by Thalif Deen
(IPS) UNITED NATIONS --
UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold once remarked that the United Nations was not created to take mankind to paradise, but merely to save humanity from hell.
And war on Iraq, many U.S. citizens believe, is -- if not hell -- a descent into an awful unknown.
But their President, George W. Bush, who failed to get the nine votes he needed for Security Council authorization for an attack on Baghdad, vented his anger at the United Nations on Sunday because the world body refused to give him the legitimacy he desperately needed.
The rocky road to Baghdad was not paved with good intentions because the United States "never intended anything but a war," according to senior French officials quoted in 'The New York Times' on Monday.
Bush was looking for political cover for a military conflict which was already pre-meditated -- and his visit to the UN General Assembly in October last year to plead for international support was disingenuous, they added.
A visibly livid Bush told reporters Sunday that the United Nations had failed miserably in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"The United Nations didn't do its job," he said. "We hope tomorrow the United Nations will do its job. If not, all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to make the United Nations work better."
But UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, looking distraught and dejected, told reporters Monday that almost every government and peoples around the world had hoped that the crisis could be resolved peacefully.
If, as expected, the United States decides to go to war, he said, "it is a sad day for everybody."
With the United Nations appearing marginalized, the mood in the corridors of the world body was gloomy, though Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, one of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, kept repeating, "the time for diplomacy never ends."
But as an attack looms, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters Monday there was no further room for diplomacy. "I can think of nothing that Saddam Hussein could do diplomatically. That time is now over. He's had many chances over the last 12 years and he's blown every one of those chances."
Senior UN officials and constitutional experts insisted that if the United States and Britain go to war without a new Security Council resolution, they will be violating the UN charter and international law.
Such a move would establish that these two are the real "rogue states of international law and politics," Francis A. Boyle, professor of law at the University of Illinois, told IPS.
"They will have proved themselves to be the legal, political and historical equivalents to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, acting in defiance of the League of Nations during the period prior to the outbreak of the Second World War," Boyle said. "The rest of the world will draw the appropriate conclusions."
Despite Bush's stinging criticism of the world body, most UN diplomats say the fault lies not with the United Nations but with Washington.
"The United States still remains intransigent," an Asian diplomat told IPS, "despite the overwhelming opposition by most of the 191 member states."
That opposition to a military attack on Iraq has come from every single political grouping at the United Nations: the 116-member Non-Aligned Movement, the 52-member African Union, the 22-member League of Arab States and the 60-member Organisation of Islamic Conference.
These four organizations represent developing nations from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Facing stiff opposition to a British-U.S.-Spanish resolution implicitly calling for a military attack on Iraq, the three Western allies decided Monday to forgo a vote rather than suffer a humiliating defeat in the 15-member Security Council.
Both Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of Britain and Ambassador John Negroponte of the United States blamed France for the Security Council deadlock.
"The vote would have been very close," Negroponte said. But member states could not proceed further because of "the explicit decision of one country to exercise its veto," he said, refusing to mention France by name.
That contention was dismissed by French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, who told reporters that both the United States and Britain were nowhere close to getting the nine votes needed to adopt the resolution.
The divisive resolution needed nine votes and no vetoes to be adopted by the 15-member Council.
The only publicly declared "yes" votes were: the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria. The "no" votes or abstentions were from France, China, Russia, Syria and Germany. The six fence sitters were: Angola, Guinea, Mexico, Chile, Pakistan and Cameroon.
Of the 15, five Security Council members had veto powers: the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia but only French President Jacques Chirac publicly stated he would veto the resolution "whatever the circumstances."
Meanwhile, Annan decided Monday to withdraw all UN humanitarian personnel in Iraq and UN peacekeepers based on the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border.
"The implication of these withdrawals will mean that the mandates will be suspended because it will be inoperable," he said.
Despite Bush's anger toward the United Nations, Annan said the withdrawal of UN personnel does not mean that the world body will sit back and "not to do anything to help the Iraqi population" should war occur.
"We will find a way of resuming our humanitarian activities to help the Iraqi people who have suffered for so long, and do whatever we can to give them assistance and support," he added.
March 17, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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