micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.
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Thursday, September 12, 2002
Was the United States post September 11 just a Dress Rehearsal?
-The United States is rejoining the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (“The United States pulled out of UNESCO in December 1984, complaining of wasteful bureaucracy and a Third World bias,” writes Irwin Arieff of Reuters.)
-Terrorists and states that aid them are dangerous.
-Iraq is dangerous although no evidence was given.
-Iraq has violated a lot of U.N. provisions in terms of the treatment of its own people and allowing the U.N. to monitor the country and determine whether or not is producing weapons of mass destruction.
-The U.N. should want to act. “The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment,” Bush said. “Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?”
-Bush implied the U.S. would attack Iraq without U.N. backing if the U.N. did not give its support. “We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable,” said Bush. "And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power."
-Bush laid down a series of ultimatums to Iraq about ending and making amends for its misdeeds. They were all phrased as, “If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will…”
My take: It is a good thing that the U.S. is rejoining UNESCO but it remains to be seen how much difference the U.S. joining will make in the world.
As far as the comments relating to Iraq, there can be no doubt that Bush wants war as Iraq is almost certain to not meet the ultimatums given to it. And yet his case for war is very weak.
Hussein’s government no doubt violates the human rights of Iraqi citizens but a look through the library of Amnesty International will show that just about, if not literally, every government in the world has a history of committing human rights violations. Iraq’s record doesn’t appear so bad when compared to U.S. allies in the Middle East like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Bush didn’t talk about overthrowing the governments of those countries so human rights cannot be his actual concern. (And that isn't even to mention the U.S. record.)
Bush incredulously flattered the U.N. in this speech as if he has been a longtime supporter of international organizations and agreements. Anybody with a memory should see the insincerity in this but it is mistake to ignore that there is certain logic to what he is doing. Both proponents and opponents of the U.N., especially in the U.S., tend to overstate the degree of independence that the international body has from its host country. The U.N. has at no point in its 57 years ever directly given material opposition to the U.S. in matters of human rights and war and peace. The U.N., especially the General Assembly, does sometimes take stances that the U.S. doesn’t like but it doesn’t back those stances up with military force. There have been times, such as Chile in 1973 and East Timor in 1975, when the U.N., through its member states, could have protected human rights by going up against the military wishes of U.S. allies but it never has.
It is too simplistic to say that the U.N. is therefore a puppet of the U.S. Rather the correct analysis is that U.N. is not an organization that can effectively counter the most powerful nation in the world. Consequently in times when that nation, the U.S., decides to act, the greatest role the U.N. can have is as a cheerleader for the U.S. That isn’t a completely inconsequential role as it can give increased international legitimacy to U.S. projects –something that Bush and his advisors no doubt realize and why, if the U.N. gives approval this time, they will no doubt use this approach in the future- but this doesn’t make the U.N. a player with a leading role.
Maybe the greatest indicator of this is Bush's implication that the U.S. is willing to act without the U.N. to enforce U.N. resolutions. Bush doesn't care about an international body overseeing world affairs except to the extent that it furthers his interests. And when it doesn't further those interests, just like the presidents before him, Bush will walk away from the U.N. to get things done.
Most importantly, nowhere did Bush show that Iraq is a threat to the U.S. or any other country. Yes Iraq under Saddam Hussein has attacked Iran and Kuwait in the past but those instances are over a decade old. Yes Iraq may be developing weapons of mass destruction but that doesn’t make it any different than a whole of other countries and I explained on Tuesday why it is perfectly normal for Iraq to want nuclear weapons. Quite simply, there is no reason to think Iraq is a threat to anybody.
But Bush, if his word is to be trusted, wants to eliminate any chance that Iraq could ever be a threat. “The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one,” the President said.
The logic here is laughable, especially coming from a leader of a country that has a fetish for calling itself free. Leaving aside the issue of what Bush’s deity does or does not want, the world is a dangerous place. There is always a chance that any person could kill another for some reason or no reason. And yet societies tend not to punish people because they could commit murder. Doing so would mean arresting everyone and then who would be protected? Who would be the guards? True, a few people could be arrested because of what they might do but there’s no justice in that. You wind up with something like the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II, the detainment of Arab American men accused of overstaying their visas as happened last year after September 11 or the indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens accused of being terrorists.
Wait a second, maybe that’s exactly what Bush wants.