Whither the UN?
Logical Contortion, Hypocrisy, and the Absurd
by Kim Petersen
March 22, 2003
Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. -- Voltaire
The re-escalation of the Persian Gulf War has begun. The US and UK and any other of the so-called coalition of more than 35 nations are in overt revolt against the UN. These nations display their disdain for international law as codified by the UN and ostensibly defer instead to the whims of US Empire.
So what is the role of the UN at this moment? The US and UK in a cynical theatre of absurdity seek UN Security Council imprimatur for a post-war administration by the self-same belligerents who undermined UN authority in pursuit of the illegal war. Legal experts have stated that the war is illegal. (1) British Prime Minister Blair has also been warned by a group of eminent European academics that war is illegal without UN approbation. (2)
It reeks of hypocrisy that the aggressors who supposedly had relegated the UN to irrelevancy now curry its approval once again.
One wonders how can US President Bush retain claim to any credibility after such bombastic proclamations as:
"It's a moment of truth for the United Nations. The United Nations gets to decide shortly whether or not it is going to be relevant in terms of keeping the peace, whether or not its words mean anything."
“The United Nations will either be able to function as a peacekeeping body as we head into the 21st century, or it will be irrelevant. And that’s what we’re about to find out.”
“Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"
Mr. Bush seems oblivious to the UN’s raison d’être to prevent “the scourge of war,” not to initiate it. The logical contortions required to comprehend how the UN “is going to be relevant in terms of keeping the peace” by approving war is curious to say the least. One would rationally deduce from Mr. Bush’s declamations that since the UN did not go along with US demands, that in the US and UK mind, the UN was now irrelevant.
US Defense Minister Rumsfeld in a different tact tried to draw an analogy between the demise of the League of Nations, which he claims proved ineffectual because of its failure to respond to Italian aggression in Abyssinia. First the analogy is flawed. The analogy is about a failure to respond to aggression but it is applied to a case of failure to okay aggression. It is a contradiction. At any rate the implication was that if the UN did not sanction violence for Iraqi defiance of UN Security Council resolutions then it too would go the way of the defunct League of Nations.
If such reasoning were valid then the UN should have been doomed a long time ago since a plethora of UN Security Council resolutions are held in longstanding non-compliance by various nations, many of which count themselves as allies of the US. (3)
So then why is the UK seeking a resolution turning over administrative function of Iraq from the irrelevant UN? It is mind-boggling. At the European Summit in Brussels, French President Chirac threatened to veto all resolutions that would legitimize the war post hoc. (4) Le Monde editorialized that Europe must not fear incurring the displeasure of the US in assuming its role as an autonomous actor on the world stage. (5)
The US and UK disingenuously censured the French for the botched attempt to secure a second UN Security Council resolution. Mr. Blair who most required the second resolution had stated that he was prepared to ignore an “unreasonable” or “irresponsible” veto, especially if 10 Security Council members lined up behind an affirmative vote. Three potential vetos were in the offing and apparently the US and UK couldn’t bribe or coerce enough non-permanent members to join their cause. Despite Mr. Bush’s call for all cards to be shown, the hawks backed down in the face of ignominious defeat. The hawks parlayed this defeat by spinning the blame on France.
Hypocritically Mr. Blair avoided the history of solitary American votes in the UN Security Council. Supposedly these vetos were neither “irresponsible” nor “unreasonable.”
Writer David Edwards considers Mr. Blair a Machiavellian master of “exactly the kind of language we associate with honesty and sincerity.” So asks Mr. Edwards “How can we reconcile Blair's apparent sincerity with the reality that his arguments are often completely fraudulent, relying not just on major distortions and omissions of key facts, but on complete reversal of the truth?” He concludes that Mr. Blair knows the reality but that he “consciously sets out to deceive the public while obscuring his deceptiveness behind an appearance of sincerity.” (6) It could be rather in the words of André Gide that Mr. Blair really is so masterful that he has even deceived himself: “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Kim Petersen, An Illegal and Immoral War,” Dissident Voice, 20 March 2003: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles2/Petersen_Illegal-Immoral-War.htm
(2) CBC Online Staff, “Academics warn Blair: war with Iraq illegal,” CBC News, 7 March 2003: http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/03/07/blair_letter030307
(3) Petersen, Ibid
(4) Thomas Ferenczi, Arnaud Leparmentier and Laurent Zecchini, “La France rejettera toute résolution ‘justifiant la guerre après coup,’" Le Monde, 22 March 2003: http://www.lemonde.fr/recherche_articleweb/1,9687,313899,00.html?query=blair+chirac+resolution+veto&query2=&booleen=et&num_page=1&auteur=&dans=dansarticle&periode=1&ordre=pertinence&debutjour=&debutmois=&debutannee=&finjour=&finmois=&finannee=&G_NBARCHIVES=767+677
(5) Editorial, “L'Europe déchirée,” Le Monde, 21 March 2003: http://www.lemonde.fr/article/0,5987,3208--313762-,00.html
(6) David Edwards, “Blair's Betrayal: Part 2 - The Newsnight Debate - Dismantling The Case For War,” Media Lens Media Alert, 11 February 2003: http://www.medialens.org/alerts/030211_Blairs_Betrayal2.html