Tariq Ali on the UN Security Council Capitulation to Washington
In January, February, and early March this year, in response to the pressure from millions of people all over the world demonstrating in the streets against Washington’s planned war on Iraq, the United Nations Security Council declined to pass a resolution authorizing the war, despite tremendous browbeating, including a major speech to the UN by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (full of lies), and despite the demonization of France by the U.S. media and political leaders for not agreeing to a war. Of course the U.S. government, supported mainly by the Blair government in Britain, went to war anyway. Now that the U.S.-British occupation of Iraq is an accomplished fact, the French, German, Russian, and Chinese governments, who all have representatives on the Security Council (three of them with veto power), have completely caved in to Washington, passing a resolution that in effect retroactively authorizes a war that the vast majority of humanity opposed. For the information of our readers we reprint comments on this development by Tariq Ali, a British author of Pakistani background who has long been a leading figure in the antiwar movement. His article, edited for our readers, originally appeared in the Guardian (London) for May 24. Tariq Ali’s forthcoming book, Bush in Babylon: Recolonising Iraq, will be published by Verso in the autumn. He can be reached here.
Business as usual
The UN has capitulated. Now let the north’s plunder of the south begin again
Unsurprisingly, the UN Security Council has capitulated completely, recognized the occupation of Iraq, and approved its recolonization by the U.S. and its bloodshot British adjutant. The timing of the mea culpa by the “international community” was perfect. Yesterday, senior executives from more than 1,000 companies gathered in London to bask in the sunshine of the reestablished consensus under the giant umbrella of Bechtel, the American empire’s most favored construction company. A tiny proportion of the loot will be shared.
So what happened to the overheated rhetoric about Europe versus America [and about the “new Europe” as against the “old Europe” of France and Germany]? Berlusconi in Italy and Aznar in Spain—the two most rightwing governments in Europe—were fitting partners for Blair while the Eastern European states, giving a new meaning to the term “satellite” which they had previously so long enjoyed, fell as one into line behind Bush.
France and Germany, on the other hand, protested for months that they were utterly opposed to a U.S. attack on Iraq. [German Prime Minister Gerhart] Schröder had owed his narrow reelection to a pledge not to support a war on Baghdad, even were it authorized by the UN. [French President Jacques] Chirac, armed with a veto in the Security Council, was even more voluble with declarations that any unauthorized assault on Iraq would never be accepted by France.
Together, Paris and Berlin coaxed Moscow too into expressing its disagreement with American plans. Even Beijing emitted a few cautious sounds of demurral. The Franco-German initiatives aroused tremendous excitement and consternation among diplomatic commentators. Here, surely, was an unprecedented rift in the Atlantic alliance. What was to become of European unity, of NATO, of the “international community” itself if such a disastrous split persisted? Could the very concept of “the West” survive?
Such apprehensions were quickly allayed. No sooner were Tomahawk missiles lighting up the nocturnal skyline in Baghdad, and the first Iraqi civilians cut down by U.S. Marines, than Chirac rushed to explain that France would assure smooth passage of U.S. bombers across its airspace (as it had not done, under his own premiership, when Reagan attacked Libya), and wished “swift success” to American arms in Iraq. Germany’s cadaver-green foreign minister Joschka Fischer [of the German Green Party] announced that his government, too, sincerely hoped for the “rapid collapse” of resistance to the Anglo-American attack. Putin, not to be outdone, explained to his compatriots that “for economic and political reasons” Russia could only desire a decisive victory of the U.S. in Iraq.
Washington is still not satisfied. It wants to punish France further. Why not a ritual public flogging broadcast live by Murdoch TV? A humbled petty chieftain (Chirac) bending over while an imperial princess (Condoleezza Rice) administers the whip. Then the leaders of a reunited north could relax and get on with the business they know best: plundering the south [that is, the former colonial world in Asia, Africa, and Latin America].
The expedition to Baghdad was planned as the first flexing of a new imperial stance. What better demonstration of the shift to a more offensive strategy than to make an example of Iraq. If no single reason explains the targeting of Iraq, there is little mystery about the range of calculations that lay behind it. Economically, Iraq possesses the second largest reserves of cheap oil in the world; Baghdad’s decision in 2000 to invoice its exports in euros rather than dollars risked imitation by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and by the Iranian mullahs. Privatization of the Iraqi wells under U.S. control would help to weaken OPEC.
Strategically, the existence of an independent Arab regime in Baghdad had always been an irritation to the Israeli military. With the installation of Republican zealots close to Likud in key positions in Washington, the elimination of a traditional adversary became an attractive immediate goal for Jerusalem. Lastly, just as the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had once been a pointed demonstration of American might to the Soviet Union, so today a blitzkrieg rolling swiftly across Iraq would serve to show the world at large that if the chips are down, the U.S. has, in the last resort, the means to enforce its will.
The UN has now provided retrospective sanction to a preemptive strike. Its ill-fated predecessor, the League of Nations, at least had the decency to collapse after its charter was serially raped. Analogies with Hitler’s blitzkrieg of 1940 are drawn without compunction by cheerleaders for the war. Thus Max Boot in the Financial Times wrote: “The French fought hard in 1940—at first. But eventually the speed and ferocity of the German advance led to a total collapse. The same thing will happen in Iraq.” What took place in France after 1940 might give pause to these enthusiasts.
The lack of any spontaneous welcome from Shias and the fierce early resistance of armed irregulars prompted the theory that the Iraqis are a “sick people” who will need protracted treatment before they can be entrusted with their own fate (if ever). Such was the line taken by David Aaronovitch in the Observer [London]. Likewise, George Mellon in the Wall Street Journal warns: “Iraq won’t easily recover from Saddam’s terror,” [adding that] “after three decades of rule of the Arab equivalent of Murder Inc., Iraq is a very sick society.” To develop an “orderly society” and re-energize (privatize) the economy will take time, he insists. On the front page of the Sunday Times [London], reporter Mark Franchetti quoted an American NCO: “‘The Iraqis are a sick people and we are the chemotherapy,’ said Corporal Ryan Dupre. ‘I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin’ Iraqi. No, I won’t get hold of one. I’ll just kill him.’”
No doubt the “sick society” theory will acquire greater sophistication, but it is clear the pretexts are to hand for a mixture of Guantánamo and Gaza in these newly occupied territories.
If it is futile to look to the UN or Euroland, let alone Russia or China, for any serious obstacle to American designs in the Middle East, where should resistance start? First of all, naturally, in the region itself. There, it is to be hoped that the invaders of Iraq will eventually be harried out of the country by a growing national reaction to the occupation regime they install, and that their collaborators may meet the fate of former [pro-British] Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said [killed in the 1958 revolution that overthrew British-installed King Faisal and temporarily ended neocolonial U.S.-British control of Iraq.]
Sooner or later, the ring of corrupt and brutal tyrannies around Iraq will be broken. If there is one area where the cliche that classical revolutions are a thing of the past is likely to be proved wrong, it is in the Arab world. The day the Mubarak, Hashemite, Saudi, and other dynasties are swept away by popular wrath, American—and Israeli—arrogance in the region will be over.