Friday, February 1, 2008

UNSC: It Was Credible at Some Point?

Is the world's only super power finally getting called out for its staggering hypocrisy? Has the world noticed the US pushing for new sanctions on Iran despite the complete lack of viable evidence pointing to any sinister motives by that country, while simultaneously refusing to even address the very real and very well-documented humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a crisis imposed onto a civilian population as collective punishment for cross-border rocket fire that doesn't hurt anyone. Is the double standard getting revealed, moral relativism exposed? Is the truth getting 'round? Is this a sign of things to come? An end to the bullying power of the United States? One would hope so, though I'm not holding my breath for anything to change at this point. Still, every little bit helps.

Based on the United States' foreign policy record over the past sixty years, there is no reason why it should not be censured by and suspended from the United Nations for the next decade (if not century). After that, a period of strict probation would follow to assess possible and conditional re-entry into the organization. The only reason this country is still a super power is due to the the unconditional veto power it has in the UN Security Council (well, that and all the money it has due to its systematic and relentless exploitation of the world's resources and people - read Naomi Klein).

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But the fact that the US unapologetically wields its power in the UN General Assembly and Security Council for the promotion of its own ideological and imperial agenda is without question. The United States is not only vindictive, it is also bull-headed. It treats its "allies" with impunity, while severely punishing its "enemies" with little to no regard for human rights, global ethics, or common morality. For a quick example of United States' commitment to settling vendettas through strong-armed tactics, read this excerpt of an excellent article by William Blum, entitled "Cuba and Original Sin" regarding the "draconian sanctions imposed by the United States since 1960" upon Cuba and its subsequent refusal to end the harsh economic blockade:

Washington [under the Bush Administration] has adopted sharper reprisals against those who do business with Cuba or establish relations with the country based on cultural or tourist exchanges; e.g., the US Treasury has frozen the accounts in the United States of the Netherlands Caribbean Bank because it has an office in Cuba, and banned US firms and individuals from having any dealings with the Dutch bank.

The US Treasury Department fined the Alliance of Baptists $34,000, charging that certain of its members and parishioners of other churches had engaged in tourism during a visit to Cuba for religious purposes; i.e., they had spent money there. (As George W. once said: "U.S. law forbids Americans to travel to Cuba for pleasure.")

American courts and government agencies have helped US companies expropriate the famous Cuban cigar brand name 'Cohiba' and the well-known rum "Havana Club".

The Bush administration sent a note to American Internet service providers telling them not to deal with six specified countries, including Cuba. This is one of several actions by Washington over the years to restrict Internet availability in Cuba; yet Cuba's critics claim that problems with the Internet in Cuba are due to government suppression.

Cubans in the United States are limited to how much money they can send to their families in Cuba, a limit that Washington imposes only on Cubans and on no other nationals. Not even during the worst moments of the Cold War was there a general limit to the amount of money that people in the US could send to relatives living in the Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.

In 1999, Cuba filed a suit against the United States for $181.1 billion in compensation for economic losses and loss of life during the first forty years of this aggression. The suit held Washington responsible for the death of 3,478 Cubans and the wounding and disabling of 2,099 others. In the eight years since, these figures have of course all increased. The sanctions, in numerous ways large and small, makes acquiring many kinds of products and services from around the world much more difficult and expensive, often impossible; frequently, they are things indispensable to Cuban medicine, transportation or industry; or they mean that Americans and Cubans can't attend professional conferences in each other's country.

The above is but a small sample of the excruciating pain inflicted by the United States upon the body, soul and economy of the Cuban people.

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an "international pariah". We don't hear much of that any more. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote at the United Nations on a General Assembly resolution to end the US embargo against Cuba. This is how the vote has gone:

1992 59-2 (US, Israel)

1993 88-4 (US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay)

1994 101-2 (US, Israel)

1995 117-3 (US, Israel, Uzbekistan)

1996 138-3 (US, Israel, Uzbekistan)

1997 143-3 (US, Israel, Uzbekistan)

1998 157-2 (US, Israel)

1999 155-2 (US, Israel)

2000 167-3 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands)

2001 167-3 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands)

2002 173-3 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands)

2003 179-3 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands)

2004 179-4 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau)

2005 182-4 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau)

2006 183-4 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau)

2007 184-4 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau)

Cuba's sin, which the United States of America can not forgive, is to have created a society that can serve as a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model, and, moreover, to have done so under the very nose of the United States. And despite all the hardships imposed on it by Washington, Cuba has indeed inspired countless peoples and governments all over the world.

A long-time writer about Cuba, Karen Lee Wald, has observed: "The United States has more pens, pencils, candy, aspirin, etc. than most Cubans have. They, on the other hand, have better access to health services, education, sports, culture, childcare, services for the elderly, pride and dignity than most of us have within reach."

In a 1996 address to the General Assembly, Cuba's vice president, Carlos Lage stated: "Each day in the world 200 million children sleep in the streets. Not one of them is Cuban."

On April 6, 1960, L.D. Mallory, a US State Department senior official, wrote in an internal memorandum: "The majority of Cubans support Castro ... the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. ... every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba." Mallory proposed "a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government." Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted the embargo.
Things do take a long time to change, especially when you're dealing with the most powerful, dangerous, and selfish country in the world. But hopefully people are starting to take notice, to learn more, to connect the dots. Ignorance, apathy, and ambivalence are friends of imperialism. Once the people know the truth, the government has a harder time hiding behind its lies and concealing its motives.

And once Eritrea and Palau muster the gumption to drop out of the 'Coalition of the Willing' we'll know the revolution is imminent.


Security Council Loses Credibility over Iran, Israel

Thalif Deen, The Electronic Intifada, 30 January 2008

UNITED NATIONS, 29 January (IPS) - The 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC) is set to lose its credibility once again as it prepares to impose a third set of sanctions on Iran while failing to pass any strictures on Israel for its continued heavy-handed repression of Palestinians in Gaza.

"Many ask whether the UNSC still has any credibility left," says Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East Report.

But the more pertinent question, he pointed out, "is whether it should have any -- after its consistent failure to ensure either peace or security, and of turning a malignantly blind eye to so many threats to peace and security and the basic rights of many millions."

"Indeed, the UNSC's continued obsession with Iran's apparently non-existent nuclear weapons program, and its dogged determination to do nothing of consequence to address Israel's very real occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- to the point of currently failing to issue even the lamest of statements on the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip -- speaks volumes," Rabbani said.

"And this is in a conflict the United Nations played a direct role in creating in 1947," he added.

After four days of intense closed-door negotiations last week, the UNSC failed to come up either with a resolution against Israel or a unanimous non-binding presidential statement.

With the United States demanding a stronger text critical of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, the UNSC lacked consensus for a collective statement condemning Israel's decision to choke Palestinians in Gaza and cutting off electricity and humanitarian supplies.

The decision-makers in the UNSC, which also has 10 rotating non-permanent members, are the five veto-wielding permanent members, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.

In a strong statement issued last week, John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, said that Israeli action violates the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention governing conflicts.

"It also violates one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets," he said.

Dugard singled out the killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza and the targeting of a government office near a wedding party venue resulting in the loss of civilian lives.

"The closure of crossings into Gaza raises very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law and its commitment to the [Middle East] peace process," he added.

While it remains paralyzed over Israel -- as often happens because of the protection afforded to the Jewish state by the United States, Britain and France -- the UNSC is readying for a third set of sanctions against Iran.

"For the Security Council to bow to US pressure to impose additional sanctions on Iran despite its lack of an active nuclear weapons program will seriously harm the UN's credibility," said Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco.

For more than 26 years, he pointed out, Israel has been in violation of UNSC Resolution 487 which calls upon Israel to "place its nuclear facilities under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguard."

Yet -- despite deciding to "remain seized of the matter" -- the Security Council has refused to even threaten sanctions, Zunes told IPS.

Similarly, he said, there have been no threats of sanctions against India and Pakistan for remaining in violation of resolution 1172 to end their nuclear weapons programs for almost a decade.

"It is particularly ironic that the United States is taking the lead in pushing for UN sanctions on a nuclear-related issue, given that, as a result of its recent deal with India, Washington is now in violation of Article 8 of Resolution 1172, which calls on all states to prevent the export of technology that could in any way assist that country's nuclear weapons program," said Zunes, who is also Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

The last two UNSC resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran, first in December 2006 and then in March 2007, called on Tehran to suspend all uranium-enrichment related activities and also banned arms sales and froze Iranian assets in overseas financial institutions.

But Iran has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is essentially civilian-oriented, and that it has no plans to produce nuclear weapons.

Last month, the National Intelligence Estimate -- a collective study by all US intelligence agencies -- said that Iran has not re-started its nuclear weapons program, as of mid-2007.

The report, described as a political bombshell which jolted the administration of US President George W. Bush, also declared Iran currently has no nuclear weapons.

Despite the widely-circulated report, the UNSC's proposed move for a third set of sanctions against Iran has challenged the credibility of the US-driven world body itself.

"It's not much of an exaggeration to characterize the purported world body as the United Nations of America," said Rabbani.

A key reason for this, he argued, is the marginalization of UN organs, like the 192-member General Assembly, and the growing monopoly on UN decision-making by the Security Council.

He said the latter was constituted in the days when empires still reigned supreme and most of the globe was dominated by less than a handful of great powers, and hasn't changed since.

"For states like the UK and France to have powers of veto while, for example, Japan or Brazil aren't even permanent members is an affront to the 21st century," Rabbani said.

Taken together, he said, this means the United Nations is a thoroughly undemocratic, indeed anti-democratic institution, certainly when compared to other multilateral institutions where decisions are made either by consensus or on the basis of majority votes.

"At least in the World Bank, money talks," he said.

In this context, the end of the Cold War and US-Soviet rivalry removed many of the remaining obstacles to the ability of a single power to dominate UN decision-making.

If the US proved unable to consistently get its own way, it has at least been able to ensure that not a single decision goes against it or favored allies such as Israel.

A pertinent example was its rush to condemn the Basque separatist organization, ETA, for the Madrid bombings, in a transparent attempt to bolster then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's prospects for re-election on the eve of the 2005 Spanish parliamentary elections.

"To the best of my knowledge, it has never issued a correction," said Rabbani.

"In my view, the extraordinary damage done to the UN system by the subordination of the entire organization to the UNSC can only be reversed if and when other UN organs such as the General Assembly assume their rightful role in the organization," he declared. "But this is a virtually unimaginable development in the foreseeable future."

Meanwhile, "as for the Russians and the Chinese," an Arab diplomat told IPS, "They are trading off their vetoes in return for Western support to protect their own national interests."

"The Chinese will continue to cave in to American demands until the successful completion of the Olympics in August," he added. So, Chinese support for a sanctions resolution on Iran is no surprise.

The Bush administration has come under pressure from human rights activists who say that only a US threat to boycott the Olympics could force the Chinese to drop their opposition to harsh sanctions against Burma (Myanmar) and Sudan, two countries with strong military and economic ties to Beijing.

But the White House is unlikely to support such a boycott.


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