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Another crisis, Mr Annan
Posted: Sunday, January 4, 2004

Newsday, Trinidad and Tobago

VISITING United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan didn't have to spell it out when he told a news conference at Whitehall on Friday that the UN is needed today more than ever before. Informed Trinis would know that he was referring directly to the unilateralist action taken by the Bush administration against Iraq and the view expressed by top US administrators that the UN had now become virtually irrelevant. In proper diplomatic language, Mr Annan told the TT media: "I think the Iraqi crisis underscored for many member states and peoples around the world the need to have a forum like the UN where people can discuss their differences. The UN is much more than peacekeeping activities."

Providing such a forum, of course, is the fundamental raison d'etre of the UN and Mr Annan may not have been inclined to go beyond that emphasis. But, again, informed Trinis would know that the Iraqi invasion actually underscored much more than that basic need. Indeed, it has dramatised the creation of another and equally disturbing kind of crisis, one arising out of the apparent determination of the United States, flexing its muscles as the world's only superpower, to have its own way in the world, to reject the obligations of the multilateral system, to launch pre-emptive wars against countries perceived as its enemies, to bully and blackmail states into agreeing with its self-serving demands, to seek to destroy institutions such as the International Criminal Court which is regarded as a threat to its free-wheeling style, to arbitrarily deny non-US citizens of their basic human rights and to arrogate unto itself the right to impose democracy, even by force, on other countries where other governmental systems have traditionally prevailed.

All this, in our view, amounts to an enormous tragedy. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cold War and the communist threat, one expected that the world would settle down to an unprecedented period of international cooperation, peace and progress, with the US setting the pace by exemplifying all the great principles of freedom, justice and human rights it claims to represent and live by. Instead, we have now seen the White House captured by a kind of neo-fascist regime, a group of hawkish right wing conservatives who have little or no regard for the multilateral movement and the constraints its institutions can legitimately impose. The United States, of course, is entitled to take adequate measures to protect itself against another terrorist attack, but in doing so it must act within the law and not compromise the principles it so vehemently champions.

In this regard, however, the Bush administration has lost all its credibility following its illegal, unjustified and misconcieved invasion of Iraq, a unilateral act of war opposed by a majority of the world's nations and peoples. This, then, is the nature of the crisis as we see it; a clash between the unilateralist policies and instincts of the world's only super-power and the obligations of the multilateral movement upon whose principles of cooperation the progress of the global society depends. In this context, we agree with Mr Annan that the UN is needed today more than ever. It is unfortunate that the rogue action of the Bush regime has created serious and apparently lasting divisions among its leading members. We can only hope that the revision of its guidelines now being undertaken will, in fact, produce a more dynamic organisation, with or without the support of the world's only superpower.

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