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Richard Butler

An article about Richard Butler (head of UNSCOM) which I forward as it's
possibly the only email about Iraq parts of which have made me laugh, in
their own way.  (No offence to any Australians listening - it was the
Butler-specific bits, not the first paragraph, I found amusing) 


Grief of Baghdad

By Siddharth Varadarajan

The Times of India

Sunday, November 22, 1998

Not even during the wildest bout of Fosters-induced delirium does a
dinkum cobber in the Aussie outback ever imagine his words might one
day decide questions of war and peace. By that yardstick, Richard
Butler is truly a credit to his race. As head of the UN
Special Commission (UNSCOM), his job is to eliminate whatever
allegedly remains of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear arms
programme. Until he certifies Iraqi compliance, sanctions -- a weapon
of mass destruction as lethal as any other -- will continue. Not since
Gallipoli have the lives of so many depended on the decision of an
Australian. With that kind of power, Butler is clearly in no hurry to
retire to the obscurity of Wollongong or Toowoomba.

Iraq is not off the mark when it accuses UNSCOM of prolonging
inspections, for the US -- to whom Butler owes his plum assignment --
is certainly not interested in the embargo ever ending. By his own
admission, Butler has functioned as little more than an amanuensis to
US officials. He now says his November 12 decision to withdraw UN
inspectors from Iraq -- a move criticised by the Security Council --
was taken solely on the advice of Peter Burleigh, the deputy US
ambassador to the UN. Burleigh, incidentally, was posted in Calcutta
in the 1970s and is believed by Indian intelligence sources to be a
CIA man.

Earlier this year, Butler spread the canard that an Iraqi presidential
site was as big as Washington. It was only when Secretary General Kofi
Annan sent a technical team headed by Swedish diplomat Staffan di
Mistura that the world realised the area was much smaller. Because
Annan sidelined Butler, he was able to resolve that crisis and thwart
US attempts to use force.

Though not publicly criticising the UNSCOM chief, Annan has pulled him
up in private. In January, he ticked Butler off for saying he came
from a ``Western tradition'' where truth-telling was important and
that it was frustrating to deal with societies where this wasn't the
case. Butler was also upbraided for alleging Iraq had enough anthrax
``to blow away Tel Aviv'', a wild claim at variance with UNSCOM's own

Butler joined the foreign service in 1965 after studying economics in
Canberra. After postings in Vienna and New York, he became private
secretary to Bill Hayden, then leader of the opposition. When Labour
came to power and Hayden became foreign minister, Butler was sent as
ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Later, he went to Thailand and then to
New York as Australia's UN ambassador.

After the Liberals won the 1996 elections, they made it clear his days
were numbered. Butler, however, had a plan: he convinced foreign
minister Alexander Downer that he would ensure US support for an
Australian seat on the Security Council. But the US backed Portugal
and Australia was routed. It soon became known that one of the reasons
for the humiliating defeat was that many Asian and Pacific ambassadors
had been alienated by Butler's arrogance in dealing with them. By the
time Downer moved to sack him, however, Butler hitched himself to the
skirts of Madeleine Albright, then Washington's UN representative.

Albright wanted someone to push the CTBT through the UN General
Assembly after the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva had deadlocked
due to the intransigence of the five nuclear weapon states. According
to a former Indian diplomat familiar with the CTBT talks, Butler's job
was to ram through a resolution which would endorse the draft. ``He
did the piloting on the basis of a plan drawn up by the US'', the
diplomat said, describing his approach as ``very abrasive and not at
all polite''. It was also a violation of all procedural norms.

In 1997, Butler was rewarded by the US with the UNSCOM job. Albright
got Downer to agree to Butler's appointment. According to Australian
diplomatic sources, Downer agreed ``in the fond belief that he would
not only be rid of an insufferable and arrogant upstart but also not
have to pay him anything. So you can imagine the surprise here when we
were told that the government had to pay Butler some $250,000 a
year!'' Apparently, neither Butler nor Albright had informed Canberra
of this condition. ``Butler, thus, effectively conned his own
government!'', said a source.

In Australia, there is an acute sense of embarrassment at Butler's
erratic conduct and his cultural insensitivity in dealing with Iraq.
As a self-perpetuating bureaucrat, he is unlikely to end the
inspection process since he would then be without a job. Unless he is
removed as UNSCOM chief or the US changes its policy, a fresh crisis
is bound to arise. There may even be bloodshed. And the whole world
will then say: The Butler did it!

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