Subject: On Iraq: From the Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions, Grenoble, France.
11 September 2003
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We have been receiving much mail on the Middle Ease recently, and the
American military failure to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi
people. Professor Ed Herman has forwarded us two important articles
(please see items A. and B. below) describing what world opinion has
been trying to tell Washington, D.C. from the start : This illegal
action is unacceptable to every civilized nation in the world, their
compromised officials not withstanding.
The failure to control the Iraqi nation, after the ignoble U.S.
military victory, is another dark chapter in American history.
The American people, as Professor Ronald Takaki foresaw months
have begun to "connect the dots", to draw the picture and make the
links between their own financial insecurities and the military
adventures coming out of Washington, D.C.
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
9 September 2003
"The tyranny of law"
by David Chandler
copyright© spiked 2000-2003
As the US administration seems to be losing control in Iraq,
Britain's liberal press has taken an increasingly critical tone,
condemning the legal measures taken by the Coalition Provisional
Authority (1). The Observer argues that 'Paul Bremer, America's
proconsul in Iraq, should go. His autocratic rule has become a symbol
of all that is wrong with the administration of the country' (2).
There is little doubt that Bremer's legislative 'orders' have
increased instability and uncertainty in Iraq. Coalition Provisional
Authority Order No1, the 'de-Ba'athification' decree issued on 15
May, has had the unintended effect of threatening tens of thousands
of public sector Iraqi professionals in education and the health
service with dismissal for membership of the Ba'ath Party (3).
Given that belonging to the Ba'athist movement was a precondition for
getting anywhere in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Bremer's order reached far
beyond the senior Ba'athist elite. Most skilled professionals are
under threat of losing their livelihoods, contributing little to
reconstruction or to winning over support from the Iraqi middle
CPA Order No2, issued on 23 May, dissolved the Iraqi army, making
thousands of militarily trained men unemployed and penniless,
creating unrest and removing the one force best equipped for taking
on the majority of security tasks (5).
According to many in the UK press, the alternative, or 'Plan B', is
to replace Bremer with a UN appointee 'who has the backing of the
international community' (6). While such an Iraqi regime might be
more popular with European governments, it is unlikely that greater
UN involvement would make much difference to the Iraqi people.
US administrators have neither a monopoly on autocratic rule or on
imposing counter-productive measures. This much is clear from the
'internationally backed' external regimes imposed on Bosnia and
Kosovo, where the UN has been fully supportive of the autocratic rule
of unelected and unaccountable international mandarins, like Lord
Ashdown, the High Representative of Bosnia.
In 2002, Ashdown's office externally commissioned a report into key
areas of its legislation. The report, from a major policy research
unit, was so damning it was never published (7). The report accuses
the international administrators of taking on more powers than they
have the resources to cope with, causing legal uncertainty through
the use of retrospective legislation, passing legislation that slowed
the return of minority refugees, and increasing inter-ethnic tensions.
Whether the USA runs Iraq with token aid from countries like Britain
or whether the UN plays a more substantial role in preparing
legislation, there remains the problem that the 'rule of law' cannot
be imposed in the manner advocated by some. For certain theorists,
whether of liberal internationalist or neo-conservative beliefs, it
seems obvious that international bureaucrats can develop better laws
than the people who live in post-conflict countries or their
After all, they argue, these elites caused the misrule that 'forced'
the internationals to take over, and the people did themselves few
favours by voting such elites in or accepting their rule.
The danger of prioritising the 'rule of law' above the political
process is the risk of unregulated and arbitrary power.
This understanding of the 'rule of law' as a set of solutions that
can be drawn up in Brussels, New York or Washington and then imposed
with the help of NATO troops, UN peacekeepers or EU pen-pushers is a
bureaucratic fantasy, which causes more problems than it solves. Law
that is disassociated from the political process of
consensus-building and genuine social need is more a rhetorical
statement of policy intent than a law of the land.
It is easy to issue laws and edicts, particularly when there is no
need to gain the consent of elected or appointed representatives. For
example, so far this year, Ashdown's office in Bosnia has issued
nearly 100 laws over the heads of state, entity and local elected
assemblies - and this, remember, is eight years after the Bosnian
conflict ended and the first internationally ratified elections were
Not only does there appear to be no immediate connection between the
number of laws developed and implemented by these external
authorities and any transition to self-government but, it seems, the
opposite relationship is in play. Bosnia is caught in a vicious
circle of growing unaccountable power. The Bosnian experience
indicates that legal 'solutions' with little relationship to the
political context can be worse than not meddling at all. While
passing laws makes the international administrators look as if they
are doing something useful, appearances can be deceptive. The failure
of the high-handed
approach of the US-UK 'authority' in Iraq to address political
problems through the reliance on legal edicts is already clear.
The 'rule of law' of the international bureaucrats in charge of these
war-torn states makes a mockery of the law itself. 'Rule of law'
should not mean merely that there is a set of rules and regulations,
backed up by the military, police and the courts. After all, any old
dictator could do that. What distinguishes the 'rule of law' is that
this framework is predicated on consent and the equality of rights,
rather than on claims of 'special knowledge', whether that of the
right', of Kings or the 'civilising' mission of a colonial
administration. Without consent and popular engagement in the
law-making process, the ruling authority in Iraq will not be able to
generate government legitimacy or cohere Iraqi society.
The danger of prioritising the 'rule of law' above the political
process is the risk of unregulated and arbitrary power. In Bosnia,
the High Representative regularly dismisses presidents and prime
ministers if they do not do his bidding. A similar danger is all too
apparent in Iraq, under US and British administration, where there is
no constitutional process of appeal for wrongful detention or
capacity to challenge the rule of international administrators. Once
the rule of law is separated from the democratic process, it becomes
the rule of tyranny rather than the rule of justice.
To escape the hubris brought on by their military power, the
Washington administrators would do well to heed the warning of the
late Hans Morgenthau, the founder of 'realism' in international
relations, who argued that while hubris was brought to ground through
the political pressures of domestic politics, it was in the
international field 'that the belief in the limitless power' of
doctrinaires was particularly dangerous, for here 'the panaceas
engendered by this belief have no connection whatsoever with the
forces which determine the actual course of events'.
(1) Iraq's fresh start may be another false dawn, Brian Whitaker, Guardian,
5 September 2003; Four steps to peace in Iraq,
Observer, 7 September 2003.
(2) Four steps to peace in Iraq, Observer, 7 September 2003.
(3) Order No 1, De-Baathification of Iraqi Society, Coalition Provisional Authority, 15 May 2003.
(4) US decree strips thousands of their jobs, Jonathan Steele, Guardian, 30 August 2003.
(5) Order No 2, Dissolution of Entities, Coalition Provisional Authority, 23 May 2003.
(6) Four steps to peace in Iraq, Observer, 7 September 2003.
(7) From Dayton to Europe: Land, Development and the Future of Democratic Planning (draft version for circulation to OHR only), European Stability Initiative, Berlin/Sarajevo, December 2002.
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22 August 2003
"The UN - just there to help?"
by David Chandler
copyright© spiked 2000-2003
The terrorist attack on the United Nations' Canal hotel headquarters
in Baghdad was certainly horrific - yet it has also led to a
rewriting of the history of the UN's involvement in Iraq.
The UK Guardian editorialised the following day: 'If there is any
organisation in Iraq about which it can be said unequivocally that it
is there to help, it is the United Nations.' (1) Many within the UN
saw the bombing as an act of ingratitude. Spokesman Salim Leone said:
'Every one of us came to help the Iraqi people who have suffered so
long, and what a way to pay us back.' (2)
According to secretary-general Kofi Annan, the bomb was directed
'against men and women who went to Iraq with one purpose only -to
help the Iraqi people recover their independence and sovereignty'(3).
This view of the UN as helping Iraq move towards independence and
sovereignty jars with the experience of UN interference in Iraqi
people's lives over the past 10 years.
It was the UN that first politicised the question of the threat posed
by mIraq's weapons of mass destruction, through the coordination of
weapons inspections regimes since the 1991 Gulf War under the UN
Special Commission (UNSCOM) and since December 1999 the UN
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).
From August 1990 to March 2003 the UN supervised a comprehensive
economic sanctions regime against Iraq, which restricted Iraq's
ability to export oil or to import vital commodities. There are no
reliable estimates of the total number of deaths caused by the
sanctions' impact on food, medical care, water, and other
health-related factors. But according to some aid organisations, the
number of 'excess' deaths is thought to be over 400,000(4).
The UN did much to destabilise and disrupt Iraqi society, even
without sending in B52s or stealth bombers. The lack of sympathy for
the suffering caused to Iraqis during the 10-year UN-orchestrated
campaign of sanctions and inspections makes it hard to take seriously
the claims of concern in Western capitals over the impact of acts of
terror on Iraqis today.
The UN has supported and legitimised America and Britain's occupation.
Perhaps the most misleading claim is that, in alleged independence
from the US/UK administration, the UN is in Iraq to help the Iraqi
people recover their independence and sovereignty. In reality, rather
than being there to 'bring about an end to the occupation', the UN's
role has been to support and legitimise the occupation (5).
The UN first legitimised the undermining of Iraqi sovereignty with
Resolution 688, following the first Gulf War of 1991. This resolution
asserted that the repression of the civilian population constituted a
threat to 'international peace and security', and provided disputed
legitimacy for further coercive international intervention and the
ongoing bombing campaigns by US and British forces in the 'no-fly
zones'. In May 2003, UN Resolution 1483 recognised the USA and
Britain (the 'Authority') as occupying powers (6).
Sergio Vieira de Mello - the head of the UN mission who was
tragically killed in the Baghdad blast - had spent his career
undermining the sovereignty of various states. De Mello was a
bureaucrat, never an elected politician, who exercised unprecedented
powers around the world. He was instrumental in establishing the UN
protectorate system in Kosovo, before leaving to head up the UN
protectorate in East Timor. More recently, he took over from Mary
Robinson as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
One reason for de Mello's appointment as UN special representative to
Iraq was his popularity in the White House, where he had impressed
President Bush and Condoleezza Rice after being summoned for talks
prior to his selection (7). Rather than challenge the legitimacy of
the US/UK administration, de Mello assisted in giving the invading
and occupying powers a cover of respectability, through helping to
create an internationally-appointed 'governing council'.
The horrific killing of UN personnel by terrorist bombers will not
benefit anybody in Iraq. But whether the attack was aimed
specifically at the UN itself, or as is more likely the UN was chosen
as a 'soft target', one thing is certain: claims that the UN is only
there to help Iraqis legitimise, rather than challenge, the war and
the denial of Iraqi sovereignty.
(1) 'Bloodshed in Baghdad', editorial, Guardian, 20 August 2003.
(2) 'Baghdad: UN chief among 20 dead as bombers wreck headquarters',
Guardian, 20 August 2003.
(3) 'UN envoy dies in suicide bomb carnage at Baghdad headquarters',
The Times (London), 20 August 2003.
(4) Iraq Sanctions: Humanitarian Implications and Options for the
Future, Global Policy Forum, Save the Children et al, 6 August 2002.
(5) 'Baghdad: UN chief among 20 dead as bombers wreck headquarters',
Guardian, 20 August 2003.
(6) UN Security Council Resolution 1483, 22 May 2003
(7) 'Sergio Vieira de Mello', obituary, The Times, 20 August 2003;
and 'Dashing diplomat favoured by Bush', The Times, 20 August
David Chandler is senior lecturer in international relations at the
Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster. His
recent publications include Bosnia: Faking Democracy after Dayton
(Pluto Press, 1999) (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)),
From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention
(Pluto Press, 2002) (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)),
and (as editor) Rethinking Human Rights: Critical Approaches to
International Politics (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002) (buy this book from
Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).
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