Demolishing International Organisation
May 1, 2002
Articles on stuff
Sometimes on a dark night the powerful headlights of an approaching car will suddenly illuminate the scene, giving a momentary awareness of one's surroundings. Even more dramatic in the revelation of the scene, especially if you are in a wide open space, is a sudden flash of lightning.
Two events which have occurred in the last two weeks, illuminated like the car lights or the lightning flash, a new and profoundly disturbing trend in a particular sector of the international system namely the field of International Organisations (IOs).
The growth of IOs began some two centuries ago. As the world has become ever more interlinked especially by trade and technology there has been accelerating growth in the number of international organisations. The fundamental reason behind the growth is the realisation that an increasing range of global activities and problems are spread out beyond national frontiers and therefore cannot be dealt with satisfactorily by any national government, however powerful. Therefore some global matters are best entrusted to joint mechanisms in which global issues are managed according to agreed rules and standards and norms. IO's are of particular importance to weak and small states like Guyana as they provide security and cover, moving international relations away from violence and conflict and anarchy to consultation and cooperation in which small states can play a role.
It is this group of bodies, the IOs so carefully built up over the decades, which seem now to be under threat of disintegration by recent and earlier US action.
The US administration is seemingly embarked on a campaign for the removal of key international public servants who do not share the views or objectives of the current ruling group in the White House (described as the wealthiest ever to be there in US history) and who are unwilling to do their bidding.
Stabroek News carried the following Reuters report on Monday April 22 (p5): "After intense US lobbying a US scientist who advocates action against global warming was ousted on Firday as head of the (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change..........Watson is a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce most industrial nations' net-emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Washington has refused to join the pact, opposed by major oil companies."
That was the beginning. Then on Thursday April 25 Stabroek News published another Reuters report "The head of a global body policing a chemical weapons ban was ousted on Monday in a victory for a campaign by the US to replace him over a row on arms inspections in Iraq." The United States ousted Jose Bustani, a Brazilian, over his attempts to woo Iraq into joining the organisation and submitting to new weapons inspections. Earlier the White House had asked the CIA to dig up dirt" on the distinguished Swedish diplomat, Hans Blix, Chairman of the new UN Team for inspections in Iraq. It is reported that a White House official "hit the ceiling" when the CIA failed to provide sufficient "dirt" to undermine Blix and a possible new inspections programme. The Bush administrations does not want a renewal of inspections in Iraq as that would negate their plan for military action.
One might interject that getting Iraq to submit to weapons inspections is exactly the objective which the international community is trying to secure. But this does not please the White House as it would create a diplomatic obstacle, as already noted, to a US military attack on Iraq.
These latest US interventions in international agencies are part of a much wider pattern in which the US is seeking through withdrawal of funding and unacceptable pressure to ensure that international agencies including the UN itself and treaties serve its own national interests.
The US attempts to thwart mainstream international efforts to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change as for example the campaign to torpedo the Kyoto Protocol which fortunately has been retrieved by the efforts of the European Union can be at best only stalling action. It cannot hold up or turn back the clock on climate change. The US's own internationally prestigious National Academy of Sciences, funded by Congress, described as the nation's most august scientific body, recently reported as follows. "It is possible that the global warming trend projected over the course of the next 100 years could without warning, dramatically accelerate in just a handful of years, forcing a qualitative new climatic regime which could undermine ecosystems and human settlements throughout the world, leaving little or no time for plants, animals and humans to adjust. The new climate would result in a wholesale change in the earth's environment, with effects that would be felt for thousands of years."
It has been widely reported in the US media that the Bush administration's environment policy was shaped by the technical advice from oil companies including Enron. One can be sure that the Congressional Investigative Committes and the US media will ferret out the connections despite the current efforts of the White House to withhold information and the wider cover up including the destruction of sensitive documents.
In the meantime, the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will in all probability be effectively muted and some "friendly" oil company will make an extra billion as the rest of humanity stumbles towards disaster.
Turning to Iraq, while there is general agreement that the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein must be removed it must be asked why is it that the Bush administration is so anxious to go to war before diplomatic measures are tried such as that which has just cost the distinguished public servant Bustani his job.
In international politics there are almost always several levels of motivation for major action. It is certain that President Bush is genuinely committed in the interest of global security to removing Saddam Husssein and his control and access to weapons of mass destruction. It is also probable given the close linkage in the regimes, as between father and son, that he wishes to finish the unfinished business of his father's Gulf War by removing Saddam Hussein. However it is very likely that his unswerving
commitment to war derives from powerful domestic political need.
After the ambiguities of his own election, President Bush found himself regarded in some circles as a figure of fun nicknamed Dubya, not a Russian name but the syllables of the letter W, Dub-Ya. He insists on the use of the initial W to distinguish him from his father, George Bush. Who knows what his future might have been except for the appalling tragedy of September 11 and the ensuing events. Suddenly Dubya was a war leader speaking a Churchillian rhetoric and with the highest ratings in the polls. Now the image may be beginning to fade. To the consternation of the White House the nickname is creeping back into usage. A new war would do much to refurbish the image. It may also enable the Republican party to regain control of the Senate and keep their majority in the House of Representatives. And in passing it should be noted that the increased demand for arms will translate into lucrative contracts for what President Eisenhower once called the military industrial complex who subscribe so heavily to party funds.
Sounds cynical. The resort to war to serve domestic political interests is alas too familiar in history. It may have been among Maggie Thatcher's motiviations at the time of the Falklands war.
Such skewed policy whether called US exceptionalism or unilateralism and which responds excessively to US national interests as narrowly interpreted by the ruling group which is for the time being in power has led to massive incursions into and erosion of hard won and cherished international agreements and treaties. The record to date includes the withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, the termination of the "aid for nukes" talks with North Korea which facilitates branding that state part of an Axis of Evil, the denunciation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which reopens the way for a new and deadly Arms Race, the undermining of efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention which would open up the US to equal inspections, the opposition to the World Criminal Court so as to ensure that US military personnel and citizens are not tried outside the US for crimes which they may have committed - and the list steadily lengthens.
Now there are the efforts to neutralize the work of two respected international agencies. As the US science foundation has noted this could be a moment of grave danger for humanity and the planet which is its home.