(From the November 2004 American Spectator)
IF THE U.N. WORKED AS HARD to impose its will on Iraq in 2002 as it is trying today, America might not have had to go to war. In one of those inversions of reason that only the U.N. can manage, it is now at war with free Iraq in a way it never was with Saddam’s bloody despotism.
Having chosen to leave Saddam undisturbed despite more than a dozen “compulsory” resolutions, the U.N. cannot forgive George W. Bush and the Iraqi people for trading its Oil-for-Food-for-Bribes program for the destruction of a terrorist regime and the freedom of Iraq. Now that the removal of Saddam is accomplished, the U.N. is unforgiving: not of him, but of those who are risking their lives to replace his regime with democracy.
The U.N. is prejudging the January 2005 Iraqi elections a failure so that those who opposed Saddam’s overthrow — France, Germany, and Russia chief among them — will be able to reject the new government as just another puppet of the United States.
The U.N. Security Council members who did their best to thwart any action against Saddam’s regime will not let George Bush forget that he took action without their permission. President Bush repeatedly asked the Security Council to enforce its resolutions. Under the U.N. Charter, Security Council resolutions have the force of international law and are supposed to be binding on all U.N. members. But by choosing to ignore those resolutions and demand that diplomacy continue endlessly, the U.N. forfeited its own authority over the matter. It is as feckless as its predecessor — the League of Nations — which dissolved because it became nothing more than a debating society that prized talk over freedom.
When President Bush challenged the U.N. to act or become irrelevant, it chose the latter. Now it is trying to regain its relevance by creating an atmosphere in which the Iraqi people will be denied the legitimacy of their coming elections.
LAST JUNE, as the Coalition nations prepared to return Iraqi sovereignty to a new interim government, the U.N. began trying to reassert its influence. In Resolution 1546, passed on June 8, 2004, the U.N. Security Council diplomatically “welcomed” the new transitional government by imposing burdens on Iraq designed to slow its progress toward establishing a stable and free government. Its resolution was made in terms that benefited the U.N. more than Iraq.
Resolution 1546 said that the U.N. “endorses the formation of a sovereign Interim Government of Iraq…which will assume full responsibility and authority…for governing Iraq while refraining from taking any actions affecting Iraq’s destiny beyond the limited interim period until an elected Transnational Government of Iraq assumes office…” In short, the interim government couldn’t make alliances, draft a constitution, or do anything that would strengthen the hand of the government to be elected later.
Resolution 1546 then attempted to undermine the elections in very direct terms. It “invited” Iraq to consider convening an “international meeting” to support the coming elections. Such an international meeting would, of course, invite Iraq’s helpful neighbors — such as Syria and Iran — into the process to assert their own influence. Fortunately, the Allawi government recognized that its neighbors mean it harm, not help, and declined this invitation.
The Resolution was passed at a price. The Coalition nations, meaning the U.S., Britain, Australia, and Poland, had to guarantee that a separate security force would be established to protect the U.N. staff helping organize the elections. A letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell gave that guarantee, but the U.N. is still objecting to the insecurity caused by the insurgency, and declining to dispatch the promised election organizers in sufficient numbers to provide real help.
The U.N. is doing its best to make sure that the elected government will not be recognized as legitimate after the January 2005 elections. The debate has become a struggle between interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and President Bush on one side, and Kofi Annan and the European Union on the other.
Mr. Annan has opposed U.S. policy in Iraq from the outset, seeking to assert U.N. control over U.S. actions. When President Bush decided to act when the U.N. wouldn’t, Annan took it personally. To the extent that any nation — especially the United States — acts without deference to the U.N. and its secretary general, the U.N.’s power and influence are diminished. In mid-September, a simmering Annan made a remarkable statement aimed at both President Bush and Prime Minister Allawi.
First, Annan said, “From our point of view, and the [U.N.] charter point of view, [the Iraq war] was illegal.” Annan’s statement, if taken seriously, would have enormous legal and diplomatic consequences for the United States. Waging an illegal war is the most serious violation of the U.N. Charter a member can commit. Under Articles 39-45 and 51-52 of the U.N. Charter, any nation that wages an illegal war is subject to sanctions, including military action against it. In that statement, Annan branded America a rogue nation, and stopped just short of declaring Mr. Bush a despotic aggressor.
Annan’s timing was no coincidence. As the U.S. election neared, he was casting a vote for John Kerry and implying that all the peace-loving nations of the world were doing the same. Annan intended no sanctions against the U.S. His aim was not only to defeat Mr. Bush, but also to place the U.N. in control of the coming Iraqi election.
In the same statement, Annan said that the U.N. would attempt to help Iraq set up its elections, but the results were bound to be questionable. He said there could not be “credible elections if the security conditions continue as they are now.” In saying that, Annan incited the insurgents to violence, giving them an enormous incentive to interfere with the elections.
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