Bear Your Cross Manfully, Mr Clinton

Weaving its silent enigmatic conundrum, Time has enveloped the world in a powerful synchronicity. As Muslims observe the holy Ramadan, the mysterious hand of the divine has ordained that the month-long ritual coincides with and overlaps the Jewish Hannukkah and Christian Christmas at one end, and the Hindu Makar Sankranti at the other. Perhaps this is why the unity of the human aspiration towards the divine and the brotherhood of man are being experienced so tangibly by peoples across the globe, as witnessed by the spontaneous revulsion to the American bombing of Iraq, even in countries whose governments supported the military action.

Hence it is a pity that though he has called a merciful halt to the bombings, the morally challenged Bill Clinton has not seen fit to introspect on the intimate link between sex and spirituality; to take refuge in the latter to transmute and transcend the limitations of the former. This is a secret and a truth known to all ancient civilisations. It is also the symbolism and deeper meaning behind the crucifixion. The cross is not merely an instrument on which Jesus met his human end, but a powerful spiritual symbol with an antiquity pre-dating the Christian era. It represents the journey of spiritual evolution, in which human consciousness, initially derived from the sex centre, is elevated to a greater harmony.

The American President, however, notwithstanding reports of spiritual counselling by a minister of the church, seems conspicuously incapable of deriving his self-identity from a higher centre. This alone can explain why he unleashed a four-day bombing spree on tiny Iraq on the very eve of Ramadan, in the cynical belief that this would dissuade the House of Representatives from pursuing the impeachment motion against him. Since he expected to emerge from the one-sided conflict with a winner’s halo, the motion would die a natural death as the American people would not countenance the impeachment of a ‘hero’ President. In such a scenario, the savage mockery and anger of world opinion, and the shame and humiliation this must have heaped upon the American psyche, were mere pinpricks that could be brushed away, because nothing succeeds like success…

But as with the best-laid plans of mice and men, this too, soon came unstuck. The surprised Republican majority played ball on the first day in support of the boys on the firing line, but after that it was business as usual. If there were any doubts that UNSCOM chief Richard Butler’s shamefully vague and conveniently tailored report was a poor excuse for the bombings, these were dispelled by the fact that during the House proceedings, the Democrats had no case but to invoke the air strikes to seek reprieve for the commander-in-chief! So no matter how much the US administration protests, international opinion is unanimous that the raids were a cynical ruse to help the President wriggle out of a tricky situation. The financially-stressed Russian Duma’s ribald appeal to Monica Lewinsky to “undertake corresponding measures to restrain the emotions of Bill Clinton,” must mark one of the most humiliating moments in the lives of the American people.

The President and his wife, however, appear beyond embarrassment, and their joint tenacity to hold on to power at any cost, would put a limpet to shame. It is significant that his office has not seen fit to protest this blatantly unseemly and undiplomatic behaviour by the parliament of a friendly country, though Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was quick to react to the Russian decision to recall its envoys from both the United States and Britain. Not surprisingly, the bombings ended once the House proceedings ended in impeachment. It is also entirely in character that the President has decided to brazen through the crisis, notwithstanding the international disrepute he has brought to his office, and the dramatic and courageous resignation of Speaker-elect Livingstone.

The real Iraq crisis, meanwhile, has only just begun. To begin with, President Saddam Hussain, one of the real though unstated targets of the attack, has both his person and his prestige intact after the event. The UN weapons inspection unit, UNSCOM, on the other hand, stands utterly discredited, having failed to produce credible evidence of prohibited weapons in the country after seven long years of physical searches. The fact that Butler could cite barely a handful of cases of alleged non-compliance to give Clinton the fig-leaf cover he needed to order the raids, gives credence to the theory that UNSCOM was actually searching for ways to breach the Iraqi leaders’ security system for a possible US assassination bid.

This clearly, cannot have been part of its mandate, and the Iraqis were within their rights not to comply with such demands once they suspected the teams’ bonafides. Even western commentators have noted that had Baghdad truly contained the kind of biological and chemical weaponry alleged by UNSCOM, the air strikes would have unleashed unprecedented contamination in the city. As this has simply failed to happen, there are growing doubts about UNSCOM’s credibility in world capitals.

What is more, the fact that Butler has himself threatened to quit if sanctions are not lifted against Iraq, as UN Humanitarian Coordinator Denis Halliday did last October, is a self-indictment of the manner in which he conducted his office. In such a scenario, Iraq has done well to refuse further cooperation with UNSCOM; it should now be disbanded without further ado. No nation should be so completely deprived of self-respect and basic sovereignty as to make its citizens boil with impotent rage. In this respect Clinton would do well to remember the ultimate impact of the Treaty of Versailles on world history. As for Saddam’s dictatorship, it is for the Iraqi people to shake off his yoke if they have had enough of his tyranny; an American attempt to ‘liberate’ them would only lead to a tin-pot dictatorship of the Shah of Iran variety, which can hardly be upheld as an improvement, either for the country or the region.

Finally, there remains the issue of the utter impotence of the United Nations and Secretary General Kofi Annan, both in restraining a recalcitrant America as well as in controlling staff member, Richard Butler, who throughout the build-up to the crisis remained more accountable to the United States than to the UN. In a virtual replay of the inefficacy of the old League of Nations, the Security Council, which was actually in session to discuss the situation in Iraq, learnt of the attack only after the missiles were on their way. It is not clear what evidence was presented to the United Kingdom to convince Tony Blair to join the attack, because other members unanimously felt that the Butler report was at best, dubious.

The attack, as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee aptly stated in parliament, “raises serious questions regarding the functioning of the collective and consultative procedures of the UN Security Council.” Indeed, if this body is to continue to have any meaning, any legitimacy, the members must collectively address themselves to these serious lacunae. Kofi Annan’s diplomatic expressions of regret that UN efforts “proved insufficient” are inadequate to describe the extent of UN failure, both in naming the aggressor, as well as in failing to defend Iraq against the unjustified intrusions of UNSCOM, which created a situation in which the recent crisis could develop. At the very least, Annan should appreciate that as one of the largest defaulters of UN financial obligations, the United States cannot be allowed to dictate the tune…

The Pioneer, 20 December 1998

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.