Editorial from Irish Political Review, November 2004
As the Irish Republican Army commits itself increasingly to a peace process, the Irish Defence Force agitates for war. General Gerry MacMahon, a former Chief of Staff, wants the Defence Force freed from "the UN mandate lock", so that it can go to war (Irish Times 20.10.04). UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan spent five days in Ireland pleading for the participation of the Irish Defence Force in a system of "hit squads" to be run by the European Union for the United Nations where the UN cannot act. And John O'Shea, belligerent head of GOAL, "an international humanitarian organisation", urged the Taoiseach to respond to Annan's call, so that the UN Security Council, which is "hung up on national sovereignty", could be circumvented (Irish Times 14.10.04). And the Irish Times naturally gives great publicity to these demands that Irish soldiers should once again become active in international power politics, fighting for good causes around the world as they used to do when there was a real Regular Army in Ireland, the British Army. The undermining of the concept of 'national sovereignty', a principle which kept the peace in Europe in the half century after World War II, also sits well with the agenda at the root of the Irish Times project.
So is Kofi Annan trying to set himself up as world dictator and to sideline the Security Council into a talking shop? How can this be? The Secretary General derives his executive authority from the Security Council. If his scheme comes into effect, it can only be at the behest of the dominant power on the Security Council, the United States. If Annan proceeds with this scheme and is not disabled, it can only be that he is acting as an agent of the United States.
Annan's recent statement that the invasion of Iraq was illegal was a piece of demagoguery, designed to gain him credibility as an independent agent in world affairs. He is not an independent agent. And the invasion of Iraq was not illegal.
Insofar as there is a system of law operative on a world scale, it is the law of the United Nations as determined by the Security Council. And five States are legally exempt from it—the five Permanent Powers on the Security Council. Each of these Powers has the right to operate its own policy on a world scale. It cannot be found to be in breach of international law—unless it finds itself to be so. No judgment can be given against it. It is free to do whatever its military power enables it to do.
If Annan acts militarily on issues on which the Security Council cannot agree to act, that can only be because he acts as agent of one of the Powers which are above the law. And, in the present instance, that can only be the USA.
General MacMahon cites East Timor as if it was a precedent for what Annan proposed to the Irish:
"East Timor was stabilised by a UN-mandated but Australian-led force, which was replaced by a more traditional UN peacekeeping force with an enforcement mandate once the situation had been brought under command. In this instance, Irish soldiers served under Australian command."
But Annan's scheme is that there should be action without a UN mandate.
And General MacMahon tells a very small part of that UN story. When Indonesia occupied East Timor, Australia recognised Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor on the basis of the right of conquest. That recognition, which struck at the ideological core of the UN, was not censured by the UN, even though a Security Council resolution had condemned the Indonesian conquest. This resolution was of no practical account because it was not passed under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Carter. Chapter 7 resolutions authorise executive action to enforce them. Other resolutions are just ideological window-dressing. Israel always treats them with contempt when they are directed at it. So did Indonesia in the case of East Timor. But, while the subjects of these futile resolutions usually treat them with the contempt they deserve, it is not usual when doing so to assert a principle which is a total negation of the pretensions of the United Nations. But that is what Australia did when it recognised Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor on the basis of the right of conquest. (And Donald Rumsfeld came close to doing it recently with regard to the Israeli occupation of the whole of Palestine west of the Jordan.)
The Indonesian occupation lasted for about a quarter of a century, and during that period about a third of the population of East Timor was killed by the occupation force.
The Indonesian Government of that era had come to power in a military coup d'etat in 1965-6 in which a million people were killed. Its leader, General Suharto, was one of the pillars of the Western segment of what is called the International Community. He governed the State well, by comparison with what has happened since he was undermined. The country was not riven by religious war, and a degree of what might even be called prosperity was maintained by the method that later came to be called corruption.
(General Suharto's coup in Indonesia was instigated by the Americans and the British. The British Ambassador, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, was closely involved. There was a strong Communist movement in the country, which was massacred by Suharto's forces using the pretext that a coup was planned. Gilchrist was later moved to Ireland, where he represented the Empire during the initial phase of the Arms importation saga in 1969. Major Thomas McDowell, top dog of The Irish Times, was put in touch with Gilchrist when he offered his services to Prime Minister Harold Wilson.)
With the crumbling of the Soviet regime and China's withdrawal from foreign affairs to develop a market economy, Washington decided it had no further need of Suharto, so it decreed that he was a dictator and that the closed economy he was running was an intolerable obstacle to the free circulation of capital. It subverted the regime which had kept the region stable on behalf of 'the West/International Community' for thirty years. The liberation of East Timor from the Indonesian tyranny then became an enforceable UN position. And Australia undertook the work of liberation as enthusiastically as it had previously upheld the right of conquest. Its only object was to maintain a lucrative presence in East Timor, and it was a matter of indifference to it whether in doing it it made a mockery of the United Nations or enforced its mandate.
While Kofi Annan was in Ireland trying to raise a hit squad for use without a UN mandate, Garret FitzGerald appeared on the Vincent Browne show on Radio Eireann to discuss the invasion of Iraq. He accepted the Annan dictum that the invasion was illegal, but denied that the Irish Government acted in breach of law in facilitating the prosecution of the war by allowing Shannon Airport to be used as a transit point for US troops and the overflight of US aircraft. His reasoning (which echoed that of Martin Mansergh on the Vincent Browne show last year) was that in foreign policy matters each state has two obligations—to act in accordance with an ideal or principle and to serve its own particular interests. The Irish interest was served by facilitating the American invasion of Iraq. And, even though that invasion was illegal, Ireland did not act in breach of law in facilitating it because the invasion would not have been prevented by an Irish refusal to facilitate it, and the only effect of such a refusal would have been to damage Irish interests.
This reasoning gives rise to the strange principle that it is lawful to facilitate an illegal action if refusing to facilitate it would not have the effect of preventing it.
But why resort to such casuistry? Surely FitzGerald can read a book of rules and apply them. The book of rules of international law is the United Nations Charter. Under those rules the Secretary General is not a judge who decides what is illegal. His opinion has no judicial force whatever. And, under the rules, an action engaged in by two Permanent Powers cannot be illegal.
This is not a perverted application of the rules. Nor is it a literal application of them which breaks the spirit of them. The rules governing the operation of international law in the context of the UN (and all other contexts were abolished by the founders of the UN) were specifically designed to exclude the application of the law to the Permanent Members of the Security Council, the Powers with a Veto on Security Council resolutions.
The UN is a construction of the Great Powers of 1945, designed to serve their interests. Any other representation of it is a vacuous ideal—an illusion. The Veto of the Permanent Members makes it impossible that it should be anything else. And if it wasn't for the Veto, the UN would not exist at all. The Great Powers of 1945 would only allow it to be established on the condition that it could not act against them. The Great Powers were essentially two, the Soviet Union and the USA, with Britain a poor second, and France and China added as makeweights. And the terms in which its ideals were set out had to be acceptable to Russia and America, and had therefore to be capable of being understood in drastically different ways.
For half a century it was understood to be a general principle of the UN that new states should not be established through colonisation and conquest, even though the UN General Assembly itself, with the support of the two Great Powers, provided for the colonisation and conquest of Palestine by the Jewish nationalist movement in 1947. The other generally understood principle was that existing states which were members of the UN had inalienable sovereignty. This principle was breached in practice with regard to Yugoslavia and John O'Shea appears to want it discarded as a principle:
"The Security Council is… hung up on national sovereignty… Some mechanism must be found to prevent genocide and to stop it when it does occur… The UN was well aware of what was going on in Rwanda 10 years ago but a million people were slaughtered and it did nothing to stop it".
O'Shea writes of the UN as if it had corporate existence as a world authority, which it hasn't. If it had it would be a World Government. It is not possible that it should become a World Government. And the over-riding of national sovereignty of one state will only be done in pursuit of the interests of another state.
The outcome of the 'Rwandan genocide' was that the people who were exterminated became the rulers of the state—a paradox which arises from the misuse of language. The context of the 'genocide' was the invasion of Rwanda by a Tutsi Army from Uganda which created a reign of terror in the invasion path, provoking the response of the Hutu majority. The militaristic, American-trained Tutsi minority quickly gained the upper hand, took control of the state and set about punishing the majority in the name of Justice etc. It established a military dictatorship which has not cared to introduce democracy. At the same time its armies have been active in neighbouring states where more people have been killed than in 'the Rwandan genocide' without causing great concern to the 'international community'. These events, whether in Rwanda, Uganda or the Congo, do not express a form of barbarism endemic in African culture which the world of Western civilisation has an obligation to stop. They are products of the activity of Western civilisation in Africa, governed by very definite Western interests which determine which of these events should arouse the conscience of the world.
The British Government hailed the NATO attack on Yugoslavia as establishing the principle that national sovereignty had been set aside in the cause of the higher rights of humanitarianism. When preaching that war, the Prime Minister went around various East European capitals declaring that "literally thousands" of people were being killed every day in the Serbian genocide in Kossovo. That would have meant that well in excess of 100,000 people were killed by Serbs in the period preceding the NATO bombing. It was later established that nothing of the kind had happened. Before the NATO bombing there had been low-level conflict between an Albanian guerilla (or terrorist) movement and the Yugoslav authorities in which very few people were killed. The assault of the Serbs on the Albanians began after the NATO bombing started. it was a consequence of the bombing, not the cause. And the system established by NATO in Kossovo was one under which Serbs were terrorised by Albanians.
The Yugoslav State had to be got rid of because it was a Communist survival in the new capitalist Europe. It survived when the other Communist states fell in 1989 because it was not part of the Soviet system, having been in effective alliance with the capitalist West for forty years. When the West got the better of the Soviet enemy, it had no further need of its Communist ally against that enemy and set about destroying it, inciting extreme nationalist passions for that purpose—and the Western media never mentioned the awkward fact that, in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia towards the end of the Second World War, Royalist Serbia had been subjugated by Tito's Communist Partisan movement with the military and political support of Winston Churchill.
The United Nations is a Great Power structure. Small states, however many of them there are, cannot direct its affairs. The most honourable thing a small state can do is to refuse to become a pawn to be used by the Great Powers. That is what Switzerland has done. In recent years, and particularly under Brian Cowen as Foreign Minister, Ireland has been eagerly pawning itself.
Cowen visit Israel in January and made a speech at Tel Aviv University on January 14th. We quote from his press release:
"Some of you may not be aware of the long history of affinity between the Irish and Jewish people. The annals of Inisfallen, an 11th century manuscript mentions the visit of five Jews bearing gifts to an Irish chieftain and records show the establishment of a Jewish community in Dublin as early as the 13th century… Baron de Rothschild contributed 10,000 Francs… towards the relief of the great famine… In James Joyce's classic novel, Ulysses, the main character… is a Dublin Jew… The sixth President of… Israel, Chaim Herzog, was born in Belfast and spent his formative years in Dublin… The small but active Jewish community… has made a significant contribution to our country… Israel and Ireland have much in common… Both Israel and Ireland regained their independence during the course of the 20th century. To do so they had to fight a common occupier that has since become a close friend to both our countries… Given these many ties that bind us, I am somewhat dismayed to read in the Israeli press that Ireland is seen as being less friendly to Israel than most other Member States of the Union… The Holocaust was an atrocity without parallel… When I woke this morning, I picked up the local newspapers. Looking out of the front pages were the faces of innocent young Israelis who now lie dead; their lives, so full of hope and potential, brutally ripped away by an act of senseless terrorism. I then turned on the television to see film of the young woman, a mother of two children, who had so misguidedly blown herself up and killed these young Israelis. One can only wonder about the motives and state of mind of someone who would commit so heinous an act. I have nothing but condemnation for those who recruited her and sent her out to do such a thing."
In another speech on the same day in the same place Cowen said:
"The government of Israel rightly calls on the Palestinians to create a law-abiding society which fights against violence and incitement. For that same reason, Israel, in exercising its right to protect its people, must avoid actions that themselves might suggest a lack of regard for human life or exacerbate hatreds" etc. "I note there is a growing debate within Israel on the future of the Settlements. As you know, the position of the EU, shared by the international community is clear. The continued development and expansion of Settlements by Israel in Occupied Territories is against international law."
The two speeches read as if they were intended for different audiences. The first, apparently addressed to Zionists (i.e., Jewish nationalists), condemns Palestinian resistance to Jewish measures which in the second speech are said to be against international law, while the second contains no condemnation of Israel. And the first contains this outlandish statement: "I completely reject claims that the Roadmap has failed. The fact is that it has not been properly implemented"—it has not failed, but only failed to be implemented! But, outside the realm of diplomatic make-believe, it was generally understood that the purpose of the Roadmap was not to be implemented, but to give Tony Blair something to say to his idealistic backbenchers who wanted to be deceived so that they could support the war on Iraq.
In forging a bond between Ireland and Israel Cowen runs together two epochs in the history of the Jews which are entirely different in character. In the first the Jews led a dispersed existence in various countries, which was a mixture of oppression and privilege. Leopold Bloom belongs to that epoch—but it seems doubtful that he was a Dublin Jew, and more likely that he was constructed from Joyce's experience of life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the second epoch the Jews were formed into a colonialist movement for the conquest of Palestine, which was constituted into one of the Powers of the earth by being given a seat at the Versailles Conference of 1919. The Irish, who had never ceased to occupy Ireland, were refused even an audience at that Conference. The Jews, who had abandoned Palestine two thousand years earlier, were awarded Palestine as the place where the Jewish State was to be reconstructed, and the Jewish Agency was recognised as a kind of state power on behalf of the Jewish colonisation of Palestine that was authorised by the British Empire (Balfour Declaration, 1917) and confirmed by Versailles (League of Nations Mandate, 1921).
The Balfour Declaration was a comprehensive negation of the ideals of democracy and the rights of nations for which Britain had pretended to fight the Great War, and Balfour frankly acknowledged that it was. And the League of Nations Mandate tainted the League at the start by authorising colonisation, and the ethnic cleansing of Arabs which was seen to be its inevitable accompaniment by every politician who was not practising diplomatic simple-mindedness for an ulterior purpose. The Mandate system was supposed to prepare the peoples of the various regions of the overthrown Ottoman Empire for self-government. It did this after a fashion in other regions, but in Palestine it was understood that there was to be a change of people through Jewish colonisation before the development towards self-government should begin.
When the Irish were fighting the Black and Tans to give effect to their 1918 vote for independence, the masters of the Black and Tans were putting into effect in Palestine a policy of colonisation similar to what they had done in Ireland at the time of Spenser and Raleigh and Cromwell and William of Orange. And yet—
"Both Israel and Ireland regained their independence during the course of the 20th century. To do so they had to fight a common occupier that has since become a close friend to both our countries"!!!
"Israel" was in essence a British construction. The Balfour Declaration gave it an existence in what passes for international law, but in 1917 the Jewish population of Palestine was only 10% at most. Britain organised massive Jewish migration into Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s in order to provide a population for the Jewish state, and held the Arab population down while doing so. In 1939 the British Government began to have doubts about the whole project, and in 1945 a Socialist Foreign Minister indicated that he was not willing to continue with it. The Jewish colony then launched a ferocious terrorist assault on the British administration, and the British surrendered. And then the assault on the "occupier" began, and has continued ever since. But the "occupier" was not Britain, but the indigenous Arab population.
The ethnic cleansing of Arabs, which was launched immediately after the UN General Assembly vote of 1947 supporting the establishment of a Jewish State, has continued ever since. And the ideological dynamic at the core of the Jewish State is committed to extending that State to include the whole of what is now called Palestine, and then crossing the Jordan to where Joshua came from.
Perhaps the accomplished facts of the Jewish nationalist movement are now so extensive, and the regression of Jewish culture into religious fundamentalism is so profound, that the possibility of a secular, democratic, bi-national Palestine has gone beyond recall. But that is no good reason for moral prettifying of Jewish colonialism in Palestine. And if an Irish Foreign Minister is precluded by diplomatic considerations from speaking the truth of the matter in Tel Aviv, he should at least observe Wittgenstein's maxim: Concerning that of which one may not speak, one should remain silent.
But it is not just Brian Cowen who has been cowed by the Zionist lobby. The policy has been continued under Dermot Ahern, his successor: the Department of Foreign Affairs even tried to prevent the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee passing a motion criticising the Israeli Army for "severe human rights violations" in the West Bank and Gaza. This motion, while welcoming Israel's stated intention to withdraw 7,000 settlers from Gaza, warned that this action must form part of a wider peace deal (which Premier Sharon is determined not to have). It also noted with regret Israel's continued building of its Wall. It is reported that Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrat backbenchers voted for this motion, moved by Michael Mulcahy (FF Dublin SC), despite pleas from the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Noel Treacy (FF). So much is the Irish Government out of sync with popular feeling on this matter that the only person to vote against the motion was Senator Feargal Quinn (IT 28.10.04).
Cowen appeared on RTE's Questions & Answers a year ago, on 3rd November 2003 and spoke about Iraq. With him was Kevin Myers, the English Tory who writes the Irishman's Diary for the Irish Times. Myers said:
"Most people in this country… were opposed to the invasion. I was in favour of it because I felt it was historically inevitable. Whether you were for or against the invasion is an irrelevance. The truth is the project has to be attended to. Iraq is in the centre of the world. It's sitting on over 50% of the oil reserves. And the world has to get this right. Part of getting it right is getting the Americans out there as quickly as possible. They have not arrived with the state building apparatus that I hoped and thought they would arrive with. They didn't have any sympathy or understanding of the Iraqi people. And the consequences of this we can see. However it's not all gloomy… I do know that 2,000 BMWs a week re being imported by Iraqis, that the economy is growing, in much of the country there is law and order."
Well, the Americans are still there, and in greater numbers. Their sympathy with the Iraqis is even less than it was. Bush has been re-elected to continue more of the same. And nobody has any better ideas than him about building a state in Iraq which serves the Western interest. The liberated people have to be put down and made to submit to a state which is a mere apparatus of the invading army.
Cowen ruminated: "How does one arrange to hand over sovereignty to a stable and secure Iraq and a democratic Iraq?" The way to do it is to make the Iraqis feel "that this is not about occupation", and to "decrease, if you like, the psychology of occupation". This was to be done "through an incremental transfer of sovereignty, if you like, to the provisional authority". "OK, they are not the democratically elected Government of Iraq"—but the Iraqis can be made to get used to them. He continued:
"And I don't accept that there are many of these 'resistance fighters' [dismissive quotation marks signified by a flick of the eyebrows] who are up there trying to get rid of American influence in Iraq—that that's their sole purpose. I mean, since when did the Red Cross become a legitimate target for resistance fighters? When did the United Nations itself, which is us by the way… What that points up is that there are elements who are violently engaged in Iraq which is being portrayed simply as an anti-American thing, which is in fact more fundamental than that. I mean, to attack the International Red Cross is just, is so far out of any spectrum of any type of activity that people want to, that one wants to get in this idea of resistance. It's just unacceptable. The UN on the 19th of August, we lost our representatives. And too often the UN is spoken of as if it's not our organisation. It is our organisation."
Cowen did not indicate what he meant by "more fundamental than that". Presumably he meant Islamic—though Myers, drawing on his vast fund of wisdom, said that Iraq was not Islamist.
The Bush administration, before the invasion, ridiculed the UN with well-founded arguments. The UN refused to authorise the invasion (which did not make it illegal) but, after the event, it tried to normalise the Occupation and it became unrealistic to treat it as anything but part of the entourage of the Occupation force. The Red Cross did likewise, thereby going beyond the function for which it was formed. (By the way, which branch of the Red Cross was attacked in Iraq? This organisation is run by autonomous national committees, one in each country, to which Government appoints members. The Irish Red Cross, for example, is not allowed to act North of the Border. In the Middle East the organisation is called the Red Crescent.)
The disarmed secular state of Iraq was invaded, and the state as an administration was systematically destroyed. Are there rules for what a people whose state has been destroyed on them are entitled to do? It would be useful if Cowen drew up a manual for them, since the Iraqi situation is likely to be reproduced elsewhere.
Neither the invasion force, nor the UN has made an estimate of Iraqi casualties. The latest estimate made by a medical source (published in the BMA's Lancet) is 100,000 civilians killed. The informal comment from Whitehall is that 'we' had to kill them, because Saddam Hussein would have killed them if 'we' hadn't, and that by killing them at least 'we' freed them from Saddam. And Cowen—his Presidency of the Security Council having gone to his head—has made us part of that 'we'.
Europe In Crisis.
Poem Addressed To Blair/Bush.
An Cor Tuathail: Wee Black Danny.
Tom Paulin And The Literati.
All-Ireland Labour In All-Ireland Politics.
"State Funded Sectarianism And Pandering
Gageby, McDowell And The Irish Times.
Captain Kelly's Detractors.
Irish Establishment Steals The Presidency.
Peter Hart Responds.
A Right To Return.
The Clonbanin Column.
Carryduff And 1798.
To Work Or Not?
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