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News ::
05 Jun 2003

By Sara Flounders
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 5, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Sara Flounders

Possession is nine-tenths of the law. That was confirmed on May 22 when
the United Nations Security Council voted to legalize the military
occupation of Iraq by the United States and Great Britain.

The Security Council handed over both governmental power and unlimited
economic control of Iraq's oil wealth to the U.S. and British occupying

The United States administration managed to secure an overwhelming vote
of 14 of the council's 15 members. Only Syria refused to even attend the

This infamous resolution will long be reviled. It establishes a
dangerous precedent. And it places every developing nation at far
greater risk of predatory imperialist war.

The vote swept away the 65 UN resolutions against Iraq that had imposed
13 years of the cruelest sanctions in history. These sanctions have now
been replaced--with a resolution that gives the U.S. and Britain
authority far beyond any given to an occupying power in UN history.

There is no time limit for U.S. political rule and economic control over
Iraq's resources. The May 23 New York Times bragged that the United
States had "gained the authority to do as it sees fit."

The United Nations will be allowed to "check" the resolution after one
year. But since the United States and Great Britain have veto power,
this is meaningless.

Control of Iraq's vast oil wealth is explicitly granted to the
U.S./British Authority. Representatives of the UN, World Bank and
International Monetary Fund will be allowed to "participate." So these
financial institutions, which are dominated by U.S. capital, can express
their opinions.

Before the war began, France, Germany and Russia--all members of the
Security Council--had warned that U.S. action would constitute a breach
of United Nations resolutions and a violation of international law. Why
did they reverse themselves within the space of less than two months?

Why did the United States go back to the UN? Why did Washington need the
UN vote?

The U.S. administration threatened that if it didn't succeed in winning
this vote, the very future of the UN would be at stake.

The bargaining for votes had nothing to do with assisting the people of
Iraq or solving the enormous humanitarian crisis created by the war and
the years of sanctions. It was a series of secret agreements on the
division of Iraq's past and future wealth.

This UN vote raises important questions that the world movement against
the criminal war must deal with.


In order to understand the vote's significance and the sweeping mandate
over Iraq handed to the U.S. ruling class and its junior partner
Britain, it is necessary to examine the importance of law in capitalist

In carrying out their war against Iraq, Bush and the Pentagon brass
broke their own laws as well as international treaties the United States
had helped construct on the conduct of war, including the Nuremburg and
Geneva conventions. They violated the UN Charter and flouted the UN
Security Council in initiating the war. They violated the U.S.
Constitution and War Powers Act.

Yet law is of enormous importance to the ruling class in the United
States, and to all capitalist property relations on a global scale. The
giant transnational U.S. corporations want and need undisputed legal
authorization in order to sell billions of dollars in Iraqi oil that
they now control.

In the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, storage tanks of Iraqi oil
are full to the brim. But there are no buyers until it is clear who is
legally authorized to sell the oil. Until this issue is resolved, no oil
tankers are willing to stop at the Mina al-Bakr terminal, Iraq's sole
outlet in the Persian Gulf.

There are billions of dollars in contracts for reconstruction at stake--
and billions of dollars in future loans, designed to bleed Iraq into
overwhelming debt to pay for this reconstruction.

The enormously profitable business of reconstructing all that U.S. bombs
laid waste has major corporations in the United States, and thousands of
smaller sub-contractors around the world, anxious to resolve who is
authorized to sign contracts.

Banks want to know who has clear title to the billions of dollars that
the UN Security Council froze in 1990 at U.S. insistence. These funds,
which rightfully belong to Iraq, could be held for years or decades and
be a source of endless litigation, if no one has the authority to lay
hold of them.

That's why the Bush administration used bribes and threats to secure the

U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte had presented a first draft of
the resolution on May 9. Britain and Spain co-signed. This opened up the
negotiations to broker a deal. Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled
to Berlin and Moscow to pressure their votes. He conferred via telephone
with the heads of government and ministers of other countries.


Many secret financial arrangements on loans and future contracts have
been part of this bargaining among thieves.

Washington agreed to 90 changes in the final version of the actual
wording of the resolution. But the changes were superficial. They did
not alter the resolution's main thrust.

As bribes to gain the votes of France and Russia, the United States used
the leverage of the billions of dollars in loans that Iraq owed these
countries from before the 1990 war.

These loans will be restructured. Any illusions that the UN would be a
vehicle to resist U.S. domination were shattered by these countries'

The authority to negotiate and structure loans and oil contracts for
future development is the most sweeping power. Only the banks will
benefit. This was Washington's priority.

The U.S. military didn't fight this war to give the Iraqi people free
health care, free education, subsidized housing or food. These are
programs Washington wants to destroy. Each Iraqi ministry that organized
to provide these basics was looted and destroyed.

To understand what the U.S. corporations and banks have in store for
Iraq, look at the situation next door in Saudi Arabia. In order to stay
in power, an utterly compliant and corrupt feudal group, the Saud
family, has let U.S. and British oil corporations get the lion's share
of its oil and gas. This is the country with the largest oil reserves in
the world, the most oil pumped and a smaller population than Iraq.

Saudi Arabia, despite its oil wealth, has been bled dry. Billions of
dollars have been spent for worthless military equipment that can only
be maintained by U.S. technicians. It has become a debtor nation.

Most Saudi women are still illiterate. And except for the modern cities
of Riyadh, Mecca and Medina, a large part of the population still lives
in mud villages.

Knowing this, can anyone believe that U.S. imperialism plans to spend
any significant part of the money it will control from Iraq's oil on
human needs? The plans call for the reconstruction of oil fields,
pipelines and ports, and little else.


What U.S. imperialism is attempting in Iraq has a long historical
precedent. Past capitalists have legalized the most horrendous crimes.

The slave trade in African people was not an illegal act of piracy. It
was legal capitalist trade. At one time it was legal in every U.S. state
and also under international law.

It was, by every standard, absolutely criminal in human terms. But it
was legal because for the early capitalist system it was enormously

The genocide of Native peoples and the theft of their lands across the
United States were carried out through hundreds of treaties. The U.S.
government broke those treaties, yet they were important--not to the
Native people, who were forced to sign them and who came from societies
that could not conceive of owning or selling land. The treaties were
essential to the railroad barons, land speculators and bankers in order
to have clear title to the stolen land. If the land could not be bought
and sold and speculated on, it had no capitalist value.

Colonialism, its wars of conquest, the carving up of India, China, most
of Asia, all of Africa and Latin America--all this was codified in
international law and the treaties of the day. It was blessed by popes,
praised by poets and artists, justified in universities.

This was really pillage and looting of whole parts of the globe. But
constructing a legal basis for this piracy was essential for stable
capitalist exploitation. All the colonial powers erected a huge edifice
of laws to embellish their utterly criminal rule.

Ninety-nine percent of all law under capitalism has to do with property,
possession, ownership. Who is entitled to inheritance and profit? The
basis of law is power.


The purpose of law and of the whole state apparatus of cops, courts,
prisons and especially the military is to guarantee that the wealth
accumulated over generations of legalized theft and the exploitation of
millions of workers--in sweatshops, the slave trade, the near-genocide
of indigenous nations, and colonial conquest--stays in the hands of a
tiny class of globally powerful super-rich capitalists.

Only a tiny fraction of the whole body of law under capitalism deals
with issues of human rights. These are the laws and rights that have
been won through the massive mobilizations of the oppressed. The
guarantees in the Bill of Rights such as the right to free speech and
assembly, now under such severe attack, came in response to demands from

Laws against slavery, laws prohibiting child labor, laws minimally
protecting the rights of workers to organize and form unions, laws
against the most blatant forms of bigotry and discrimination--all these
came from powerful grassroots movements.

These laws dealing with rights for those without large-scale property
are always under attack. The laws dealing with property ownership are
endlessly reinforced.

The only times in history when the laws of property have been
successfully challenged have been in revolutionary mass upheavals that
altered the whole fabric of society.

The Iraqi people have overturned past efforts at colonial domination.
The mass demonstration that swept across Baghdad as the UN resolution
was being debated was a sign that the people are increasingly aware of
what the United States has in store--and that they are determined to

Although UN agencies may be able to distribute some emergency food
supplies, the Security Council vote to authorize and legalize colonial
subjugation will teach a lesson to the world movement.

It is an infamous decision that sets a far more dangerous precedent. No
confidence can be placed in this institution that is incapable of
challenging U.S. imperialism. It is made up almost entirely of bourgeois
governments that do not represent the people of the world.

The struggle against imperialism and war can only be carried out by an
independent movement of the masses of working and oppressed people
worldwide. For the first time this movement has had a glimpse of its own

This is the future.

In the difficult period ahead, the power of this movement acting in
solidarity with the Iraqi people is the only force capable of
challenging U.S. plans of endless war and further conquest.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
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