Stephen Zunes : Iraq
Iraq is not the first country the United States has intervened in and then tried to have the United Nations try to clean up after it. Never before, however, have the consequences of a U.S. military action been so tragic for the world body and its dedicated civilian workers.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the intelligence cited by President Bush regarding Iraqi military capabilities in the months leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq was in fact neither good, nor solid, nor sound and that the Iraqi regime–while, like a number of Middle East governments, was undeniably repressive–was not a threat to the United States or any other country.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq posed new challenges to peace and justice activists. The growing credibility crisis of the Bush administration with respect to Iraq, as well as the ongoing crisis on the ground in Iraq, provides us with new opportunities. Below I present four theses on one campaign that could use these opportunities in a creative way: a campaign to turn the administration of Iraq over to the United Nations.
There has been a disturbing degree of triumphalism following the overthrow–perhaps “evaporation” is a better word–of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the face of invading American forces. Even putting aside the appropriateness of this kind of gloating in the face of such death and destruction–including thousands of civilian casualties–it is striking that few people are asking whether the U.S. or the rest of the world is safer now as a result of this overwhelming American military victory.
Considerable attention has been given to President George W. Bush’s February 26 speech before the right-wing American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC outlining his vision of the Middle East in the aftermath of a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq. The speech was broadcast live over national radio and television and given widespread coverage in the print media, yet few critical voices questioning the major points raised in this sanctimonious and highly misleading address were given the opportunity to offer commentary.
As the administration’s rationales for invading Iraq–such as Baghdad’s alleged ties to al Qaeda and claims of an imminent nuclear threat–have crumbled under closer scrutiny, the administration and its allies in Congress and the media are increasingly emphasizing a point that cannot be disputed: the repressive nature of the Iraqi regime….
Despite increased preparation for war, there is a growing perception that a U.S. invasion of Iraq can be stopped.
There is little question that were it not for the anti-war movement, the United States would have gone to war against Iraq already. It was the strength of opposition to plans for a unilateral U.S. invasion that forced the Bush Administration to go to the UN in the first place. So far, Iraqi compliance with the United Nations weapons inspectors has made it extremely difficult for the administration to proceed with its war plans.
With the apparent willingness of the Iraqi government to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors, the Bush administration and its congressional supporters of both parties seem determined to find an excuse–any excuse–to invade this oil-rich country and replace the current regime with one more to its own liking. This eagerness to wage war could not be more apparent than in recent claims out of Washington that Iraq firing upon British and American aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq constitutes a “material breach” of UN Security Council resolutions that could justify a U.S. invasion.
Despite successfully pushing the U.N. Security Council to toughen further its already strict inspections regime against Iraq, the Bush administration appears ready to engage in unilateral military action. “If the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of further Iraqi violations, this resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce relevant United Nations resolutions,” U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte claimed immediately after last Friday’s vote.
This should have been the Democrats’ year.
The country is still mired in recession. Polls consistently have shown that the Republicans’ positions on such basic policy issues as the environment and the economy are decidedly unpopular. The connection of top administration officials with scandal-plagued corporations provided ample opportunities for a populist message against corruption and in support of economic justice.