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Machinehead

If George W. Bush wanted to kick the United Nations in the teeth and flagrantly offend the will of the international community while endangering its security, he couldn?t have done so more viciously than by launching a manifestly unjust war on Iraq.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2003 21:32 IST

If George W. Bush wanted to kick the United Nations in the teeth and flagrantly offend the will of the international community while endangering its security, he couldn’t have done so more viciously than by launching a manifestly unjust war on Iraq.

Not only is this a war without a rationale (casus belli), it violates the explicit intention of the Security Council, which was set to reject the US-UK-Spain-sponsored ‘second resolution’ — and not because of hostile vetoes alone.

This is not the first time in history that the US has launched an unjust war or bypassed the Security Council. It has done the first repeatedly, as in Vietnam and Grenada, and the second too, most recently in Kosovo. But this is the first time that America has invoked a new ‘doctrine’ (of ‘pre-emption’). Never before did it face so much civil society opposition worldwide. And never before did it take such an issue to the UN — only to withdraw it in a cowardly manner.

This historically unpopular war begins in failure: of the world’s sole superpower to muster even halfway respectable support for its claim that Iraq’s so-far-unproved mass-destruction capability poses a grave threat to world — and American! — security, and that Iraq cannot be peacefully disarmed.

The US, and its sole effective ally, Britain, even tried to establish a false link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 by cooking up and forging ‘evidence’ of Iraq’s uranium deal with Niger, and its global terrorist ‘network’ (by doctoring a journal article).

The US used every trick in the book — bribery, shady political deals and outright arm-twisting — to garner votes, but until last week, it couldn’t win over even one of the council’s ‘Middle Six’, all vulnerable third world States.

America’s global political isolation couldn’t be more complete. Today, the US-led coalition has barely a third of the 90 States which supported it in the 1991 war. A majority of them are directionless, poorly governed NATO aspirants, and client regimes like Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

The road to this war is already paved with wanton destruction. The US stands in clear violation of the UN charter, which forbids the use of armed force without the Security Council’s prior authorisation — except under the ‘self-defence’ Article 51, after the exercise of which the Security Council must take charge. Nobody sane can believe the US is acting in ‘self-defence’. Through its recklessness, the US has gravely undermined the trans-Atlantic alliance and created serious rifts in the European Union.

America’s horrendous double standards now stand exposed: the proven stocks of 9,000 nuclear weapons and countless quantities of other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are fine in its own hands (or those of another seven countries), but the mere conjecture that Iraq may have WMD warrants a massive, crushing, hi-tech war.

There should be no illusion that this ‘Shock and Awe’ war will be ‘gentle’ on the Iraqi people because the US aims to ‘liberate’ them, make friends with them and hence, ‘minimise’ civilian casualties. According to Russian military expert Vladimir Slipchenko, who has proved remarkably accurate on civilian tolls in recent wars (Iraq-1991, Kosovo, Afghanistan), the casualties could be a staggering 500,000!

Even if the actual figure is lower, lakhs of Iraqis will die (beyond those directly killed in that ugly phenomenon, ‘collateral damage’) from collapse of water and food supply and healthcare systems. (These factors, traceable to the post-1991 sanctions, have caused over one million deaths.)

Equally harmful will be America’s ‘non-lethal’ armaments: microwave pulse-bombs and ‘e-weapons’. Such pulse-bombs release powerful electro-magnetic radiation which instantly ‘fries’ all electronic circuits in radars, computers, radios, hospital machinery, ambulances, water-pumps, even hearing-aids and pacemakers.

Why is America bent on this horrific, cruel, hi-tech war? The answer goes beyond Iraq’s oil, whose reserves are being upgraded in global industry estimates from 112 to 200-300 billion barrels — compared to Saudi Arabia’s 260. Undoubtedly, the Middle East’s oil (70 per cent of the world’s) is vitally important for America’s ambition to control global energy stocks, flows and prices, finance its own huge trade deficit, and beat down the euro.

However, the authors of US policy are inspired by an even grander vision — of establishing ‘full-spectrum’ global dominance — to the point of discouraging even “advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”. Most of them come from an ultra-Right think-tank, the Project for a New American Century. Its members include powerful figures like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Lewis Libby, Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad.

As early as 1998, this group actually urged Bill Clinton to enunciate “a new strategy” by removing Saddam from power. September 11 was a godsend to these fanatical advocates of Empire. Bush has since implemented some of their critical recommendations, including raising military spending, sanctioning Ballistic Missile Defence, etc.

This war, then, has been a foretellable, fore-ordained event. The US approached the UN only to get its rubber-stamp and to placate/help Tony Blair. But at the UN, it couldn’t sell the line of ‘automaticity’: its ambassador admitted that Resolution 1441 “contains no hidden triggers and no automaticity with respect to use of force”.

America has, disgracefully, gone back on its ambassador’s word, to pursue a hegemonic project that will leave the world — and its own citizens — more insecure. This war’s generalised unpopularity will intensify anti-American sentiments everywhere, especially in the Muslim world, and particularly Iraq’s neighbourhood. It is certain to strengthen fundamentalism, besides legitimising insensate force as the preferred means of resolving conflicts. Among the countries likely to be most affected are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, three of them in our neighbourhood.

Globally, the US today threatens not just the UN, but the entire multilateral system — “the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known”, as US career diplomat John Brady Kiesling put it while resigning his job in protest. It has taken the world many decades to evolve this system — by diluting the ‘absolute sovereignty’ principle of the Treaty of Westphalia, and reconciling Nation-States’ disparate interests with the legal framework furnished by the UN charter and international treaties and conventions. America is about to dismantle all this.

America must be stopped. This can be done by convening an emergency session of the UN General Assembly under the ‘Uniting for Peace’ precedent set during the Suez crisis (Resolution 377) which allows the assembly to intervene when the Security Council is paralysed. The GA must condemn the US and ask the International Court of Justice to opine on the legality of the war.

To do this, the UN needs strong support from global public opinion — the world’s second superpower. A powerful peace movement has become absolutely imperative. All public-spirited citizens must join it.

In India, the Iraq debate has been muddied by the vacillating, pusillanimous attitude of the government — which astonishingly blamed the Security Council, and not the US, for failure to evolve a consensus on Iraq, and has since issued one of the weakest statements anywhere, weaker than even Pakistan’s. Added to this the gratuitous advice of bogus ‘realists’ who see new national ‘opportunities’ in the destruction of multilateralism, total US hegemony and the emergence of law of the jungle.

We must reject such claptrap and focus unwaveringly on the principles of peace, healthy multilateralism, equity, and above all, justice. That way lie both wisdom and realisable hopes for a better world.

First Published: Mar 22, 2003 03:15 IST