The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The United Nations charade

Feb 17, 2003

On February 14, at the United Nations Security Council, the largest and most powerful governments in the world aired their differences over "what to do about Iraq." Of course, what was apparent throughout this debate was that only one voice really counted, that of the United States, the one superpower, the one dominant power in the world today.

The only reason the U.S. government had put the matter of war with Iraq before the U.N. was to make it seem like the whole world was condemning Iraq and calling for the U.S. to go to war. This could make it easier for U.S. officials to build support for the war, sell the war to the U.S. population. This is the only reason the U.S. government went through the charade of U.N. weapons inspections, public diplomatic debates, and the posing and posturing of France and Germany, that is, powers of secondary importance.

U.S. officials have made it abundantly clear that they never needed anyone's permission, least of all that of the U.N., to launch this war. U.N. diplomats might talk and disagree with the U.S., but that never stopped the U.S. from acting. The U.S. continued to put the finishing touches on its enormous military build-up around Iraq and its own "coalition of the willing," etc. The countdown to a horrible, devastating U.S. war against Iraq was continuing to tick down.

That is not to say that the leaders of the U.S. government have been in any kind of hurry to unleash this war. U.S. officials have already pushed back the date of the impending war from January to February, and perhaps even later. Most likely, U.S. officials would prefer to allow extra time to encourage dumping Saddam Hussein by other means short of war, if at all possible. The slow deliberate build-up of U.S. forces has been used to pressure Iraqi officials to ease out Saddam Hussein and his direct retinue themselves – first through a military coup. Remember last fall when Bush's Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, mentioned that just one bullet could avoid the entire war. When Hussein was not assassinated, when no military coup materialized, U.S. intermediaries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan began offering Saddam Hussein and his family asylum if he agreed to step down.

If that were to happen, it would be an ideal outcome for Bush. It would allow Bush to claim victory without risking the enormous casualties and domestic costs that an invasion would almost certainly entail. Of course that kind of victory would just encourage and reinforce the Bush administration's outright right-wing and reactionary policies everywhere, including against the people in the U.S. itself.

As for the people of Iraq, replacing the rule of Saddam Hussein with that of a U.S. occupation would not at all be an improvement. Their country would become a semi-colony of the U.S., which would rule Iraq through the same exact repressive apparatus of henchmen, torturers, gangsters and mass murderers who worked under Saddam Hussein – Saddam Hussein's regime without Saddam Hussein.

Of course, if Hussein is not eased out of power ahead of war, then the Bush administration has given itself the option of an invasion and occupation of Iraq. This war carries enormous risks, especially if the U.S. military meets up with substantial resistance from the Iraqi population, or if a protracted war weakens other regimes in the region that are tied to the U.S. But obviously, so far, the U.S. bourgeoisie has allowed the Bush administration to take this direction because of the potential payoff. Not only would the U.S. bourgeoisie gain control of the country with the second largest oil reserves in the world and the U.S. military secure an entire country in the center of the Middle East as its base. Above all, a successful war against Iraq would send a message to the rest of the world that anyone could face massive death and destruction at the hands of U.S. power, if they dared defy the U.S., with no other superpower to run to, or counterpose to the U.S.

This message is not just aimed at the countries of the Middle East or the rest of the underdeveloped world. It also means that the U.S. is imposing its domination over the imperialist powers of the second tier, like France and Germany, as well. In Iraq, the U.S. is giving these powers "an offer that they can't refuse," that is, an ultimatum. Either they join the war, under U.S. terms, which include taking greater responsibility for a long and costly occupation of Iraq, or else they are not only left out of any settlement, that is, any division of the profits from Iraqi oil, they also risk that the Americans squeeze them out of other spheres of profit and control in other parts of the world.

This is why the governments of France and Germany are not opposing the U.S. war outright. They are only calling for waiting a little longer before going to war, using the U.N. to slow down the U.S. juggernaut against Iraq. This maneuver is being used to try to squeeze a somewhat better deal from the Americans and to mitigate U.S. bullying.

In fact, while their diplomats are protesting at the U.N., both the French and German governments have quietly let the U.S. military know that they wanted to give the U.S. a hand in its war. Both France and Germany long ago sent troops, planes and ships to the Persian Gulf. In other words, both powers have shown that they are ready to play a supporting role in the possible U.S. war, so long as they can get a chance for their own corporations to get a little bigger bite out of the Iraqi carcass at the end of the war.

Neither France nor the other countries of the U.N. intend on trying to stop the U.S. war against Iraq. All their fine words and rhetoric are just a cover for their own rapacious, if somewhat smaller imperialist appetites.