The effort by the Bush Administration and Congress to portray the planned invasion of Iraq as simply an effort to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions reaches a new low in double standards. A survey of the nearly 1,500 resolutions passed by the Security Council, the fifteen-member enforcement arm of the UN in which the United States and the four other permanent members wield veto power, reveals more than ninety resolutions currently violated by countries other than Iraq. The vast majority of these violations are by governments closely allied to the United States. Not only have the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies not suggested invading these countries; the United States has blocked sanctions and other means of enforcing them, and even provides the military and economic aid that helps make ongoing violations possible.
For example, in 1975, after Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara and Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, the Security Council passed a series of resolutions demanding immediate withdrawal. However, then-US ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan bragged that “the Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. The task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.” East Timor finally won its freedom in 1999. Moroccan forces still occupy Western Sahara. Meanwhile, Turkey remains in violation of Security Council Resolution 353 and more than a score of resolutions calling for its withdrawal from northern Cyprus, which Turkey, a NATO ally, invaded in 1974.
The most extensive violator of Security Council resolutions is Israel. Israel’s refusal to respond positively to the formal acceptance this past March by the Arab League of the land-for-peace formula put forward in Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 arguably puts Israel in violation of these resolutions, long seen as the basis for Middle East peace. More clearly, Israel has defied Resolutions 267, 271 and 298, which demand that it rescind its annexation of greater East Jerusalem, as well as dozens of other resolutions insisting that Israel cease its violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, such as deportations, demolition of homes, collective punishment and seizure of private property. Unlike some of the hypocritical and meanspirited resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly, like the now-rescinded 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism, these Security Council resolutions are well grounded in international law and were passed with US support or abstention. Security Council Resolutions 446, 452 and 465 require that Israel evacuate all its illegal settlements on occupied Arab lands. The United States, however, now insists that the fate of the settlements is a matter for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The US decision to help fund Israel’s construction of Jewish-only “bypass roads” in the occupied West Bank to connect the illegal settlements with Israel puts the United States in violation of Article 7 of Resolution 465, which prohibits member states from facilitating Israel’s colonization drive.
The violations of Security Council resolutions by American allies stand in contradiction to the UN Charter and Geneva Conventions, longstanding and universally applied foundations of international law. The sections of Security Council Resolution 687 (demanding Iraqi disarmament) currently violated by Iraq, in contrast, are unprecedented infringements of traditional concepts of national sovereignty and apply to that country only.
According to Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, no member state has the right to enforce any resolution militarily unless the Security Council determines that there has been a material breach of the resolution, decides that all nonmilitary means of enforcement have been exhausted and specifically authorizes the use of military force. This is what the council did in November 1990 with Resolution 678 in response to Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, which violated a series of resolutions passed that August demanding Iraq’s withdrawal. When Iraq finally complied by withdrawing from Kuwait in March 1991, this resolution became moot.
If the United States can unilaterally claim the right to invade Iraq because of that country’s violations of Security Council resolutions, other council members could logically claim the right to invade states that are also in violation; for example, Russia could claim the right to invade Israel, France could claim the right to invade Turkey and Britain could claim the right to invade Morocco. The US insistence on the right to attack unilaterally could seriously undermine the principle of collective security and the authority of the UN, and in so doing would open the door to international anarchy.