The Bush Administration has developed a straightforward plan to crush its enemies in the United Nations and remake the institution in its own image. The new strategy was decided on during the run up to the Iraq war when mutinous elements within the Security Council challenged the administration’s right to wage an unprovoked war with Iraq. America’s failed attempts at garnering the Security Council’s approval weakened its shrinking credibility and tested its ability to act unilaterally. Now, the administration has figured out a way to purge “allegedly” disloyal members of Kofi Annan’s personal staff and replace them with handpicked allies of the administration. This is part of a broader scheme to rebuild the UN from the ground up in a way that better serves American interests.
The administration has already used the “Oil for Food” program to badger Kofi Annan and his staff with spurious allegations of impropriety. So far, the biggest offender looks to be the US, who secretly diverted oil to friends in Turkey and Jordan prior to the war in violation of UN sanctions. Never the less, the administration has assembled a crack team of political “hit-men” to discredit the Secretary General and force him into early retirement. To date, none of the allegations levied at Annan have been substantiated, but the withering attacks have damaged his credibility. (Compare Annan’s travails with the $8.8 billion dollars that has gone missing from Iraqi oil receipts. According to Helen Thomas, copious amounts of cash “was stashed in the basement of CPA Headquarters and released from time to time to contractors.” In other words, the administration has conducted the biggest heist in history in full view of the American public)
Annan is well aware of the administration’s intention to replace him with a more compliant leader. As Warren Hoge predicted in his New York Times article, “You’re going to get a much more modest UN, not politically aggressive, not making statements about what’s legal and what is not, a much weaker secretary general when this one is gone.”
Annan’s independence has bothered the administration from the get-go, but his public statement that the Iraq war was “illegal” sealed his fate. The Bush chieftains get jittery whenever the question legality pops up in a public forum; it’s a prickly issue that naturally leads to the question of war crimes.
The campaign to disgrace Annan has gone on for months without any evidence of wrongdoing. Like Annan’s colleague in the IAEA, Mohammed El Baradei (who the US has been repeatedly attacked for refusing to provide damaging material on Iran’s nuclear weapons program) Annan is “squeaky-clean”. His courage in rebuffing the administration’s coercive tactics prior to the war, coupled with his enormous personal popularity has made him a tough target for Washington’s revenge. Never the less, Annan will probably be removed sometime before his 2006 re-election. The administration has already released its attack-dogs in the Congress and the Senate to publicly rebuke the Secretary General at every opportunity, and Bush’s allies on talk radio continue to make unsubstantiated claims of his criminality on a daily basis. The entire charade is strikingly similar to the “Swift boat” strategy that won Bush the White House for a second term.
The Role of the UN
Richard Holbrooke, the former ambassador to the UN under Bill Clinton, said “The UN cannot stand above its member states; that’s not acceptable to the big powers.”
What Holbrooke means to say, is that, the administration won’t tolerate an institution that defies the will of the US. As he sees it, the foremost task of the UN is to “rubber stamp” Washington’s unilateral behavior. If Kofi Annan won’t perform that service, they’ll find someone else. As Bush the Elder said after the first Gulf War, “From now on, whatever America says, goes.” Holbrooke simply reaffirms this basic premise.
Many idealists still believe that the UN’s main purpose should be to deter aggression and use its moral authority to promote world peace. This is at loggerheads with the Holbrooke theory of how the UN should operate. He sees the UN’s role as providing the necessary cover for America’s ongoing colonial adventures.
The New York Times reinforces the Holbrooke doctrine by stating that the future success of the UN depends on its “accepting the reality of the preeminence of the United States.” What could be clearer?
The notion of equality between nations is pure nonsense; America is “first among equals,” a situation that the Bush administration intends to restore by eliminating the leaders of the opposition.
Richard Holbrooke, (who was slated to be Kerry’s national security advisor) summarized the sentiments of America’s political elites with Machiavellian succinctness: “There are no circumstances where the UN can operate in opposition to the United States, and that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the idealists.”
The UN is the mask behind which the US operates. Its primary function is to confer international legitimacy on America’s global ambitions by endorsing the policies of aggression and self-interest. The rest is just romantic gibberish.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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