Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Lifting the Sanctions

The New York Times reports that President Bush is seeking the termination of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. But the Times puts a manipulative spin on the President’s effort:

Many members and perhaps a majority of the Security Council, led by France, Germany, Russia and China, vigorously opposed the war in Iraq, and now several of them, led by France, are pushing to give the United Nations the central role in Iraq's transitional government — an idea Bush opposes. Calling on these same nations to vote to lift sanctions on Iraq would require them to give indirect approval of the war, or at least of its outcome.

This last sentence is wrong - no "approval" of the war or its outcome would be implied, either directly or indirectly, only a recognition of the fact that the government against which those sanctions were warranted and directed has ceased to be. If the Saddam Hussein government of Iraq had been destroyed by an earthquake, a hurricane or a plague the results would be the same - and each nation that opposed the war would certainly have opposed an earthquake, hurricane or plague. In that event, would the Times say that a vote by these same nations to lift sanctions on Iraq requires them to give indirect approval of that earthquake, hurricane or plague, or at least of its outcome? Of course not. Indeed, the Times grudgingly admits in the very next sentence: But because the economic sanctions forbidding trade with Iraq were put in place in 1991 to pressure the government of Saddam Hussein, it might be hard now to argue that they should not be lifted. But that sentence is also not completely correct, because saying that "it might be hard to argue" against the President's request grossly understates the force of his argument. In fact, it is impossible to argue against the President's request in good faith, exactly because the sanctioned government is gone and there is no countervailing "implied approval of the war" argument that can be made.

France and other countries that opposed the war in Iraq may well resist lifting the sanctions because that would clear the way for Iraqi oil to be sold openly and free of the United Nations "Oil for Food" program - and otherwise release Iraq from United Nations (and hence French) control. If such countries do resist lifting the sanctions they will most likely argue exactly that Calling on these same nations to vote to lift sanctions on Iraq would require them to give indirect approval of the war, or at least of its outcome.

In other words, the Times is so eager to apologize for French obstructionism to American efforts in Iraq that the Lords of 43d Street can't even wait for the Gallic obstruction to occur before attempting to justify it.

UPDATE: The Times' manipulative reporting of the President's action might be compared with the straightforward Washington Post version of the same report:

With Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein now removed from power, the United States asked the United Nations Security Council to lift the economic sanctions imposed on his government after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Removal of the sanctions would allow whatever new government emerges in Iraq to export oil without restrictions and trade freely on world markets.

All so very true. And, unlike the Times version, so very lacking in anti-American apology.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Euro-rot continues as the Financial Times reports:

Diplomats at the UN said the Security Council was still deeply divided on the issue of when to remove sanctions on Iraq. ... They said they ... believed negotiations over the lifting of sanctions were still in "early stages" and formed part of broader talks on the future of the oil-for-food programme, the role of the UN, and the weapons inspection regime. ... [D]iplomats said France and Russia - who opposed the US-led attack on Iraq - were unlikely to approve the lifting of sanctions in the near term because it could provide post-facto legitimacy to the war. ... But a senior diplomat cautioned that opposition to the ending of sanctions could be dictated by commercial reasons. He pointed out that Russia and France are both among the top 10 beneficiaries of the oil-for-food programme... If the US is unable to convince its fellow Security Council members to lift sanctions, "it seems clear that Washington is fully prepared to restart Iraqi oil without the blessing of the UN", said Aaron Brady, analyst at Boston-based Energy Security Analysis. "With minimal damage to the northern and southern oil wells and the Ceyhan storage tanks already full, there is no physical or infrastructure reason why exports cannot resume very quickly," he added.

Someone might want to remind Messrs. Putin and Chirac, especially, that the United Nations did not impose sanctions against Iraq as a way of disapproving of the United States invading that country. Those sanctions were imposed for very specific transgressions and abuses committed solely by Saddam Hussein's government. To require the lifting of the sanctions be considered only as "part of broader talks on the future of the oil-for-food programme, the role of the UN, and the weapons inspection regime" is transparently abusive of the Security Council's rationale for imposing sanctions against the Hussein government in the first place. So it looks likely that the United Nations will render itself - or, alternatively, France, Germany and Russia will render the United Nations - again irrelevant, this time perhaps provoking the clear disregard of Security Council sanctions and the "Oil-for-Food" program by the United States. I have not studied the exact wording of the 1991 sanctions resolution. Perhaps it can be construed to apply only to Hussein-led Iraq, in which case it could be disregarded without being violated. That would help save face for the UN - at the cost of perhaps extending what appear every day more to be its death throes.

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