“United Nations Day” and the Three-Letter Word

Some things never change. Of course, some others do. Twelve years ago, when the US essentially gave the green light to Iraq to invade Kuwait, a war ensued which claimed the lives of an estimated 125,000 people, more than 100,000 of them civilians; a number which Colin Powell explained was “a number I’m not terribly interested in.” Some other numbers maybe you find interesting (not to say criminal) were compiled by the International War Crimes Tribunal (oh yes, there was one, didn’t they tell you?) : “The US reported it flew 110,000 air sorties against Iraq, dropping 88,000 tons of bombs, nearly seven times the equivalent of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima; 93% of the bombs were free falling bombs, most dropped from higher than 30,000 feet; of the remaining 7% of the bombs with electronically guided systems, more than 25% missed their targets, nearly all caused damage primarily beyond any identifiable target. Most of the targets were! civilian facilities.” So much for “smart bombs” then. Maybe Dubya designed them – just a guess.

Before the war (not the “Gulf War”, but the “US War against Iraq”, as the “Vietnam War” was actually the “US War against Vietnam” – sometimes language really does matter), there was protest from a number of countries, but finally they all caved in and joined the “coalition”, a term that is only second to “collateral damage” in its euphemistic utility. Now it seems post-September 11th has created a New World which is strikingly inversely related as to the glaring audaciousness of the world’s largest-ever empire and the burning resentment of said empire by most of the world’s nations and peoples – and not just those who use it as an excuse simply to ape the empire’s reckless and “discriminating” indiscriminate violence (and of course, were trained primarily by this empire to carry these very types of acts out, lest we forget).

The US, after having attempted to railroad the world into another bomb-fest, has reluctantly capitulated to this resentment and is now showing how “reasonable” it is by actually asking the rest of the world what it thinks. Not that the “BUSH II : The Empire Strikes Back” regime is really all that interested, but it is a nuisance having to go through all that media spin after the war in order to justify it to future generations. Might as well spin it in advance, which is what one would expect from such an “efficient” company (did I say “company”? – sorry, “country”). So we have Russia and France opposing the drafted UN Resolution which effectively said: “Let us do what we want or we will do what we want.” Now, there is a “sea change” – according to the US – and the UN has become “relevant” again, not because of its refusal to kowtow to the US, but because the US needs the UN to cover for its little imperial adventure. And, of course, the French and Russian governments will! give in once their interests are seen to be taken into account.

Of course, there is also the slightly important three-letter word (not “Air”, but starts with a vowel – please try again) upon which the world (or at least our little corner of it) currently depends for its continued imperial existence. The US administration knows it. Everyone else does, too. In fact, this administration was designed, funnily enough, for the very purpose of making sure that this three-letter commodity is available to its rightful owners – meaning, of course, the US (and its “friends”). Did you think natural resources belong to the nations or countries in whose land they are found? Ask a random Native American on that one.

Just so I don’t wrongfully misrepresent these US Administration folks, let’s take a look of the grand achievements of the Cabinet (maybe “Arsenal” is a better word – but I wouldn’t want to offend any of you by intimating football excellence with military and political mania): Dick Cheney was the Chairman and CEO of the (now notorious) Halliburton Oil and Gas Company, 1995 -2000, as well as being a former Secretary of Defence under Bush Snr.; Donald Rumsfeld is the former CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals (he and Cheney were featured as speakers at the May 2000 Russian-American Business Leaders Forum); Tom Ridge, Director of the Office of “Homeland Security” is former governor of Pennsylvania and notorious for his support of the death penalty while in office; Condoleeza Rice, the National Security Advisor, is a Russia specialist and corporate board member for Chevron; and even good old Dubya was the Founder & CEO of the Bush Exploration Oil & Gas Company, 1975-86 (as intellectually challenging as it may have been). But Dubya is only to be outshone by his father, who was not only President, but also a former CIA Director, and a cofounder in 1953 of the Zapata Petroleum Corporation – in 1954 he became President of its subsidiary, the Zapata Off-Shore Oil Company. The only way to really describe such a cosy relationship these people have to the three-letter word is by the use of an abundance of four-letter ones.

Saddam Hussein had been all these folks’ friend (especially when he was gassing Kurds; less so when he wasn’t but the US claimed he was) and was well supplied with military support, until he stepped out of line and actually believed US envoy April Glaspie’s “Yellow light” and President Bush’s “Green light”: Bush wrote an inoffensive memo that didn’t even mention the tens of thousands of Iraqi troops poised to strike at Kuwait, and never raised the issue of Kuwaiti sovereignty or declared his intent to defend it from any invasion. Elaine Sciolino, a reporter for the New York Times, described it as “a very, very weak memo, and it is much more dramatic than even April Glaspie’s transcript which has gotten so much attention. So that Saddam didn’t really think that there was going to be a huge hue and cry when he invaded Kuwait.” But we must ignore inconvenient historical facts and only focus on the evil at hand, US pundits tell us. Whose ! hand, we may ask.

So the trick is how to create an urgent enough pretext for doing what they have been doing for decades, maintaining and expanding US control over the ever-dwindling three-letter word, but with the appearance of legitimacy that comes from a UN blessing. Besides, the only country who regularly vetoes Security Council votes is the US, especially when it comes to bludgeoning Cuba or saving Israel. So we have Dubya proclaiming October 24th as “United Nations Day” – up there with “May Day” in cultural importance, to be sure. Dubya proclaims: “As our world faces new challenges and opportunities, the efforts of the United Nations take on a renewed significance. The United States recognizes the UN for its efforts to support and strengthen the international coalition against global terror.” But before you think he is becoming too soft, he adds: “And we hope the United Nations will fulfill its role in addressing the threats posed to the civilized world! , particularly the threat now posed by Iraq. As a founding member of the UN, the United States reaffirms our dedication to this vital organization and our hope that it will continue to fulfill the vision of its founders.” Well, how convenient. Now that the US needs the UN, let’s have a holiday that noone will celebrate. And which vision is that, exactly? Bomb people and steal their abundance of three-letter words? Just pay your UN dues, George. Leave the disingenuous oratory to Tony Blair.

This is probably quite obvious to many of us who live in the more civilised sectors of the world (or at least within proximity of them), but it is quite extraordinary how little of this gets into the mainstream media in the US, land of the fee and home of the knave. Maybe it is simply the distraction of the endless expanse of US corporate viruses like Starbucks, who have infiltrated the deepest recesses of London at an astounding rate. No wonder then that the US Department of Defence announced on October 23rd that “a ton of coffee is pouring its way to military members in many forward-deployed locations starting Oct. 24 courtesy of Starbucks Coffee and the American Red Cross.” It seems the employees of Starbucks have all “pitched in” to “help out”, and Federal Express is even shipping it for free as far as Germany (just see if they’ll do that for your next package); then the Red Cross will deliver it to deployed troops in the Balkans and the Middle East. We must be sure t! hese troops are well caffeined-up for those sorties and ground-assaults. And why is the Red Cross able to help out? A Red Cross official explained: “Agency workers are generally located everywhere U.S. troops are stationed or deployed”. Well, that is a surprise. I’m sure more than a few Iraqis might be needing their services in future, and not for their daily caffeine high. Luckily, since the Red Cross goes where the US goes, help is on the way, albeit a bit too late.

It is only fitting to finish where we started off, with an illuminating quote by our Mr Powell: “It’s not the United States who is at fault here; it is Saddam Hussein and Iraq that is at fault…and it is a problem he is wholly responsible for, and he cannot be allowed to get away with it.” While this may be a half-truth, it is just as true the other way round.

Mr. Sebastian Edwards is a freelance journalist based in London.