Where is the UN?

In Baghdad, under economic sanctions, landing a job in a hotel offered at least a steady pittance of earnings. Some men made ends meet by working two eight hour shifts in different hotels. A dignified, well educated fellow would don a restaurant worker’s uniform in one hotel to serve tables all day and then quickly change into the uniform of a maintenance crew worker at the hotel across the street so that he could spend the next eight hours sweeping up cigarette butts.

But over time, in spite of the glaring disparities between their material well being and ours, durable friendships developed between members of Voices in the Wilderness delegations and the workers at hotels where we stayed. When, on rare occasions, we’d visit their homes, we’d leave wishing we could alleviate the harsh circumstances in which they lived. Especially during rainy, cold or extremely hot seasons, their homes were inadequate shelters. And they would never be able to save any money to get ahead working at the hotels.

Most of the men I knew no longer work at the hotels. Now that Baghdad is the most dangerous city in the world, random groups fire mortars, bombs, and other explosives at hotels. Some men were willing to risk staying on the job but were laid off by managers who, with few guests, couldn’t meet payrolls.

We’ve lost contact with most of our old friends. We often worry about them. But, occasionally, an email will arrive. Here is an excerpt from a letter sent June 4, 2005, from Ali, a gardener, a man who treated plants and people with great tenderness. He also admired Gandhi and, after the Occupation began, spoke at length with us about how much hope he placed in the possibility that nonviolent movements could emerge in Iraq.

Ali wrote:

“What happened in US if any one from US army feels hungry? For sure you all now saying the US government will do all they can to do, even they will send in… many airplanes … bringing all the best types of good energy foods and best supplements to make them (the army) stronger to kill the life in poor people. BUT, what about if any one from Iraqi people feels hungry? Simply the answer is no one will care about us…

In every month when Iraqi families go to the shops to get the (oil for food rations) foods, we just get some of the things:

1. Tea. 2. Milk of adults. 3. Soap. 4. Oils. 5. Sugar (some months).

And other important types are not found:

1. Milk of babies. 2. Rice. 3. Flour. 4. beans.

So, why we are still suffering from hungry and may be some families rich or they have the ability of shopping but what about others sleeping without dinner and what about the crying of baby for milk and his mother dying to give it to him, crying … who give mercy to her and her baby? Where is Bush and his flag he carried to bring the democracy and freedom? Who is the hero in our government … and why all the world organizations still silent and where is the UN?”

Where is the UN?

It’s unthinkable, but an honest answer to Ali’s question about the UN would acknowledge that in two days time, the UN will very likely tighten the thumbscrews still further in afflicting pain on innocent Iraqis. June 28–30, 2005, the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) will hold its final round of discussions before determining how much of an outstanding 65 billion in reparations Iraq should be required to pay for Saddam Hussein’s 1990-91 warmaking.

In the years between 1996–2003, the UNCC approved 52.1 billion in payment to individuals, companies and countries. As one of the most secretive of all UN organizational structures, the UNCC forbade the Iraqi negotiators to see many of the claims made against them, refused to allow Iraq to contest claims it did see, and forced the Iraqis to underwrite expenses for translation of all documents as it insisted that no discussions be held in Arabic.

The UNCC could have chosen to pay the individual claimants but then ask the countries and companies, many of them quite wealthy, to wait until Iraq was first able to meet the needs of starving and diseased children. It could still choose to give priority to alleviating suffering in Iraq.

Instead, after all of the decisions are recorded, after the lawyers, accountants, claims analysts, secretaries, translators, and negotiators sign off on their part in the procedures, Iraq will very likely face demands to continue using its desperately needed oil revenue to pay reparations to claimants whose complaints are deemed more worthy of attention than the pleas raised in Ali’s letter.

In the coming months, Ali may find that world bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank, when they step up to the plate to negotiate payment schedules that Iraq will be forced to meet, will insist that Iraq’s government impose austerity measures such as “monetizing subsidies.” In other words, the mothers whose lament Ali wants us to hear would be told that they must pay for their meager ration baskets.

Today is the 60th birthday of the United Nations. In only six decades, the UN mission to eliminate the scourge of warfare and uphold basic human rights has scored remarkable gains. In many disputes, worldwide, the UN is the only referee on the bench.
And yet, the warmakers, weapon manufacturers and rabid money makers have held on to and gained significant footholds within the UN. 85% of the world’s weapon sales are controlled by the five veto bearing members of the UN Security Council; in very recent history, The U.S. and the UK have used the UN to wage economic and military warfare against innocent people in Iraq. And the UNCC has been a black stain on UN history.

There are no adequate answers to Ali’s anguished letter. In a fair and just world governance, the US would be required to pay reparations to Iraq. Such justice seems utterly elusive right now, but those of us who live in countries where we ostensibly can influence our governments, bear responsibility to break silence and hold up a mirror to reveal the greatest scandals happening within the UN at the behest of the Security Council.

Perhaps future generations can one day celebrate the rebirth of a UN committed to paying recompense to those who are most in need, a UN unshackled from the demands of warmakers and money mongers.

KATHY KELLY is a co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness (www.vitw.org). Her book, Other Lands Have Dreams, was recently published by Counterpunch.Along with eight other internationals, Kelly is on day 11 of the Geneva Fast for Economic Justice for Iraq. They will end their fast on the final day of UNCC deliberations (June 30) which are occurring at the UN in Geneva. She can be reached at: Kathy@vitw.org




More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South