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.