The U.N. in Iraq
Le Monde Editorial
Saturday 06 September 2003
The UN General Secretary is too diplomatic to openly show his feelings. If the matter were not so serious, however, if it weren't a question of the fate of a country, Iraq, Kofi Annan would be tempted to display a bit of satisfaction. Because the United States' return before the Security Council marks an acknowledgement of that which the Bush Administration meant to fiercely reject: the U.N.'s preeminence when it comes to embodying international legitimacy.
That's what's in play: a point of law, something very political also. Under the pressure of Iraqi chaos, of a series of murderous attacks, the American government is doing what it swore not to do: it's presenting a resolution proposal designed to increase the United Nations' political role in Baghdad.
Not so long ago, the White House was proclaiming loud and clear that however "vital" it might be, the U.N.'s role in Iraq had to be limited to humanitarian matters. The United States, it was decreed, had no need of the U.N.'s imprimatur to legitimate their Iraq operation. Quite the contrary: some people in the neo-conservative constellation, made this political marginalization of the U.N. one of the key elements of the new American diplomatic-strategic doctrine.
Only the failure of the post-war- which the Pentagon wanted to manage alone, to the detriment of the State Department- is such that the White House has had to abandon its contemptuous posture with regard to the U.N. We know the reasons. The occupation of Iraq has proved to be more onerous than foreseen. It requires more men and more money. One of the Democratic Party's potential candidates to face Mr. Bush in 2004, Senator John Kerry, observes: "The United States pay 95 % of the costs, supply 95 % of the men, and take 95 % of the losses." Unsustainable in the short term for Mr. Bush, politically and financially. He must "multilateralize" the operation. He had to ask for more support than that forthcoming from his coalition of the willing. And, for that, so that the big countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, and Jordan agree to supply troops, and that a number of European countries provide financial assistance, one condition must be met: a U.N. mandate in good and due form. Not that these countries want the Peace Force Command to be given to the U.N.: they feel that would be inefficient and consider an American command acceptable.
Not that they mean for the reconstruction to be entrusted to the U.N. bureaucracy: they're familiar with its defects. They want U.N. political supervision, even a symbolic one; because they believe that the U.N. is the only organization in a position to legitimize this phase of the transition to a return of Iraqi sovereignty. The overwhelming majority of states recognize the United Nations-because it includes them all, because it is exemplary- as the sole source of international legitimacy.
Mr. Bush has finally been forced to admit it.
Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.
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