Cutting through the bullshit.

Thursday 20 July 2006

W was right!

‘All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment… Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?’
In September 2002, US president George W Bush delivered these words to thunderous applause at the UN.
Now you might think that what he meant by ‘the purpose of its founding’ had something to do with the principles enunciated in the Preamble to the UN Charter:
· to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
· to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
· to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
· to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
· to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
· to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
· to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
· to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

But predictably, that was not his intention at all. The words omitted from the quotation are, ‘Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence?’. In other words, he was asking whether the UN would provide a fig leaf for the US’s desired interpretation of wording the US had itself approved and managed to force other Security Council members to accept. Would the UN do as instructed by the US, or would the US do as it pleases regardless of the UN position? By ‘irrelevant’, he meant the latter option. In reality, of course, either course renders the UN irrelevant.
Today, the UN is at yet another impasse. It is not just that it is sitting on its hands rather than saving the current generation from the scourge of war in Lebanon. There are plenty of precedents for that. When the UN effectively endorsed the US invasion, undertaken without SC authorization, a principled organization would have admitted its irrelevance and dissolved.
But for all the lofty rhetoric, the UN has never been anything other than a club of the governments of nation states, and not of the people they rule over and oppress. It is a sick joke that people refer to Security Council decisions as the will of ‘the international community’.
What raises the UN to a whole new level of irrelevancy is this, reported in yesterday’s NY Times:
A Ghanaian member of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as Unifil, was killed along with his family here on Sunday by an Israeli bomb. And more than 24 hours later, peacekeeping troops could not even leave their base to dig out his body, because the short trip to his house was too dangerous.
The Council has met three times to discuss Lebanon without taking any action or making any statement. On Monday, John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, discouraged talk of either a multilateral force or a cease-fire, both proposals that Mr. Annan has made.
They have about a week of diesel fuel left and are running short of food and water, and the bases have come under fire, said Richard Morczenski, a civil affairs officer with the force.
A UN ‘peacekeeper’ slaughtered with his family in the course of an unjustified assault by one member state on another, much weaker, member state and the UN doesn’t have the gumption to so much as protest.
Yet illusions die hard. The usually sensible Dahr Jamail, reporting from the Lebanese border with Syria, writes:
‘As if any country in war ever abides by the Geneva Conventions nowadays. And without a functional UN to actually take a stand for human rights or real justice, why should they?’
‘A functional UN’? Well, it’s functioning now as well as it ever has, and as well as it ever could.

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