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Tuesday, November 16, 2004


oil for food, money for dissolution

the bush administration has made no secret of its contempt for the united nations -- or, indeed, for most any agreement with foreign parties made by the united states government before its term began that could in any way be interpreted as a constraint on its unilateral power.

nor it is any secret -- among the shrewd, at least -- that the un functions largely as an implement of western power in the third world, providing temporary (or semipermanent) western institutions in places that are suffering for a lack of their own. as such -- and given the nature of the western world has come to appear an an americentric system of orbiting bodies turning madly in various states of angst-filled spin -- it is wholly dependent on the backing of the united states to remain a valid international body.

so no one should be illusioned that the senate investigation into oil-for-food misappropriations represents anything less than putting the united nations on trial for its life. robert novak, as a voice sympathetic to the new view of promethean power in washington, incisively implies (if somewhat overstates) the gravity the proceedings are due.

it is unfortunate, but not accidental, that such allegations as now are being brought before the senator coleman's subcommittee have been so timed. corruption within the un -- and, indeed, the eu and the american government -- are a fact of political life. does anyone really imagine that a trillion dollars can go "missing"? such sums make the billions at question in this scandal look paltry.

but corruption is no important part of the raison d'etre of this investigation. it could have been brought at any time on any of a number of scandals. it is, instead, a pretext.

the coleman investigation is better understood as a political expedient for the bush administration, now having been offered its "mandate", striking two birds with one stone. the death of the un will be viewed in the dominant neoconservative ideological narrative as prometheus' chains broken, and therefore an absolute good. secondly, it will serve as castigation for france -- whose power is magnified through the un security council -- a direct response to paris in clear terms, encouraging chirac and all who come after to behave more appropriately, that is, as an obedient american protectorate.

so, while having the appearance of responsible pragmatism, i fear that this instead is rather a petulant ideological measure on the part of the imperial party. should it ultimately result in the death -- which would be discernible through a massive cut in american financial support -- of the united nations, a great many of the beneficial effects of the un's substitute institutions would ostensibly vanish, perhaps putting beyond remediation many of the failing states the neoconservatives claim to wish to address as part of their war on terrorism.

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