U.N. Dues, Stockpiles, and Sanctions

Very powerful 1998 letter to the UN by former Attorney General Ramsey Clarke, demanding that the US never again attack Iraq. Quoted:

U.S. contempt for U.N. authority is shown by its defiance of the recent General Assembly vote of 157 nations versus 2 nations protesting the U.S. criminal blockade of Cuba, its refusal to pay dues to the U.N. year after year and its selective defiance, …


U.S. arms expenditures are approximately 25 times the gross national product of Iraq. The U.S. has in its stockpiles more nuclear bombs, chemical and biological weapons, more aircraft, rockets and delivery systems in number and sophistication than the rest of the world combined.

My mother seemed always to remember whenever talk of US’ international responsibility came up: “We don’t even pay our UN dues,” she would say. But according to a Sept. 2001 article at Global Policy, we did start ponying up right after 9/11, i.e. as soon as we realized we might need to be on good terms with the UN after all. Which is itself a reminder of how quickly we turned the post 9/11 atmosphere of international sympathy into one of global frustration and contempt.

We had a good thing going there. Trashed it.

Another thought that’s been rolling around lately, and this one kind of leans the other way. As Clarke says in the letter, a million and a half deaths had been caused by sanctions on Iraq as of ’98. But sanctions are supposedly the diplomatic, non-violent way to exert international pressure. As the administration says, 12 years of diplomacy hasn’t worked, which is why we ostensibly turn to war (by the way, this is also the key difference between Iraq and North Korea – we’ve done 12 years of “diplomatic” work with Iraq, while the blow-up with North Korea has just come on the radar). Anyway, it seems likely to me that war will result in significantly fewer than 1.5 million civilian casualties. If so, this would give the administration the ability to claim that war can result in fewer civilian deaths than diplomacy. Which is, of course, totally inside out and totally messed up.

I feel so conflicted about everything.

Music: Paul Simon :: Peace Like A River

6 Replies to “U.N. Dues, Stockpiles, and Sanctions”

  1. I feel you. Hearing that the Pentagon has ordered 77,000 bodybags and seeing a few images of injured children really turns my stomach.

  2. Sanctions punish a nation, they do not weaken it’s despots.
    It has essentially turned Iraq into what one aide worker called a vast refugee camp.Then we bomb the camp.
    It appears that most discussions about the Iraq situation are very either/or. Iraq is/is not a threat to world security. War is/is not the best way to deal with this supposed/denied threat.
    Denis Halliday, former head of UN’s Humanitarian Program in Iraq, and someone who has actually had his nose to grindstone (rather than talking out his his ass like most of us armchair pundits), has said:

    “I think that the way to get democracy into Iraq is to end the economic embargo, to restore the income level and the buying power of the Iraqi people, to get people back to work, restore the high educational standards, allow people the means to travel overseas again as they used to — generally to restore the health and wealth of Iraq and the Iraqi people. That is what will bring change. Nothing else will, in my view. And we have to recognize that the only people competent to make decisions about the future of Iraq and its system of government is the Iraqi people. We cannot second-guess them long-distance from overseas.”

    Question: But Saddam is a ruthless despot and remains a fundamental problem for the Iraqi people. In its condemnation of Saddam, the Bush administration certainly has a claim to the moral higher ground, doesn’t it?

    DH: I don’t think so. I mean, Saddam Hussein may not be a nice man, but neither was George Bush Sr. Anybody who oversaw the Gulf War is well aware of crimes against humanity and who is responsible thereof. We don’t have to like the president of Iraq. Did we like the president of Indonesia? Or the Congo? Or Chile — Mr. Pinochet? I don’t think so.”

    There is an undeniable arrogance, hubris is perhaps a better word, in the statements of many who seem to feel
    we Americans have a divinely sanctioned right to change governments of any country who we find obnoxious. We choose now to do this militarily, and this has untold consequences in Iraq, the region, and the world. We cannot wage war pre-emptively and expect the rest of humanity to lick our boots. How would you feel? Please think about this.

  3. Also, we cannot submit this situation to some kind of grim calculus: how many will be killed by sanctions, how many will be killed by war.
    Calculations of war dead focus only on corpses found piecemeal. They do not look at the long term consequences of war, especially today, with carpet bombing, depleted uranium, loss of housing, loss of sanitation, loss of water. War means human, environmental, and social devastation for generations.
    Can we ask ourselves, instead, what is our motivation?

    “Thanks for the American dream, to falsify and vulgarize until the bare lies shine through”—William Burroughs

  4. I find conflicted opinions about this war really puzzling. Just reverse the logic for a second and see how absurd it sounds:

    A Latin American coalition of the willing should invade the US because:
    1.The US has openly stated it has hundreds of WMDs and is actively acquiring more.
    2. It threatens other countries and has either directly attacked (Panama) or supported anti-government elements in its neighbor countries (assorted Latin American nations). The evidence is open and documented, no need for UN inspectors
    3. It has attempted to assassinate several heads of state
    4. It supports foreign terrorists (Nicaragua etc)
    5. Its leader wasn’t elected by the people, and millions would cheer if the people’s choice were restored to power.
    5. It has used nuclear weapons against civilians

    Wait a second… I think this is a pretty compelling case

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