The worst day in the UN's history"

"My answer is bring them on."— George W. Bush, referring to attacks by Iraqi militants. Washington, D.C., July 3, 2003

“The worst day in UN history” was how many news reports described the recent attack on the UN offices in Baghdad which left twenty-three civilians dead. Whilst many in the west have been shocked and appalled at this attack, wondering how such a ‘non-partisan’ humanitarian organisation such as the UN could be the target of Iraqi extremists, it must be remembered that for many Middle Eastern militants the UN is seen as simply another branch of US imperialist foreign policy.

To many Iraqis, the thousands of US and British soldiers in Iraq constitute an army of occupation, and with the UN endeavouring to help stabilise Iraqi society and promote "democracy" they are in actual fact perceived as an accessory to the occupation, creating the stable conditions that will facilitate a smother expropriation of Iraqi oil assets. In short, the UN is viewed as just another US ally and thus a legitimate target.

Back in the early 1990s, it was the UN which put in place the US-sponsored sanctions regime (most notably resulting from resolutions 661 and 687) which wrought havoc on Iraqi society – a society recovering from a 10 year war with Iran and a murderous war with the US and Great Britain. Such sanctions left 500,000 Iraqi children dead from disease and malnutrition and crippled Iraq’s infrastructure. More recently, it was the UN Security Council which approved the US-installed puppet government and in effect approved the occupation by opening a UN mission office to help make it successful. In the interim, the Bush administration has refused any significant contribution by other world powers (with the exception of its British hangers-on) in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Little known is the fact that the UN building in Baghdad also housed the World Bank. Back in May, the World Bank sent a senior bank diplomat along with Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Special Representative in Iraq (killed in the blast )"to assess reconstruction and development needs on the ground," according to the WB's website. Back in April the World Bank and the IMF issued a joint press statement on how they "stand ready to play their normal role in Iraq's re-development at the appropriate time." And based on their past track record, what is the "normal role" played by the World Bank and IMF? Answer: Structural Adjustments Programmes which result in slower economic growth, austerity measures, poverty and unemployment. So again, the United Nations is viewed in the same light as is the IMF and World Bank, and to many grudge-bearing Iraqis is a suitable target.

Neither is the fact that the US invaded Iraq whilst the world protested, killing 8,000 civilians in the process, ostensibly because Saddam refused to reveal his non-existent chemical weapons, lost on Iraqi people. Iraq clearly posed no threat to the US and neither did it invade the United States or Britain or any other country destined to send forces there to police the country. Iraq no more rolled the red carpet out for US forces than it welcomed with open arms the World Bank, the IMF, Halliburton, Parsons Group, Stevedoring Services of America, and a myriad other companies set to make vast profits from the country’s oil and the rebuilding and reconstruction of Iraq.

Moreover, there was always the risk that once Saddam was removed from power extremist groups would come to the fore and make Iraq far more unstable than under Ba’athist rule. This much had been acknowledged by President Bush senior (the one with more functioning brain cells) during the first Gulf War and lay behind Washington’s decision not to support US-inspired revolts of the Iraqi Kurds and the Marsh Arabs. It made sound US sense to have Saddam crush these revolts mercilessly rather than have him removed and the country fragment. The very forces the US feared would be unleashed following the toppling of Saddam are now on the rampage – they might have loathed Saddam, but hate the US more.

As Bush’s badly designed occupation struggles on, it continues to inflict more misery upon an Iraq fed up with decades of repression, war and uncertainty. Their long-crippled infrastructure, and the arbitrary and unruly search and arrest-without-charge procedures by US soldiers, provoke bitterness and anger among Iraqis. All of this considered, are attacks, such as that on the UN base in Baghdad surprising? We could well be forgiven for asking why such attacks are not in fact more ferocious.

We might ask where was the UN mission in Rwanda when 1 million were being hacked to death during the Tutsi-Hutu conflict? Where the US attempts to try to install democracy in Rwanda? Indeed, it would be difficult to conceive of a situation the UN has been involved in that has not had some strategic interest to the US. Would the UN have a mission in Iraq if the country’s sole export was dates?

This is not to condone the attack. It was terrible loss of life – those killed being warm-hearted, well intentioned workers, joining the UN because of a desire to help others. The sad fact is that they were killed trying to sort out a mess of US making. Moreover their deaths are shrouded in a veil of lies. They might have believed they were in Baghdad to help bring stability to a long-suffering people, but the real reason is that the US needs a stable Iraq to help with the theft of its oil. Furthermore, the US would have us believe they were killed by outsiders – they need our support for their “War on Terror”! But what is apparent now is that the US and Britain are seen as the real “outsiders” and are now neck deep in a guerrilla war, a war of struggle and self-determination, and the kind waged against outside aggressors and colonial masters for centuries.

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