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Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2003 / 3 Adar I, 5763

Barbara Amiel

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The UN is fast becoming a threat to world peace | LONDON After last Thursday's meeting between President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, BBC World News ran quotes throughout the night from its reporter Rageh Omaar in Baghdad.

The Iraqi authorities, Omaar said, were not just "passively pursuing the minutiae of the disarmament process, although they are doing that", but they were also discussing defence strategies on television every night, including means of luring the Americans into urban warfare.

This somewhat callous approach to civilian safety didn't appear to shock Omaar when he next reported that he was impressed by the "calm" in Baghdad. Residents were not fleeing, he said. But where could the Sunni residents of Baghdad go? To the Kurds in the North who have faced Baghdad's poison gas? To the South, where the suppressed, exploited and tortured Shi'ites live?

And if urban warfare was to be the strategy, how did reporter Omaar think people whose tyrant has used them as human shields in the past would leave Baghdad - in buses while the authorities waved them to evacuation centres safe from allied bombs?

This is all of a piece with the BBC's steady campaign, climaxing in Sunday's Panorama, that the United States has not presented a case for war in Iraq. The BBC is by now pretty much an agitprop organisation for the old Left. This may be unconscious in some staffers who have simply imbibed those values with mother's milk.

When circumstances force, they do a slight course correction. Jeremy Paxman last week rather ungraciously conceded that "Suddenly Donald Rumsfeld makes sense. And you don't often hear that said." This was after eight European countries supported America's policy on Iraq in the face of French and German opposition - just as Rumsfeld had predicted when he labelled France and Germany as "old Europe".

The United States has been explaining the reason for military action in Iraq since George Bush said on September 11, 2001 that America would not distinguish between terrorism and those that harbour terrorists.

It repeats the ABCs of its case: Iraq's refusal to comply with the 16 UN resolutions asking it to disarm; information from the scientist who headed Iraq's nuclear programme; Iraq's use of chemical weapons and its aggressive actions in the region; Saddam Hussein's subsidy of suicide bombers, along with his blood-curdling threats.

But America is unlikely to persuade people who walk about with sacks over their heads rather than hear facts that would confound their credo.

The roster of the anti-war movement contains the usual suspects. There are members of the old Left such as the Guardian, Gerald Kaufman MP and Mayor Ken Livingstone, who, at the London anti-war rally last September 28, told the crowd "there is only one regime in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons and it is not Iraq but it is Israel, for 30 years, and there is no action plan to take weapons from Sharon".

There are the CND supporters who give succour to Iraq's nuclear weapons programme by opposing forcible disarmament, while protesting against nuclear energy in Britain. There is the Muslim Alliance of Britain, which is organising the next anti-war demonstration in London, and on whose website you can get a helpful link to the fatwas demanding that all Muslims boycott American and Israeli goods until "Israel" (their quotation marks) is returned to Palestine again.

Ideologues apart, some people are simply afraid of terrorism at home as a response to any military action abroad. Others worry about the harm to innocent civilians in Iraq - though the sincerity of this is somewhat attenuated by their indifference to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis already killed or maimed by Saddam Hussein.

Some European countries have another element in their antipathy to America's firmness in Iraq. The opposition of Germany and France (as well as the protesters in Britain) is the presentation of history's bills. Some of history's price tags reveal themselves slowly. Britain and France set about dismantling the Ottoman empire in the late 19th century.

In doing so, they made a reciprocal commitment to promoting the revival of the Arab world. They encouraged Arabists in their foreign offices and among their policy makers, civil servants, bureaucrats and diplomats. They wanted to have the Arabs as allies against the Turkish Porte and in so doing they took on a mutual commitment to these new friends.

All those countries that are now neighbours of Israel - from Syria to Lebanon and Jordan to Iraq - did not exist until these colonial masters created them to serve imperial ambitions.

The emotional commitment exists to this day. Arabia commands sympathy and credulity from the British policy establishment - as well as the British royals. One encounters officials in the Government and Civil Service who seem right out of a Lawrence of Arabia syndrome. This has affected immigration policy and law enforcement with the result that some rabid mosques have flourished in Britain.

The situation has similarities in continental Europe. In the dying days of the French empire, France decided to solve the problem of secession in Algeria by making Algeria a part of metropolitan France. The consequence was not that France extended itself to Algeria but that Algeria extended itself to France.

As a result, both France and Britain are aware of their vulnerability to an unassimilated minority containing an indeterminate number of people who are not just a troubling electoral factor but are ready to make trouble. Our countries are home to some of the most violent Islamists in the world.

Germany did not have quite the same problems, since empire eluded it. Its unassimilated minorities stem from the great post-war prosperity that created a need for "guest workers" who came from Turkey and other parts of the world to build up the resurgent German economy. But Germany has other factors in its adamant resistance to American military action.

We successfully instilled such guilt in the Germans over their past militarism that they have acquired an anti-militaristic psychology. Added to this is the natural feeling of finally getting their own back on the America that defeated and occupied their land - and rescued their old enemy France. These peculiar twists of history, together with the necessity of small powers to seek accommodation rather than force to resolve problems, have given Germany and France the idea that they can make some sort of separate peace with the terrorists.

For now, America is not making too much fuss about the defection of allies. But after Iraq is resolved, it will face the question of what to do about such associations, including its membership in both Nato and the UN.

To a large extent, Nato is America. That defence alliance was to counter a real threat, acute as well as chronic, from an expansionary Soviet empire. The ideal defence organisation doesn't have to win wars; it just has to prevent them - and Nato did that through the might of the American defence establishment. With the collapse of the USSR, most of Nato's raison d'etre vanished.

One could argue that the action in Kosovo was to some extent a search for a purpose for Nato. The Iraqi problem has exposed how hollow that search was.

The United Nations has been a thorn in the side of the free world since the mid-1970s, when Unesco was taken over by unfree countries of the Third World and the General Assembly passed the "Zionism is racism" resolution in 1975. Even so, some of us argued in print that, so long as the UN contributed a 0.1 per cent chance to helping maintain world peace, it was a worthwhile investment. That argument has worn thin.

By now the United Nations, with its Human Rights Commission chaired by Libya, is not only irrelevant; it is coming peri lously close to endangering world peace and security. The majority of its members are in breach of most tenets of the UN Charter and yet these same members are rewarded with plum UN assignments.

In March, Iraq will assume the chairmanship of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. The UN is rapidly becoming more of a force for harm than good.

Countries that actually practise and value the UN constitution should probably withdraw from it. But at the very least, America, as its chief source of funding, should give the organisation notice after Iraq that reform is necessary. One can't advocate the formation of an alternative organisation to the UN by the liberal democracies, for many reasons - primarily because the existence of two hostile power blocs would hardly help peace.

Still, if America pulled out, an unreformed UN steered by such luminaries as Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson would likely collapse under its own irrelevant ineptitude or be forced to reveal itself as a collection of quasi-Marxist and Islamist dictatorships with a few whey-faced Europeans strutting about.

The hostilities with Iraq have yielded this one unexpected side-benefit: they have forced America to face up to the emptiness of its old alignments and ultimately will force Britain to make a choice between "old Europe" and a new world order. One aspect is not in doubt: I know which side the BBC will choose.

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JWR contributor Barbara Amiel is a columnist with London's Daily Telegraph, where this column originated. Comment by clicking here.

10/29/02: When dealing with the devil, words like "dialogue" and "agreement" are comic
09/10/02: Never mind the dossier, just leaf through 'Iraq for Dummies'
08/27/02: How Kissinger the hawk was twisted into a fake dove: Lessons in liberal journalistic integrity
05/15/02: Why protecting the peace will make a mockery of justice
05/01/02: Why has it taken Le Pen to ask the awkward questions?
04/17/02: Truth about Israeli casualties is being ignored in this war
02/18/02: America's war on terrorism is a fight for all democracies: What the European elite are clueless about
01/29/02: Pity the al-Qa'eda detainees? Why is liberal 'torture' kosher?
12/18/01: What those in the London salons don't -- or won't -- see
12/04/01: We are not risking world war so women can show their ankles
11/20/01:"Anti-terrorism" has become the Western world's equivalent of the Arabian Nights' "open sesame"
11/06/01: We must rediscover a war mentality that persists through vicissitudes
10/31/01: The West is fighting to rescue Islam, not destroy it

© 2001, Barbara Amiel