by Don Franks
From where most ordinary mortals stand, the United Nations is as far off as the halls of heaven, as far off and similar in other ways.
Like heaven, the UN is an important high place, said to affect us somehow for good, in ways we only vaguely understand. The UN has angels called Peace Keepers, they flit about the earth to carry out the good Lord’s will. Once in a while we see fleeting media images of wise leaders in well-cut cloth taking counsel. They pass solemn resolutions, dispatch more angels. Like heaven, the UN has been going on seemingly forever, would we not be lost without it?
We cannot examine heaven, we can soberly look at the United Nations. This human made creation is a permanently uneasy association of the world’s top imperialist states. Permanently uneasy because of these states’ conflicting predatory interests.
UN forces are deployed by the Security Council. The leaders of five rival nuclear powers: USA, France, China, Russia,and the UK. Each of these states has the power of veto, a power accurately reflecting the conflicting tensions between them.
The democratic showcase of the UN is the General Assembly. In this assembly all recognised nations get one vote. Some resolutions have passed in the General Assembly against the wishes of the US and other major powers. One example of this is resolutions against the US blockade of Cuba. Since 1993, many UN resolutions have condemned the US embargo. These in no way prevented the US from continuing the blockade for as long as it wished to.
UN resolutions are not meaningless. They are often a handy avenue for the dirty diplomacy of big murdering powers . Such as when the UK backed the Saudis to the UN Human Rights Council in return for the Saudis backing the UK onto the same body. General Assembly votes are often bought with promises of aid, to the main benefit of time-serving bureaucracies.
But would not the world be a worse place without the United Nations?
Without the UN, big power negotiations and military intervention would just carry on under another name.
The United Nations was set up by the winners of World War 2. These powers redivided the world between them, in the interests of their ruling classes. The fine words and titles of the UN afforded legitimacy to this new world order.
An early initiative of UN was to create the state of Israel, dispossessing the Palestinians and ensuring US dominance in the region.Then, the UN intervened in Korea to support a crumbling dictatorship in the South and preserve western imperialist interests.
Later, in the 1960s, the United Nations provided cover for western meddling in the Congo, helping overthrow the local radical leadership of Patrice Lumumba. More recently the United Nations has enabled the sanctions on Iraq – sanctions which have killed many of thousands of Iraqi people.
But, for all its faults, at least the UN has brought nations together in a way which has prevented nuclear war?
Nuclear bombs have been dropped just twice, by the US government, when there was no possibility of reprisal. Since the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki an uneasy nuclear equilibrium has been reached by big powers. The nuclear concern of the UN Security Council members is not to eliminate the devices but to keep their monopoly. In the meantime, wars large and small ravage the planet, to the detriment of its environment and poorer working people. People who have no power whatsoever in the operations of the UN.
Like heaven, the United Nations stands as a concept to prettify our world’s grim reality. If you really want to believe, it doesn’t do to think about it too much.