US - over or under the UN?



Fredrik S. Heffermehl
Norges Fredsråd - Norwegian Peace Alliance


September 11, 2003

Oslo, 9. Sept. 2003

Dear ambassador,

I have today submitted the following column for distribution by the IPS Columnist Service in Rome. A.o. I express support for the French, German and Russian defense of the UN Charter.

And I urge nations not to yield to US wishes on Iraq without clear and unambiguous promises to return to loyal membership of the UN and collective decisionmaking - see end of article.

In view of the urgency of the matter I am sending this to you before it reaches the the editorial offices (about 2000, all over the world).

Fredrik S. Heffermehl


US - over or under the UN?

Empire and imperialism, words with a negative ring for most of us, have come into open use as a laudable abmbition for neoconservative, Christian crusaders in the present US government. Fortunately these people, who promoted the disastrous Iraq war in open contempt of the United Nations Charter, are now suffering a solid political setback.

This week the US is approaching the body which it declared worthless and irrelevant only half a year ago, seeking to be rescued from the chaos and crisis it has created in Iraq. US casualties and financial costs are rising, almost faster than the prestige of the US president is dropping. His lies before the war may well cost him his reelection to a second period.

This dark situation is at the same time a shining opportunity for the UN to regain its role and strength and a much needed fundamental reassessment of the institutions and methods of the international system to face "new and non-conventional threats", called for by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan this summer.

"Thank God for the Death of the UN" wrote Richard Perle, of the US Defence Policy Board, in March in the Guardian. One would expect that a government after such roaring mischief, miscalculation and insult to the UN, would be ashamed rather than arrogant when it returned to the UN, asking other nations to spend money and lives to help the US out of the mess it has made in Iraq. Ought not the US promise to mend its ways and present excuses rather than a brazen demand to be in command of a UN emergency force?

Indeed, President Bush and other US officials failed to announce that the US will pull out and respect the UN and the superior role of the Security Council in maintaining international peace. Instead the US appears eager to draw other nations in and make them accomplices to the illegal American actions in Iraq. Even if weapons had been found, the war violated the UN Charter. The Charter does not give the US any right to carry out "preventive war" to eliminate perceived, invented or imagined threats.

The US apparently does not understand much of Iraqi reactions and how little hope a UN force under American command would have of winning the necessary respect and legitimacy with the Iraqis. The attacks will continue if the US is in command - and now hurt the UN forces.

US withdrawal is absolutely necessary to stabilize Iraq, but the US offers no credible promises for a genuine transfer of power to the Iraqis and sets no exit date for US and foreign forces,

However much the Iraqi people need and deserve urgent assistance from the UN, the member organizations cannot permit the US to wage wars of aggression and leave it to the UN to tidy up when the US gets messed up and bogged down. Since this is intolerable as a pattern for the future, it is now imperative to let the US learn its lesson. Other nations should stand by France, Germany and Russia in their defense of the UN and not be too quick to offer military assistance and relief. Without concessions and some unambiguous guarantees from the US, nations must reject a new Iraq resolution in the Security Council.

The US misused the crimes of September 11 to declare a war on terrorism that could last for a couple of generations and where the US could strike against terrorists wherever they were found - indicating that some 50 states could harbour terrorists. We cannot accept that, in one quick blow, the US in effect freed itself from the prohibition against use of force, the core obligation under the UN Charter, says Cora Weiss (US), president of the Geneva-based International Peace Bureau.

US ideas on terrorism are the basis of "Fighting Terrorism for Humanity", a conference organized by Norway in New York on September 22. The day before the opening of the UN General assembly international political leaders will gather to discuss "the roots of Evil". - The conference will not address the real roots, but seems to fit perfectly into the US wish to address terrorism as a problem from below. They wish to discuss the violence of the deprived, desperate and powerless. With hardly a word on state terrorism, the event is suited to draw attention away from the much more serious and dangerous forms of international violence, says Gunnar Garbo, a UN expert and former ambassador of Norway.

UN member nations cannot permit the US to continue its aggression and repression against other states and only call on fellow UN members when it needs assistants in such adventures, or the cleaning up operations.

While a whole world was happy to see Saddam ousted from power, most people regret that it was done in blatant violation of international law, and in a way that brought more suffering on the Iraqi people and increased hostility and terrorist threat against Americans and Westerners.

In the words of Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel´s security service (Shabak): "Those who want "victory" against terror without addressing the underlying grievances want an unending war".

The US should renew its commitment to the UN, to collective decision-making and promise to pursue a fair and equitable world order, based on law, as a condition for a new resolution where the UN takes over in Iraq. This would be a fight against terrorism that could be won.


N. Juels g. 28 A, N-0272 Oslo, Norway
Phone +47-2244 8003 (fax: +47-2244 7616)

NFR: or IPB:
President, Norwegian Peace Alliance
Steering cttee, International Peace Bureau
Vice Pres., I Assn. Lawyers Ag. Nuclar Arms
International Free Vanunu Committee


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