U.S. attack on Iraq will set precedent for nations to ignore UN
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com)–
The date that the UN Security Council members will have to, in the words of President Bush, “show their cards” on how they feel about Saddam Hussein looms near.

Depending on how the “cards”–or votes–fall will determine if the United States has world support for its desired war on Iraq.

Either way, President Bush has made it clear that war is inevitable. The vote may simply serve to test the relevance of the UN in the face of a unilateral approach to world problems by the only remaining superpower.


If the United States, in the face of world opposition and without the UN resolution, decides on a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, then the playing field will be open for other nations to launch pre-emptive strikes despite what the UN says.

A pre-emptive strike “might be considered as a precedent for others to try to do the same thing,” Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said March 9 on ABC. “Where do you stop? If you can do that there, why not elsewhere?”

While opponents of a U.S. strike on Iraq argue such an attack would render the UN irrelevant, President Bush himself challenged the world body to demonstrate its relevance by backing his plan for an attack.

Responding to a question during a rare press conference on March 6, Pres. Bush said: “This is not only an important moment for the security of our nation, I believe it’s an important moment for the Security Council, itself. This issue has been before the Security Council–the issue of disarmament of Iraq–for 12 long years. And the fundamental question facing the Security Council is, will its words mean anything? When the Security Council speaks, will the words have merit and weight?

“Secondly, I’m confident the American people understand that when it comes to our security, if we need to act, we will act, and we really don’t need United Nations approval to do so. I want the United Nations to be effective. It’s important for it to be a robust, capable body. It’s important for its words to mean what they say, and as we head into the 21st century, when it comes to our security, we really don’t need anybody’s permission,” the president said.

The response raised the question of whether the UN would go the way of the now defunct League of Nations that was dissolved in 1946 because it was ineffective in stopping the military aggression that led to World War II.

Analysts have said that, historically, when it came to superpower confrontations during the Cold War, the UN was mostly a debating society. Its involvement in the Korean War was the exception only because the vote was taken while the Soviets had walked out on the proceedings, analysts argue.

They say the UN was irrelevant in Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli conflicts and the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. And there are those analysts who argue that the onus of unilateralism is on those who would practice it.

“To state that if the Security Council does not vote one way, it is going the way of the League of Nations is overstating the case,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters in early February. “The United Nations is much, much larger than the Iraqi crisis.”

Indeed, some observers have argued that too much emphasis concerning UN relevancy has been put in the context of the Iraq debate. Overlooked, they say, are the contributions to attacking such problems of the environment, health, human rights, etc.

“Just as a hung jury does not make the legal system irrelevant, the lack of consensus on the Security Council does not make the UN irrelevant,” countered Peter Gershwin, an international fellow at Yale University. “If the current President Bush had as strong a case and as effective a diplomatic effort as his father had 12 years ago, the UN would again be united in the cause of disarming Iraq. If Mr. Bush cannot get the second resolution passed, it will be his failure, not the failure of the UN.”

“If the United States and Britain go to war against the wishes of the Security Council then it will establish that these two are the real ‘rogue states’ of international law and politics,” argued Francis A. Boyle, professor of Law at the University of Illinois and author of “Foundations of World Order.” “They would have proved themselves to be the political and historical equivalents to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, acting in defiance of the League of Nations prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.”

Mark Lane, associate professor of Peace and Justice at Georgetown University, argues that any unilateral action by the United States would be a “case of the most powerful nation doing as it pleases.”

He said if one powerful state can bribe or coerce other states to support its wars, then the United Nations is already irrelevant as an arbiter of international law.

Jason Marks, of the San Francisco-based international human rights group Global Exchange, told the Inter Press Service that without a clear mandate from the Security Council, an attack on Iraq would represent a major assault on the rule of law.

“The United Nations should have the final say, not the White House,” Mr. Marks said. “Does this handcuff the United States? Yes. That is precisely the point of the UN and the Security Council veto system: to restrain unilateral actions and preserve international stability.

“If the United States goes ahead and attacks Iraq anyway, without UN approval, in clear disregard to the United Nations, the UN’s credibility and its relevancy will be destroyed,” he said.

Some observers argue that the UN is relevant or irrelevant based upon who is being asked the question. The Nato alliance, for example, bombed Yugoslavia because of its Government’s actions in Kosovo without even reference to the Security Council, because Kosovo had demonstrated the UN’s irrelevance, according to Shashi Tharoor, the under-secretary general for communications and public information at the UN.

Writing in the New Zealand Herald, he said that, on the other hand, “Kosovo returned to the Security Council, not just when an attempt to condemn that bombing failed, but when arrangements had to be found to administer Kosovo after the war. Only the Security Council could approve those arrangements in a way that conferred international legitimacy upon them and encouraged all nations to extend support and resources to the enterprise.”

Even former President Jimmy Carter weighed in on the issue, declaring that by defying overwhelming world opposition, the United States will undermine the UN “as a viable institution for world peace.”

“If the United Nations endorses war against Iraq, then, to me, they lose their relevance. The UN is 191 member states, not 15. An issue of this magnitude should not be left in the hands of a few would be colonial powers,” Elombe Brath, head of the Harlem-based Patrice Lumumba Coalition, told The Final Call.

“The UN, regardless of Iraq, will still be a place that oppressed peoples will have to look to, because of institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization. That is why I say that the real power at the UN exists in the General Assembly,” Mr. Brath stressed.