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An issue for the movement
Should we back UN inspectors?

By Eric Ruder | November 1, 2002 | Page 6

THE U.S. is stepping up the pressure on the United Nations (UN) this week. The Bush administration says that if the UN doesn't soon pass a resolution authorizing "aggressive" weapons inspections in Iraq, then "the United States in the name of peace will lead a coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein," George W. Bush said last week.

People who oppose the Bush war drive are rightly fed up with this arrogance--the White House's determination to have its war, no matter what the rest of the world thinks. But some in the antiwar movement believe that activists need to support a call for UN weapons inspections in Iraq as an alternative to the Bush war drive. This is a mistake for several reasons.

First, calling for weapons inspections only promotes the idea that the U.S. war has anything to do with disarming Iraq or stopping the spread of "weapons of mass destruction."

The U.S. government wants to dominate the Middle East, control Iraq's huge oil reserves and send a message that any nation that flouts Washington will be punished. Weapons inspections are secondary. "U.S. policy is that, regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad," said Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier this year.

Second, the call for inspections is not an alternative to war. It's the U.S. government's main rationale for war. Behind the call for "aggressive" and "intrusive" inspections is an attempt by the U.S. and Britain to make it impossible for Iraq to comply--and provide the grounds for military action. In fact, the latest draft resolution declares Iraq in "material breach" of prior UN resolutions--and that any false statement by any Iraqi official would constitute a further breach.

This sets up a Catch-22. If Iraq says that it has chemical or biological weapons, that's grounds for war. But if Iraq says that it has no weapons, that's also grounds for war--since the U.S.-backed resolution wouldn't accept this as the truth.

The draft resolution also demands "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access" to any area in Iraq that weapons inspectors choose; the right to establish regional bases with armed guards and landing rights for helicopters and planes; the right to declare any area an exclusion zone to freeze an inspection site; and the right to call on "member states" to enforce these zones. That, says author and activist Rahul Mahajan, adds up "to an attempt to provide for a military occupation without having to fight a war."

The manipulation of the UN weapons inspectors is nothing new for Washington. In fact, U.S. officials have become quite skilled at it. In 1998, the U.S. staged a confrontation between inspectors and Iraqi officials, then withdrew the inspectors and blamed Iraq for "expelling" them--a lie that the media repeats to this day.

In 1999, Washington was forced to admit that it had used weapons inspections teams as spies to gather intelligence on targets in Iraq--information that it used during its bombing raids in December 1998.

Rolf Ekeus, head of the UN weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991 to 1997, came forward in July of this year to substantiate these claims yet again. "[Security Council members] pressed the inspection leadership to carry out inspections which were controversial from the Iraqis' point of view, and thereby created a blockage that could be used as a justification for a direct military action," said Ekeus.

Antiwar activists who call for inspections would find themselves in a compromised position if the U.S. succeeds--as it very well could--in getting the UN to endorse a war based on Iraq's "unwillingness to cooperate with inspections."

But there's a more fundamental reason to steer clear of this demand. What right do the U.S. and Britain have to determine which countries can and can't possess weapons of mass destruction? After all, Israel has a far bigger arsenal of such weapons--including nuclear weapons. So why doesn't the U.S. bomb Israel? Because Washington--which itself has the world's largest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction--only sees these weapons as a problem in the hands of its enemies.

The U.S. government has many times used the UN as a cover for carrying out its imperial aims. The UN isn't an antiwar alternative to the Bush gang--but a tool in the hands of the U.S. government. Our movement has to expose this fact and build a movement based on opposition to war--whether it's waged by the U.S. alone or, like the 1991 Gulf War, with the backing of the UN.

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