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Tariq Ali - This war is immoral and unjust, with or without UN backing

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  • Tarek Fatah
    21 February 2003 A second resolution is not enough This war is immoral and unjust, with or without UN backing By Tariq Ali The Guardian
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2003
      21 February 2003

      A second resolution is not enough
      This war is immoral and unjust, with or without UN backing

      By Tariq Ali
      The Guardian

      A massive majority in Britain is currently opposed to the war, but the
      anti-war movement confronts a virtually uniform House of Commons. Both major
      parties are united and Labour MPs incapable of mounting a parliamentary
      revolt to ditch Blair, the only thing that could halt the drive to war. The
      British peace movement, however, has a soft underbelly. A war that is
      unjustifiable if waged by Bush and Blair alone becomes acceptable to some if
      sanctioned by the "international community" - ie the UN security council.
      The consciences of those opposed to the unilateralist bombing of cities and
      civilian deaths are appeased if the weapons of destruction are fired with UN
      support. This level of confusion raises questions about the UN today. Do its
      resolutions carry any weight if opposed by the US, as has repeatedly been
      the case with Palestine and Kashmir?
      The UN and its predecessor, the League of Nations, were created to
      institutionalise a new status quo arrived at after the first and second
      world wars. Both organisations were founded on the basis of defending the
      right of nations to self-determination. In both cases their charters
      outlawed pre-emptive strikes and big-power attempts to occupy countries or
      change regimes. Both stressed that the nation state had replaced empires.

      The League of Nations collapsed soon after the Italian fascists occupied
      Ethiopia. Mussolini defended his invasion of Albania and Abyssinia by
      arguing that he was removing the "corrupt, feudal and oppressive regime" of
      King Zog/Haile Selassie and Italian newsreels showed grateful Albanians
      applauding the entry of Italian troops.

      The UN was created after the defeat of fascism. Its charter prohibits the
      violation of national sovereignty except in the case of "self- defence".
      However, the UN was unable to defend the newly independent Congo against
      Belgian and US intrigue in the 1960s, or to save the life of the Congolese
      leader Patrice Lumumba. And in 1950 the security council authorised a US war
      in Korea.

      Under the UN banner the western armies deliberately destroyed dams, power
      stations and the infrastructure of social life in North Korea, plainly in
      breach of international law. The UN was also unable to stop the war in
      Vietnam. Its paralysis over the occupation of Palestine has been visible for
      over three decades.

      This inactivity was not restricted to western abuses. The UN was unable to
      act against the Soviet invasion of Hungary (1956) or the Warsaw Pact's entry
      into Czechoslovakia (1968). Both Big Powers were allowed to get on with
      their business in clear breach of the UN charter.

      With the US as the only military-imperial state, the security council today
      has become a venue for trading, not insults, but a share of the loot. The
      Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci predicted this turn of events with amazing
      prescience. "The 'normal' exercise of hegemony," he wrote, "is characterised
      by the combination of force and consent, in variable equilibrium, without
      force predominating too much over consent." There were, he added, occasions
      when it was more appropriate to resort to a third variant of hegemony,
      because "between consent and force stands corruption-fraud, that is the
      enervation and paralysing of the antagonist or antagonists". This is an
      exact description of the process used to negotiate Russian support at the UN
      as revealed in a front-page headline in The Financial Times (October 4,
      2002): "Putin drives hard bargain with US over Iraq's oil: Moscow wants high
      commercial price for its support."

      The world has changed so much over the last 20 years that the UN - the
      current deadlock notwithstanding - has become an anachronism, a permanent
      fig leaf for new imperial adventures. Former UN secretary general Boutros
      Boutros-Ghali was sacked on Madeline Albright's insistence for challenging
      the imperial will: he had insisted that it was the Rwandan genocide that
      needed intervention. US interests required a presence in the Balkans. He was
      replaced by Kofi Annan, a weak placeman, whose sanctimonious speeches may
      sometimes deceive an innocent British public, but not himself. He knows who
      calls the shots.

      As Mark Twain described it in 1916: "Next the statesmen will invent cheap
      lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will
      be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study
      them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and
      by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better
      sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

      If the security council allows the invasion and occupation of Iraq either by
      a second resolution or by accepting that the first was sufficient to justify
      war as a last resort, then the UN, too, will die. It is necessary to insist
      that UN-backed war would be as immoral and unjust as the one being plotted
      in the Pentagon - because it will be the same war.
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