Doing the UN Two-Step: The Dance Toward War

Revolutionary Worker #1173, November 3, 2002, posted at

"These weapons inspections are not the `alternative to war'. The U.S. will use the call for such inspections, and a re-established (and probably new, "tougher") regime of inspections, as part of its drive toward and then justification for war. For those who genuinely do not want the U.S. to not only launch a war against Iraq, but to have a free(er) hand to carry on its juggernaut--waging war anytime, anywhere, against anyone, by any means--it is very dangerous to fall into promoting weapons inspections as somehow the road to peace and specifically a means of preventing the U.S. from launching such a war. To fall into this--and still more to propagate it and seek to rally people around it--will contribute to disorientation and demobilization, rather than to activation and mobilization of antiwar forces, over any period of time (and that may mean a very short period of time)."

Bob Avakian, previously unpublished commentary

On October 25, the United States government put its own resolution on the table for a vote in the United Nations Security Council on a plan for coercive weapons inspections in Iraq. The resolution, which is expected to come up for a vote within a week, is essentially a demand for United Nations approval for the attack on Iraq that the U.S. will soon be ready to launch.

Many of the tanks and bombers for this war have been moving into place. U.S. marines are preparing for a possible assault on the Iraqi capital of Baghdad--practice fighting door-to-door in mock cities on military bases in Guam, in southern California and at Fort Drum in New York. The CIA just announced that it has two public bases within Iraqi borders--intended to mobilize Kurdish people within northern Iraq as proxy ground troops in a coming war. And the U.S. government is formally demanding, from international construction firms, any blueprints they have of Iraqi factories and government buildings--so the plans once used to build can become maps for targeting bombs. A quarter of Kuwait has been designated a military zone and handed over to troops conducting exercises along Iraq's southern border.

Meanwhile, for over six weeks, while the people of Iraq and the world watched, the U.S. and major powers, like France, Russia and China, have carried out a slow dance of negotiations in the United Nations--in closed sessions and diplomatic channels--over a formal Security Council endorsement of the U.S. attack.

The Pentagon military planners have a timetable. They want to give their armed forces three or four months of combat time before the brutal heat of Persian Gulf summer arrives. They want to launch this war on schedule.

Like a vampire needing fresh blood before the sun comes up, George Bush is impatiently looking at his watch and demanding of his allies, "Are you comin' with me or do I go it alone?"

The Franco-Russian Two-step

It is widely reported that the U.S. has one plan for UN action--and that France and Russia have a joint counter-proposal.

U.S. proposals have taken several forms--but their essence is very simple: the U.S. government demands that the United Nations endorse a U.S. military attack on Iraq.

The U.S. government demands that other powers join in its planned military aggression against Iraq and help with the follow-up occupation. Bush threatens that if the UN does not endorse--the U.S. will proceed without endorsement, and the UN will become "irrelevant" in a world order where the U.S. calls the shots. And meanwhile, the U.S. threatens the other major powers that, if they choose to oppose U.S. action, they will find themselves cut out of any say in the new emerging world order--and may also find themselves cut out of any control over the Persian Gulf oil they depend on. It is a gangster logic, "an offer you can't refuse."

The Franco-Russian counter-proposals suggest having two separate votes by the United Nations Security Council. The first one would demand that Iraq give up modern "weapons of mass destruction" and prove its compliance by cooperating with a new wave of UN weapons inspections. Then if the inspectors find Iraq is not obeying, there would be a second discussion in the Security Council. And that second vote would authorize a military attack by the U.S. and any allies that join in.

On October 21, when President Bush said in a White House press conference: "We've tried diplomacy. We're trying it one more time. I believe the free world, if we make up our mind to, can disarm this man peacefully," this was the first time Bush had suggested that U.S. demands against Iraq might possibly be resolved without all-out war. Similar statements were made by Bush's foreign affairs tutor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Then, in its latest proposed resolution, the U.S. has offered an attempt of comromise with its fellow powers--the resolution insists on threatening Iraq with "serious consequences" as part of a new inspection regime--and then offers a "one-and-a-half-step" plan--where the U.S. agrees to meet and consult in the UN Security Council before actually launching war.

Such supposed "softening" of U.S. positions has encouraged hopes in some places that an unjust war might be avoided by this process of "going through the UN." Some people are hoping that the U.S. drive for war may be restrained or slowed. They are hoping that UN inspections of Iraq may take the place of war--or that at least "peaceful methods will be given a chance." And some hope that, even if war comes, it will perhaps not take the form of a raw, destabilizing U.S. grab for power, but be the common considered actions of a "world community."

Such hopes are based on some serious misunderstanding of what is going on--in the United Nations, and in the wrangling between the major powers. At this moment it is extremely important to respond by bringing people's attention to several realities in this ominous world situation.

Looking for a
Piece of the Action

The various Franco-Russian plans do not, in any way, oppose foreign colonial- imperialist domination of the Persian Gulf (or anywhere else in the world).

They are, rather crudely and openly, a demand that such domination not be done by the U.S. alone. The rulers of France and Russia are notorious oppressors in their own right--well covered in blood from their own adventures conquering other peoples. France was fully involved in the 1991 war on Iraq and helped enforce the vicious sanctions that punished Iraq's people.

However, both Russia and France have long-standing ties with the current government of Iraq and prefer to see it "contained but not overthrown." The issues, however, go far beyond just Iraq or even the Persian Gulf--what is being fought out in this dispute is the position of the European powers in a world where the U.S. claims supreme military, political and economic power.

This becomes very clear when you look closely at the statements coming from the French government. On October 3, the conservative French President Jacques Chirac met with Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schr”der. Germany does not have a seat in the UN Security Council, so this summit was a way these two Euro-powers could assert common complaints about how the U.S. is conducting major international moves.

On October 9, French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin made a speech in the French Senate where she said that France "refuses to sanction any unilateral or pre-emptive action; it is persuaded that a new international order must be based on dialogue and cooperation. If the world today needs a strong America, it also needs a strong Europe." Figaro , a rightwing pro-government French newspaper, analyzed the key issues in this conflict, and included prominently "control of the world's principal reserves of petroleum" and "the world order."

In other words, the European powers want a say in whether the government of Iraq is overthrown-- and for that reason, they want a second discussion in the Security Council (where they will again have a veto and will again make their demands) before war actually gets UN blessing. The UN debate boils down to this: Can the U.S. superpower simply launch major wars in crucial strategic regions in the name of the whole world community, or do major powers like France and Russia get to have their interests represented? It is a struggle over the shape and structure of future international relations among imperialists.

Major pressure is on to settle those demands before the UN vote--so that a compromise can be worked out.

On October 23, President Bush signed the Russian Democracy Act, which authorizes but does not actually provide $10 billion of foreign aid to Russia. There is an intensifying flurry of high-level negotiations--with Britain's Prime Minister Blair meeting Russian President Putin, and now Bush is going to meet with Putin in Mexico.

Both France and Russia want some guarantee that they will have influence and oil rights if the U.S. succeeds in toppling Saddam Hussein. And Russia demands U.S. permission to invade the independent neighboring country of Georgia. This would be done in the name of rooting out Chechen rebel bases there, but would inevitably involve strengthening Russian control over pipelines of Caspian Sea oil being constructed on Georgian soil.

However, even if the U.S. ultimately agrees to a second discussion and resolution in the Security Council--there is no reason to believe this would prevent war. Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary- general, made a revealing half-promise to the U.S. war-makers when he said: "I think the member states want a two-stage approach: send in the inspectors; if they get into trouble...come back and we will pass a second resolution."

One thing jumps out from all these maneuvers: None of this is about the safety or security of the people of the world.

The logic of French and Russian imperialist interests mean that both of these powers want to be "at the table" when the future of Iraq is decided. That means demanding debates now before the war in the UN Security Council (where France and Russia have veto powers) and in secret backroom conferences. But it also means these powers feel great pressure to endorse an American attack.

When French opposition leaders called on the French government to veto U.S. resolutions in the UN, Foreign Minister Villepin said that this would cut off France from "the ability to weigh in on the development of international issues."

The gangster logic of "with us or against us" is in full operation on a world scale. And the world may never know all the countries and crimes that were coldly haggled over during these cold nose-to-nose imperialist negotiations.

Against the Interests and Will of the World's People

Who can miss the fact that the people and their clear desires are not represented anywhere in these sordid negotiations and war preparations?

The United Nations is an organization of the governments of the world--who generally serve brutal and oppressive ruling elites. It is a dangerous fantasy to accept any of them as "representatives of their people" (including of course that illegitimate president and brazen corporate frontman George Bush).

All the key negotiations in the UN over this war involve secret deals among the largest powers. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council--the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia- -have veto power. The rest are treated as wallpaper. Where in any of this do the countries of the Third World have a say over who rules the world? Where do the Arab or Muslim governments have any weight?

Why should the UN Security Council get to speak for the "world community"? How does an unjust war they endorse become any less unjust?

The U.S. Congress shamelessly endorsed war powers for George Bush. He waves that blank check at the world--and claims "America stands united" behind him and his moves.

But hundreds of thousands of people have spoken out in resistance to this--on October 6 and 26 and many other events--saying that this is "Not in our name!"

Everyone knows that the vast majority of people on this planet oppose this war. Governments openly fear the impact of the coming U.S. attack--Middle East allies of the U.S. speak of danger of "explosion" among the people. European allies know that U.S. aggression is deeply unpopular in their countries--including significantly among the people who come from North Africa and the Middle East.

In the U.S. itself, there is the widespread feeling that something awful, ugly and uncontrollable is coming--that the government's justifications are just lies... that this attack may not be as quick as the Pentagon promises...that many innocent people will die...that much of this is about global power and oil and corporate money ...and that, even if Saddam Hussein's regime crumbles, Iraq's people will not think U.S. conquest is "liberation."

The governments, the parliaments, the UN councils will seek to justify war in the name of the people. But it is a lie. People must not accept this, but must take matters into their own hands-- make it clear to people around the world that this war is not being done in their name--and act on their own initiative and in a powerful way to resist this war.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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