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Darfur, Iraq, Conflicts, Show Need to Strengthen UN

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The latest UN response to the Darfur province genocide may be way too little as well as way too late despite the personal visit Monday of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Sudan.

A UN Security Council resolution authorizing 26,000 peacekeepers to defend Darfur's surviving civilian population may not translate into real results against the slippery and deceitful Khartoum regime of Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

 The African Union may not be all that helpful, either. AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said the 12,000 troops pledged to date by African nations is sufficient and there is no need for infantry from non-African states---when Western troops could also play a positive role. 

 A UN spokesperson told news services that aid needs to come from non-African states that can provide technology, communications and transportation expertise.According to Reuters, nations were expected to finish pledging troops for the force by August 30th. That date has come and gone, yet if Western nations have pledged any troops, they have not yet made a public announcement. Darfur rebels say the lack of Western troop support will only mean continuation of the genocide. The UN hopes to begin deployment in October of 20,000 soldiers and 6,000 police officers.

Over the past four years, Sudan's rulers have directed the butchering of 200,000 souls and driven two million more from their homes. Khartoum’s closest competitor is President Bush, responsible for igniting a war that has claimed perhaps a million Iraqi lives, wounded probably a million more, and forced several million Iraqis from their homes or into foreign exile, triggering what the UN terms a “humanitarian crisis.”

The failure to deal with Sudan’s genocide in Darfur and America’s aggression against Iraq spotlights the clunkiness of the UN machinery. All a Security Council member has to do is threaten a veto to paralyze the world body. Because China buys oil from Sudan, it has repeatedly intervened to stop the UN from punishing the Khartoum gang.

The UN will never overcome this paralysis unless the veto against peacekeeping operations or sanctions to halt genocide is eliminated, enabling it to take swift military or economic action. The UN proved incapable of preventing President Bush from rushing to attack Baghdad even before UN inspectors finished their job searching Iraq for WMD. It is against the UN Charter for one member country to attack another.

 If powerful nation-states such as China and America are not subordinated to a world authority having sole power to keep the peace, this century could be even bloodier than the last.

In the last century, as dark an age as any Medieval epoch, a quarter of a billion people perished in wars or from famines and epidemics triggered by wars, or even by deliberate starvation by their rulers, according to Milton Leitenberg, an arms control authority at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland.World War One, he said, killed 14 million alone; World War Two killed 70 million; and between 1945 and 2000, wars and conflicts claimed another 41 million lives. And there was more, sadly, much, much more.

Although the UN was founded “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” Leitenberg believes, its role has borne “little relation to the provisions of the UN Charter.” Using Iraq as an example, Leitenberg notes Saddam Hussein flouted UN Security Council resolutions for 12 years prior to 2002 with respect to nuclear development and in 1988 the UN allowed Hussein to carry out a genocidal campaign against his Kurdish citizens.

In a monograph titled “Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century,” published under the Cornell University Peace Studies program, Leitenberg points out how various members of the Security Council have prevented the UN from acting because it conflicted with their own selfish interests.China sold out Darfur’s inhabitants because Sudan supplies it with oil.

 Similarly, Russia in 1995 threatened to use its veto if the UN took action against Serbia, then engaged in “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia-Herzogovina, and Russia is doing the same now in regard to Kosovo. And when the Security Council imposed an arms embargo against killer militias in Darfur, both Russia and China continued to supply arms to Sudan.

In only two cases since World War II, has the UN taken effective action to stop an aggressor. It acted against North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950 and against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Leitenberg noted during all other provocations there was always a permanent member of the Security Council whose veto or threat of the veto, blocked collective security initiatives. Most often, it was the United States and the Soviet Union that stopped the UN from asserting itself.As the Cold War thawed, UN practices underwent substantial evolution.

The UN initiated more peace-keeping operations between 1990 and 1994 than it had in its previous forty years, Leitenberg said.  Tragically, by allowing the Bosnia genocide, “by temporizing and inaction in the face of aggression,” he noted, the UN eroded its ability to act in the future.

“Months of systematic massacres, pillage, destruction, and concentration-death camps reminiscent of World War II led many to see the situation as analogous to 1938, Munich, and a gross case of appeasement,” the arms control expert added. The same may be said of Darfur.The fashioning of a global security system “is the central issue for the future,” Leitenberg believes, and he’s right, noting that this “cannot be achieved by temporizing, play-acting, sham protestation, and hypocrisy.”

He points out the UN is clearly capable “of managing tasks that local forces are willing to permit, but not yet those that it must fight its way through to achieve.” And the UN needs to get tough.

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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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