Friday, June 20, 2014

Whatever happened to the UN Charter? // Tom Engelhardt - The Guns of Folly

NB: It is significant that the United Nations Charter, which the global community gave itself in 1945, and in whose drafting the USA played a major role, makes explicit provision for military intervention to protect international peace and security. It is never invoked nowadays, given the preference for unilateral intervention by the US, UK and NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is worth remembering that the previous UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had held the invasion of Iraq to be illegal. The US reluctance to submit its military forces to combined UN authority has undermined the only legitimate potential that exists under international law to intervene anywhere. The Indian government ought to call upon the Security Council (and world opinion in general) to invoke and re-vitalise the United Nations Charter. That our 'national security' establishment does not think this necessary is a sign of the general contempt for law that seems to have overtaken global elites. The more they resort to illegitimate and unilateral violence, the more they will inflame and encourage vigilantism on a world scale. DS

Even today, if the UN Security Council were to authorise military action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter,  such action would command greater legitimacy in the eyes of the global population than any further unilateral American intervention
Here are the relevant provisions:

CHAPTER VII: ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION

Article 42: Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations. 
Article 43: 
1./ All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.
2./ Such agreement or agreements shall govern the numbers and types of forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of the facilities and assistance to be provided.
3./ The agreement or agreements shall be negotiated as soon as possible on the initiative of the Security Council. They shall be concluded between the Security Council and Members or between the Security Council and groups of Members and shall be subject to ratification by the signatory states in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.


Tom Engelhardt - The Guns of Folly - Who Won Iraq?

All in all, it’s been a debacle the likes of which we’ve seen only twice in our history.  In China, when in 1949 Chiang Kai-shek’s largely American armed and trained military disintegrated before the insurgent forces of Communist leader Mao Zedong and a quarter-century later, when a purely American military creation, the South Vietnamese army, collapsed in the face of an offensive by North Vietnamese troops and local rebel forces.  In each case, the resulting defeat was psychologically unnerving in the United States and led to bitter, exceedingly strange, and long-lasting debates about who “lost” China and who “lost” Vietnam... Early signs of an equally bizarre debate over the “loss” of Iraq are already appearing here.  This should surprise no one, as the only thing left to pass around is blame. 
As Iraq was unraveling last week and the possible outlines of the first jihadist state in modern history were coming into view, I remembered this nugget from the summer of 2002.  At the time, journalist Ron Suskind had a meeting with “a senior advisor” to President George W. Bush (later identified as Karl Rove).  Here’s how he described part of their conversation:


“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off.  ‘That's not the way the world rally works anymore,’ he continued.  ‘We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”

As events unfold increasingly chaotically across the region that officials of the Bush years liked to call the Greater Middle East, consider the eerie accuracy of that statement.  The president, his vice president Dick Cheney, his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, among others, were indeed “history’s actors.”  They did create “new realities” and, just as Rove suggested, the rest of us are now left to “study” what they did. 
And oh, what they did!  Their geopolitical dreams couldn’t have been grander or more global.  (Let’s avoid the word "megalomaniacal.")  They expected to pacify the Greater Middle East, garrison Iraq for generations, make Syria and Iran bow down before American power, "drain" the global "swamp" of terrorists, and create a global Pax Americana based on a military so dominant that no other country or bloc of countries would ever challenge it.
It was quite a dream and none of it, not one smidgen, came true.  Just as Rove suggested they would -- just as in the summer of 2002, he already knew they would -- they acted to create a world in their image, a world they imagined controlling like no imperial power in history.  Using that unchallengeable military, they launched an invasion that blew a hole through the oil heartlands of the Middle East.  They took a major capital, Baghdad, while “decapitating” (as the phrase then went) the regime that was running Iraq and had, in a particularly brutal fashion, kept the lid on internecine tensions.
They lacked nothing when it came to confidence.  Among the first moves of L. Paul Bremer III, the proconsul they appointed to run their occupation, was an order demobilizing Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s 350,000-man army and the rest of his military as well.  Their plan: to replace it with a lightly armed border protection force -- initially of 12,000 troops and in the end perhaps 40,000 -- armed and trained by Washington.  Given their vision of the world, it made total sense.  Why would Iraq need more than that with the U.S. military hanging around for, well, ever, on a series of permanent bases the Pentagon's contractors were building?  What dangers could there be in the neighborhood with that kind of force on hand?  Soon enough, it became clear that what they had really done was turn the Iraqi officer corps and most of the country’s troops out onto unemployment lines, creating the basis for a militarily skilled Sunni insurgency.  A brilliant start!.. read more: