United Nations Archive 2

United Nations Archive 2

A Life Or Death Decision

By Bill Miller

For over 34 years, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has been the frontline agency that provides services pertaining to population and development, reproductive health, and advocacy for human rights, poverty reduction, and the advancement of women. UNFPA works with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in over 140 countries to offer family planning advice and materials, support healthy pregnancy and childbirth, promote voluntary family planning, and combat sexually transmitted diseases. UNFPA does NOT support abortion and does NOT encourage coercive family planning activities in any area of the world, according to the UNFPA and several international observers.

The US Congress, on a bipartisan basis, voted to fund $34 million for UNFPA. Incredulously, President Bush recently reversed that decision and pulled the funding. According to Richard Boucher, State Department spokesperson, ostensibly it is because UNFPA indirectly assists China to improve the management of programs which result in coercive abortion and enforce its one-child policy. This is a totally false premise.

In 2002, a US State Department fact-finding mission to China reported that UNFPA did not knowingly support any Chinese program related to coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. Another fact-finding mission of nine religious leaders representing Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant groups, after investigating UNFPA in China, reported that there was “no evidence to substantiate the charges.”

Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, who two years ago did an about face to fall into line with the Administration’s edict, had previously praised the UNFPA and congratulated the organization for its successful programs when he stated that the “agency does invaluable work and critical population assistance to developing countries.”

UNFPA has amply documented that its services in China have helped moderate the draconian Chinese policy of dictating family size and forcing women to have abortions. The UN’s initiatives helped reduce the female sterilization rate by 16% and upped the use of contraceptives by 90%. The abortion ratio declined from 18 per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 11 per 1,000 live births today.

Other findings are equally impressive:

-- The share of women ages 25 to 39 receiving basic gynecological care in China increased from 32 percent to 68 percent.

-- Infant and maternal mortality rates have declined.

Tragically, the loss of $34 million (which is 10% of UNFPA’s budget) can be devastating. According to UNFPA, $34 million could prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, and 77,000 infant and childhood deaths.

After noticing that the White House pulled another $34 million in 2002 from UNFPA and after making a visit to UNFPA projects in Senegal, Mali, Nicaragua and Timor-Leste to better understand how American contributions will help save women’s lives in developing countries, Jane Roberts of California and Lois Abraham of New Mexico launched a private program called “34 Million Friends of UNFPA” to help make up the financial loss. The goal was to get 34 million people to donate $1.00 each. Today, donations are approaching $2 million. More information on this unique program can be gleaned from www.unfpa.org.

The Bush Administration has ratcheted up the ante by threatening other groups, such as the popular and effective UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), that its financing could be in jeopardy if it continues to work with UNFPA. It is both illogical and immoral to coerce UNICEF’s maternal and child health care programs, which save thousands of lives and promote nutrition and sound health, with possibly being defunded because they coordinate with a UN agency that is wrongly perceived by ultraconservatives and UN bashers as promoting abortion.

President Bush, who deserves high marks for taking the US back into UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and for soliciting the UN to help bail the US out of the Iraq imbroglio by developing an interim government and by setting up free elections, should immediately reverse this counterproductive policy.

Arguably, over the past few years, both US stature and foreign policies have fallen to an all-time low in virtually every area of the world, especially Arab countries. Doing a 180 degree swing on UNFPA funding would help the US improve its reputation and stature internationally, show that it is a team player, provide services that will reduce the need for abortions, combat the HIV Aids epidemic, provide safe, modern and non-threatening family planning services, help empower women, and strengthen the nuclear family. 800,000 potential abortions may be riding on this decision.

United Nations Archive 2

UN: US’s Secret Weapon

By Bill Miller

The term “shock and awe” was frequently used when the highly trained, well funded US military rolled through Iraq in March of 2003. Today, the term “shocked and awful” may be more appropriate because the violence is spiraling upward, security is breaking down, and the legitimacy for a pre-emptive invasion has virtually disappeared in the eyes of the majority of the 6.4 billion people around the world, as well as the191 UN member states. To compound the problem, the US’s credibility, authority, and moral leadership have been decimated after the horrendous Abu Ghraib photos of alleged torture, rape, harassment, and possible homicides, of Iraqi prisoners.

To his credit, President Bush, after referring to the UN as irrelevant, has logically and wisely called upon the UN—which is the only international organization that can salvage the Iraqi debacle that is perilously close to a Dien Bien Phu type of defeat, if civil war breaks out—to take over the mission to set up a governing body that can receive sovereignty on June 30.

Secretary General Kofi Annan dispatched former Algerian Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi to bring the disparate Iraqi power groups to agree upon a process to select a prime minister and president to replace a US-appointed council on June 30, and to govern Iraq until free elections can be arranged for January 2005. Brahimi, who was instrumental in brokering a peace accord in Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Haiti, is probably the only diplomat who is well-respected and knowledgeable enough to pull this off. The success or failure of the Iraqi operation, ending in a semi-peaceful resolution, rests in his hands. If Brahimi is unable to bring the major players together, the US will probably “cut and run” and civil war will erupt.

With each passing day, the situation becomes more dire. What can be done to avert an Armageddon disaster? For starters:

--President Bush should request that an international conference be held at the UN to support Ambassador Brahimi’s Plan and to bring key allies, especially the G-8 and NATO countries, to help formulate a specific plan of assistance. Most countries are unwilling to send troops into a deteriorating situation and to defy their citizens who overwhelmingly opposed the Iraqi invasion. The US will have no choice but to share authority and decision-making with these countries. Even Iraq’s neighbors, who are not favorites of the Administration, must play a productive and cooperative role and sign on to a workable peace reconstruction process.

--Under no circumstances should the UN take on responsibilities that it does not have the financial and technical capacities to achieve. The UN, which wants to be of assistance in peacefully resolving the Iraqi situation, should be viewed as independent of overt US influence. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the UN have been condemned by the US Administration for not doing enough in Iraq. On the other hand, scores of other countries blast Annan for being under the US’s thumb.

--Involve various UN agencies if, and ONLY if, security can be guaranteed. It would be disastrous to have another bombing, such as the one that killed 22 UN employees in August. It is very difficult to provide humanitarian assistance in a war zone.

--Request the UN Security Council to authorize a multinational security force after the June 30 transfer of power so as to share the burden, provide international legitimacy, and reduce the US’s military role.

The situation in Iraq is made even more dangerous and difficult by poll results in Iraq and in the US. In a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll of Iraqis, the vast majority felt the US was neither serious about establishing a democracy nor helping economically, and would have to be physically forced out.

In the US, a recent PIPA Poll indicated that 57% of the Americans believe that Iraq was supporting Al Qaeda, 38% still believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and 20% believe Iraq was involved in the horrible 9-11 attacks. Some neoconservative Administration policymakers and irresponsible media types are grasping at flimsy or nonexistent evidence and continue to recite it as factual. That type of misinformation will simply confuse the public about the actual situation. It will instill an erroneous belief that the Iraqi invasion was justified and worth the expense, regardless of what it is, rather than objectively evaluating how deplorable the situation is and what the negative repercussions are if there is not an international legitimacy and internationalization of assistance.

The same poll did reflect some solid support for suggestions as to extricating the US from Iraq. A strong 71% said the UN should “take the lead” to work with Iraqis to set up a new constitution and build a democratic government, while the same number agreed that the invasion of Iraq has not reduced the threat of terrorism. An overwhelming 77% said that the UN should coordinate the reconstruction effort, while the US should continue to command the military.

Regardless of what happens with the Brahimi Plan, the UN will emerge as a much stronger organization. Americans are gradually realizing what the world has known all along, that a multilateral approach under the auspices of the United Nations has a far greater chance of success, as opposed to a unilateral pre-emptive policy. The Bush Doctrine of Preemption is probably dead since the US military is overstretched in terms of troops, funding, and operational capabilities. Not to mention, many Americans are questioning whether the price is too high with over 740 soldiers dead, 3,000 wounded, 14,000 dead Iraqis, and a price tag that will bust $200 billion shortly.

Worldwide, the US is perceived as illegally invading a sovereign country to control the oil resources and is viewed as not having legal and moral legitimacy. The Administration would be hard pressed to rally support to counter North Korea, Iran, or even Cuba.

It is ironic that much of what is being proposed in the Brahimi Plan had been suggested over six months ago. The window of opportunity to salvage a peaceful Iraqi transfer of power is just about closed. Even if all parties buy into the UN proposal, there is still no guarantee of a peaceful resolution. If Ambassador Brahimi fails, the US will fail. There is no middle ground.

United Nations Archive 2

UN: Last Hope for Peace

By Bill Miller

Bill Miller is past Chair of the United Nations Association of the USA’s Council of Chapter Presidents.

President Bush has wisely decided that the UN is absolutely critical to help bring development, peace and stability to war-torn and devastated Iraq. Bush’s 180 degree policy reversal of involving the UN provides a glimmer of hope that the international organization will play an active role in establishing democratic elections and investing more UN members states’ resources in maintaining security and re-building Iraq. Also, the UN could assist Iraqis in peacefully transferring political power from the occupying force to a popularly-elected and viable Iraqi government, and conferring a modicum of international legitimacy that--although 31 other countries participated--is still viewed internationally as a unilateral invasion that flew in the face of international law, violated the UN Charter, and is funded primarily by the US.

Although polls show the vast majority of the six billion people around the world and the 191 UN member states were supportive of containing Saddam, effectively removing the potential threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), if it existed, and combating terrorism, there was considerable resistance to the US-led invasion that was a pre-emptive strike against a sovereign government, regardless of how repulsive Saddam was. The prevailing sentiment of the UN member states is that even though they disagreed with the Iraqi invasion, they should help to make the best of an extremely dangerous situation and work to improve it. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in a precarious situation since many countries blame him and the UN Security Council for not stopping the US from committing--what is perceived by many foreign policy observers as-- the biggest foreign policy blunder of the 21st Century. Many feel that the US created the Iraqi mess and should have to deal with it on its own.

The UN, as the US’s major international ally in combating terrorism, has decided that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating rapidly and could contribute to even greater violence, instability, and devastation in the volatile Middle East, unless immediate action is taken. Working towards that goal, the US should:

-- Engage the UN as an equal partner, not a subservient pawn, in developing the effective governance and reconstruction of Iraq. Each party must have a clear delineation of specific responsibilities and fixed roles, while operating independently, yet cooperating fully. This mature and professional working relationship is one of the main reasons that the US and the UN have been relatively successful in re-building Afghanistan.

-- Improve security in Iraq. The US, as the occupying power, must guarantee that the UN and non-governmental organizations can operate freely and without fear of being attacked, such as with the disastrous bombing of the UN headquarters in August which killed the brilliant UN diplomat, Sergio de Mello, and 21 other UN officials who were some of the best and brightest international public administrators.

-- Drop the unrealistic deadline of a June 30 election and the cumbersome caucus method of elections. The US must support the UN’s envoy Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, one of the few outsiders who has the confidence of the most powerful cleric in Iraq, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. Sistani’s support may spell the difference between a peaceful or bloody transition of power.

-- Request that the UN Security Council establish--after a legitimate interim Iraqi government is in place--a multilateral peacekeeping operation, under US command, that would strengthen and internationalize the security.

-- Involve all appropriate UN agencies in the transferring political power, implementing social and economic development programs and pushing for Iraq’s neighbors to have a more hands-on involvement in the reconstruction, thus diminishing efforts of Iran or Syria to de-stabilize Iraq.

-- Not blame the UN for any setbacks or delays in the elections, reconstruction, or security. The US has a penchant to blame the UN when events take a turn for the worse. Two examples include the Bush Administration spinning out misinformation that the UN supported an armed invasion of Iraq, or the Clinton Administration blamed the UN for US Rangers killed in Somalia, which the UN clearly did not do in both cases.

-- Take immediate action to reverse the negative perception that the vast majority of the world has towards US foreign policies. Although most countries support the campaign against terrorism, the Bush Administration’s foreign policies--not the American public--are disdained around the world, which was quite evident even before the perceived illegal invasion of Iraq. This disdain, now bordering on mistrust, may be the biggest impediment in combating terrorism. To offset this problem, one immediate change should be for the US to drop many of its counterproductive policies of undercutting the International Criminal Court, opposing the Kyoto Protocol, and failing to support a myriad of international agreements, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention for the Rights of the Child, that are languishing in the US Senate. Actions speak louder than rhetoric.

A side effect of presenting some accurate, but mostly exaggerated and bogus, information justifying the Iraqi invasion is that the US has lost much of its credibility at home and abroad. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, arguably one of the few Administration officials who had any international credibility, has seen his star diminish after giving a forceful, yet mostly erroneous, presentation at the UN stating why Saddam was such an immediate threat--which he was not. Worldwide, even among our friends and allies in Latin America, the US is viewed as a hegemonic center of an axis of arrogance, a country to be feared, and one whose foreign policies are controlled by ultra-conservative extremists, commonly called neoconservatives or neocons. The neocons are perceived as pushing policies that embark upon a new imperialism (a term seldom used since the frigid days of the Cold War), and who want to control the oil in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. A growing perception is that the neocons intimidated intelligence agencies, cherry picked and distorted the worst rumors and evidence against Saddam, and are either mendacious or incompetent.

-- Officially revoke the Bush Pre-Emption Doctrine, which allows the US to take military action against any country or group perceived as a threat, and move towards working with the UN countries to mobilize international support to combat threats from other countries. Pre-emption does implicitly exist in international law and the UN Charter, thus allowing countries to defend themselves against an imminent aggressor if clear and accurate evidence exists. Since the US now has a Grand Canyon of a credibility gap, the Bush Doctrine is virtually dead. It may be extremely difficult to mobilize the international community and the US public against a perceived future, but unsubstantiated, threat. An extreme example might be that Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s tyrannical leader, would have to personally autograph a nuclear weapon and drop it on Seattle before any universal outrage might be engendered.

The Iraqi situation is rife with ironies:

First, the hype that the intelligence agencies got it wrong and provided inaccurate information is NOT correct. UN inspectors, headed by the exemplary international civil servant Dr. Hans Blix, have been vindicated due to their findings that Saddam did not have a viable weapons system and was not an immediate threat. Prior to the Iraqi invasion in mid-March of 2003, the CIA and other intelligence agencies came forward with similar conclusions. Another irony, in hindsight, is that the UN inspections and sanctions during the ‘90s may have actually contained Saddam’s weapon programs.

Second, many people felt euphoric about the lighting incursion by an incredibly well-trained 21st Century US military that quickly vanquished a 1960s Iraqi army. Today, even though few people will shed a tear over Saddam’s capture, the peace is proving to be elusive and the price tag (over 550 US soldiers killed, 3,000 injured, 10,000 dead Iraqis, $170 billion expended (with another $50 billion request pending) is staggering.

Third, the bulk of the information being discussed now as “new” information about WMDs was actually available prior to the invasion. Major mainstream media, even a paragon of journalistic excellence such as the New York Times, have suffered an incredible blow to their credibility. Most media sources--although they had the correct UN reports about Saddam and WMDs, CIA updates, and the Nigerian yellowcake study--developed a “herd mentality” and meekly resigned themselves to the inevitable conclusion that the US had made a decision to go to war, and it would not be deterred with facts to the contrary. The Iraqi invasion was a war of choice that was based upon a preconceived policy to invade Iraq, rather than substantiated evidence that pointed to developing a policy that would justify an invasion. It was a policy looking for facts.

Fourth, arguably America has unparalleled military, cultural, technological, and economic strength. However, as the only superpower, it is critical that the US engender moral and developmental leadership, credibility, and respect around the world. Unfortunately, the perception is that US is feared, but not respected. What an irony that a recent poll shows that the Iraqis view President Chirac more favorably than President Bush, while simultaneously believing the US is in Iraq to control the oil and force a realignment of the Middle East in its democratic image.

The CIA has correctly forewarned that Iraq may be on the brink of a civil war. The situation has deteriorated to the crisis level. If the Bush Administration can secure the UN’s support, there is a slight chance that the crisis will be avoided and Humpty Dumpty can be put together, at least partially. If the US tries to go-it-alone with an arrogant, unilateralist policy, Iraq may very well go up in flames and the US will lose control of the country. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was right when he said, “There is no right way… We have reached a fork in the road.” The path the US and the UN take will lead to either success or failure. They must make the right choice and walk together. Time is running out.

United Nations Archive 2

Is the UN Back, or Is the US Back?


By Bill Miller

After the infantile name-calling and genuine inability of key Security Council members to agree upon whether Iraq should be invaded, whether Saddam has weapons of mass destruction that were an imminent threat, and whether Saddam Hussein should be disarmed forcibly, some UN-watchers (and bashers, alike) erroneously predicted that the UN would go the way of the failed League of Nations. Uninformed pundits were lining up to throw the first shovel of dirt on the UN’s coffin. Today they are scarcely to be found. What happened?

It probably became apparent that the UN is still the only international entity to bring together the 191 countries of the world to deal with thorny problems, hopefully, peacefully. The UN, even during the withering verbal and political assault prior to the invasion of Iraq, continued to be the US’s number one ally in combating terrorism, developing the physical and social infrastructure in Afghanistan, diligently working to defuse the Iranian and North Korean nuclear flashpoints, developing the military, economic, and social programs to confront the dangerous and challenging problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia, while successfully conducting another 10 or so peacekeeping missions. Recently, President Bush (who at-times referred to the UN as irrelevant) and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met at the White House to discuss major international problems and how the US and UN could cooperate. The US now wants to take the North Korean-US standoff to the Security Council, rather than deal with it bilaterally. While the UN was rising like the Phoenix Bird from the ashes of destruction, the 90% of the UN system that provides basic services worldwide continued to develop rules to safely move aircraft, ships, mail, and weather information around the world.

A thoughtful questioner might ask if it were not the US withdrawal, albeit for a few weeks, from the UN decision-making process, that was similar to how the US withdrew from the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1984 for a 19-year period. Fortunately, the US is returning to be an active player in all phases of the UN, even the once-maligned UNESCO.

On September 12, during a major speech at the UN, President Bush, who should be congratulated, stated the US would re-join UNESCO because it had reformed and met the US’s concerns about bureaucratic mismanagement, corruption, and the politicization of its programs and staff. President Bush was correct to push for re-entry, even though the US could have re-joined UNESCO in 1993 after the US General Accounting Office concluded that most of the problems had been eliminated or were being treated adequately. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who signed the 1984 letter to withdraw from UNESCO, recommended in 2000 that the US return. UNESCO’s far-reaching internal management reforms began under former Director-General Frederico Mayor of Spain and continue today with the current Director, Dr. Matsuura from Japan. UNESCO has reduced waste, become more transparent and competitive, implemented results-based management and budgeting, established an internal and external auditing system, moved to merit-based hiring and promotion, and reduced senior level positions by 50%.

Now that President Bush has committed to US re-entry into UNESCO, it is critical that the US Congress immediately authorize and appropriate the approximately $71 million Administration request by October, 2003, so that the US is eligible for election to the Executive Board, which develops the programs and sets the budget priorities. The US’s annual membership will be $60 million, or a paltry 25 cents for each American.

UNESCO has a long list of accomplishments that are directly beneficial to US foreign policy, such as combating terrorism by developing programs to combat government corruption, endemic poverty, mass illiteracy, environmental devastation, and the spread of infectious diseases. It also promotes democracy, a free press, and international conflict through an intercultural mediation project.

Both the US Government and UNESCO have shown that there is often ample opportunity to recognize an organization’s mistakes, make mid-course management and policy corrections, and develop a logical strategy to achieve their goals. What are the key lessons learned? The US and the UN agencies, such as UNESCO, desperately need one another. It is wiser and more effective to stay involved with one another on a professional level to effect change that will benefit both groups. Unfortunately, eighteen years were lost with the US-UNESCO imbroglio. Fortunately, the UN and the US are moving towards an active partnership, after the recent disagreement on Iraq at the UN, on all fronts. This act of maturity is long overdue.

United Nations Archive 2

UN: Even More Relevant and Responsible

By Bill Miller

President Bush scored dramatic victories at the UN when he challenged the world body to enforce its resolutions against Saddam Hussein, and when he unexpectedly secured the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1441, requiring that UN weapons inspectors be allowed back into Iraq. Since those landmark accomplishments, the US has been on a downhill slide that may bode ill for a protracted campaign against terrorism.

The US, arguably with the best-trained, funded, and most professional military in the world, has invaded Iraq. What led up to this drastic action? What major problems have arisen because of it? How can the US and the UN develop a strategy that will effectively rebuild Iraq, as well as deal with other international threats, such as terrorism or North Korea with nuclear capabilities?

President Bush was correct to push for disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and he was strongly supported for doing so. Unfortunately, a disconnect developed between stating a laudable goal and implementing it. The US failed to convince the world that Saddam should be overthrown and Iraq occupied. Major missteps occurred because the US used some circumstantial, bogus, and uncorroborated evidence of WMD activity in Iraq. The US unsuccessfully attempted to link Saddam with the 9-11 tragedy, as well as undermined the UN inspection process by not sharing information, ridiculing the inspection process, and not allowing sufficient time for inspections.

Just imagine if the US, rather than issuing unrealistic deadlines and demands, had taken the tack of a gradual military buildup in Iraq through 2003, thus continuing to pressure Saddam; giving the Security Council and inspectors more time than was requested; and selecting a final deadline of January 2, 2004, to complete the inspections-with the ultimate threat of military action as a last resort. Although France and Russia have economic interests and historical ties with Iraq, they would have been pressured to accept this reasonable plan. Instead, the US became impatient with the UN, balked at the lengthy Security Council debates, built an international coalition, and took unprecedented military action by invading a country that had not directly attacked the US.

President Bush insisted that Iraq possesed weapons of mass destruction, the weapons posed a direct threat to the US and its neighbors, the UN inspections were ineffective, and war was inevitable to make Iraq disarm.

The US has cobbled together a Potemkin Coalition of 45 or so countries that appear powerful in numbers, but, after looking behind the facade, is really a group of economic and military lightweights, except for Australia and Britain. The coalition will offer little military support to fight in Iraq and minuscule financial assistance to pay the projected $200 billion to $1.8 trillion cost of the war and occupation, 95% which will be borne by the American taxpayer, according to many foreign policy experts. Most of the coalition leaders are in a Catch-22 since their citizens (as did most Americans until the invasion began) oppose armed intervention without UN authorization. Yet, this coalition is led primarily by 'political elites' that do not reflect the democratic will of the vast majority of their citizens, except in the US, Israel, and the UK.

Another more devastating and worrisome development is the massive negative international public opinion emerging against the US. Overseas, US governmental policies have reached an all-time low. Polls show the bulk of the world views the US as an imperialistic, hegemonic aggressor stealing Iraqi oil, ignoring international law (which it has done in violation of Article 51 of the UN Charter), and illegally deposing Saddam Hussein (who is not highly regarded even among Iraqis nor people opposing the US).

Two 'shock and awe' campaigns are presently underway: a military one in Iraq and the other consisting of how disdained US foreign policy is viewed overseas. A shocking tsunami wave of opposition is racing at incredible speed worldwide that is potentially damaging to the campaign on terrorism because the US needs strong international cooperation and coordination to combat Al-Qaeda and other foes. Also, at some point, this immense reservoir of resentment may be transferred to how foreigners deal with American businesspeople, tourists, and students abroad.

To compound the negative perception held by many foreigners, many of the media joined the Bush Administration in demonizing and vilifying anyone, especially the French, who did not agree with them. When Congressman Representative Bob Ney, (R-Ohio) lobbied to have 'French fries' changed to 'Freedom fries' in the House of Representatives Cafeteria, a poignant message reverberated in many areas of the world reminding foreigners of the 'Ugly American' from the 1950s, who was caricatured as uninformed and incompetent in dealing with foreigners and insensitive to their concerns.

Not to be an apologist for French intransigence and its enthusiasm to rein in the US's Iraqi policy, but how would Americans have reacted if the French had led a boycott against American goods and products when the Bush Administration arrogantly and arbitrarily undertook unpopular policies and thumbed its nose at the world? For example, when the US boycotted the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty, aggressively undermined the International Criminal Court (which now could be helpful in prosecuting an international criminal, such as Saddam), and, potentially fueled the nuclear arms race by withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. The most recent foreign policy 'faux pas' included scuttling an agreement whereby poor countries could buy lower-priced generic drugs to combat AIDs and other diseases that are destroying their societies, as well as wrecking a global health agreement to reduce tobacco consumption worldwide.

Some of the ironies of the Administration's policies are that eliminating Saddam may not reduce terrorism because Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda could more easily recruit Islamic fundamentalists as terrorists and, while the US is still the military and economic superpower, France has been elevated internationally as the moral superpower because of its David vs. Goliath stance at the UN.

What can be done to stem the negative perception of the US, keep America's military out of harm's way except when it is only the last resort, develop a comprehensive strategy with the UN to confront major international challenges, and win the campaign against terrorism, which is really the ultimate goal? For starters, the US should:

-- involve the UN immediately (which President Bush has mentioned doing) , especially in the area of social and humanitarian programs, in the rebuilding of Iraq;

-- give the UN a substantive role in administering a post-military Iraq because, if not, the US will be viewed as a colonial power and it's occupation of Iraq will not be legitimately accepted by the majority of the world;

-- work aggressively to repair the tattered relations with the French, Russians, and Germans, who will be absolutely critical in confronting future terrorism and security issues. Iraq is just a blip on the radar screen in the antiterrorism campaign. International cooperation is absolutely critical to hammer out an effective strategy to deal with Iran and North Korea, both of which pose a greater danger to the US than does Iraq;

-- highlight America's right to self-defense and drop this inflammatory pre-emptive strike policy which is in violation of the UN Charter and international law. If the US can launch a pre-emptive strike, why can't North Korea if it feels threatened?

-- realize that the UN is still the US's number 1 international ally. UN agencies are vital to combat terrorism in many ways, such as moving aircraft, ships, and mail (without anthrax) safely around the world. Also, all of the 30 plus UN agencies are of great assistance to the US in achieving its foreign policy goals, such as combating environmental degradation and fighting diseases, curbing the flow of illegal drugs, promoting international trade and economic development, and enhancing human rights.

The proverbial 'food fight' at the UN Security Council vividly shows how countries and leaders can be childish, immature, and often lose sight of the 'big picture.' The UN is much broader than one resolution on how to disarm Iraq. Reckless talk of abandoning the rule of law, going-it-alone, and forsaking the ONLY international organization that brings the countries of the world together to resolve their problems, is sheer folly. The UN, although it has shortcomings, is still the only game in town, and there is no better alternative. Today, even with the bickering at the Security Council, the UN has proven to be more responsible and relevant than at any point during its 58-year history, and it will not follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, the failed League of Nations. The only sustainable, internationally supported, and well-paved road to peace that President Bush accurately touts, be it in Iraq, North Korea, or Israel, runs directly through the UN.

United Nations Archive 2

US and Iraq: Staring Into the Abyss


By Bill Miller

In late summer, when the Bush Administration was threatening 'regime change,' many foreign policy specialists thought this inflammatory rhetoric would destroy any effort to mobilize the UN and get unanimous international approval forcing Iraq to comply with the original UN Resolutions. The Administration scored a dramatic, successful, and unexpected victory when the UN Security Council voted 15-0 (even Syria voted aye) to require that UN inspectors re-enter Iraq and vigorously work towards identifying and disarming Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Undoubtedly, people worldwide would be delighted to see Saddam depart Baghdad and join the lines of the unemployed. What can the US do to re-define the Iraqi crisis, bring more countries on-board, and resolve the issue peacefully? For starters, the US should:

-- Drop the tired mantra of 'material breach' whenever US jets are fired upon in the no-fly zone. This provocation has been on-going for nearly eleven years and the world community does not believe that it legally and morally rises to the level of justifying an armed invasion.

-- Permanently abandon the inflammatory and illegal threat of 'regime change' since it made Allies extremely nervous. This threat was a violation of international law. Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter have provisions that clarify whether there is a material breach of a resolution. Authorization for force would be a last resort.

-- Ratchet down the rhetoric and re-define the ill-conceived Bush Doctrine's concept of 'pre-emption.' Pre-emption means that the US can take a first military strike against any country that it perceives as being a threat. That doctrine exists in international law (Article 51 of the UN Charter); however, it is based on the UN-sanctioned right and responsibility to act in self-defense against some threat. This doctrine created a seismic shiver of apprehension throughout the world, by both friend and foe alike. If it is legal for the US to take action, this logic extends to justifying the North Koreans attacking South Korea, or Pakistan invading India.

-- Apply pressure and, at the conclusion of the investigations, diligently work with the Security Council to replace the draconian sanctions and ineffective 'oil-for-food' program. New guidelines should offer an incentive to the Iraqis to participate, be more accountable and workable, and maintain more control over the oil revenue so that it does not reach Saddam's bank account. Sanctions will work only when the bulk of the nations support them. Today, many nations do not lend that support.

If the US and the international community are to be successful in disarming Saddam and combating terrorism, they must draw upon the broad-based support of people worldwide. Some of the major stumbling blocks to garnering this support include:

-- Convincing the public that there is a link between Al-Qaeda and Saddam; proving Iraq has weapons that threaten America; and demonstrating that a military strike is inevitable and would be successful. The public is rightfully apprehensive that a military strike might not produce a quick and easy victory, such as the 1991 gulf war. For example, it is conceivable that tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and thousands of Americans could be killed in urban warfare. The cost of this conflict could be a whopping $200 billion per year and up to nearly $2 trillion for an extended campaign. Moderate Arab regimes might be overthrown, thus creating more turmoil, uncertainty, and terrorism, while disrupting the oil flow. US troops may be bogged down in Iraq as an occupational force for years to come. It may be difficult to rely on some of the US's supposed allies, such as Turkey, that have an Islamic government but still maintain a secular state.

-- International polls and articles poignantly show that the majority of people around the world no longer have an immense reservoir of pro-American goodwill that immediately followed the 9/11 tragedy. Overseas, the US is viewed cynically and many people are convinced that the US is hegemonic and is embarking upon a new imperialism (a term not used since the frigid days of the Cold War). The US wants to control the oil in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. The Bush Administration is perceived as pursuing a unilateral and arrogant foreign policy, especially by ignoring international treaties on human rights, the environment, and international crimes, while doing little to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Apparently, what US policymakers fail to understand is that the demand around both the US and the world is for the allies to use the UN, and not to do anything militarily without UN involvement and approval. If the US and a handful of countries decide to launch a military strike, but without UN Security Council support, it will still be interpreted as 'going it alone' and acting unilaterally, while possibly violating international law. The US is still the only superpower, however, if it ignores world opinion, international law, and bolts out on an independent course without a large number of allies, it will do so at its own peril. The US must show the world concrete evidence, which it has failed to do, to convince skeptics that Saddam is indeed an imminent threat and has the capability to utilize horrendous weapons on his neighbors or the US.

Unfortunately, a large number of main stream media outlets have misrepresented most public opinion polls as indicating the American public supports a quick forceful military reaction to any stonewalling or lack of cooperation by Saddam. Instead, polls have consistently shown that 65-80% of the respondents believe the US should first get UN Security Council authorization before launching a military attack. Although the vast majority opposes military action without UN approval, official US policy is that it does not need a green light from the UN.

Saddam can be contained effectively, legally, and economically by using the UN system and international law. President Bush has shown how the US's determination and leadership at the UN can rally the world to bring pressure upon a dictator and make him abide by his agreement of 11 years ago. The UN -- which is effective when its major countries become involved and take control of the situation -- has responded forcefully because of US leadership. Now it is time to elevate the US's prestige and power to the next level and refrain from hastily embarking upon a military adventure that could spell disaster for both Americans and Iraqis.

On January 27, the inspection team, headed by the low-keyed, yet highly-qualified leader, Hans Blix, formerly Director General of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, will make the final report to the UN, although any violations or impediments will be reported prior to that date. In the interim, President Bush and Saddam Hussein should be patient and stop undermining the inspection process, step back from the abyss, and engage in a win-win situation to defuse this extremely volatile situation. World peace, security, and prosperity depend upon it.

United Nations Archive 2

Coalition Built on Shifting Sands?

By Bill Miller

The US-led worldwide coalition against terrorism-- effectively coordinated by the Bush Administration, especially by Secretary of State Colin Powell-- is dangerously close to being washed out to sea by the rising tide of doggedly pursuing unilateral policies that damage the US and many other countries. Daily, US allies offer a chorus of criticism that the US is reverting to its perceived arrogant pre-September 11 unilaterlist policies; is arbitrarily and heavy-handedly dictating its wishes to the world; and is ignoring major international problems and concerns of both allies and foes.

On the positive side, several actions have strengthened the coalition and enhanced the US’s influence. For example, President Bush received well-deserved praise when he attended the UN Conference on Financing and Development held in Monterey, Mexico, and he announced the US would increase its foreign assistance by 50% a year. The US also regained its seat on the 54 member UN Human Rights Commission. The recent Moscow Treaty between the US and Russia to reduce (not destroy) warheads from about 6,000 to around 2,000 has been widely regarded as a first step in the right direction to reduce the threat of nuclear exchange.

Undoubtedly, the UN and Great Britain are the US’s major partners in the war on terrorism. Yet, this rock-solid support is weakening. Why? The following five counterproductive actions implemented by the US help explain this dilemma:

-- First, the Bush Administration, which is totally opposed to the International Criminal Court (ICC), took the unprecedented step to  “unsign” or nullify the treaty--which would be the first time any country took that action. European Union countries, which have all ratified the ICC,  have indicated  that it would be disastrous for the US to try to derail the treaty.

The UN International Court of Justice, which is called the World Court and is located in the Hague, deals with civil cases between countries. The ICC is a permanent international  criminal court that would fill a tremendous legal void and would try the worst criminals, such as Pol Pot or Adolph Hitler, who commit crimes against humanity, genocide, aggression or war crimes.

The ICC is not a supranational body that can arbitrarily drag Americans before it to be tried. If someone were charged with a crime, the defendant’s country of origin would have the option to use the Principle of Complementarity, which allows the national judicial system to take first action against the individual(s), thus preserving a country’s sovereignty, due process, and the integrity of its domestic court system. Safeguards are quite sufficient to address all of the US’s concerns, especially in the fair selection of judges.

If the ICC had existed before the 9-11 tragedy, it could have played a critical role in bringing Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorists to justice. Rather than launch an antagonistic international campaign against the ICC, the US should actively help to establish it and  the Senate should ratify the treaty, rather than be completely isolated from the process. The reality is the ICC comes on-line July 1 and it does affect Americans, regardless of what the US says.

--The second action involves the  recent 3-day UN Summit on Children which was a review of the successes of the 27 goals set by the 1990 Children’s Summit (attended by former President George H. Bush). Heated conflict developed between the US, the Vatican, and some Arab states on one side and the rest of the world on the other. The US vigorously opposed moderate proposals regarding family planning, children’s rights, and reproductive health (which is often-yet incorrectly-perceived as abortion rights) issues. A vast majority of the conference participants viewed the US policy as ideologically-motivated, incorrect, and short-sighted.

Rather than being an obstructionist, the US Senate should ratify the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child and adequately fund the UN family planning agency. It is ironic that as some Congressional pro-life advocates, who oppose UN family planning efforts and irresponsibly withhold $34 million in legal funds from the UN population agency, are encouraging more abortions, rather than  fewer. When women and their partners want their children and feel they have the means to care for them, then abortions decline. Abstinence, as emphasized by the US, may  be one birth control method, but it should be combined with other family planning techniques.

Fortunately, the summit did not end in failure and an action-oriented plan was developed to help children. The UN initiatives have achieved many successes over the past 12 years. For example,  one billion people now have access to clean water; polio and some childhood diseases (thanks primarily to the UN, Rotary International, and the US Centers for Disease Control) are on the verge of being eliminated; children’s enrollment (especially girls) in school increased from 80 to 82% in 9 years; and diarrhea deaths have been cut 50% to 1.5 million per year.

Problems still abound as the UN reports: one in four children live in poverty; 13 million children have lost one or both parents to the scourge of AIDs; 250 million children under age 15 are subjected to child labor; 150 million children are malnourished and 300,000 are fighting wars.

--Third, the Administration has begun an assault on UN personnel whom they view as unfriendly to their policies. The most prominent person ousted from her position as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was Mary Robinson, a former Irish President and an extremely qualified and effective advocate for human rights worldwide. Apparently, the US could not forgive her for supporting the UN’s Racism Conference in Durban last year and for voicing  concerns about the US’s treatment of Taliban/Al-Qaeda prisoners and human rights conditions in Afghanistan.

The Bush Administration and US oil interests fought to oust Robert Watson, another very respected UN leader  who chaired the UN’s Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change, an independent scientific body designed to review the feasibility of climate change and the role of fossil fuels in affecting it. Watson was replaced by Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian economist, who is considered more friendly to US interests. This deal may backfire since Pachauri is committed to diminishing global warming and reducing fossil fuels consumption.

Shortly thereafter, the US led the charge to depose Jose Mauricio Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), ostensibly because of financial mismanagement and for encouraging Iraq to sign the OPCW Convention, which the US claims would undermine the UN Security Council’s efforts to get UN inspectors back into Iraq. These board room coup d’etats have not been lost on the other 188 UN member states.

--Fourth, few international leaders, and most people worldwide, would not regret the demise of Saddam Hussein; however, there is virtually zero support by US allies to launch a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq.  Some of the reasons cited for this lack of support are:

a) there is no concrete link between Al-Qaeda and Saddam;

b) the US Joint Chiefs of Staff are reluctant to get involved in another military campaign, especially while bogged down in Afghanistan;

c) many fear that thousands of Iraqi civilians and American military would be killed; and

d) without allied support, the US would have to go-it-alone and may be an occupying force in Baghdad for years to come.

--Finally, the US and its allies disagree on several other important issues, such as the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty; US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty with the Russians; and US insistence on building a missile defense shield that could fuel a nuclear arms race and de-stabilize the world, weaken the US military by draining funds from other programs, cost  a staggering $500 billion, and not work when it is finished. Many credible foreign policy/nuclear experts believe that the principal threat will come from a chemical, biological, or low level nuclear device that will not be launched, but floated into a US harbor or brought in by truck.

Although some positive action was taken to alleviate these fears, there is still a strong undercurrent of concern, distrust, and animosity by US allies toward the US foreign policies, which are viewed as being dominated by hawkish hard-liners. The war on terrorism will not succeed if the US perpetuates an image of an arrogant bully that ignores the rest of the world. It would be disastrous to return to the pre-September 11 period where, on average, a measly 25% of US allies and their people supported major US foreign policies. Will the sand castle of anti-terrorist coalition building be swept out to sea? Although the US will not always agree with other countries on every thorny issue, the fracturing of the coalition can be avoided through reversing some US policies, engaging in meaningful dialogue and involvement in discussing various treaties, stressing effective diplomacy, and pursuing consensus building. This battle must be won.