Mar 11 2003

Opponents of the Veto can’t have it both ways

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,US-Middle East

In the pre-war rumblings going on in the United States a strange argument is being made. War supporters are chiding permanent members of the UN Security Council for reflecting international (as well as some American) public opinion by contemplating the possibility of a veto to any resolution that will approve war. Countries like France, Russia and China are being accused of making the world body “irrelevant” and “obstructing and paralyzing” the work of the UN. William Safire went as far as to call this anti-war position a “further abdication of collective security.”

If ever there was a reason why the security council was made in the form that it was made in, the present situation would be it. When one country decides that it knows more what is best for world peace than the rest of the world, and is ready to start a war of choice for that purpose, then the opinions of the rest of the world do count.

What is troubling, however, is the intellectual dishonesty of the same commentators when the US was using their veto power to stop any anti-Israel resolution. Unlike the present attempt of the United States many of these resolution were based on sound legal arguments and were meant to prevent a real violation of international humanitarian law and unquestionably in contradiction to specific UN Security Council resolutions. The US vetoed many Security Council resolutions that the rest of the world, including America’s best ally, the United Kingdom voted in favor of. These pundits didn’t fear the irrelevance of the UN nor did they blame the US for abdicating its collective security responsibilities. Even in cases, like the Fourth Geneva Convention where signatories are required by law to enforce its clauses in defense of people under occupation, the US refused to allow the world body to impose on Israel respect for these international conventions.

When Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1990, the world body moved, sanctioning force to be used to reverse the occupation. That was followed by the longest world- imposed sanctions on a member country. Yet Israel, which came into being as a result of a UN resolution has been allowed to get away with murder and occupation. It has occupied Palestinian territories since 1967 yet no resolution has been passed with the kind of teeth that anti Iraqi resolutions have.

If there is any party responsible for making the UN an irrelevant body it is the US. And if there is any cause in which the international community has failed it is the cause of Palestine.

Instead of waging a war against Iraq, the US and the international community should be waging peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Removing Saddam Hussein from power will not cause a dent on the root of the problems of the Middle East. Those who argue that having a politically moderate regime in Iraq will suddenly produce a different Palestinian position are wrong. Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Jordan who are among the most moderate of all Arab countries were not willing to adopt or encourage Palestinians to accept the “Palestine as Swiss cheese” deal that Ehud Barak offered Palestinians at Camp David. It is unlikely that Iraq which has not been involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would fare better even with a much different regime. The possible loss Iraq offers financial aid to Palestinians killed in the intifada is unlikely to make Palestinians change their long held demands for a free democratic and independent state in areas occupied in June 1967.

No, those who think France and others should join in playing the war drums because the US is asking for it are wrong. At present the voice of conscience of the world, as represented presently by these countries, and not American unilateralizm should be heard. If simply to be consistent, those who are unhappy with permanent members using the power of veto should apply the same stick to the US when it uses it to sanction Israel’s acts of occupation and settlement in Palestinian territories.

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