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Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2003 / 27 Shevat, 5763

James Lileks

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The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper | "How can we possibly go to war without the approval of the UN?"

This question would make sense if there was a big red button marked START WAR in a locked closet at the Secretariat, and we had to beg Kofi for the keys. The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper. The only way a resolution could stop a truly determined president would be if they wrapped it around a rock and threw it at Bush's head.

The US does not need additional resolutions; #1441 said "False statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq... and failure to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations." Well, Iraq has been in material breach since they dumped 12,000 pages of obfuscating gobbledegook on everyone's desk. Iraq was in material breach before the inspectors showed up. Every day the inspectors are not driven to a dump and shown the remains of warheads, or empty canisters, or bones of all the lab monkeys who perished in Saddam's quest to weaponize spoiled potato salad, Iraq is in material breach. It's a breach-o-rama. It's breacherrific. Cue the Madonna song: The UN is immaterial now, and this is a material breach.

"Okay, fine, but how can we possibly go to war without the approval of the UN?"

You mean the French and the Germans, perhaps. Well, France is demonstrating its habitual reaction to glowering men with small mustaches; German leaders are pandering to their dovish cliques for short-term political gain. Politicians in both countries probably get hummingbird heart-rates when they contemplate US officials poring through the records in Baghdad and finding the extent to which our allies have been meeting Saddam at the back door.

In any case, who cares what France thinks? It's not as if they'd be of any use in a war. They have one aircraft carrier that can barely hit 4 knots-per-hour without seizing up, and their best troops are engaged in a unilateral, non-UN sanctioned operation in Ivory Coast.

"Granted. But how can we possibly go to war without the approval of the UN?"

Perhaps you mean that we need the moral imprimatur of this august and esteemed body. You'd have a better point if the UN was moral, august, or esteemed. On the contrary: the UN is a dim hive of self-interested parties engaged in endless parliamentary mummery, united by a consensual delusion that all nations are equal. So you have the bitterly risible sight of Libya chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights, which is akin to giving Kid Rock control over the New York Philharmonic. You have the UN's 2003 disarmament conference rotating its presidency among a group of states that includes Iran and Iraq. (Perhaps next year the agricultural planning conference will be held in Pyongyang.) You have the shameful performance of the peacekeepers in Srebrenica, looking away while thousands were slaughtered. You have the sex-for-food scandal at UN refugee camps in Africa - if it happened at an American frat house, it would be national news for a week. But hey, it's just Africans.

And you have small, telling scenes like the one that transpired in Baghdad recently. A man thrust himself into a UN inspector's car and begged for sanctuary. The UN official pretended to study his papers while the poor man pleaded for his life. The Iraqi guards took the man away, and what we know about Iraqi prisons is even half right, we can only hope they killed the man as soon as he was out of camera range.

Imagine you are running in fear from Iraqi thugs, and you see a UN car, and a US convoy. To which would you run?

"Yes, yes, it's not perfect. But don't we need UN approval?'

No. But if it makes you feel better to know that China graciously allowed the US to act in its own self-interest, pretend that they did. Picture an unelected Communist bureaucrat giving Bush permission to move some carriers towards the Gulf. Feel better?

The word you're looking for is "oui."

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks