U.N. resolution a fig leaf for the U.S.

Today’s unanimous vote by the United Nations Security Council to enforce the numerous prior resolutions flouted by Iraq was little more than a fig leaf providing the flimsiest of cover for the United States to wage war when it feels like it.
The myriad reasons given by the Bush administration — Saddam was behind Sept. 11; no, wait, he’s harboring terrorists; no, wait, he’s building weapons of mass destructions, yeah, that’s it — for slipping the leash from the dogs of war finally convinced reluctant allies France and Russia to sign on to the latest dictat from the Security Council. (No doubt the guarantees that Iraq’s oil contracts with these two major trading partners of Saddam would be honored had nothing to do with their acquiescence in New York.) No, UNSCR 1441 purports to lay out a legal framework for inspecting and disarming Iraq, but President Bush’s own words immediately following the vote give lie to the legalese.
The relevant paragraphs, 11 and 12, of the resolution run thusly:

The Security Council, …
Directs the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director-General of the IAEA to report immediately to the Council any interference by Iraq with inspection activities, as well as any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution;
Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security; …

The second paragraph is the sop to France and Russia they demanded, requiring the United States to consult the Security Council before bombs begin falling and people dying. But George W. Bush, bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus, shall not be constrained by the shrill harpings of lawyers and knaves. Speaking in absolute and moral tones, the Lecturer in Chief warned the Iraqi strongman that “Any Iraqi noncompliance is serious, because such bad faith will show that Iraq has no intention of disarming.”
“America will be making only one determination: Is Iraq meeting the terms of the Security Council resolution or not?” he continued. Then he added, with the munificence of a nuclear-armed superpower, “The United States has agreed to discuss any material breach with the Security Council, but without jeopardizing our freedom of action to defend our country. If Iraq fails to fully comply, the United States and other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein.”
Debate all you want, ye chattering diplomats and feckless advisors, Bush II proclaimed. I got my resolution, as predicted, and diplomatic cover. It is I who shall decide when and where to strike. With Bush’s proclamations, the United States says it will talk to the sheriff, but it refuses to allow itself to become the United Nation’s deputy. As Afonso Bedoya said in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre when he attempts to shake down Humphrey Bogart, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges!”
But this is real life, not a movie. Nothing can disguise that this vote was appeasement by the United Nations of the highest order. The United States’ overwhelming power has led to overweening hubris, and the belief that we can do no wrong. Might makes right, after all, so be right.
“In confronting this threat, America seeks the support of the world. If action becomes necessary, we will act in the interests of the world.” No doubt the world wonders just in whose interest it serves to attack another country that hasn’t been tied to Sept. 11, is diametrically opposed to the worldview of al Qa’ida and would be unlikely to threaten the United States with mass terrorism, unless it government felt its survival was at stake.
“The outcome of the current crisis is already determined: The full disarmament of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq will occur,” blusters Bush. “The only question for the Iraqi regime is to decide how.” (Removal by the Army or by the Marines? Which would you prefer, President Hussein?) I think most people on the Security Council know the outcome of that question, too, for the trap has been set and so tightly wound that the slightest tension on the legalistic tripwires contained in UNSCR 1441 will set the gears of war machines to grinding.
And while the diplomats talk, the warriors will fight. What good the pause for debate if it’s just for show? When the Bush Administration chides the United Nations for “unproductive debate,” how can the organization not become irrelevant when the United States — not Iraq — decides to brush aside the niceties of diplomacy and will of the world in favor of muscular chest beating followed by a solid thumping?
For while the people of Europe and the United States are not opposed to war, provided it has the backing of the United Nations, this resolution does not give the United States the authority to wage war pell-mell while the Security Council engages in “unproductive debate” as Bush II so dismissively put it today, surrounded by imperial roses. If the United States picks a fight while the adults are talking, there might literally be hell to pay.
Indeed, Mr. President: I feel you have already determined the outcome of this crisis. And the will of the American people — and the world — be damned.

John Burns interview on ‘Fresh Air’

Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air has a great interview with New York Times correspondent John Burns, who was in Iraq when Saddam released his prisoners. He’s won two Pulitzer prizes and comes across as a journalist’s journalist. I highly recommend this interview, especially for Burns’ recounting of his interview with Palestinian Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas, the man who masterminded the hijacking of the Achille Lauro.

Erdogan says Turkey won’t help

Just before the U.N. voted on a final shot at disarming Iraq, the leader of the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Turkey would not help in an attack on neighboring Iraq.

Just before the U.N. voted on a final shot at disarming Iraq, the leader of the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Turkey would not help in an attack on neighboring Iraq. Erdogan can’t hold the prime minister post of Turkey, but he runs the party and is the most powerful politician in Turkey. If he’s saying that Turkey won’t take part in an operation against Iraq, that represents one of two things:

1) AKP has made a colossal mistake before it ever takes office, and is heading for a confrontation with the military establishment of Turkey. If this is the case, AKP’s days as the ruling party are numbered. The military, while not enthusiastic about a campaign against Iraq, will not endanger its relationship with the United States or with Israel. Incirlik will be used heavily in any air campaign against Iraq. Or…
2) Erdogan is playing a dangerous game at extracting concessions from the United States. The sanctions against Iraq have cost Turkey billions of dollars over the last decade and exacerbated the poverty of southeast Turkey, fueling the ire of the Kurdish Workers Party. I think more likely that Erdogan is trying to squeeze the United States for cash, backing with the IMF for loans and, more significantly, a free hand in northern Iraq against the Kurds. However, if the AKP miscalculates and asks for too much, the military might step in and remove the AKP from power.

Erdogan made his comments yesterday to the Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal. He also expressed support for the Palestinians and the establishment of an independnet state for them. How comments such as this might affect Turkey’s tight relationship with Israel is unknown.

The line in the sand

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously passed the U.S. resolution on Iraq today. Iraq has called the resolution cover for a U.S. attack.
“The objective of any draft resolution will not be to verify the situation about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction but to provide some causes for the United States to attack Iraq,” [Trade Minister Mohammad] Saleh told reporters asking about Iraq’s position on the resolution. “It is unfortunate that America and Britain have obstructed the return of U.N. weapons inspectors except with a new U.N. resolution that leads to a military aggression on Iraq under international cover.”

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously passed the U.S. resolution on Iraq today. Iraq has called the document cover for a U.S. attack.
“The objective of any draft resolution will not be to verify the situation about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction but to provide some causes for the United States to attack Iraq,” [Trade Minister Mohammad] Saleh told reporters asking about Iraq’s position on the resolution. “It is unfortunate that America and Britain have obstructed the return of U.N. weapons inspectors except with a new U.N. resolution that leads to a military aggression on Iraq under international cover.”
“This resolution is not meant to verify that Iraq is clear of weapons of mass destruction because Iraq has no such weapons,” he added.
What’s interesting is that Syria voted for the resolution despite its earlier objections. Reports were that Syria wanted to hold off the vote until Monday to give the Arab League time to hold a meeting. It also wanted to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone (which was a slap at Israel.) But in the end, the Syrians backed down and sided with the United States. What is also interesting is that the United States gave up its demand that it should be allowed to attack Iraq immediately at what it saw as any interference with the weapons inspectors. Instead, it will go back to the Security Council in the event of Saddam’s intransigence. (However, in the rose garden address, Bush said the United States wouldn’t wait on “unproductive debate” before attacking.)
Highlights from the resolution include:

… Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including Resolution 687 (1991), in particular through Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations inspectors and the I.A.E.A., and to complete the actions required under Paragraphs 8 to 13 of Resolution 687 (1991);
… False statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with Paragraph 11 or 12 below;
… Iraq shall provide Unmovic and the I.A.E.A. immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records and means of transport which they wish to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted, and private access to all officials and other persons whore Unmovic or the I.A.E.A. wish to interview in the mode or location of Unmovic’s or the I.A.E.A.’s choice, pursuant to any aspect of their mandates; further decides that Unmovic and the I.A.E.A. may at their discretion conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, may facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq, and that, at the sole discretion of Unmovic and the I.A.E.A., such interviews may occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi government; and instructs Unmovic and requests the I.A.E.A. to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter;
… the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

The unity of the Security Council is in stark contrast to the disunity of the Iraqi opposition, which has quarreled over procedural details of a proposed Nov. 22 conference in Brussels. These are the guys the Bush wants to lead Iraq post-Saddam? I hope Gen. Tommy Franks has his viceroy outfit all picked out, and that it’s durable, since he’s going to be wearing it for a long time.
After the resolution passed, President Bush spoke from the White House rose garden, saying that Saddam Hussein “will face the severest consequences” if he does not prove his compliance with the UNSC and any interference will be seen as serious and
“The resolution presents the iraqi regime with a test — a final test,” said Bush. “Iraq must now without delay or without negotiations fully disarm. … The regime must allow immediate and unrestricted access to every site, every document and every person identified by inspectors. The old game of cheat and retreat — tolerated at other times — will no longer be tolerated.
“If Iraq fails to fully comply, the United States and the other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein,” he added.
Iraq must indicate by Nov. 15 that it accepts the resolution. By Dec. 8, it must hand over a list of any programs to Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector. Dec. 23 will see the arrival of inspectors on Iraqi soil, and the inspectors must report back to the United Nations what they’ve found by Feb. 21. It’s important to note that the United States views March as the latest that it could comfortably wage war in the Iraqi desert. Expect a continued build-up of military forces in the Gulf and the Saudis eventually to roll over and allow the use of their air bases now that the U.N. voted unanimously for the resolution. Kuwait and the Kurds are no doubt rejoicing over the strength of the resolution, too.
Bush, in the rose garden, gave no doubt what he thinks will happen: “The outcome of the current crisis is already determined. The full disarmament of Iraq … will occur.” The choice of how, he said, lies with Saddam.