As the United Nations General Assembly sessions continue in New York, it is time to say loud and clear that the world body stands exposed as an instrument of imperial powers.
Its track record speaks for itself. Its mechanism has been used more for prosecuting imperialist wars than for bringing about world peace. The number of people killed in wars approved by the UN or subsequently legitimized by it must be more than the number of lives it may have saved by its war-preventive measures. Perhaps, the world would be a better place without the United Nations, however much its defenders argue to the contrary and point to all the good work being done by the UN in peacekeeping and eliminating disease, poverty and illiteracy.
Well, even a monster has a human face. This institutional monster has soaked its hands in human blood though it was formed in 1945 to usher in world peace.
How can a fair system and world peace emerge through the United Nations system when the core of its charter was the handiwork of World War II war-minded allies? At the discussions that preceded the formation of the UN, they made sure that their powers were not undermined and their ability to dominate the world was not diminished by the UN charter.
Although subsequently, fifty countries laboured for two months (April-May, 1945) in San Francisco to prepare the charter and the statute of the International Court of Justice, there was little opposition to the inclusion of the provisions that gave the power of veto to the big powers.
Though the objectives of the United Nations are noble on paper, its journey began on an insolent note — denying the Palestinians their right to a homeland. Nowhere is the UN failure or impotency more evident than in the Palestinian question. The lack of force in many UN Resolutions, including 242 and 338, or the will to enforce them has only encouraged Israel to continue its illegal activities in occupied Palestine. Besides, the use of the veto by the US 39 times in defence of Israel has rendered the world body powerless. The 40th veto — a death knell to Palestine statehood and global justice — may come this week, if the Palestinians’ UN membership bid comes before the Security Council.
The wanton use of the veto has undermined the UN system and reduced its Secretary General to a mere puppet, though under the charter the Secretary General must uphold the values and moral authority of the UN, and speak and act for peace, even at the risk of challenging or disagreeing with some member states.
But no Secretary General — the current incumbent is the 8th — has gone so far as to challenge a superpower. If they speak loud, they lose their job. Boutros-Boutros Ghali of Egypt was a victim while Kofi Annan who described George W. Bush’s war as illegal at a forum outside the UN had to face an internal inquiry over UN contracts.
Many won’t disagree that the UN is a pawn in the hands of the big powers. In the post-Cold War era, particularly, in the post-9/11 era, the world body has become a foreign policy tool of the United States to enable it to prosecute politically-motivated wars against some countries on the ostensible grounds that they posed a threat to world security.
In fact, the process of misusing the UN to achieve political objectives dates back to the early days of the UN. Besides the division of Palestine, the UN played into the hands of the US in Korea too. It gave a stamp of legitimacy to an election that was highly rigged by pro-US elements in the South to deny North Korea’s popular leader Kim Il Sung a sure victory countrywide. This contributed immensely to a build-up of tension in the peninsula and eventually to a North Korean invasion of the South in 1950.
In response to the North Korean invasion aimed at the reunification of Korea, the US and its allies moved the Security Council for a resolution to authorize use of force against North Korea. The shrewd US manoeuvring and manipulation of the UN process was so successful that it gave hardly any time or space for the Soviet Union, which was boycotting the Security Council over Nationalist China’s (Taiwan’s) presence in it, to respond or come back to the council and use its veto. The force that went under the US command with the UN blessing consisted largely of pro-US and anti-communist countries. It was not a collective international action but a case of selective action.
Some ten million people died in this UN-approved war — more than the number killed in World War I.
Yet the spilling of Palestinian and Korean blood failed to shake the UN foundation. More horrors were to come. In the 1990s, the UN sanctions killed some one million Iraqis, half of them children.
Then in the post-9/11 era, the UN was again abused by the United States to invade Iraq. Another million Iraqis died and 4 million children were orphaned by this war which came as a result of Washington deliberately misinterpreting UN resolutions as authorizing the use of force. What’s more, the US got the UN Security Council to pass a resolution legitimising the US occupation.
Then take NATO’s military action against Libya. The two UN resolutions — 1970 and 1973 — were passed to protect civilians. But what happened was a clear case of intervention aimed at regime change. There is no mechanism in the UN system to warn or check the actions of those who blatantly misuse UN resolutions to wage wars. At present, NATO warplanes help Libya’s new rulers to maintain a siege on pro-Gaddafi civilians in several regions.
Should one speak more about the UN when an international panel in 2000 accused it of virtually doing nothing to stop the massacre of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda in 1994? The carnage, during which some half a million Tutsis were butchered, went on for 90 days, enough time for the UN to intervene and stop it.
The UN also stands accused for its role in the Srebrenica massacre in the Bosnian war and sex crimes in Haiti.
With so many skeletons in its cupboard, foremost on the agenda as the UN annual sessions are being held should be reforms. Attempts at making the UN more democratic, however, have fallen by the wayside with the veto-wielding powers — the US, Russia, Britain, France and China — jealously guarding their clout at the Security Council. As a result, the UN remains undemocratic to the core, allowing imperialist forces to manipulate the UN system to achieve their narrow political ends.