As the Bush administration outraged United Nations members with its latest strong-arm tactics, former president Jimmy Carter challenged the Bush administration’s war drive and urged support for international cooperation. In his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in Oslo, Dec. 10, Carter said, “It is clear that global challenges must be met with an emphasis on peace, in harmony with others, with strong alliances and international consensus. Imperfect as it may be, there is no doubt that this can best be done through the United Nations.”

Quoting former UN ambassador Ralph Bunche, Carter said: “To suggest that war can prevent war is a base play on words and a despicable form of warmongering. The objective of any who sincerely believe in peace clearly must be to exhaust every honorable recourse in the effort to save the peace. The world has had ample evidence that war begets only conditions that beget further war.”

The Bush administration bullied and bribed to obtain Iraq’s weapons declaration ahead of other UN members and before weapons inspectors had a chance to finish going through the 12,000-page document, UN observers charge. “This is perhaps the most egregious example we’ve seen in recent years of the U.S. attempting to take over,” Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies told the World.

Colombia, which chairs the Security Council this month, caved in to U.S. demands, throwing out the previously agreed- upon procedure, after weekend phone calls from Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte. U.S. diplomats accompanied Colombia’s UN ambassador on a late-night visit to the office of chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to inform him of the decision.

Powell returned Dec. 4 from Colombia, where he announced major increases in U.S. military aid. Colombia’s right-wing government already receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid annually. A Colombian diplomat acknowledged that his government had made a “political decision” to accede to Washington’s demand, despite objections from nonpermanent Council members.

The U.S. seizure of the Council’s sole copy of Iraq’s declaration, while the 10 nonpermanent members were denied access to it, severely antagonized other nations and significantly undermines the credibility of the UN internationally, said Bennis. Norway’s Foreign Minster Jan Petersen said it was wrong to treat some members as “B-nations.”

James Paul, executive director of Global Policy Forum, told the World the U.S. is seen as wanting to “trump the Security Council and get in the driver’s seat” at the UN. The Bush administration’s drive for war is challenging the very existence of the United Nations as we know it, said Paul, whose organization has consultative status at the UN and monitors developments there. The world community knows what the Bush administration is up to, but the U.S. has an enormous capacity to influence and intimidate others through its economic and military might, he said. “UN delegates have done everything they could to try to weave a web to hold the U.S. in check, but they are weaving a spider’s web and they are facing an elephant.”

The Bush administration was anxious to get hold of the Iraqi declaration in order to produce its own version of “intelligence” backing its assertion that Iraq is violating UN resolutions. It has already admitted it has no direct evidence. Continuing inspections showing no improper weapons activity in Iraq have put administration warhawks on the defensive, and they are scrambling to come up with something that can sell public opinion on war. They are expected to present a mass of questionable circumstantial “evidence,” including reports from defectors. David Kay, a former weapons inspector now with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, told The Los Angeles Times, “Over the past 11 years there have been a number of people who have called, who claimed to have important information, who turned out not to. They may give you information, but then you still have to prove it – the same problem you started with.”

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stressed that the weapons inspectors should be given time to do their work in Iraq.

“I have always maintained that the inspectors have work to do and we should allow them to do a professional job, and I have indicated they should be given the time and the space to do it,” Annan said Dec. 10. He emphasized, “I do expect the Council to support the inspectors as they do a professional job.” In contrast to Washington’s increasingly bellicose language, Annan also made it clear he believed that war could be avoided.

“I have maintained that war is not inevitable and it is up to President Saddam Hussein to disarm, to cooperate fully with the inspectors and honor all his obligations to the United Nations,” Annan said. “If that is done, I would see no reason for war.”

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.