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WHAT WE THINK
Why the UN won't stop a war

October 25, 2002 | Page 3

THE ARROGANCE of the Bush administration knows no bounds. Even as U.S. diplomats at the United Nations (UN) were negotiating a new resolution on Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell was issuing the ultimatum.

"If it comes to military action, it can be done one of two ways," Powell said on NBC's Meet the Press. "The United States with like-minded nations taking [action]…or with all other nations as part of a UN resolution." In other words, Washington will do whatever it wants.

At the UN, the five permanent members of the Security Council haggled over the wording of the resolution. As Socialist Worker went to press, the U.S. appeared ready to drop its demand for explicit authorization of military force--in favor of more ambiguous language that could provide a basis for U.S. action.

But behind the nitpicking over language, a more cynical set of negotiations is underway. France and Russia were withholding support in order to extract a price for their endorsement of the U.S. war plan. Russia, for example, is looking to protect an $8 billion debt that Iraq owes for military equipment, as well as multibillion-dollar oil-drilling contracts that Russian companies recently landed with the Iraqi government.

"The oil is the main thing," foreign policy analyst Paul Saunders told Salon magazine. "There is widespread nervousness in Russia that if the U.S. changes regimes in Iraq, then all the oil contracts will come to the United States, and Russia will be left out." This imperialist horse-trading makes it clear why the Russian revolutionary Lenin called the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations, a "den of thieves."

The recent weeks of jockeying have exposed the true nature of the UN. A handful of powerful nations use the UN to impose their will on the rest of the world. As the world's sole superpower, the U.S. is most able to call the shots. Washington doesn't always get its way--and when that happens, it ignores whatever UN resolutions that it doesn't veto.

That's why no one should believe that the UN will stop the U.S. from going to war. After all, this is the same body that authorized the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991. And the economic sanctions that have killed more than 1 million Iraqis over the past decade are carried out in the UN's name.

Some in the antiwar movement hope that UN weapons inspectors can be an alternative to all-out war. But Washington has been able to use the inspectors before as pawns. The current resolution will set the bar for Iraqi compliance impossibly high--and set up the most likely pretext for a war. "If there is a stalemate on inspections, it could be that the inspectors will have to stage some kind of provocation," said one former inspector.

If Washington wants a war, the UN won't stop it. The real challenge to Bush's war drive will come from below--from the international antiwar movement.

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