BUSH AND Blair would like to have United Nations (UN) backing for a war on Iraq. Opinion polls show that UN support would blunt opposition to a war from some people. Nobody should believe that UN support means that a war will be more just. Nor can the UN be relied on to block war.
The UN has repeatedly been used as camouflage for wars fought purely in the interests of the most powerful states, principally the US. Korea 1950-1953
AT THE end of the Second World War Korea was divided between the North, under Russian influence, and the South, under the influence of the US. The ‘Cold War’ between the two superpowers became a hot war. In June 1950 fighting began. Northern forces pushed back the Southern army. US president Truman ordered the US army into combat and began bombing the North. In order to make it seem that the war was not simply a US concern, an emergency meeting of the UN was called.
Despite the fact that the Communists had come to power in China a year before, China’s UN Security Council seat was held by the previous government operating from Taiwan. Russia was boycotting the Security Council in protest.
The US motion went through easily. UN forces were dispatched to Korea-under the command of the US. The war lasted for three years.
In the name of the UN, General MacArthur ordered the US airforce to turn North Korea into a wasteland by destroying ‘every installation, factory, city and village’. He congratulated the airforce when it used napalm to burn the city of Hoeryong. MacArthur joyfully declared that ‘a large part of enemy lines is now a wilderness of scorched earth’.
During the war President Truman declared that using atomic bombs was ‘under active consideration’ and MacArthur outlined a list of targets. MacArthur later said he had wanted to ‘spread a belt of radioactive cobalt from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea’. Atomic weapons were not used. But every other barbaric method of war was. The war killed at least two million Korean civilians. The UN had backed it all. Congo 1960
The colonial power Belgium was forced out of central Africa’s Congo in 1960. The people elected a radical, Patrice Lumumba, as prime minister. He horrified the Belgian authorities and the multinational companies when his early speeches suggested he would refuse to be a Western puppet. Belgium immediately began to plot to remove Lumumba.
Belgian officers fled to Congo’s mineral-rich Katanga province and ‘encouraged’ it to declare independence from the central government. Lumumba responded by appealing to the UN for military aid. UN troops soon arrived.
But they acted throughout as protectors of the illegal breakaway regime and as a buffer that prevented Lumumba’s forces defeating the Katangan government. The UN was well aware of where its role was leading. In an internal memorandum UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold wrote, ‘The UN effort could not continue with Lumumba in office. One or the other would have to go.’ UN forces allowed a Belgian aircraft into Katanga with nine tonnes of weapons for the opposition.
The US, Belgian and British governments now worked to have Lumumba declared an ‘illegitimate leader’ and to murder him with UN support. The plan worked. The UN general assembly, under pressure from the US, voted by 53 votes to 24 not to recognise Lumumba’s government.
As UN troops looked on, Lumumba was imprisoned and murdered. The key figure in the new government was Joseph Mobutu who would be Congo’s dictator for the next three decades. The UN had backed the murder of a popular, democratically elected leader. Gulf War 1990-1991
GEORGE BUSH Sr’s war for oil against Iraq was fought with UN backing. James Baker, the US Secretary of State, met the foreign ministers of each of the other 14 member countries of the UN Security Council. He offered a combination of bribes and threats in order to make them back a resolution allowing an attack on Iraq.
In 1990 Egypt was the most indebted country in Africa. Baker bribed President Mubarak with $14 billion in ‘debt forgiveness’. Syria’s president, Assad, was given the green light to wipe out all opposition to Syria’s rule in Lebanon. Some $1 billion of arms was made available.
The US gave Iran a promise to drop its opposition to a series of World Bank loans. The bank approved the first loan of $250 million on the day before the ground attack on Iraq.
Russia was desperate for economic assistance. President Bush sent the Saudi Arabian foreign minister to Moscow to offer $1 billion. After Russian leader Gorbachev agreed to the war resolution, another $3 billion came from other Gulf states.
The chair of the Security Council at the time was Zaire (formerly Congo). Its rulers were offered debt forgiveness and military equipment in return for making sure the Security Council met when, and only when, the US wanted. When it came to the vote, 12 states voted for the attack resolution. Yemen and Cuba voted against and China abstained.
Minutes after the resolution was passed, US ambassador Pickering told the Yemeni ambassador, ‘That was the most expensive no vote you ever cast.’ Within three days the US halted a $70 million aid programme to one of the world’s poorest countries.
Some 800,000 Yemeni workers were expelled from Saudi Arabia. Such pressures won UN backing for the assault on Iraq in 1991-and they will be used in 2003.
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