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United Nations votes itself "back in the game"

By Sharon Smith | May 30, 2003 | Page 7

LAST WEEK, the United Nations (UN) Security Council voted overwhelmingly to endorse the U.S.-British occupation of Iraq--legitimizing the outcome of a war its majority vehemently opposed. Pleased with the outcome, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin asserted, "The United Nations is back in the game."

But after bullying and scheming its way to a 14-0 Security Council vote granting the U.S. sole control over Iraq's massive oil industry, the Bush administration demonstrated just how cynically "the game" is played. Rob Wheeler of the Uniting for Peace Coalition, described the dynamic that guided the Security Council vote: "Iraq has the world's second largest oil reserves. The United States will now decide how those reserves are to be distributed. And nobody wants to be cut out of the pie.''

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte called the resolution "the turning point of a historical page that should brighten the future of a people and a region." Yet not a single Iraqi, or other Arab from the region whose fate was being determined, was present when this crucial decision was made. Syria's representative--from the only Arab nation currently serving on the Security Council--was absent when the vote took place (Syrian diplomats' request for a short delay in the proceedings, so they could consult all the proper channels of government, was denied).

Although all parties concerned called the final resolution a "compromise," the changes were mainly cosmetic. The Advisory and Monitoring Board created by the resolution as a UN vehicle to intervene in occupied Iraq has no authority to enforce its opinions.

The resolution's only substantial change provided further enrichment for corporations at the expense of the Iraqi people. Under pressure from France and Russia--both with companies owed billions of dollars from contracts negotiated under Saddam Hussein's rule--the resolution now calls for ''prompt completion of the restructuring of Iraq's [$400 billion] debt."

Apparently, debt incurred while under the rule of a tyrannical dictator remains the responsibility of the ruled long after the dictator is overthrown.

Meanwhile, the U.S. got everything it wanted: open-ended occupation of Iraq under its sole authority and full control over Iraq's oil wealth. Even the sanctions in place against Iraq for 13 years have been lifted, as the U.S. requested, to get oil revenues flowing to Bush's corporate cronies such as Halliburton and Bechtel.

The Security Council conveniently overlooked its own earlier resolution mandating that UN weapons inspectors declare Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction before the sanctions can be lifted--now that the U.S. has refused to allow them to return. Saddam Hussein's alleged refusal to allow inspectors unfettered access to Iraqi weapons sites was a key element of the Bush administration's justification for the war.

But refusing to admit the weapons inspectors now spares the Bush administration the humiliation of admitting the banned weapons were not there to begin with. Just one day after the Security Council vote, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix told the press, "The main justification for the war was weapons of mass destruction, and it may turn out that in this respect the war was not justified."

Even an organization of intelligence officers--mainly from the analysis wing of the CIA--called the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, was alarmed enough to write a letter urging the Security Council to force the U.S. to readmit UN weapons inspectors. "Particularly distressing to us as intelligence professionals has been the revelation that some of the most important evidence cited by Secretary Powell, and by the president himself, was based on forged documents," the letter argued.

By offering its blessing to the U.S. occupation, the UN has provided the cover of a nonexistent "international community" for American imperialism--as it did during the 1991 Gulf War and the 13 years of sanctions against Iraq.

As one Iraqi told Iraq Peace Team and Voices in the Wilderness member Kathy Kelly, "The only thing we've been liberated from is the notion that the U.S. ever wanted to save us in the first place."

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