The Trouble with Western Rhetoric

Article published on Feb. 24, 2003
community published
Article published on Feb. 24, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Inadequacy of the system, hypocrisy of the West, fake philanthropy, many reasons to make us long for a bridge under trouble water.

George W. Bush and Tony Blair have been, for nearly 12 months, desperately trying to convince their respective domestic public opinion, as well as the rest of the world, for the need to launch a military assault against Iraq. They say Saddam Hussein’s regime is a threat to world peace because it possesses nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. They say that he has violated United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the disarmament of his arsenal from those weapons. They also say that he is a brutal dictator that has tortured and murdered his own people and that there is a moral obligation to dethrone him and establish a democracy in Iraq. What, however, seem to be the real issues under such discourse?

A “preemptive strike”

In order for a country to pose a threat to world security it has to satisfy two conditions. Firstly, it has to have the capacity to deliver a strike and secondly it has to have the political will to carry out an attack. Iraq has not satisfied any of these two conditions for the last twelve years. There is no proof that it has any weapons of mass destruction and it has not threatened or demonstrated any hostility towards any of its neighbours for the period after the Gulf war.

A few weeks after the terrible tragedy of the twin towers the US government changed its foreign and military strategic dogma and for the first time spoke of a “preemptive strike” when and where they thought their national security was being threatened. The members of the US administration have repeatedly stated that they are prepared to carry out an attack with or without the approval of the United Nations. They have recently said that if an “unreasonable” veto is exercised at the United Nations Security Council, then they will press ahead leading a ‘coalition of the willing’ into an attack on Iraq. A military attack on Iraq carried out by the US with no provocation from the other side, will be a preemptive strike. This will mean the end of international law and the end of the – anyway limited – world governance exercised through the United Nations by the international community. If the US government follows that course of action it will tear the UN charter apart and plunge the international community into instability and chaos.

Inadequacy of the current system

But even if the US government manages to get a United Nations Security Council resolution that would be a mandate to war, the basic fact that this attack would be a preemptive strike would not change. The decision making process within the UN Security Council has been hideously manipulated by the US after the disturbance of the balance of power in the international system with the fall of the Soviet bloc. The US has been systematically buying off the votes of smaller and substantially economically weaker countries in the Security Council by offering them contemporary trade or financial exchanges or offering them military alliances (the incorporation of eastern European states in NATO) which would be beneficial for these smaller countries. It is therefore evident that it is wrong to consider the United Nations Security Council as the supreme authority in international law.

The biggest proof of the inadequacy of the current system of decision making in the UN is undoubtedly the murderous sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on Iraq which constitute nothing more than a diplomatic idiocy. These sanctions have been in place for 12 consecutive years and have resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe that accounts for the death of half a million Iraqi people as estimated by the UN humanitarian agencies. The economic sanctions have also helped Saddam Hussein to consolidate his power and have understandably stirred the anti-western sentiment among the people of Iraq. If the UN is going to be a democratic and impartial institution, then a decision making system would have to be adopted that would make sure that the decisions of the Security Council are ratified by the general assembly of the United Nations.

Real reasons behind propaganda and hypocrisy of the West

But why is this war being carried out? The real reasons behind this war can be summed up in two points. Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy US defence secretary, wrote a book describing the course of action that should be followed by the US with regards to the foreign policy. He supported the view that the greatest challenge facing the US in the dawn of the 21st century is to make sure no country becomes strong enough to challenge the American hegemony. The most immediate threat in that respect is China, which is predicted to become the largest economy in the world by 2020. Therefore the US has to ensure it gains the geopolitical control of the Middle East and Central Asia, areas that are geographically keen to China. Such an undertaking would help the US to consolidate its military and geopolitical control of the Eurasian continent and further the ultimate goal of every empire, imperial domination. Secondly, the US is desperate to gain access to the Iraqi oil reserves, the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. Oil is the energy base of every modern economy and the US administration knows that whoever controls the oil, has an incomparable advantage towards the rival economies in an increasingly globalised market economy.

Nobody disputes the fact that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator and that he has violated UN Security Council resolutions. At the same time though, the hypocrisy and the double standards of western leaders and especially G. W. Bush and T. Blair on this matter have been remarkable. They remind us of how horrible Saddam’s regime is while they closely co-operate with two of the most oppressive regimes in the world, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which have an appalling human rights record. They also consider countries like Turkey and Israel as their closest allies, countries that have carried out terrible atrocities against the Kurdish and the Palestinian people respectively and are in breach of numerous UN Security Council resolutions (in the case of Israel, 69 unimplemented resolutions). G. W. Bush and T. Blair have repeatedly referred to the moral obligation the West has to liberate the people of Iraq. Actually, the moral obligation the West has is to make sure it stops creating, arming and funding brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein in every corner of the globe to carry out their imperial plans. If this war takes place it will not liberate the people of Iraq because the US has already indicated that an American general who will impose a ‘democracy’ suitable to the American imperial interests will take up Saddam’s place. On the contrary, this war will cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and will destabilise the most sensitive region in the world, the Middle East. It will also compromise the security of the general public in the West, as it will create thousands more potential terrorists out of the resulting oppression and desperation of the Muslim world.

Learning from History

The solution to the Iraqi issue would be to reinforce the weapons inspections and give them as much time as the inspectors deem necessary to effectively carry out their work. At the same time, the immediate lift of the economic embargo should be ordered by the UN, an embargo which kills thousands of innocent civilians every year while it fuels the hatred of the Arab population towards the West and consolidates Saddam Hussein’s power. If there is going to be any regime change in Iraq, it has to come from the people of Iraq and from nobody else. The bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 did not succeed in overthrowing Slobodan Milosevich. It succeeded in killing hundreds of innocent Yugoslav civilians and polluting their country with depleted uranium for the next 50 years. It was a popular uprising by the people of Yugoslavia in summer 1999 that dethroned Milosevich and established democracy back in the country and the same needs to happen this time in Iraq.

It was as far back as the 1970s when Henry Kissinger was arguing that the Europeans should never be allowed to have an independent voice in matters of international relations. The Common Foreign and Security Policy has been designed to safeguard the sovereignty of the European Union member states. This means that the decision making process on matters of EU foreign policy operates on a lowest common denominator principle. All policy making within the EU is based on concensus building because there are so many diverse actors to consider. Whatever the politics inside the EU might be, there will come a point when the EU will have to confront the most important dilemma of all: whether or not to break away from the US hegemony on issues of international trade and finance and on issues of international relations. This could theoretically happen, as it is evident that the degree of integration within the EU is growing fast and at some point in the future the conditions that will benefit a break away from American hegemony are likely to arise.

No philanthropic reasons for opposition to war

The opposition of France as well as Russia and China to the war is neither benevolent nor humanitarian. There are only three companies that have struck deals with the Iraqi regime for the exploitation of Iraq’s oil reserves: a French, a Russian and a Chinese company. Therefore, it is not out of consideration for the Iraqi people or for any other philanthropic reason that these three governments contemporarily oppose any US military action. The other organisation that all western (and recently most eastern) European countries belong to, is NATO. It is now, more than ever, evident that the only reason for the continuing existence of NATO, more than a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, is to manipulate the autonomy of Europe and destroy the unity of the European Union, which is gradually starting to emerge as an independent global actor in international relations.

Whatever the case might be, what is very useful to remember is that even though the heads of government of the EU member states are deeply divided on the issue of Iraq, the people of Europe and indeed the people of the whole world are united against any military action. This should lead as to question whether a democratic deficit exists in the western world, in the light of the first ever global day of protest that took place in 600 locations around the world against the war in which around 20 million people took part, on the 15th of February. Democratic governments are there to represent and carry out the will of people and this just does not seem to be happening in this or other contemporary issues any more perhaps with the exception of Germany (at least in the issue of war). It has always been up to the ordinary people to try to change the world into a better place and this time is no different. The people of the world, the Americans, the Europeans, the Asians, the Africans and the Oceanians have a historic obligation to stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq, oppose any military action and refuse the world’s elite to carry out their imperial plans in their name.