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[casi] Bush at the UN-a war criminal takes the podium

Bush at the UN-a war criminal takes the podium
By Bill Vann
24 September 2003
President George W. Bush's ignorant and insulting speech to the United
Nations General Assembly September 23 made clear that the US administration
has all but written off any hope of obtaining significant international
support for its colonial venture in Iraq.

Bush came before the body as an unrepentant war criminal, whose actions had
violated the UN Charter and international law by waging a war of aggression
as criminal and unprovoked as those carried out by the Hitlerite regime in
Germany more than 60 years ago.

Having just last week publicly acknowledged there is no evidence of a link
between the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and the September 11, 2001
terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC, Bush began his speech
to the UN by invoking the ruins of the World Trade Center as the "symbol of
an unfinished war."

He likewise peddled yet again the now universally discredited pretext for
the Iraq war, the claim that the Baghdad regime posed a grave and imminent
threat because of its supposedly immense stockpile of "weapons of mass

This, just one week after the chief of the United Nations' own inspection
agency, Hans Blix, compared the US and British allegations about such
weapons to the hunt for witches in the Middle Ages and amid reports that the
unit set up by Washington to scour the country for the alleged tons of
biological and chemical weapons materials has halted all searches.

Indeed, Bush himself referred to the supposedly urgent hunt for deadly
weapons that were about to be handed to terrorists as a sort of archival
pursuit. US personnel, he indicated, are "analyzing records of the old
regime to reveal the full extent of its weapons programs." In other words,
there was not a trace to be found of the tons of nerve gas, anthrax, serin
and other deadly agents alleged by Washington.

Did the US president's handlers believe that the international diplomats,
foreign ministers and heads of state assembled in his audience at the UN
building in New York are so gullible they don't even read the newspapers?

In reality, his speech was not written for them. Rather, his words were
addressed over their heads to his political base among the extreme
right-wingers and semi-fascists who dominate the Republican Party. He was
promising them that there will be no turning back from global militarism and
plunder. The US agenda of seizing by force the oilfields of Iraq and a
strategic stranglehold over the Middle East remains in force.

Far from the attempt at reconciliation that had been predicted by many media
pundits, Bush's speech was every bit as provocative and bellicose as his
2002 State of the Union address declaring that "you are with us or against
us," and his address to the UN last year when he warned the international
organization that it would become "irrelevant" if it failed to subordinate
itself to the US war preparations against Iraq.

Chaos and gangsterism

Bush told the General Assembly: "Events during the past two years have set
before us the clearest of divides: between those who seek order and those
who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change and those who
adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man
and those who deliberately take the lives of women and children without
mercy or shame."

But a growing majority of world public opinion sees US militarism as the
greatest force for chaos in the world and equates the Bush administration's
methods with out-and-out gangsterism. The US president unleashed a war that
is widely acknowledged even within US establishment circles as unprovoked
and unnecessary. By conservative estimates at least 10,000 Iraqi civilians
were slaughtered and the number of young conscript troops who lost their
lives may number tens of thousands more. To claim he acted to "honor the
rights of man" is obscene.

Bush appeared to gloat over the recent one-sided US military victories,
while implicitly warning the assembled nations of the world that any one of
them could be next.

"The former regimes of Afghanistan and Iran knew [the] alternatives and made
their choices," said Bush, sounding like an assassin bragging about his
latest victims. "The Taliban was a sponsor and servant of terrorism. When
confronted the regime chose defiance, and that regime is no more." He
improbably claimed that the US invaded Iraq to "defend ... the credibility
of the United Nations," which opposed and refused to authorize the invasion.

He then proudly pointed to the presence in the assembly of Hamid Karzai, the
US-installed president of Afghanistan, as representing a "free people who
are building a decent and just society." Karzai heads a bankrupt regime
whose authority fails to extend beyond the outskirts of Kabul and which is
widely opposed even there. Meanwhile, US forces are still fighting a bloody
counterinsurgency campaign against a resurgent guerrilla movement.

Bush likewise hailed the presence at the Iraqi delegation's table of
"representatives of a liberated country." The camera covering the speech
dutifully panned the room to alight on the frog-like face of Ahmed Chalabi,
the convicted bank embezzler and neoconservative ideologue who was airlifted
by the US military back into Iraq after spending more than 40 years in

In one passage, in which he claimed that the US occupation is "helping to
improve the daily lives of the Iraqi people," Bush recited a litany of
indictments against the former Baathist government: "The old regime built
palaces while letting schools decay... The old regime starved hospitals of
resources... The old regime built up armies and weapons while allowing the
nation's infrastructure to crumble."

Bush could just as easily have been describing the US, where the gap between
wealth and poverty has never been wider, resulting in palaces for the rich
and a growing army of homeless; where schools are falling apart in districts
across the country; where more than 40 million people lack any health
insurance; and finally where a Pentagon budget of over half a trillion
dollars to build up "armies and weapons" is starving the US infrastructure
and basic social needs for funding.

While Bush pointed to a handful of minor aid projects as evidence of
progress in Iraq-under conditions in which masses of people have been left
without jobs, safe and reliable power or water supplies or even a modicum of
personal security-he can only cite tax cuts for the rich as his remedy for
the growing social misery confronting much of the US population.

A threat to the Palestinians

The US president reprised one of the more improbable justifications that has
been given for the war, largely after the fact: the claim that it will
inaugurate a flowering of peace and democracy in the Middle East. Instead,
as US officials have been forced to acknowledge, Iraq has become a magnet
for people from throughout the Arab world who are determined to fight
against foreign imperialist domination and US military occupation. As for
Middle East peace, the US aggression in Iraq has only emboldened the Sharon
regime in Israel to carry out a wave of assassinations and repression
culminating in the threat to murder the elected president of the Palestinian
Authority, Yasser Arafat.

Bush had no words of criticism for Israel, which has defied United Nations
resolutions demanding an end to its illegal occupation of the West Bank and
Gaza for the past 36 years. Instead, he issued an ultimatum to the
Palestinian people who are suffering under this occupation.

"The advance of democratic institutions in Iraq is setting an example that
others, including the Palestinian people, would be wise to follow," Bush
declared. Is this advice or a threat? Given that the Iraqi "example" was
created with cruise missiles, cluster bombs and massed armor, it could well
be interpreted as a warning that Gaza and the West Bank will be next if the
Palestinians fail to halt all resistance to Israeli occupation and select
"leaders" acceptable to Washington.

Bush's speech was greeted with stony silence from the majority of the UN
delegates. Even UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, whose unctuous diplomacy
and toothless criticisms in the period leading up to the US invasion of Iraq
were aimed largely at smoothing the way to a UN-sanctioned war, found
himself compelled to criticize the US administration.

Referring obliquely to the Bush administration's national security doctrine,
claiming Washington's right to wage a "preemptive war" against any nation
that it deems as a potential threat, Annan declared, "My concern is that if
it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a
proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without
credible justification."

Annan went on to point out that the UN Charter allows the use of force only
in direct self-defense, or with the sanction of the international body. "Now
some say this understanding is no longer tenable since an 'armed attack'
with weapons of mass destruction could be launched at any time," he said.
"This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which,
however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58

It was typical of both Annan and the UN that the secretary general's speech
contained not a single reference to the illegal US war. His elliptical
language seemed to suggest that the problem was merely a difference of
opinion leading to hypothetical acts, rather than a bloody war that claimed
tens of thousands of victims and has led to the subjugation of an entire
nation by armed force.

French President Jacques Chirac was somewhat more blunt in condemning the US
war against Iraq. "No one can act alone in the name of all and no one can
accept the anarchy of a society without rules," he said. "The war, launched
without the authorization of the Security Council, shook the multilateral
system. The United Nations has just been through one of the most grave
crises in its history."

Chirac has demanded that the Bush administration cede political control to
the United Nations in Iraq, while setting a speedy timetable for the handing
over of power to an elected Iraqi regime. The French government, speaking on
behalf of much the European ruling elite, has made clear it will not play
the role of financing and reinforcing an occupation that is run from the top
down by US administrators serving US corporate and financial interests. The
French corporate establishment is not prepared to surrender the extensive
financial interests it has in the region without a fight.

Bush dismissed the French demand, claiming that the transition would "unfold
according to the needs of Iraqis-neither hurried nor delayed by the voices
of other parties." And who shall determine the "needs of Iraqis"? This was
spelled out the day before the speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell,
who declared that the US would run Iraq as it sees fit "until such time as
we allow the Iraqi people to determine how they wish to be governed."

Blueprint for economic plunder

In the meantime, the gangster regime in Washington intends to carry out the
systematic plundering of Iraqi wealth, while using military force to
suppress a growing movement of national resistance.

The Bush administration's plans were spelled out over the weekend, when
Washington's handpicked finance minister in the Iraqi Quisling regime
unexpectedly unveiled a blueprint for the country's economic development.

This economic "reform" package-made public at the International Monetary
Fund-World Bank meeting in Dubai and signed into law by Washington's
proconsul in Baghdad, Paul Bremer-amounts to a US plan for the wholesale
privatization of the Iraqi economy. It imposes investment, trade and tax
policies geared entirely to the interests of US multinationals at the
expense of the Iraqi people.

The precedent for this plan is the kind of disastrous economic "shock
therapy" introduced in the former Soviet Union more than a decade ago,
leading to the plummeting of living standards for the vast majority and the
creation of a wealthy criminal elite. In Iraq, however, the process is to be
carried out at the point of a US gun, with the assurance that the
overwhelming share of profits will be reaped by politically connected
American corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel.

The plan calls for the privatization of everything from electric power, to
hospitals and a myriad of state-owned industries. This process would
inevitably involve a form of brutal triage, in which those few industries
considered profitable would be taken over by US corporations, with the rest
shut down and their workers thrown onto the scrap heap.

It allows for 100 percent foreign ownership in all sectors, save natural
resources, and reduces trade tariffs to a minimum. Foreign companies would
be guaranteed full and immediate remittance of all profits, dividends,
interest and royalties.

While the plan formally calls for Iraq's vast oil reserves to remain under
the control of the government, the takeover of the rest of the economy by
US-based multinationals will effectively ensure control of oil as well.

Washington is using its military occupation of Iraq to enforce the kind of
economic and trade relations it has sought to impose on countries throughout
the world by means of financial pressure.

The right-wing cabal in the Bush White House is determined to conduct a
social and economic experiment in Iraq to determine how far it can carry out
policies of unrestricted "free market" capitalism backed by overwhelming
military force. It sees in Iraq a field for unrestrained exploitation and
outright looting aimed at bringing about a desperately needed rise in
profits for corporate America.

The speech delivered by Bush at the UN represents a warning both to the
Iraqi people and working people in the US. Despite the growing resistance to
the US military occupation in Iraq-resulting in escalating US casualties-and
despite the mounting opposition of American-not to mention world-public
opinion to the dirty colonial war being fought there, the administration
intends to press on. No matter how much its strategy in Iraq has been
discredited, it has gone too far in this criminal enterprise to turn back

There is no doubt that Washington's predatory economic plans for Iraq will
provoke even broader and more intense resistance to the US occupation.
Unlike the American people, the Bush administration is more than willing to
accept the resulting increase in young American soldiers, reservists and
National Guard members dying daily to secure increased profits for the
administration's corporate backers.

Neither the United Nations nor America's erstwhile European allies will halt
this deepening catastrophe. The only force that can bring an end to the war
and occupation in Iraq and the growing global threat of US militarism is the
international working class mobilized independently on a socialist

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