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[casi] "Diplomacy?"-John Pilger


If you want to know how George W Bush will go about getting inter- national
support for war, look at how his father did it 12 years ago.

by John Pilger; New Statesman; September 19, 2002

The making of a United Nations fig leaf, designed to cover an Anglo-American
attack on Iraq, has a revealing past. In 1990, a version of George W Bush's
mafia diplomacy was conducted by his father, then
president. The aim was to "contain" America's former regional favorite,
Saddam Hussein, whose invasion of Kuwait ended his usefulness to

Forgotten facts tell us how George Bush Sr's war plans gained the
"legitimacy" of a United Nations resolution, as well as a "coalition" of
Arab governments. Like his son's undisguised threats to the General
Assembly, Bush challenged the United Nations to "live up to its
responsibilities" and condone an all-out assault on Iraq. On 29 October
1990, James Baker, the secretary of state, declared: "After a long period of
stagnation, the United Nations is becoming a more effective organisation."

Just as Colin Powell, the present secretary of state, is busily doing today,
Baker met the foreign minister of each of the 14 member countries of the UN
Security Council and persuaded the majority to vote for an "attack
resolution" - 678 - which had no basis in the UN Charter.

It was one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the United
Nations, and is about to be repeated. For the first time, the full UN
Security Council capitulated to an American-led war party and
abandoned its legal responsibility to advance peacefuland diplomatic
solutions. On 29 November, the United States got its war resolution. This
was made possible by a campaign of bribery, blackmail and threats, of which
a repetition is currently under way, especially in countries such as Egypt
and Saudi Arabia. In 1990, Egypt was the most indebted country in Africa.
Baker bribed President Mubarak with $14bn in "debt
forgiveness" and all opposition to the attack on Iraq faded away. Syria's
bribe was different; Washington gave President Hafez al-Assad the green
light to wipe out all opposition to Syria's rule in Lebanon. To help him
achieve this, a billion dollars' worth of arms was
made available through a variety of back doors, mostly Gulf states.

Iran was bribed with an American promise to drop its opposition to a series
of World Bank loans. The bank approved the first loan of $250m on the day
before the ground attack on Iraq. Bribing the Soviet Union was especially
urgent, as Moscow was close to pulling off a deal that would allow Saddam to
extricate himself from Kuwait peacefully. However, with its wrecked economy,
the Soviet Union was easy prey for a bribe. President Bush sent the Saudi
foreign minister to Moscow to offer a billion-dollar bribe before the
Russian winter set in. He succeeded. Once Gorbachev had agreed to the war
resolution, another $3bn
materialised from other Gulf states.

The votes of the non-permanent members of the Security Council were crucial.
Zaire was offered undisclosed "debt forgiveness" and military equipment in
return for silencing the Security Council when the attack was under way.
Occupying the rotating presidency of the council, Zaire refused requests
from Cuba, Yemen and India to convene an emergency meeting of the council,
even though it had no authority to refuse them under the UN Charter.

Only Cuba and Yemen held out. Minutes after Yemen voted against the
resolution to attack Iraq, a senior American diplomat told the Yemeni
ambassador: "That was the most expensive 'no' vote you ever cast."
Within three days, a US aid programme of $70m to one of the world's poorest
countries was stopped. Yemen suddenly had problems with the World Bank and
the IMF; and 800,000 Yemeni workers were expelled from Saudi Arabia. The
ferocity of the American-led attack far exceeded the mandate of Security
Council Resolution 678, which did not allow for the destruction of Iraq's
infrastructure and economy. When the United States
sought another resolution to blockade Iraq, two new members of the Security
Council were duly coerced. Ecuador was warned by the US ambassador in Quito
about the "devastating economic consequences" of a No vote. Zimbabwe was
threatened with new IMF conditions for its debt.

The punishment of impoverished countries that opposed the attack was severe.
Sudan, in the grip of a famine, was denied a shipment of food aid. None of
this was reported at the time. By now, news organisations had one objective:
to secure a place close to the US command in Saudi Arabia. At the same time,
Amnesty International published a searing account of torture, detention and
arbitrary arrest by the Saudi regime.
Twenty thousand Yemenis were being deported every day and as many as 800 had
been tortured and ill-treated.

Neither the BBC nor ITN reported a word about this. "It is common knowledge
in television," wrote Peter Lennon in the Guardian, "that fear of not being
granted visas was the only consideration in
withholding coverage of that embarrassing story." When the attack was over,
the full cost was summarised in a report published by the Medical Education
Trust in London. More than 200,000 people were killed or had
died during and in the months after the attack. This also was not news.
Neither was a report that child mortality in Iraq had multiplied as the
effects of theeconomic embargo intensified. Extrapolating from all the
statistics of Iraq's suffering, the American researchers John Mueller and
Karl Mueller have since concluded that the subsequent economic punishment of
the Iraqis has "probably taken the lives of more people in Iraq than have
been killed by all weapons of mass destruction in history".

Today, the media's war drums are beating to the rhythm of Bush's totally
manufactured crisis, which, if allowed to proceed, will kill untold numbers
of innocent people.

Little has changed, and humanity deserves better.

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