Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Granatstein's UN fantasies

Historian Jack Granatstein has lately moved from academia to cheer-leading, creating for himself a position as one of the Harper government's most prominent boosters. He has an Op-Ed in the Globe and Mail of January 8. It's subscriber-only but I paste the juicy bits below:

... Paul Martin's government sent troops to Kandahar precisely to play a counterinsurgency role, not for peacekeeping or peacemaking. The government of 2005 understood that there could be no peace until the Taliban were either defeated or had their support reduced to a level at which the elected Karzai government could gradually extend its control across the country.
Granatstein seems to be forgetting the famous observation of Canada's Major-General Leslie: "Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you." Leslie's statement acknowledges two important things: One, pursuit of a military solution in Afghanistan will only result in a growing insurgency; and two, the NATO war will also cause growing opposition from Afghan civilians.

Granatstein continues:
The opposition parties and those who support them have forgotten a few facts. ... The United Nations authorized the intervention and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization picked up the burden.

In other words, Afghanistan is part of a UN-authorized mission now being conducted by NATO-led forces. Canada, then, is not, as [Defence critic Steven] Staples puts it so crudely, "really fighting for George Bush." It is, in fact, trying to help fulfill a UN mandate. ...
UN mandate? UN authorized? That's a stretch. Here's what one of Canada's leading jurists Osgoode Hall's Michael Mandel has to say about the opening of Operation Enduring Freedom:
The Security Council passed two Resolutions on terrorism between September 11 and America’s attack on Afghanistan on October 7 (SR 1368 of September 12 and SR1373 of September 28). No honest reading of these could possibly conclude that they authorize the use of force. They condemn the attacks of September 11 and take a whole host of measures to suppress terrorism ... [N]ot once does either of these resolutions mention military force or anything like it. They don’t even mention Afghanistan by name. Nor do they use the accepted formula "all necessary means" of Resolution 678 of November 29, 1990 by which the Security Council authorized the Gulf War of 1991.

Absent authorization of the Security Council, the only even barely arguable legal basis for the war in Afghanistan is the right of self-defence preserved by Article 51 of the [UN] Charter ... (
But Article 51 surely doesn't apply either for several reasons, as Mandel explains.

Elsewhere, writing with David Orchard, Mandel and co-author write of the status of ISAF, the multinational force under the NATO umbrella:
... From the start, ISAF put itself at the service of the American operation, declaring "the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force" (UNSC Document S/2001/1217). When NATO took charge of ISAF, that didn't change anything. NATO forces are always ultimately under U.S. command. The "Supreme Commander" is always an American general, who answers to the U.S. president. (link)
While Granatstein, in concert with many others, sees a UN stamp of approval on America's Afghan war, honest observers should be more skeptical of the oft-repeated claims of government and military officials. The idea that the UN might take an independent stand from the US on such a matter is highly suspect. During the lead-up to the 2001 attack on Afghanistan, Bush administration officials seem to have regarded the UN as their personal clean-up crew: "Let the UN administer [Kabul] or maybe the OIC," Colin Powell advised Bush (OIC is the Organization of the Islamic Conference).
Bush asked [CIA Director George] Tenet, "How do you get the Northern Alliance to accept the Pashtun tribes?"
"The UN administration."
"It's okay with me," Bush said. "No problem with the UN doing Kabul." [Bob Woodward, Bush at War, pp 231, 236]
If you still think that the UN would only ever be backing a "Just War", consider the remarks of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan when he explained how the UN became involved with the Iraq occupation.
"The Security Council’s mandate was for us to help the Iraqi people. I don’t think one can say that the Security Council sanctioned the occupation of Iraq, it merely noted the occupation of Iraq and asked the UN to help the Iraqi people..." (see reference here.)
Recall that Annan himself, while still S-G, had labeled the US war in Iraq "illegal".


milnews.ca said...

Interesting - if the Iraq work is "illegal", why did the current UN Security Council decide to extend the mandate of the Multinational Force in IRQ, going as far as, "Welcoming the willingness of the multinational force to continue efforts to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq"?

http://xrl.us/bd29b (Link to daccessdds.un.org)

Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

Would you be interested in speaking in Hamilton about Afghanistan? Please contact me at brendanstone83@gmail.com