transcript of Norman Solomon's recent Iraq policy spot on CNN
coverage of the United Nations gets confusing sometimes. Is
the UN a vital institution or a dysfunctional relic? Are its Security
Council resolutions profoundly important for international relations --
or beside the point because global leadership must now come from the
world's only superpower?
These days, we keep hearing that the United States will need to
launch a full-scale attack on Iraq because Saddam Hussein has violated
UN Security Council resolutions -- at the same time that we're told
the U.S. government must reserve the right to take military action
unilaterally if the Security Council fails to make appropriate decisions
To clarify the situation, here are three basic guidelines for
understanding how to think in sync with America's leading politicians
Leaver, a researcher with the Foreign Policy In Focus project
(www.fpif.org), is outside the usual media box when he brings up a key
question: "If the U.S. takes military action using the cover of the
United Nations, what is to prevent other countries from launching their
own military attacks in the name of enforcement of UN resolutions --
against Turkey in Cyprus, or Morocco in Western Sahara, or Israel in
Palestine? This is precisely the reason why the doctrine of pre-emptive
force is a dangerous policy for the United States to pursue."
- The UN resolutions approved by the five permanent members of
the Security Council are hugely important, and worthy of enforcement
with massive military force, if the White House says so. Otherwise, the
resolutions have little or no significance, and they certainly can't be
allowed to interfere with the flow of American economic, military and
diplomatic support to any of Washington's allies.
Today, several countries are continuing to ignore large numbers of
resolutions approved by the UN Security Council since the early 1990s.
Morocco remains in violation of more than a dozen such resolutions. So
does Israel. And Turkey continues to violate quite a few. But top
officials in Rabat, Jerusalem and Ankara aren't expecting ultimatums
from Washington anytime soon.
- Some UN resolutions are sacred. Others are superfluous.
To cut through the media blather about Security Council resolutions
that have been approved in past years, just keep this in mind: In the
world according to American news media, the president of the United
States has Midas-like powers in relation to those UN resolutions. When
he confers his holy touch upon one, it turns into a golden rule that
must be enforced. When he chooses not to bless other UN resolutions,
they have no value.
- The United Nations can be extremely "relevant" or "irrelevant,"
depending on the circumstances.
When the UN serves as a useful instrument of U.S. foreign policy,
it is a vital world body taking responsibility for the future and
reaffirming its transcendent institutional vision. When the UN balks
at serving as a useful instrument of U.S. foreign policy, its
irrelevance is so obvious that it risks collapsing into the dustbin of
history while the USA proceeds to stride the globe like the superpower
colossus that it truly is.
"There's a lot of lofty rhetoric here in Washington about the
UN," says Erik Leaver of the Institute for Policy Studies. Pretty
words now function as window-dressing for imminent war-making. While the
president claims the right to violently enforce UN Security Council
resolutions, Leaver adds, "there are almost 100 current Security Council
resolutions that are being ignored, in addition to the 12 or so
resolutions that Iraq is ignoring. What the U.S. is saying here is that
it has the right to determine which Security Council resolutions are
relevant and which are not."
When Leaver maintains that "we can't uphold the UN at one moment
and then discard it the next," he's up against powerful media spin that
hails such hypocrisy as a mark of great American leadership on the world
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer didn't miss a beat
Wednesday when he tried to explain how the United States could justify
blocking implementation of the most recent Security Council resolution
about UN weapons inspections in Iraq. Fleischer said that the U.S.
government's task could be accomplished with "logic" and "diplomacy."
From the vantage point of Washington's reigning politicians and
most of the journalists who cover them, it's quite proper to treat the
United Nations as a tool for U.S. diplomacy -- war by another means,
useful till it's time for the bloody real thing.
© Creators Syndicate
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