The Mushroom Cloud over the U.N.

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The Bush administration has repeatedly rejected North Korea’s appeals for a “non-aggression” pact. Bush believes that he has the inherent right to attack whomever he chooses if it is in the national interest, which is to say, if it furthers his ambitions for global domination.

Bush has openly supported “regime change” in North Korea and placed the country on his axis of evil list. On a personal level, Bush stated that he “loathes” Kim Jung-il and has referred to him as “a pygmy”.

These provocations have been duly noted in North Korea. Kim knows that he’s a top candidate for a preemptive attack unless he develops a credible deterrent. Any sane person would draw the same conclusion even if they hadn’t been humiliated in public as “evil”.

That’s why Kim has anticipated the worst and made plans to defend himself; that’s the basic message behind Sunday’s nuclear blast. Kim’s weapons program is the logical upshot of Bush’s belligerence. If there was no threat, there would have been no explosion.

No one wants North Korea to have nuclear weapons. But, then, no one wants the United States to develop a new regime of “tactical” low-yield, bunker-busting nuclear weapons. We need to examine the intention behind the development of these weapons if we really want to know which is the greater risk. In North Korea’s case, the building of a nuclear bomb is clearly intended to deter the US from an unprovoked attack. In Bush’s case, the plan is to develop bunker-busting nukes that will actually be used in first-strike attacks on heavily-fortified underground sites. There’s a big difference between offensive and defensive nukes and, clearly, Bush is the much greater threat.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has surrounded himself with “like-minded” men who believe strongly in using nukes depending on battlefield conditions. This has led to speculation that Bush will use these weapons in a future attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. It is frightening to think that Bush would be willing to break a 60 year-old taboo on the mere suspicion that Iran may have a secret nuclear weapons program.

Kim Jung-il poses no such threat. We can be reasonably certain that he will not use his nukes in a first-strike initiative. In fact, for the last 6 years he has endured the most withering abuse and humiliation and never responded violently.

That’s restraint.

President Bush has created a problem that he now expects the world to fix. If we look at Afghanistan, Haiti, and Iraq, we see that this is a familiar pattern with the Bush troupe. They topple regimes and spread mayhem, and then call on the UN or NATO to clean-up the mess. This isn’t the proper role for the UN.

Bush never should have been allowed to speak at the United Nations. He’s been involved in too many wars and coup d’etats to be given an open platform to make an appeal for sanctions. He’s has flaunted the rulings of the Security Council, (which never authorized the invasion of Iraq) and perpetuated human rights abuse at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and countless other detention centers across the globe. The moral legitimacy of the United Nations is seriously undermined by allowing a war criminal to address the General Assembly.

Even so, we don’t want to trigger a nuclear arms race because of the reckless behavior of the Bush administration. Nuclear weapons in the hands of autocrats only increase the likelihood of a tragic mistake. The problem must be dealt with skillfully and evenhandedly.

The Security Council should ignore the administration’s bluster about “additional sanctions”. We should disregard the judgment of people who are only-too-willing to starve others to achieve their political objectives. Millions of innocent civilians died in Iraq due to American-backed sanctions just as Palestinians in Gaza are suffering now. Nothing is achieved by cruelty which disguises itself as justice.

North Korea will not abandon its nuclear weapons until the threat of American aggression has been removed. That much is certain. Therefore, the best approach would be for the UN to convene bilateral negotiations between the warring parties. If the Bush administration refuses, as it has for 6 years, then the issue should be dropped. It is not the function of the UN to carry out Washington’s directives, but to provide a forum where disputes can be resolved in an atmosphere of impartiality and justice.

The Security Council should ignore the demagoguery and threats of the Bush administration and assume its proper role as a neutral arbiter. That is the only way it can regain its credibility and provide leadership when crises arise.

The current standoff is more important in terms of the future of the United Nations than it is in resolving the nuclear dust-up between the US and North Korea. In an imperfect world, international institutions are crucial for establishing the standards for resolving disputes through non-violent means. The Bush administration’s coercive tactics at the Security Council; (particularly in stalling a ceasefire during the US-Israeli 34-day attack on Lebanon, as well as forcing through resolutions against Iran) shows that the UN is little more than a rubber-stamp for America’s imperial aspirations. That has to change.

The world is looking for steadfast and judicious leadership to confront the impending problems of global warming, peak oil, nuclear proliferation, poverty and disease. Instead, we are left with an ineffective “debating society” that has been hopelessly corrupted by the unrelenting arm-twisting and intimidation of the United States. The UN can't possibly meet the challenges of the new century if it continues to act solely in the interests of one war-mongering state.

The UN’s first obligation should be to address the issues which pose the greatest threat to world peace and security. That means that their primary focus should be on resolving the dispute between Israel-Palestine and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nations, like Israel, that consistently defy clearly-stated UN resolutions should be brought before the General Assembly for a vote to decide whether it should be removed from the world body. That is simply the last “peaceful” option for dealing with persistent violations to international law, and it is an option which the UN must pursue to regain its credibility.

Second, the General Assembly should decide on a plan for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Both conflicts have caused tremendous suffering and death while destabilizing the entire region. Whether the Bush administration is receptive to this plan or not is irrelevant. It is the duty of the UN to provide the leadership, the guidance and the moral authority by creating sound alternatives to the daily carnage and despair generated by these crises. The first priority is to stop the killing, remove American troops from Sunni-dominated cities, and convene immediate negotiations with members of the former government, the Iraqi resistance, Shiite leaders, and representatives from the Kurdish leadership.

If the UN’s primary goal is peace and security, then it should insist on a timetable for the withdrawal of all American troops, the closing of all American bases, the relinquishing of all laws initiated by occupation forces, the canceling of all claims to Iraqi resources or capital assets, and a prospective plan for reparations for the damage inflicted on Iraqi society.

The same rule applies to Afghanistan. American intervention has only made conditions worse. There is no reconstruction, no “Marshall Plan”, no democratically-elected government with a broad popular support. It is a drug colony and a hell-hole made worse by American occupation. It’s time to get out. War is not foreign policy. It is an expression of moral corruption.

Will we really wait until Afghanistan degenerates into Iraqi-type horror before we call for an end to the occupation?

These are the issues that really beg for the attention of the United Nations. North Korea and Iran are merely diversions; the next names on Bush's endless “hit list”

Will the UN continue to waste its time placating the US or will it regain its footing and offer some faint hope for a world that is drifting toward disaster?

The present confrontation with North Korea is another opportunity for the U.N. rise to the occasion, carry out its mandate and show that it can act in a way that is consistent with universally-accepted standards of justice. It must avoid caving in to pressure from the superpower and devote its energy to more pressing issues. The choice could not be clearer; the UN must either further align itself with the criminal state or speak up for the people it is supposed to serve.

Its time to choose. 

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