialist powers, which are in competition with US corporate power, seek some “authority” — meaning some say in the multi-billion-dollar reconstruction budget and in contracts for oil exploration, development, pumping, transport and sales.

According to Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, a US think tank, the Bush administration has decided, after weeks of internal debate, to refuse to transfer any significant authority to the UN, a strategy he considers an error. (August 20 International Herald Tribune)

But the UN bombing undercut US efforts. The most immediate fallout from the attack is the decision by Japan to postpone “until next year” sending 1,000 troops. Poland immediately scaled back its unpopular decision to send its troops. Polish troops were to be stationed in the central area between the British and US forces.

Ukrainian troops were to operate under Polish command. This would have freed up thousands of US troops. Polish Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz stated that access to Iraqi oilfields “is our ultimate objective.”

In a rerun of the old Spanish Empire, Spain’s troops were to command troops from El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Today these countries are all US neo-colonies. The death of a Spanish civilian at the UN headquarters has opened a new debate and renewed opposition within Spain.

The decision in The Netherlands to send Dutch troops is already under domestic attack because of the radiation danger due to the US use of depleted-uranium weapons. Italy’s commitment of troops was already unpopular and is expected to meet new resistance.

Adding to the problems, the UN, while declaring that it will remain in Iraq, is cutting its staff more than in half. The International Monetary Fund has withdrawn its staff.

Within the US ruling class, there is a growing split over the involvement of the UN. Some in the Bush administration are determined to go it alone. Others are increasingly concerned about the mounting crisis, the vulnerability and isolation of the US position. Clearly the US occupation is in crisis.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, touring Iraq on July 20, made the incredible statement: “I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.”

Wolfowitz, a key architect of the US invasion of Iraq, should realize that only by bringing the US troops home now could his statement come true.

From the Center for Research on Globalisation,
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Copyright Workers World Service 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .