This article first appeared in revolution magazine’s Middle East bulletin MidEast Solidarity, issue #1, Spring 2001. It looks at the division of labour between the United Nations and western imperialist powers in committing mass murder in Iraq in the 1990s; in 2003, of course, the US-led invasion took place, killing thousands more and devastating Iraq, creating the current morass. The authors were members of the bulletin’s editorial group and active in the Middle East Information and Solidarity Collective.

UN sanctions killed over a million Iraqis and softened up the country for an armed imperialist invasion, symbolising division of labour between UN and imperialist powers

UN sanctions killed over a million Iraqis and softened up the country for a subsequent armed imperialist invasion, symbolising division of labour between UN and imperialist powers

by Grant Poultney and Yan Lin

The purposes of the United Nations are:

1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective action collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace. . .
Chapter 1. Purposes and Principles: Article 1 of the United Nations Charter

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Four days later, the United Nations implemented a trade embargo on Iraq. This paralysed the country. Before the sanctions were imposed, Iraq imported 70 percent of its food. The sanctions in place since 1990 have crippled one of the once-healthiest countries in the world. UK and US politicians justify having the sanctions in place to contain the threat of Saddam Hussein.

In 1999, the United Nations ICE Fund (UNICEF) reported that over half a million Iraqi children had died as a result of UN sanctions. This works out to be an average of 200 children a day. How do the deaths of these children fit in with the first article in the UN charter? What have they got to do with ‘containing’ Saddam Hussein?

Depleted uranium

Iraq also suffers a continuing legacy as a result of the United States using Read the rest of this entry »

Many well-intentioned people still see the United Nations as some kind of alternative to imperialism. Below we’re reprinting an article that first appeared in issue #2 of MidEast Solidarity (Autumn 2002), the Middle East bulletin of revolution magazine. The anti-imperialist arguments were contributed by Scott Hamilton of the Auckland-based Anti-Imperialist Coalition and Philip Ferguson of the Christchurch-based Middle East Information and Solidarity Collective.

The UN provided cover for the overthrow of the progressive regime in the Congo, led by Patrice Lumumba

Isn’t the United Nations a neutral body representing the international community? Can’t it work in an unbiased way?

The United Nations was established by the winning powers in World War 2. They redivided the world between them, with little concern for anyone else. The UN was created to give legitimacy to this new world order.

One of the first major activities of the UN was to create the state of Israel, thereby dispossessing the Palestinians. Shortly after this, the UN intervened mainly in Korea to back up the dictatorship in the South and preserve imperialist interests.

In the Congo in the early 1960s, the United Nations used its ‘neutral’ cover to play an important part in the overthrow of the radical regime of Patrice Lumumba. This resulted in years of dictatorship and the continued plunder of the wealth of the Congo by western interests.

Today, the United Nations is responsible for the Read the rest of this entry »

Among its past services at the top table of the UN, New Zealand chaired the sanctions committee on Iraq; their sanctions killed at least a million Iraqis, half of them children

by Philip Ferguson

The New Zealand elite is slapping itself on the back, having won a guest place on the UN Security Council. These particular places are set aside as a harmless concession to the rest of the world by the five permanent members on the Council, any one of which can veto action being taken by the UN’s equivalent to a central committee or war council (as it so often is).

New Zealand’s accession to the top table for the second time in two decades has bolstered the New Zealand elite’s flattering view of itself as punching above its weight globally – being “the small country with a big voice” in prime minister John Key’s words – due to what Key calls “its history of being an honest broker” and of “doing what is right”. While other countries spent “millions” on their campaigns to get elected to the Security Council, “we ran on our merits” he declared.

The NZ campaign this year, Key noted, was assisted by Read the rest of this entry »

bundeskartellamt-amazon-marktbehinderung

My trade union is engaged in a long term fight against Amazon for half-way tolerable pay and working conditions in its distribution centres in Germany.  Basic stuff like trade union representation or even a works council, reasonable breaks, being paid for the time spent while standing in line for security checks. Compliance with local labour law.  Some degree of respect for workers from the management. etc.

We are trying to extend this fight internationally and have had some initial success.

But it would help all those who are not uncritical admirers of totalitarian hyper-capitalism knew a thing or two about Amazon’s business strategy and role in the great cancer.  Matthew Stoller’s piece here has a good brief summary of just how and why this electronic trading monopolist has become so powerful.

Firstly, this isn’t an electronic retailer any more.  (Amazon CEO Jeff) Bezos’ ambitions are much wider – he is constructing a monopolist trading empire, something like a global East India Company. Amazon itself says that it competes in the following sectors:

physical-world retailers, publishers, vendors, distributors, manufacturers, and producers of our products, other online e-commerce and mobile e-commerce sites, including sites that sell or distribute digital content, media companies, web portals, comparison shopping websites, and web search engines, either directly or in collaboration with other retailers, companies that provide e-commerce services, including website development, fulfillment, customer service, and payment processing, companies that provide information storage or computing services or products, including infrastructure and other web services, companies that design, manufacture, market, or sell consumer electronics, telecommunication, and electronic devices.

Amazon is hardly taxed because all its profits are Read the rest of this entry »

Over the last six months an average of around 100 strikes and worker protests have been recorded every month in China – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

Over the last six months an average of around 100 strikes and worker protests have been recorded every month in China – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

by Han Dongfang

In early September, about 16,000 workers at two Chinese factories producing touch-screens for well-known brands such as Apple went on strike after management reneged on a promise to pay a US$100 holiday bonus.

The strikes were quickly resolved but still hit the headlines in the West because the bonus was supposed to include a box of moon cakes, a traditional gift during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. The New York Post issued a dire warning to Apple fans, “No cake, no iPhone 6!”

The ‘moon cake strikes’ were further proof, if any were needed, that China’s workers are not afraid to take a stand and defend their legal rights and interests when they are threatened, no matter how trivial the dispute might seem to be about.

At China Labour Bulletin, over the last six months, we have recorded on average around 100 strikes and worker protests every month, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Although protests by factory workers tend to catch most of the international headlines, strikes in the manufacturing industry only account for around 40 per cent of all the strikes in China. Transport workers, teachers, construction workers, coal miners and those in the retail and service industries, are all willing and able to take industrial action if needed.

More often than not, worker protests in China follow the pattern of the Read the rest of this entry »

The article below is by Murtaza Hussain, a Toronto-based writer and analyst of Middle Eastern politics.  It appeared on the Al-Jazeera site last November and tells a moving story of the West’s double standards in relation to the Third World in general and the Arab and Islamic-Central Asian world in particular.  As the NZ government considers throwing in its lot with Washington in relation to ISIS in Syria, articles like this are important reminders of these double standards.

Nabila Rehman: seven of her siblings were wounded and her grandmother was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan

Nabila Rehman: seven of her siblings were wounded and her grandmother was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan

“Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: ‘What did my grandmother do wrong?'” writes Murtaza Hussain [Reuters].

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year-old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones – a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day – followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother traveled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend: Read the rest of this entry »

Apexby Michael Roberts

This time last year, I outlined the results of the Global Wealth report published by Credit Suisse Bank (see my post, http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/global-wealth-inequality-10-own-86-1-own-41-half-own-just-1/). Compiled by Tony Shorrocks and Jim Davies, formerly at the UN, the report last year showed that the top 1% owned 41% of all the personal wealth in the world; the top 10% owned 86% and the bottom 50% of owned less than 1% of all the wealth. This staggering level of inequality certainly attracted interest and my post on this was the most popularly viewed one on my blog ever.

Now Credit Suisse have published its 2014 report (cs_global_wealth_report_2014_vF) compiled by the same academics. According to the latest calculations, global wealth inequality has got even worse. Taken together, the bottom half of the global population still own less than 1% of total wealth. And the richest 10% still own more or less the same, now 87%. But the top 1% now own 48% of all global personal wealth! If you like a soundbite: the top 1% of adults in the world own nearly half of all personal wealth. There seems to be no stopping the growing inequality of Read the rest of this entry »