Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I'm So Bored With the USA

Michael Crowley's article in Slate about the Oil-for-Food scandal is an excellent synopsis of "what happended, and who's to blame" and he points out that "[The] United States more or less openly condoned Saddam's multibillion-dollar illegal oil trade with American allies such as Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt". The conclusion...

The oil-for-food scandal is a legitimate one, but recently it's been driven — and often distorted — by people who seem interested in undermining the United Nations' overall authority. Conservatives resent the share that the United States pays of the body's dues — 22 percent, down from 25 percent — and fume when the body doesn't reflect American interests 100 percent. The scandal presents a chance for payback.

Everyone here deserves some blame for Saddam's outlandish thievery. But what was the ultimate damage? Negroponte has told the Senate that the program largely met its goal of "creating a system to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi civilian population, while maintaining strict sanctions enforcement of items that Saddam Hussein could use to rearm or reconstitute his WMD program." The program did save lives: Average daily calorie intake nearly doubled in Iraq from 1996 to 2002. And Saddam never reconstituted the nuclear weapons program that was the ostensible reason for last year's invasion. The greatest tragedy of the oil-for-food program may be that, for all its Byzantine corruption, we never realized just how effective it was.

That seems reasonable, yet Glenn Reynolds says: "The Bush Administration doesn't seem to have joined the chorus calling for Kofi Annan's resignation. Is this because they really support him? Or is it because they think that a U.N. headed by Kofi Annan will lack the credibility to mount effective opposition to their plans? I know which way I'm betting", which seems to represent exactly the claim Crowley made above.

Where the UN has failed miserably is represented right here. When conflict breaks out the UN seems powerless to stop it and, for as long as it chooses to legitimise all governments of all nation states (in that, essentially, it will not intervene in "internal" issues), it will remain powerless. However the American right-wing commentators, like Reynolds, deliberately write as if the UN and the US are entirely separate entities: "the peacekeeping mission itself, like so many United Nations endeavors, appears to have been largely fruitless". Of course they are not entirely separate, so to blame the UN for peacekeeping failures and scandals is hypocritical buck-passing.

Apart from the fact that Reynolds appears more annoyed by the lack of equality of bad-publicity than the fact these abuses are commited by soldiers at all, surely America could have contributed its more professional soldiers to these more pressing causes than fighting a war that, quite frankly, did not need to be fought at this point in time. Seeing as the US is the world's pre-eminent superpower, why are the soldiers in the Congo from poor South American countries and why were the UN in no position to supply an adequate number of peacekeepers in Bosnia and Rwanda. The one thing that has not been mentioned in all this is that there were nowhere near enough soldiers to prevent the genocides. It's not that they didn't, they couldn't and, funnily enough, it's the same right wing commentators that are now criticising Donald Rumsfeld for exactly that problem in Iraq.
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