The UN finally caved. The vote took place in the Security Council on October 16: 15-Love in favor of the US resolution no. 1511. Russian President Putin took less than an hour to convince France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard SchrÃ¶der to join the unanimous verdict. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing to put his veto back into his pocket. Syria, recently rebuffed in its efforts to censure Israel for its attack north of Damascus, had no stomach for a fight. The UN cover, long coveted across the globe, is now available for all the venal powers to divvy up Iraq, no longer perhaps under the stars and stripes, but now under powder blue.
In August, Kofi Annan seemed to stake out an independent course when he entertained a UN operation in Iraq, “not just burden-sharing but also sharing decisions and responsibility with the others. If that doesn’t happen, I think it is going to be very difficult to get a second resolution that will satisfy everybody.”
Nothing of the sort happened. Resolution 1511 (put forward by the US, UK, Spain and Cameroon) simply affirms the sovereignty of Iraq, but does not call for it to be exercised immediately. It calls the Coalition Provisional Authority (the “Authority,” that is, the US-UK force) “temporary,” and, in Article 5, asks that the Authority “return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable.”
There is no set timetable, but there is the immediate demand for “burden-sharing.” Point 8 says that the UN “should strengthen its vital role in Iraq, including by providing humanitarian relief, promoting the economic reconstruction of and conditions for sustainable development in Iraq, and advancing efforts to restore and establish national and local institutions for representative government.” These are, of course, code words: by its actions in Iraq, the US Authority has shown that the term “sustainable development” actually means privatization.
Furthermore, Point 14 “urges Member States to contribute assistance under the United Nations mandate, including military forces, to the multinational force”: UN cover for the Turks, Pakistanis and Indians to contribute brown bodies to die for the profit machine.
Resolution 1511 is about the troops, but it is also for the money. Colin Powell went on Nationalist Public Radio shortly after the vote and said, “Well, obviously, we are very pleased with this unanimous vote on what is now Resolution 1511. It shows the international community coming together.”
The context for Powell’s remarks was money: the $87 billion figure. The Democrats and their ilk make much noise about the size of the reconstruction packet. You told us this would be a cheap war, they seem to say to Bush, and that was a lie. If the war cost less, would we be happier? Would we support cheap wars? Isn’t it about time we talked about a reparation figure not only for the calculated destruction during this assault, but for the decade-long sanctions regime? The UN support made it easier to set-up the pitch for the Madrid meeting of donors to Iraq on October 23-24.
As Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini put it, “I would expect a greater degree of generosity and willingness than I might have expected before this resolution was adopted.” The Madrid meeting increased the ante for the rest of the world, but even this group made it clear that the US tax-payer had to bear the bulk of the costs: you break it, you fix it. Besides, at the Tokyo donors meeting for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the powers promised to open their check books, but they have not done so as yet and by all indications may not do so. It is opium that has provided stability for the warlord/Karzai/US regime that remains in place.
As the UN bows, once more, to the will of BushCo, it exposes the hollowness of the “unilateralism-multilateralism” debate: voices in our movement wanted BushCo to create a consensus at the UN for a multilateral invasion of Iraq, so that we “don’t go it alone” and so that we “don’t leave no European behind.”
The framework of multi-uni does not acknowledge that BushCo already follows at least two multilateral approaches toward hegemony, neither of them good, and that to call its approach unilateral misses the real support it has among the world’s corrupt leaders for its power. Here are the two approaches to BushCo multilateralism:
(1) UN Cover: The powers speak openly about giving the corrupt, undemocratic states of the world “UN cover” so that they can capitulate to capitalist globalization without any loss of internal legitimacy. The UN is not an abstract institution that is always able to live up to its Charter. When we say “UN” we often mean the Security Council – mainly because its other functions have been impoverished by lack of funds, or else shut down (for example, the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations tried to regulate global corporations for thirty years, before it was dissolved in 1992, and turned into the neoliberal United Nations Trade and Development office – now not to regulate corporations, but to urge privatization). And by “Security Council” we mean the five powers that have a veto because they were the first to test and deploy nuclear weapons.
To have nuclear weapons is to have a veto over world affairs: no wonder all the rogues want to have their own bombs to join the original rogues gallery. The “member states” of the UN are not always representative of their public’s opinions: among them we have monarchies, military dictatorships, or else capitalist democracies where the candidates with the most money come up on top. These ruling cliques are eager not to disturb the careful balance that allows them to maintain power – what they call “stability” and “security.”
As their populations get restless about US power, the leaders make nominal gestures against Jews (as Malaysia’s Mohammad recently did), against Muslim terrorism (as India’s ruling party always does), against this or that specific US policy (as the Germans often do): but at the end of the day, all these governments seek to make nice with the US, mainly because they have a vested interest in US aid, US-backing for IMF aid, and other such necessities that obscure their own collapsed agendas for social development. They need UN cover to help US imperialism.
(2) Interoperability: The US military trains with forces across the planet, from Singapore’s navy to Uzbekistan’s Special Forces. The point of these “joint training exercises” is to achieve “interoperability,” or to enable the two or more military forces to act in concert in a battlefield situation. The armed forces of the rest of the world are being trained to be compatible to the US military – to plug into the Pentagon’s machinery in case it is needed. These relations are not neutral, simply about the dispersal of technical know-how.
In 2003, the US and Indian special forces trained in both the forests of Mizoram and the mountains of Ladakh, both regions that border China; further, the Indian and US navies have conducted joint operations in the Straits of Malacca, the main channel for oil shipments from the Gulf to China and Japan – as Brahma Chellaney, of the privately-funded Center for Policy Research in New Delhi and a well-known and well-informed anti-China hawk, says that the November 2001 Amphex exercises conducted by the two navies in the Bay of Bengal was “aimed at China. Our leadership knows that the Americans don’t like Beijing’s military presence in the Indian Ocean and could be telling New Delhi to take defensive action.” India was chary about sending a shipment of troops to Iraq, but it has not stopped its military being put to the service of Empire elsewhere.
We are in favor of neither multilateral nor unilateral imperialism: that is the bottom line. We oppose imperialism, whether exercised by the US gunships alone or with help from the various “leaders” around the world who are, as Neruda called them, “manure-and-sweat-sucking vines/strangling lianas/chains of feudal boas.” Let us not be misled by frameworks of North-South, Unilateral-Multilateral – all these ways to vilify the US establishment alone, without at the same time turning our analytic anger at their eager allies who rule in the rest of the world. The “UN” is no longer what it might have been; that Group of 77 is only eager to join the Group of 7, then 8 (Russia), now slowly, perhaps 9 (with India), or 10 (with Israel), and counting.