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Unanimous Security Council vote endorses U.S. occupation of Iraq
Should we support a UN occupation?

October 31, 2003 | Page 5

SHOULD OPPONENTS of the U.S. occupation of Iraq hope for the United Nations (UN) to take over? ELIZABETH SCHULTE explains why not.

"WILL THE United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?" That was George W. Bush's open threat to the UN General Assembly as he demanded support for Washington's war drive against Iraq in September 2002.

The Bush administration asked for nothing less than a UN cover for a U.S. operation--and made no concessions about who would call the shots. After approving one U.S.-backed resolution weeks after Bush's speech, the UN Security Council balked at writing a blank check in the run-up to the invasion.

But a few months after the U.S. and Britain launched their war anyway, the "international community" gave its stamp of approval to the occupation. And in mid-October, while rejecting demands for troops and funds to rebuild Iraq, the Security Council once again proved its "relevance" by unanimously reaffirming its support for an occupation under Washington's iron control.

Under last month's resolution, Iraq's "governing council"--a collection of stooges handpicked by the U.S.--will remain as the country's chief power. Iraqis will have to wait until December 15 for the council to come up with a timetable for a new constitution and government.

In the meantime, the U.S. will be free to continue looting Iraq. U.S. authorities are already at it, according to a report released last week by the British charity Christian Aid. Of the $5 billion raised by Iraqi oil sales since the U.S. takeover, Christian Aid researchers found, $4 billion is unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, the U.S. last week put the squeeze on other countries to fund the occupation of Iraq at a conference in Madrid, Spain. Governments other than the U.S. committed $13 billion to Iraqi "reconstruction," well short of the $35 billion that Washington is looking for.

And two-thirds of what was actually raised will come in the form of loans. That will add to the crippling burden on Iraq, which already owes some $120 billion.

A few hundred yards away from the meeting of world leaders in Madrid, more than 300 executives from corporate multinationals--including General Motors, Motorola and Coca-Cola-- were drooling over the profits to be made in U.S.-occupied Iraq. "The new Iraq will be above all a market-oriented economy," Iraq's interim trade minister Ali Allawi pledged to the conference.

Corporate America is chomping at the bit about the prospects of Iraq opening up formerly state-owned companies to foreign investment. For example, the Ministry of Industry and Minerals just announced plans to open 13 state-owned companies to leasing by private firms. "The dairy folks are excited," said Fred Schwien of the U.S. Commerce Department.

Mark Malloch Brown, the United Nations Development program administrator and chair of the United Nations Development Group echoed the pro-corporate sentiment. "Together, these steps by an Iraqi government enjoying full domestic and international legitimacy can convert Iraq quickly from a land of subsidies and state control to one of rising incomes and market opportunity," he said. In this sense, the "international community" has come together--to divide up the spoils of a conquered Iraq.

Why Washington calls the shots

MANY PEOPLE who oppose Washington's "go-it-alone" occupation believe that the UN would do a better job in Iraq. But they think that the U.S. government's dominant role at the UN has to be curbed. This misses the dynamic of the relationship between the U.S. and the UN.

The U.S. has always bullied or bribed other countries to get its way at the UN. For example, in the run-up to the 1991 war on Iraq, Washington promised Iran that it would drop its opposition to a series of World Bank loans. The day before the ground war began, the bank approved its first $250 million loan to Iran. Countries that didn't fall in line were punished.

After Yemen voted against the 1991 resolution to attack Iraq, a senior U.S. diplomat told the Yemeni ambassador, "That was the most expensive 'no' vote you ever cast." Within three days, a U.S. aid program to Yemen--one of the poorest countries on earth--was shut down.

The problem is not that the U.S. is corrupting an otherwise democratic and impartial international institution. Since the UN was established in 1945, it has been a place for the world's main economic and military powers to negotiate over their interests around the globe.

Since the U.S. has been the world's dominant power throughout this period, it has been in a position to call the shots most of the time. And when it can't bully the UN into line, it can roll right over it--as was the case in this year's war on Iraq.

When countries like France and Germany stood up to the U.S. war drive, it wasn't out of concern for the devastating consequences of an invasion. They wanted to ensure that their interests weren't steamrollered by the U.S. They also couldn't ignore mass opposition to the war in their own countries.

Now those same powers are giving the cover of UN respectability to Washington's brutal occupation--because they don't want to be left out of the looting. If the UN represents an "international community," it's a "community" of corporate bosses, financial loan sharks and political powerbrokers, not the people who live and work in those countries.

Supporters of a UN solution within the antiwar movement need to face up to this reality. Thus, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies has written often of the humanitarian disasters that resulted from Washington's iron grip over the UN--and she had sharp criticism of the Security Council's unanimous resolution supporting the U.S. occupation in October. But she still insists that the UN should take over when the U.S. leaves Iraq.

Nothing about the UN is designed to bring liberation to the people of Iraq. It is a tool in the hands of the world's most powerful governments, especially the U.S.

Only the people of Iraq, who are already standing up to the occupation, can win their own liberation. They deserve the support of the real international community--opponents of war around the world who are organizing against the U.S. occupation for oil and empire.

The UN colonizers in Kosovo

TO UNDERSTAND what a UN occupation is really like, look at Kosovo. Four years have passed since the U.S.-led NATO war against Yugoslavia was supposed to have liberated Kosovar Albanians from Serbian aggressors.

In the months following the war, the Albanian majority in Kosovo carried out a "reverse ethnic cleansing" of the minority Serb population. Nevertheless, the peacekeeping mission was touted as a UN success story.

But for people who live in Kosovo, UN forces are more and more being viewed as colonizers. "They came to keep the peace, and now they're causing tensions," Qamile Blakcori told the Britain's Observer newspaper.

More than half of Kosovo's 2 million people now live below the poverty line. Power outages are a daily occurrence, even though Kosovo exported electricity under the Yugoslav regime.

Years after they came on a "nation-building" mission, foreign forces still call the shots, controlling the police and security forces. Kosovars now widely see UN soldiers and bureaucrats as corrupt. They link the occupiers to disappeared funds and even the trafficking of women. In June, German UN official Joe Trutschler was found guilty of embezzling 4.5 million euros as chairman of the supervising board of the Kosovo Electric Company.

"I'm really fearful for my children," Blakcori said. "What are they going to do? The internationals have done good things, but they have also brought bad habits. Now there is a lot of drugs and prostitution. In the Balkans, when people have lots of time and nothing to do, they tend to become radicalized."

The obvious question is: Does Kosovo represent Iraq's future? If you listen to the imperial arrogance of Harri Holkeri, who took over the UN's Kosovo mission in August, it looks even worse for the Iraqis. "This is not Iraq," Holkeri told the Observer. "It's a civilized place...Kosovars should have the opportunity to decide their future when they prove they can govern themselves."

But it's the UN that needs to "prove" that it can govern--since each of its interventions has been an utter disaster.

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