The un-United Nations and the world as ‘victim’ By William Bowles

6 June 2003

Every day, a dozen or so un-UN press releases pile up in my inbox which I scan for some nugget of news, some insight that might be of use to me, but it’s largely self-serving stuff. Hans Blix’s last report on Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ is as vague and non-committal as all the others have been and therein lies the rub as they say. I’d go as far as to say that much of the confusion surrounding the WMDs should be laid at the door of Blix and co, in their attempt to walk a tightrope between the imperialists and the rest of us, as they have attempted to be ‘objective’. Yet the rules mitigated and defined the nature of ‘objectivity’ from the getgo. The terms of reference for Blix’s mission was laid down by the USUK from the very beginning. In this context, how could the UN be ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’? And yet even this wasn’t good enough for USUK. Yet this is what it was called upon to be and the extract below gives you an example of the end product:


New York, Jun 5 2003 12:00PM

The top United Nations weapons inspector for Iraq warned today against jumping to the conclusion that weapons of mass destruction existed just because they were unaccounted for, but cautioned also against concluding that such programmes had ended in cases where the previous regime had not accounted for them.’ –

The press release goes on to say:

”As I have noted before, this does not necessarily mean that such items could not exist,’ he said. ‘They might, there remain long lists of items unaccounted for, but it is not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just because it is unaccounted for.”

Vague and vacuous, is all one could say about this load of mumbo-jumbo. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. You say tomato and I say tomato.

But then, ever since its inception, the un-UN has served the most powerful nation of the world, the US, when and if it suited its purposes and has been totally ignored when it didn’t. And this doesn’t just apply to the Iraq tragedy but over the 50-plus years of its existence, every major event that the un-UN has been involved in, has been subject to manipulation by the US and its allies. The only power that could (and would) stand up to the US was the USSR, and even then it had only the weapon of last resort, the veto, as it pretty well stood alone on the Security Council. And of course until recently, it all took place within the context of the Cold War. By and large, the small and powerless nations, the majority of un-UN members, were ‘victims’ of power plays, pushed this way and that, as the balance of forces swayed in one direction or the other between the two major powers. But that all changed with the collapse of the USSR.

The very structure of the un-UN reflects the reality of the power relations between nations, with the vast majority of its members relegated to the role of onlookers (the General Assembly) and the Security Council, where the real power is. It is within this context that the role of Blair’s relationship to the US and both to the un-UN has been the most revealing (and destructive) over the tragedy that is Iraq.

Ever since 1990 and Operation Desert Storm, a lot of hot air has been expended over the role of the un-UN, first in how the un-UN was steamrollered and/or blackmailed into being made the ‘lead’, and then being forced to clean up the mess afterwards. The events of the past few months have revealed much about how this process works, with the US bribing, cajoling and threatening those states that wouldn’t tow the line. US threats of leaving the un-UN or of simply ignoring it are not new. The Reagan administration and then Bush Senior’s, withdrew funding, pulled out of various un-UN agencies that had adopted policies that didn’t comply with their ideological/political position, such as family planning, media and communications policy, climate, in fact any programme that didn’t comply with US objectives.

It’s instructive too, that during the run up to the invasion when Blair was forced by public opinion to play the un-UN card over a second resolution, that we saw the media reporting (largely without comment) how the US attempted, in the most blatant fashion to get the other members of the Security Council to support an engineered resolution that would endorse the invasion. Commentary in the mass media was incredulous in the extreme in how it would report the threats, blackmail and offers of bribes, yet not once did the media make a connection between these events and the morality of a country which is supposedly on the side of ‘justice’ and ‘democracy’, that could resort to such underhanded and immoral actions in order to pursue its global objectives. US actions were reported in the most matter-of-fact manner, as if this was ‘business as usual’, which if course, is what is was.

The role of US public diplomacy is most enlightening in this regard. Even the most cursory analysis is very revealing. Take the onslaught on the French opposition to the invasion and their (supposedly) opposition to the second resolution. In the space of just a few short days, the USUK offensive with the almost total compliance of both the US and UK media demonised the French, exploiting both UK and US xenophobic tendencies, especially in the rabid and racist, right-wing press. That the actual issues disappeared down a media black hole, has now been conveniently forgotten. By focusing just on the French, the issue could be reduced to a one-dimensional problem, ‘well, you know the French, they’re arrogant, with pretensions to being a global player’ etc. Having marginalised them, they could then be dismissed (but not forgotten).

Note however, that the same process was not applied to either the German or the Russian governments, who had also opposed the invasion and this was no accident. If the US and the UK had decided to include Russia and Germany in the propaganda offensive, then they would have been facing the anger of not just the majority of the French people but also that of the majority of the Russian and German populations too. What this revealed is that what the USUK alliance is most afraid of, is not the governments of these countries but their populations, something that the USUK have little control over. Putin could be privately blackmailed, cajoled or bribed (or all) and Germany could be simply ignored, which is exactly what happened.

The current situation with the un-UN weapons inspection team shows just what the USUK think of the un-UN. The team which is currently and reluctantly, being given ‘access’ to the trashed nuclear complex in Iraq, is restricted to one tiny area of the complex and even then only to securing containers, the pretext being that the USUK need to ‘search for [the elusive] WMDs’. The USUK didn’t even bother to protect the place following the invasion!

Today, a spokesman for the IAEA said that, ‘We have to work within the parameters’ and that, ‘There’s no point calling it subservience [to the US and UK].’ (BBC ‘World at One’). Yet another example of the total subservience of the un-UN to USUK policies.

The media’s role in this mass deception is critical. Aside from Blix’s final report yesterday, the UN has all but disappeared from the media horizon. The supposed centrality of the un-UN in conflict resolution has made way for the recognition of real politik. What is most farcical, is the reality of both the USUK and the un-UN over this disaster as yet another one of the supposed reasons for the invasion was the ‘imminent danger’ of WMDs falling into the hands of ‘terrorists’, which given all the mass hysteria about ‘dirty bombs’ turning up in the middle of London or New York, gives the lie to the idea that firstly, the USUK governments actually care about their populations (assuming that such weapons are a real possibility) and secondly, where are screaming headlines in the press?

‘Iraqi nukes are imminent danger! Missing radioactives could fall into the hands of terrorists,’ followed by the usual host of ‘experts’ commenting on who, what, where and when. And the same could apply to all the other alleged WMDs hidden somewhere in Iraq. A clear case of selective reporting if ever I saw one and yet another piece of the imperialist jigsaw falls into place and the media’s role in perpetuating the myths.

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