Dear Znet and Zmag folks,
I am writing in regards to Justin Podur?s commentary on UN SC Resolution 1441 re Iraq. I am a UN Representative for several NGOs and have been following the Security Council deliberations. I would ask you to forward my comments to Justin and to post my response on your website and possibly in your magazine. The appraisal of Security Council action is a most serious matter, given the significant role that it is likely to play in the months ahead.
It is critically important that the many countries that opposed the first Bush resolution be commended for their action in this regards and for standing firm against the enormous pressure that was brought to bear on them. The only reason that the resolution (as amended) passed at all was because it was necessary to get inspectors back into Iraq before the Bush administration could attack and to let Saddam know that he would have to comply, so that Iraq would not be attacked and sanctions could be lifted.
Now in regards to the commentary, I think it mis-interprets the situation. After six weeks of doing everything it could, the Bush administration wasn?t able to get authorization from the UN to go into Iraq on its own. You can imagine the enormous pressure that the administration put on the other Security Council members behind closed doors.
The Council was quite clear that it is demanding that the decision as to whether Iraq is attacked resides in the Council and is not to be determined by any one country. The SC did not cave on this central issue; they essentially went along with the resolution so as to prevent Bush from taking action on his own.
Now it may be true that the US will try to provoke or create an excuse for an attack. It can almost be expected; and for this reason it is imperative that we keep up the pressure for a diplomatic solution to this situation. However, I would not downplay the actual resistance displayed by France, Russia, and other security council members.
The commentary suggests that it could be easy for the US to get authority to attack Iraq. I believe the opposite is more likely to be true. It is stated that, “After the inspectors do their job of finding ‘omission’ or ‘interference’, the next step, obtaining authorization from the Security Council for the use of force, will not be any more difficult than obtaining resolution 1441 was.” Those that have followed the negotiations in the Security Council can tell you that it was not at all easy for the US to get even Resolution 1441 passed. The other countries are getting increasingly frustrated over US attempts to run over the rest of the world with little or no reason. It will not be easy for the US to fool the Security Council this time or to get it to support war without real justification.
And this is the message that we should be putting out: The Security Council has committed itself to ensuring that there must be just cause for any attack on Iraq. The Bush administration continues to take a belligerant approach and is likely to try to undercut the process. It is thus imperative that we continue to support and encourage the Security Council in opposing US unilateralism and unwarranted attacks or Iraq or on any other country.
Yes, the mobilizations, peace marches, and people?s resistance have helped; but so have the efforts by other governments. And this we should appreciate and give thanks for. As a part of our organizing efforts, we should continue to contact the members of the Security Council while we also continue to build this mass movement.
Rob Wheeler, UN Representative CCC-UN Association of World Citizens
Steering Committee Member, World Civil Society Forum
Rob Wheeler’s response to my commentary on UN Security Council Resolution 1441 suggests that I was too pessimistic in my assessment that “After the inspectors do their job of finding ‘omission’ or ‘interference’, the next step, obtaining authorization from the Security Council for the use of force, will not be any more difficult than obtaining resolution 1441 was.”
Wheeler believes that resolution 1441 was very difficult for the US to win. His reading of the actions of the SC members is that “The Council was quite clear that it is demanding that the decision as to whether Iraq is attacked resides in the Council and is not to be determined by any one country. The SC did not cave on this central issue; they essentially went along with the resolution so as to prevent Bush from taking action on his own.”
The truth is, I certainly hope that Wheeler’s reading is right, that mine is wrong, and that the Security Council will make things difficult for the US. Now that Iraq has accepted the inspectors, we will find out soon. But in any case I do not believe that a demand that ‘the decision as to whether Iraq is attacked resides in the council and is not to be determined by any one country’ is enough to prevent war. It is, instead, a legal technicality that can be surmounted by the kind of backroom deals that the US engaged in the last time around (see the material cited in my commentary).
While I agree with Wheeler that we should be happy about the help we get, it seems to me that opposition to war stemming from opposition to unilateralism-the kind Russia and France’s governments may be demonstrating– is not as reliable as opposition stemming from concern for the lives of innocent civilians, precisely because the US can address the former just by consulting the UN before it goes off to kill Iraqis. The message of an antiwar movement ought not to be “consult the UN before going to war”, but no to war on Iraq and an end to the sanctions that have killed hundreds of thousands already. For those who want to prevent this war, the most important message to send to France, Russia, the US, the UK, and indeed every country in the UN is that there is a large, and growing, constituency that will oppose war no matter what the Security Council decides. This is also the message that will get France or Russia to vote against a resolution to use force when the time comes, and the message that might prevent the US from going it alone if the legal justification isn’t forthcoming.
One final point. Wheeler says “The Security Council has committed itself to ensuring that there must be just cause for any attack on Iraq..” Elsewhere, he mentions opposition to “unwarranted” attacks on Iraq. This raises an important question: what would warrant an attack? If the inspectors were obstructed, would that justify an attack? What about if weapons were found? Everyone opposes Saddam Hussein; everyone would like to see inspections and disarmament proceed (and not just of Iraq!). But the real question isn’t whether or not there should be inspections– it’s what happens after the inspections. Can what weapons inspectors find or do not find justify a massacre of civilians?