A R C H I V E S
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|Chemical coup d'etat|
|04/17/02 at 16:08:54|
The US wants to depose the diplomat who could take away its pretext for war with Iraq
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 16th April 2002
On Sunday, the US government will launch an international coup. It has been planned for a month. It will be executed quietly, and most of us won't know what is happening until it's too late. It is seeking to overthrow 60 years of multilateralism, in favour of a global regime built on force.
The coup begins with its attempt, in five days' time, to unseat the man in charge of ridding the world of chemical weapons. If it succeeds, this will be the first time that the head of a multilateral agency will have been deposed in this manner. Every other international body will then become vulnerable to attack. The coup will also shut down the peaceful options for dealing with the chemical weapons Iraq may possess, helping to ensure that war then becomes the only means of destroying them.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) enforces the Chemical Weapons Convention. It inspects labs and factories and arsenals and oversees the destruction of the weapons they contain. Its director-general is a workaholic Brazilian diplomat called Jose Bustani. He has, arguably, done more in the past five years to promote world peace than anyone else on earth. His inspectors have overseen the destruction of two million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world's chemical weapon facilities. He has so successfully cajoled reluctant nations that the number of signatories has risen from 87 to 145 in the past five years: the fastest growth rate of any multilateral body in recent times.
In May 2000, as a tribute to his extraordinary record, Bustani was re-elected unanimously by the member states for a second five-year term, even though he had yet to complete his first one. Last year Colin Powell wrote to him to thank him for his "very impressive" work. But now everything has changed. The man celebrated for his remarkable achievements has been denounced as an enemy of the people.
In January, with no prior warning or explanation, the US State Department asked the Brazilian government to recall him, on the grounds that it did not like his "management style". This request directly contravenes the Chemical Weapons Convention, which states "the Director-General ... shall not seek or receive instructions from any government." Brazil refused. In March, the US government accused Bustani of "financial mismanagement", "demoralization" of his staff, "bias" and "ill-considered initiatives". It warned that if he wanted to avoid damage to his reputation, he must resign.
Again, the US was trampling the convention, which insists that member states shall "not seek to influence" the staff. He refused to go. On March 19th, the US proposed a vote of no-confidence in Mr Bustani. It lost. So it then did something unprecedented in the history of multilateral diplomacy. It called a "special session" of the member states to oust him. The session begins on Sunday. And this time the US is likely to get what it wants.
Since losing the vote last month, the United States, which is supposed to be the organisation's biggest donor, has been twisting the arms of weaker nations, refusing to pay its dues unless they support it, with the result that the OPCW could go under. Last week Bustani told me, "the Europeans are so afraid that the US will abandon the convention that they are prepared to sacrifice my post to keep it on board." His last hope is that the United Kingdom, whose record of support for the organisation has so far been exemplary, will make a stand. The meeting on Sunday will present Blair's government with one of the clearest choices it has yet faced between multilateralism and the "special relationship".
The US has not sought to substantiate the charges it has made against Bustani. The OPCW is certainly suffering from a financial crisis, but that is largely because the United States first unilaterally capped its budget and then failed to pay what it owed. The organisation's accounts have just been audited and found to be perfectly sound. Staff morale is higher than any organisation as underfunded as the OPCW could reasonably expect. Bustani's real crimes are contained in the last two charges, of "bias" and "ill-considered initiatives".
The charge of bias arises precisely because the OPCW is not biased. It has sought to examine facilities in the United States with the same rigour with which it examines facilities anywhere else. But, just like Iraq, the US has refused to accept weapons inspectors from countries it regards as hostile to its interests, and has told those who have been allowed in which parts of a site they may and may not inspect. It has also passed special legislation permitting the president to block unannounced inspections, and banning inspectors from removing samples of its chemicals.
"Ill-considered initiatives" is code for the attempts Bustani has made, in line with his mandate, to persuade Saddam Hussein to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention. If Iraq agrees, it will then be subject to the same inspections -- both routine and unannounced -- as any other member state (with the exception, of course, of the United States). Bustani has so far been unsuccessful, but only because, he believes, he has not yet received the backing of the UN Security Council, with the result that Saddam knows he would have little to gain from signing.
Bustani has suggested that if the Security Council were to support the OPCW's bid to persuade Iraq to sign, this would provide the US with an alternative to war. It is hard to see why Saddam Hussein would accept weapons inspectors from UNMOVIC -- the organisation backed by the Security Council -- after its predecessor UNSCOM was found to be stuffed with spies planted by the US government. It is much easier to see why he might accept inspectors from an organisation which has remained scrupulously even-handed. Indeed, when UNSCOM was thrown out of Iraq in 1998, the OPCW was allowed in to complete the destruction of the weapons it had found. Bustani has to go because he has proposed the solution to a problem the US does not want solved.
"What the Americans are doing," Bustani says, "is a coup d'etat. They are using brute force to amend the convention and unseat the director-general." As the Chemical Weapons Convention has no provisions permitting these measures, the US is simply ripping up the rules. If it wins, then the OPCW, like UNSCOM, will be fatally compromised. Success for the United States on Sunday would threaten the independence of every multilateral body.
This is, then, one of those rare occasions on which our government could make a massive difference to the way the world is run. It could choose to support its closest ally, wrecking multilateralism and shutting down the alternatives to war. Or it could defy the United States in defence of world peace and international law. It will take that principled stand only if we, the people from whom it draws its power, make so much noise that it must listen. We have five days in which to stop the US from bullying its way to war.
16th April 2002
|Re: Chemical coup d'etat|
|04/23/02 at 21:56:26|
Diplomacy US style
The removal of Jose Bustani demonstrates George Bush's contempt for cooperation
Tuesday April 23, 2002
Tony Blair might believe he belongs to an international coalition, but George Bush has other ideas. Bush's international war against terrorism has not stopped him from waging a parallel war against cooperation.
Two weeks ago, the US ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna failed, for the first time, to attend a meeting of the comprehensive test ban treaty. This may suggest that America is no longer prepared to abide by the rules against the testing of nuclear warheads. A week ago, the Washington Post revealed that the Pentagon had told the Central Intelligence Agency to investigate Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, in the hope of undermining his credibility. When the CIA failed to discover any evidence of wrongdoing, the deputy defence secretary is reported to have "hit the ceiling".
On Friday, the US government succeeded in dislodging Robert Watson, the chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr Watson had been pressing member nations to take the threat of global warming seriously, to the annoyance of the oil company ExxonMobil. Last year, it sent a memo to the White House requesting that he be shoved.
Yesterday evening, after a week of arm-twisting and secret meetings, the US government forced the departure of Jose Bustani, director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. As this column predicted last week, this is the first time that the head of an international organisation has been dismissed during his term in office. The tactics the US has deployed in the past few days to oust Bustani offer a fascinating insight into the way its diplomacy works.
On Friday, the US ambassador to the OPCW organised an illegal meeting with American members of the organisation's staff. He explained that he had arrived late as he had been trying to find a replacement for Mr Bustani (this is also an illegal manoeuvre). He told the meeting that the US had been encountering "great difficulty finding people of the right calibre" because no one wants "to be associated with a dying organisation". This was news to the staff, who had previously been told by the US that sacking Bustani would revive the OPCW. But the ambassador explained that if the replacement is "like Bustani we will say 'screw the organisation'. We'll dismantle our [chemical] weapons independently and monitor them ourselves".
The US had promised that the directorship would pass to another Latin American. But the ambassador was kind enough to note that "Latin Americans are so characterised by sheer incompetence that they won't be able to make up their minds". He warned the meeting "if any of this gets out of this room, I'll kill the person responsible".
To help obtain the result it wanted, the US appears to have paid for dele gates to attend the "special session" of the OPCW it convened. Micronesia said it couldn't come, but that the US delegation could vote on its behalf (another illegal move).
This month's attempts to damage international law follow America's unilateral abandonment of the anti-ballistic missile treaty, its successful sabotage of the biological weapons convention and its rejection of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the UN treaty on gun running and the international criminal court. America is pulling away from the rest of the world, and dragging our treaties down as it goes. Given that it is in danger of alienating the very nations from whose allegiance it claims to draw its global authority, why is the US going to such lengths to destroy international cooperation? I think there may be several, overlapping reasons.
The first and most obvious is that there's no point in possessing brute strength if you are not prepared to be brutal. The US establishes its power by asserting it. Other nations are kept in a constant state of apprehension about what it might do next, which helps to ensure that they step back from confrontation.
It is also clear that at least three of these recent attempts to undermine international treaties are being pursued with an eye to the impending war with Iraq. As the American plans for destroying Saddam Hussein appear to involve new "bunker busting" nuclear weapons, the nuclear test ban treaty (which the US has never ratified) must be ignored. The US justification for war with Iraq is that Saddam Hussein may possess weapons of mass destruction. So the two foremost obstacles to war were Mr Blix and Mr Bustani, who have proposed non-violent methods of getting rid of these weapons. While the US government doubtless has genuine concerns about weapons of mass destruction, these are not the principal reasons for wishing to conquer Iraq.
War would enable the US to re-establish its authority in an increasingly wayward Middle East, while asserting control over Iraq's vast oil reserves. Iraq is also daddy's unfinished business: for George W, it's personal. War is popular: the more bellicose President Bush becomes, the higher his ratings rise. It justifies increasing state support for the politically important defence industry. Arguably, war also serves as a re-legitimisation of the state itself. The Republicans argued so forcefully in the 1990s for a "minimal state" that they almost did themselves out of a job, as many Americans began to wonder why they were paying taxes at all. War is the sole irreducible function of the state, and the ultimate justification of the greatly concentrated powers and resources this "minimal" entity in the US has accumulated. But the underlying reason for these unilateral breaches of the law is that the rest of the world allows them to happen. Hundreds of readers of last week's column wrote to the foreign secretary asking him to stand up to the US. Brian Eno organised a petition signed by celebrities as diverse as Robbie Williams, Damien Hirst, Salman Rushdie and Bianca Jagger, in the hope that, even if it won't listen to anyone else, our government might at least respond to Cool Britannia. But on Friday, the first member state to co-sponsor the US resolution to sack Mr Bustani was the United Kingdom.
It is not hard to see why European nations should seek to appease the United States. If the US can be persuaded to keep supporting global treaties, ministers argue, it will not retreat into dangerous isolationism. But once America sees that other nations will submit to its demands, it will continue to bend the treaties to suit itself until the entire framework of international law collapses. More dangerous by far than US isolationism is the unilateral demolition of the world's agreements, forcing every nation to live by its own rules.
Let Mr Bush walk out in a huff if he can't have his way, but let him be sure that if he does so, he can no longer expect to receive either moral authority or material support for anything he wishes to achieve abroad. For all the US government's talk of splendid isolation, that is the kind of loneliness his administration does not seem ready to accept.
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