Earlier this month the right-wing Neanderthals in charge of U.S. foreign policy took two more steps toward a foreign policy aimed at creating a world order dictated by the United States.

On May 6 President Bush formally announced that the United States was “unsigning” the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. The administration also announced that the U.S. was no longer bound by the 1969 Vienna Convention requiring nations to refrain from undermining treaties they sign, even if they do not ratify them.

Although the U.S. has signed both treaties, it has ratified neither, a long-standing practice under which it agrees to abide by the terms of international agreements it signs but fails to ratify.

Counting its announced intention to repudiate the Ballistic Missile Treaty, the action of May 6 brings to three the number of treaties the administration has renounced in the 16 months since the ascension of George Bush to the White House.

While these actions have received some notice, the administration’s foray against multilateral institutions has, for the most part, gone unnoticed. But the campaign to purge the U.N. of international civil servants judged to be out of step with Washington’s insistence that it have the last word in all global governance issues is in earnest.

The first – and most prominent – victim was Mary Robinson, former Irish president and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The official spin is that she retired after a one-year renewal of her contract. But the facts point in another direction.

The U.S. refused to forgive her for her stands on Middle East issues or her endorsement of the results of the U.N.’s Durban Conference on Racism. While losing the battle to prevent her reappointment, the U.S. did win its subsequent campaign to force Robinson out.

Next came Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who got the axe on April 19 when the U.S. succeeded in replacing him with Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian economist. The panel, an independent scientific body established to assess the degree of climate change attributable to human activities, had come to a consensus – one not shared by the Bush administration – that human activity is, indeed, a factor in climate change.

According to a leaked memo, ExxonMobil had previously urged the White House to have Watson replaced and that the administration “restructure the U.S. attendance at upcoming IPCC meetings to assure none of the Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in any decisional activities.” Although Pachauri attributes his selection to the fact that he was the candidate of the third world, environmental organizations charge that his exit is the result of U.S. lobbying.

José Mauricio Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), got the axe on April 22, barely a year after his unanimous election to a second five-year term. OPCW arranges regular inspections – so far 1,100 in more than 50 countries – of the facilities of U.N. members. Bustani and his inspectors have overseen the destruction of two million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s chemical weapon facilities.

Bustani’s troubles began when he resisted American efforts to dictate the nationality of the OPCW inspectors assigned to investigate U.S. facilities. He also opposed a U.S. law allowing the president to block unannounced inspections and banned inspectors from removing chemical samples.

Diplomats suggest that Bustani’s biggest “crime” was his effort to persuade Iraq to sign the convention setting up OPCW, thus giving its inspectors access to Iraqi facilities. Eventually Washington succeeded, but only after threatening to withhold its dues if Bustani was reappointed.

The right wing has long had a knee-jerk hostility to international and multilateral organizations. During the Reagan/Bush administrations several of its representatives – most notably Jeane Kirkpatrick – held positions of influence in the U.N. But during those years there was a recognition that the U.S. could not pull out of the organization and leave the U.N. in the hands of a coalition of third world and Socialist countries.

Today, however, the U.S. has no counterweight at the U.N. and the Bush administration is unabashedly playing hard ball – in effect, threatening to render the multilateral organization impotent unless it gets its way.

U.N. observers wonder who the next target will be and include U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has become stronger in his public exasperation with Sharon’s behavior, among the likely targets. If that strategy doesn’t work, they will likely accuse him of managerial incompetence and inability to work well with member states and combine that with yet another threat to withhold dues.

If the U.S. purges continue and rise to higher levels, the entire post-World War II framework of multilateralism will almost assuredly start to disintegrate and with it the hopes and dreams of billions of people, including those of millions of Americans.

Fred Gaboury is a member of the People’s Weekly World editorial board. He can be reached at fgab708@aol.com


Fred Gaboury
Fred Gaboury

Fred Gaboury was a member of the Editorial Board of the print edition of  People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and wrote frequently on economic, labor and political issues. Gaboury died in 2004. Here is a small selection of Fred’s significant writings: Eight days in May Birmingham and the struggle for civil rights; Remembering the Rev. James Orange; Memphis 1968: We remember; June 19, 1953: The murder of the Rosenbergs; World Bank and International Monetary Fund strangle economies of Third World countries