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[casi] The Relevance of the UN etc.

Here is a short article I wrote a while back that may be of interest to some
of you.
Cheers, Ken Hanly

The Relevance of the United Nations

A common argument for enforcing the UN resolution requiring Iraq to disarm
is that if this resolution is not enforced the UN will be irrelevant and
lose credibility. Critics often respond that dozens of UN resolutions go
unheeded and unenforced. In particular, Israel regularly ignores UN
resolutions with impunity but the US and its allies do not claim that this
renders the UN irrelevant or lacking in credibility. It seems that only when
the UN does not enforce resolutions favored by the US and allies that its
credibility and relevancy come into question.

In response to the above argument some commentators note that there are two
types of UN security council resolutions, Chapter VI resolutions dealing
primarily with resolution of disputes between parties and Chapter VII
resolutions dealing with threats to the peace. The former resolutions
typically involve reciprocal obligations without enforcement mechanisms. The
latter on the other hand do set out enforcement mechanisms such as sanctions
or force. While it is true that Israel has ignored numerous UN resolutions,
and many other countries as well, these have been resolutions under Chapter
VI. Unlike Chapter VII resolutions these do not authorise sanctions or use
of force. The main resolutions that Iraq ignores however authorise both
sanctions and the use of force. If Iraq does not disarm are the resolutions
authorise sanctions, and require co-operation with UN inspectors,and serious
consequences for non-compliance.But this argument is not at all persuasive
upon analysis.

The reason that there are no Chapter VII resolutions against Israel is that
if any ever managed to have majority support the United States would in all
likelihood veto them. In fact the United States vetoed resolutions that
would have demanded that Israel accept that the fourth Geneva Convention
governing the treatment of civilians applied to its behavior in the occupied
territories. The US also vetoed resolutions demanding that Israel cease
construction of further settlements in occupied territories. Given that the
US has vetoed resolutions even under Chapter VI that merely require Israel
to follow international law and recognise earlier UN resolutions,it is
highly unlikely that they would ever pass any resolutions that actually
imposed sanctions or used the threat of force to ensure Israel met
obligations imposed by UN resolutions. The distinction between the two types
of resolution is a red herriing If the UN acted relevantly and credibly
there would be Chaper VII resolutions against Israel as well as Iraq.
Instead the US vetoes even Chapter VI resolutions in many cases,and
resolutions that are passed are routinely ignored when Israel considers them
against its own interests. This disregard of international law and
international opinion is of course characteristic of the US as well as
Israel. The US ignored a World Court decision against its mining of
Nicaraguan harbours. It also violated international law in invading Panama
to sieze Noriega.

Israelis often complain that their actions in trying to contain terrorism
are ones of self-defence by a democratic state and are not to be compared to
the acts of a dictator bent on creating weapons of mass destruction. Yet
Israel in defiance of international opinion surreptitiously developed
weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons. Israel duped US inspectors and
certainly did not co-operate. Mordechai Vanunu a former nuclear technician
who blew the whistle on Israel's nuclear program, was abucted from Rome,
tried secretly in Israel, and placed in solitary confinement for over a
decade. But the US and the UN did nothing. Israel is allowed to have weapons
of mass destruction but no Arab state is allowed such weapons to defend
itself against possible aggression by Israel or other states. If Iraq fires
at US or British planes that overfly its territory this is regarded not as
defence of sovereignty but violation of obligations under UN resolutions,
even though nowhere does any UN resolution explicitly authorise these
As understood now,the relevance and credibility of the UN depends upon
enforcing resolutions approved of by the US and its allies. The UN's
relevance is to further the imperial aims of the US. However, if the UN is
to have any credibility as an impartial arbiter and enforcer of
international peace,often resolutions enforcing obligations against the will
of the US and its allies must be forthcoming. But until the United States
loses veto power this is impossible. The UN is and has been for some time to
a considerable extent irrelevant and lacking in credibility, but this has
absolutely nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with the use of the
UN by the US and its allies as an instrument designed primarily to further
its imperialist agenda.

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