Not a Good Time for UN Illusions

Revolutionary Worker #1175, November 17, 2002, posted at

The night the UN Security Council resolution was passed, Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of the left-liberal magazine The Nation was on the new Donahue show arguing that it was a great step forward because President Bush had been "forced to go to the UN." She said the next big task was to make sure he felt forced to "go back to the UN" for a second resolution before launching this war.

It is hard to imagine a more serious misreading of this moment.

First, Bush went to the UN to get new justifications for war and the appearance of broad international support. And he got it. If he goes back a second time, it will be to pry out another round of approval. If that happens, those who look to the UN to prevent this war will find themselves on a slippery slope that leads to supporting an unjust war.

The whole UN process clearly imposed little restraint on Bush. The U.S. negotiators, headed by General Colin Powell, made sure that no matter what anyone else does, the U.S. government is set up to launch war anyway. Even if Iraq tries to comply, or if the inspectors can't find any violations, or even if someone on the Security Council wants to stall in the next debate--the U.S. can claim it already has the approval of the UN for war.

After eight weeks of smoke, the U.S. gave no significant concessions to other powers like France and Russia. They wanted a public commitment by the U.S. to honor oil deals that their companies had made with the current Iraqi government. They didn't even get that.

What these powers did get was an "offer they couldn't refuse": either support the U.S. war publicly in the UN, or risk being cut out of the future decisions about the world. After the Security Council vote, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said, that the UN resolution "is an optimal decision that will open the path to a comprehensive settlement of the situation around Iraq." What he means is that Russia wants a seat at the table after this war (i.e., "comprehensive settlement" involving Russian concerns). And the price of that seat was an endorsement of U.S. attacks, now, before the war takes place.

So why should anyone in the world, and especially anyone opposed to U.S. moves, be pleased that "Bush went to the UN"? This UN resolution does not represent a victory over Bush's "unilateralism"--it represents the UN capitulating to the U.S. government's aggressive move toward war.

And what Bush got was really significant: a claim of legitimacy, legality, international support and a stack of new, manufactured justifications for war.

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