A UN mandate does not make war on Iraq right!
PressInfo # 168
December 28. 2002
By Jorgen Johansen, TFF Associate,
Director of the Centre for Peace Studies at Tromsų, University, Norway, and Jan Oberg, TFF director
A UN mandate does not turn war into peace
Governments, editors, commentators and even supporters of the United Nations currently express the view that a war against Iraq is, or will be, acceptable if the United States and others "go back" to the Security Council and obtain a "UN mandate" before they attack.
But, this is false logic and could spell the end of the UN as a peace
organisation. If you think that the planned war is or entails a violation
of international law, such a mandate does not make it more legal. If you
think that the war is morally wrong or unfair, such a mandate won't make
it right or just. If you think that war has nothing to do with
conflict-resolution but must be categorised as aggression, a resolution -
inevitably the result of horse-trading among the Five Permanent (and
nuclear) Security Council members and the other ten under the leadership
of Columbia - does not turn war into wise politics.
The Security Council has no magic formula and no magic wand to wave in
order to turn war into peace and human folly into wisdom.
A Security Council resolution that endorses war is not the same as a
"UN" mandate, as is often stated. It's hard to believe that something like
a referendum among all members in the General Assembly would result in a
go-ahead. There is still little enthusiasm for this war among "we, the
peoples" around the world. If the Security Council self-importantly
decided that it is the High Judge and that Judgement Day has come, all
talk of an "international community" standing behind a war with Iraq
would be grossly misleading.
A mandate is no comfort; no UN mandate is the better option
It is as if a "UN mandate" serves to make some people feel better about
this war. The Swedish government, as an example of a country whose
solidarity with the UN has never been questioned, seems to hope that it
will not be forced to criticise the United States. Because, if there
is such a UN mandate, it would be possible for Sweden to
say, "well, we don't like wars, but this one has a UN mandate, and
therefore it is acceptable to us." The Danish government, still the head
of the EU for a few more days, has declared that it is willing to
participate directly in the war if there is such a mandate.
There are two important arguments against a UN "mandate". Firstly, if
there is no such mandate, it will be considerably more difficult for many
member states to accept it or go along with it. That is, the United
States would rather stand alone and carry the major burden of a
political, legal and moral disaster. Secondly, it would save the UN
from being dragged down into the quagmire called bombing, invasion,
occupation and control of Iraq - not to mention the
humanitarian consequences and the resources needed to rebuild the
country physically, as well as psychologically. With no UN mandate,
the UN could say "not in our name" and remain a genuine peace
organisation true to the words and the spirit of its charter.
To put it simply, if George W. Bush and the people around him want to
destroy Iraq, they should go it alone. The UN must never be
misused to legitimate bellicose policies of any member state. The UN
can hardly survive with repeated humiliation as has been the case in
Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia,
Somalia and Afghanistan.
The planned war violates the Charter's words and spirit
Let us hope that the war against Iraq will never receive
approval from the United Nations. The Charter of the UN is clear;
the organisation's highest purpose is "to save succeeding
generations from the scourge of war." And "Armed force shall not be used,
save in the common interest". There exists no common interest to do what
is being planned against Iraq.
The war against Iraq has been going on for eleven years now. Since
September 11 last year, the Security Council has lost colossal
legitimacy due to a number of resolutions that have been passed. The
tragic new interpretation of International Law itself and the
implementation of it has seriously undermined the foundation of a
system constructed to handle international conflicts. The principles
and conventions developed in the post-Westphalian era have been
damaged due to paranoid policies of revenge after the attacks on the
Pentagon and World Trade Centre.
Since September 11, the UN has suffered even more blows
This loss of legitimacy is naturally more obvious among the 1,300 million
Muslims in the world. They are about to loose confidence in an
organisation in which 80 per cent of the permanent members of the supreme
body are Christian countries. Seen from their vantage point, the Four
Permanent members possess, if you will, Christian bombs and share the
basic Old Testament image of the world that "the others" are either with
us or they are against us and must be exterminated.
When the UN accepted to use International Law and not Criminal Law for
the reaction to September 11, it opened doors that will be (mis)used by
many actors in the future. Up until then, political and violent crimes had
been handled by the police and not by the military. This shift is very
dangerous. Then the U.S. decided, and the UN accepted, to use
the principle of "self defence", but with a delay of almost a month
(September 11 to October 7). In the field of Criminal Law, this would
resemble that the attacked escapes >from the attacker, locate him a
month later and (with a bunch of friends) exercise his
"self-defence" out of proportion to the first crime committed.
The Bush regime moves from MAD to NUTS
The UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq represent an even
more dodgy new interpretation. This time the act of self-defence
will be carried out years before the attacked assesses that he
could, perhaps, be hit, i.e. pre-emptively. Unfortunately for the
UN, international law holds no provisions for such pre-emptive policies or
wars. They are found only in recent strategic documents from the Bush
regime. Even worse, they contain a philosophical demolition of the
principles of deterrence that enables the United States to
use weapons of mass-destruction against countries that are not known
to possess such weapons but are judged to be able to possess them
some time into the future.
In short, instead of moving towards general and complete disarmament
world-wide, or the abolition of all WMD (Weapons of Mass-Destruction) we
are moving from MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to the fundamentally
immoral and destabilising NUTs (Nuclear Use Theories).
Kidnapping Iraq's report and keeping U.S. involvement in
Iraq's military secret
In spite of its real importance, the weapons inspection process is
exploited as a game by the United States. Its representatives have
done their best to provoke and find Iraqi violations of resolutions
by the Security Council, including SC Resolution 1441. The recent
U.S. kidnapping of the 12,000-page report produced by Iraq is
one of the most serious in a long line of aggressive acts.
The U.S. claims that it wants to know everything about Iraqi
military programs, but obviously not which U.S. and
other Western companies have made them possible. Money doesn't smell of
course until it comes out into the open. Instead of causing an outrage
forcing the Bush regime to back down, most members accept this gross
violation of decency and of the integrity of the United Nations.
Colin Powel returned from a short visit to Bogota on December 4
where he had announced major increases in American military aid to
Colombia. Colombia presently serves as the chair of the
Security Council. In exchange for the military support,
Colombia presumably promised to let the U.S. steal
Iraq's report to "edit" it, i.e. to practise censorship.
Kofi Annan should remember Article 99 and 100 and use them to save
Despite the serious injury done to the UN, there is no other
organisation that can assume global responsibility in the situation we are
facing today. The Iraqis will suffer no less because "there was a UN
mandate." A UN mandate only means that the UN will suffer too, most likely
beyond repair. Western countries that bomb Muslim countries only amplify
the hate against West. The number of potential suicide-bombers and terror
attacks must be expected to grow with every military attack on innocent
Muslims. They cannot possibly see the UN as a trustworthy world
Let the UN get back its status as a legitimate actor working for "peace
by peaceful means." Let the U.S. establishment stand alone as
the naked aggressor. The United Nations has already administered a
genocide of up to 1 million Iraqis due to a sanctions regime only
the U.S. insists on maintaining.
We prefer our world to be running according to the norms of the UN, not
those of the U.S.! Article 99 of the UN Charter states that
the Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security
Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance
of international peace and security. Thus, he stands over and above
the member governments. If he thinks that a U.S.-led war on
Iraq is a threat to world peace, he has the power to act. Article
100 states that the Secretary-General and his staff shall not seek
or receive instructions from any government or from any other
authority external to the Organisation.
If the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, makes use of Article 99 and 100
of the Charter, war on Iraq will not happen. Will he do so?
The U.S. tail must not wag the UN dog...
Letting the tail (the U.S.) wag the dog (the UN) is morally
unacceptable and a violation of the Charter. The U.S. has
tried and will try to do it again. Now is the time for the UN to stand
up for itself, for the genuine international community.
Or will 2003 be remembered by future generations as the year in which a
few members, against the will of the greater majority, decided to destroy
the UN as a peace organisation? And got away with it only because the
Secretary-General and member states who didn't want the war, failed to
show civil courage in time and hid behind a self-condemning "UN