Here is another ZNet Update, in these trying times. 

You can add or remove addresses -- or induce others to sign up -- at

We have a new component of ZNet -- ZNet Books -- which is just getting
started but already includes listings of quite a few of our authors and
links to their most recent books, plus brief interviews with author's
about their newest titles. We ask authors to describe what their books
are about, how they were written, and their hopes for their efforts.
More book links and interviews will be added regularly. We will also be
sending out these interviews fairly often to update recipients in hopes
you use the links to find out more about the books, and to buy them,
whether from an online store, or the publisher, or in any other manner.
It is another way for us to bring you information -- about information!

Below, to give more substance to this mailing, we include an important
essay from Phyllis Bennis regarding the role of the UN in the Iraq
conflict. After Bennis's essay, we also include a sample of the book
interviews already online, this one from David Cromwell about his new
book, Private Planet. 



Phyllis Bennis

Haven't we been here before?  Washington bribing and threatening the
United Nations, punishing countries which refuse to toe the U.S. line in
the Security Council? 

It's all just too familiar. In early 1998, at another moment when the
U.S. was gearing up for war against Iraq, UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan went to Baghdad, and negotiated a last-minute agreement with Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein. The agreement was designed to resolve problems
with the arms inspections and to stave off the threat of a U.S. war.
When Annan came back to New York, the Security Council crafted a new
resolution endorsing his agreement.  U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson
demanded that the resolution call for "severest consequences" if Iraq
should violate the agreement in the future; under pressure, the Council
agreed. The Clinton administration still wasn't happy. They were all
geared up for war, and the resolution meant they would have to recall
the bombers and fighter jets and troops. 

But there was a serious disagreement over just what "severest
consequences" meant. The Russian ambassador even coined a new word --
"automaticity" -- to describe what the phrase did not mean. "Severest
consequences," virtually the entire Security Council had decided, did
not give any state the automatic right to move on its own against Iraq.
Like earlier resolutions, this one ended with the statement that the
Council "remained seized" of the issue.  In UN diplo-speak, that phrase
always means the issue remains on the Council's agenda, and under
Council authority. 

So on 2 March 1998, after the resolution passed, the parade of Council
ambassadors came out of the Council chamber, one by one, to warn
explicitly that their resolution did not include "automaticity."  It did
not, they said, authorize any country -- including the United States --
to launch a unilateral military strike against Iraq. Bill Richardson
came last.  When Richardson followed his fellow ambassadors out of the
chamber to face the cameras, he blithely dismissed his predecessors'
insistence that the resolution did not authorize a military strike. He
simply shrugged and told the press, "we think it does."  Months later,
with no authorization by the UN, the unilateral four-day U.S.-UK
mini-war of bombs and cruise missiles known as Desert Fox, devastated

We're seeing it again now.  "Automaticity" has become an official part
of the lexicon of UN jargon, and again Council ambassadors are asserting
strongly that "there is no automaticity" in the new [probably two-part]
resolution the council is likely to pass.  But once again the diplomats
of the Bush administration, like their Clinton-era predecessors,
disagree with the rest of the Security Council, and it seems they still
"think it does." 

In the next several days it is likely that the U.S. will force a vote in
the Security Council for a resolution that the Bush administration will
later claim authorizes their war. Other Council members, perhaps most,
will claim that the resolution authorizes no such thing. But they will
likely do nothing to stop Washington's war.

What will the resolution look like?  It will probably take the form
preferred by the French -- that is, a two-part resolution.  But the
substance will be all American. In fact, it is likely that the U.S. will
claim that acceptance of the two-part arrangement is such a huge
concession that there should be no further objections to anything the
U.S. wants to include.

The first part will use strong language outlining a new set of
inspection requirements Iraq must meet. It will threaten unspecified
"consequences" for any violation or any failure to comply with
sufficient alacrity.  It may even follow the language of the March 1998
resolution in threatening "severest consequences."  Those consequences
will not be explicitly spelled out, and the resolution might even
include a reference to the Security Council meeting again if the
slightest problem occurs regarding Iraqi compliance. 

The U.S. will try to get all of its new conditions for the inspections
into the first part of the bifurcated resolution.  They will almost
certainly succeed.  What will be spelled out will be far beyond insuring
that Iraq allow immediate access to the eight so-called "presidential
sites," which under existing UN-Iraq agreements were indeed available
for inspection but with certain special arrangements including the
presence of international diplomats as well as advance notice.  The new
resolution will certainly impose punishing, humiliating conditions for
inspections; it will likely include some that are designed specifically
to increase the chances of Iraqi rejection even before inspectors arrive
in Baghdad. 

It is likely that the first part of a two-part resolution will include
the conditions put forward in the earlier U.S.-UK draft resolution.  One
requirement will be Iraqi acquiescence to the inspectors taking any
scientists -- or anyone else -- they wish to interview out of Iraq
altogether, along with their families.  The effect would be to have UN
arms inspectors acting as asylum officers. Certainly many, perhaps most
scientists would jump at the opportunity right now to leave Iraq with
their families and be granted asylum somewhere else. They are living,
after all, in a country not only devastated by 12 years of crippling
economic sanctions and the ravages of a repressive political regime, but
also facing the likely possibility of imminent war.  There are certainly
legitimate reasons why Iraqi scientists would want to live and work
somewhere with greater safety and political freedom. There is also,
however, the consequent and understandable likelihood of scientists
exaggerating the level of Iraq's military or WMD programs as well as
their own role in those programs, in the hope of persuading
international immigration officials of their importance. And finally,
another longer term result of such an effort, if carried out on a large
scale, will be the stripping of a key component of Iraq's national
intellectual and scientific base, with seriously deleterious effects on
future efforts to rebuild a modern society.

The language proposed by the Bush administration would allow
representatives of any of the five permanent members of the Security
Council to participate in any inspections they choose. That would
essentially vitiate the distinction between the current inspection team,
UNMOVIC, deliberately made up of UN-employed technical specialists, and
its predecessor (UNSCOM) whose inspectors were seconded from national
(largely U.S. and British) militaries and intelligence agencies.
UNSCOM's credibility was completely undermined when it was discovered,
in the summer of 1998 (and reported in the New York Times and elsewhere
in June 1999), that U.S. spy agencies had used the UN inspection team to
obtain intelligence information having nothing to do with Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction but everything to do with identifying and locating
Iraqi targets for future U.S. attacks.   When UNMOVIC was created, it
was specifically required to employ UN international civil servants as
inspectors, largely to distinguish it from the discredited UNSCOM model
of U.S.-British control.  Hans Blix, the UNMOVIC director, staked out a
clear position for his first two years defending the need for his
inspectors to be accountable to the United Nations as a whole -- not to
the U.S. Air Force or the CIA or any other national agency.  The new
demand undermines that UN accountability, turning UNMOVIC into an
unchanged incarnation of its spy-based predecessor.

If Washington gets its way in the Council, the resolution will also
require Iraq to accept military escorts -- UN Blue Helmets or from
member states -- for the inspectors, blanketing the country with
unlimited numbers of UN or even U.S. troops.  That means armed forces
prepared to use their weapons against any Iraqi -- official or otherwise
-- who so much as blinks.  According to the language of the original
U.S. draft resolution, the inspectors shall "be provided regional bases
and operating bases throughout Iraq."  They "shall be accompanied at the
bases by sufficient UN security forces; shall have the right to declare
for the purposes of this resolution no-fly/no-drive zones, exclusion
zones, and/or ground- and air-transit corridors, which shall be enforced
by UN security forces or by member-states; [and] shall have the free and
unrestricted use and landing of fixed and rotary winged aircraft,
including unmanned reconnaissance vehicles."
That right to establish bases anywhere in Iraq the inspectors (or their
military escorts) wish; their right to block Iraqis' access to whatever
"exclusion zones" they wish; the right to establish no-drive, no-fly
zones and create special UNMOVIC-only transit roads -- all serve to
collapse the distinction between inspection and invasion/occupation.
And we've been there before, too.  Back in 1999, just before the
U.S.-NATO bombing began during the Kosovo crisis, there was a
"last-ditch" diplomatic effort at Rambuillet Palace in France.  When it
collapsed, we were told that the Serbs had rejected a perfectly
reasonable international demand, and therefore made inevitable, even
obligatory, the war that followed. What we were not told, what we only
learned weeks later when the real story of the initially secret Appendix
B broke in the German press, was that the Rambuillet accord, which was
presented in take-it-or-leave-it terms to the Serb side, was designed to
insure Serb rejection.   Going way beyond the stated concern about Serb
conduct in Kosovo, the accord would have required that "NATO personnel
shall enjoy... free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access
throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated
airspace and territorial waters." 

Sound familiar?  In both cases the official rationales for international
intervention -- Serb human rights violations in Kosovo, Iraq's WMD
programs --were, however legitimate in their own right, used as pretexts
to impose an international military occupation.  And that includes the
attendant military control of the entire nation's ground, air and space
in the name of human rights in Kosovo or disarmament in Iraq.  In
Rambuillet the Clinton administration deliberately set the bar so high
that the Serb side refused to sign.  It appears the Bush administration
is hoping the Iraqis will follow suit.

Once the new resolution is passed, one of two things will happen. It is
certainly possible that the Iraqi government, despite reiterating their
intention to allow "unfettered inspections," will be so angered by the
U.S. moving the goalposts of the arms inspection, that it will simply
refuse to bring the inspectors back under the new terms, or will try to
renegotiate the terms while allowing them in. The Council, at U.S.
insistence, may well refuse to allow the inspectors to go to Iraq at all
under the latter circumstances.

Or, Iraq will acquiesce to the new demands. Baghdad may decide to accept
the condition regarding interviewing scientists "anywhere" UNMOVIC
wishes, and is likely to accept the more intrusive arrangements
regarding the presidential sites. If it does, inspections may get
underway. But the chances of Iraq accepting a de facto military
occupation in the guise of an inspection regime, and the chances of such
"coercive inspections" functioning efficiently and professionally to
carry out their disarmament tasks, seem slim.

Either way, it is clear that the Bush administration will make its
decision on whether to go to war in utter disregard of the first
resolution's lack of actual authorization for war, and quite likely with
little regard for any actual progress of inspections in Iraq. The
resolution will undoubtedly end with the phrase "the Security Council
remains seized of the issue," meaning it remains on the Council agenda.
It will also not grant any country, including the United States, the
right to determine unilaterally when and if Iraq is in compliance with,
or in material breach of, the resolution's terms.  But U.S. officials
have already indicated they intend to assert that the first resolution
provides all the UN authorization they need -- that is to say, none --
to launch their war.  

Tragically, it appears that all fourteen other Council members (or 13 if
Tony Blair, against the massive opposition of the British people, allies
the UK with his Bush buddies) are prepared to simply assert that they do
not believe the resolution authorizes force, and then essentially "agree
to disagree" with Washington.  None, so far, unless France or Russia
suddenly recovers their independence, are likely even to vote no, let
alone mobilizing a serious international coalition to oppose
Washington's war.  China may abstain, as perhaps Syria might.  But there
is no indication of serious opposition; the Council is collapsing under
U.S. pressure.  It appears every country on the Council has made the
same pragmatic determination that if the U.S. goes to war, we want to be
part of it. The thinking seems to be that being excluded from an illegal
preemptive war, what Congressman Jim McDermott called "a war for oil,
power and the blandishments of empire," is somehow worse than endorsing
or participating in an illegal, preemptive war of oil, power and the
blandishments of empire.  

We have been there before too. In 1990, in the run-up to Desert Storm,
George Bush Senior bribed and threatened and punished virtually every
country on the Security Council to force them to vote to authorize the
U.S. war. The U.S. bribed poor countries with cheap Saudi oil.
Washington dangled new arms packages before governments such as Ethiopia
and Colombia whose access to U.S. military support had been cut because
of wars and human rights violations.  U.S. diplomats went to China and
said "name your price" to avert a veto -- and fulfilled Beijing's wish
list for post-Tienanmen Square diplomatic rehabilitation (with
announcement of a White House visit by the Chinese foreign minister) and
new development aid (in the form of a $114 million World Bank assistance

And when the ambassador from Yemen, the only Arab country on the
Council, voted against the U.S. war, there was a U.S. diplomat at his
side in seconds, saying "that will be the most expensive 'no' vote you
ever cast."  And then Washington punished Yemen, poorest country in the
Arab world, with a cut-off of the entire $70 million U.S. aid package.

Many at the United Nations remember the "Yemen precedent" even today. It
may be at the heart of international reluctance to challenge Bush's war.
This is an era of a single super-power, more powerful in military,
economic, political, technological, diplomatic, and cultural influence
than any empire throughout history.  In this era, when the leader of
that super-power has announced that any country not "with us" is to be
considered "with the terrorists" -- what country is prepared to risk
standing defiant of U.S. demands?

Certainly many things have changed between 1991, 1998 and today. Perhaps
the most significant changes have to do less to do with what the Bush
administration is doing, than with how it justifies its actions.  In
1991 Bush Senior never claimed the U.S. goal was "regime change" in
Iraq; today the assassination or overthrow of the Iraqi leader is stated
policy.  Never before has the U.S. officially claimed the right to
launch a preemptive strike; today, that "right" is at the center of a
new doctrine, one which even Henry Kissinger acknowledged stands in
violation of international law.  (Of course Kissinger went on to claim
that therefore what we need is not the repudiation of such illegal
preemptive strikes but a full rewrite of international law, to create a
new legality authorizing precisely such actions for the U.S. alone.)
And never before has the U.S. openly threatened to "go it alone," to
invade another country in the name of enforcing UN resolutions even if
the United Nations explicitly disavowed such a military attack. Today
the UN stands in fear of losing "relevance" in Washington.

The option of a clear "no" position, rejecting the U.S. consensus,
standing publicly against such a catastrophic war, and trying to prevent
the war or at least distinguishing one's own country from such global
folly, does not yet appear on any Security Council member's agenda.  And
yet exactly that position is urgently required. Demonstrating how the
U.S. is isolated from the rest of the world, publicly debunking the myth
that Washington is leading an international coalition, would place any
critical government on the side of the clear global majority position
opposing this war.

At this moment the member states -- especially those serving in the
Security Council -- are on the verge of losing their independence of
action.  Council members may not be able to prevent the U.S. from
launching its war. But they can prevent the U.S. from claiming a
multilateral UN credential when it does so.  They can insure that the
United Nations does not, by endorsing this war, violate its own Charter,
which prohibits the use of force unless all possible non-military
options have been exhausted.  It is possible that France will maintain
its independence and remain committed to opposing a preemptive U.S. war.
Paris could refuse to accept the initial U.S.-UK resolution (even if it
is based on the two-part structure France demanded), and may veto the
inevitable second resolution explicitly authorizing war.  But this
scenario appears unlikely. 

Rather, if the Security Council fails, this is a moment for other
agencies of the United Nations to step forward. This is a time for the
General Assembly, perhaps under the sponsorship of the Non-Aligned
countries operating as the Group of 77, to take the lead. Relying on the
"Uniting for Peace" precedent at the United Nations, the Assembly can
seize the initiative as the most democratic organ of the UN to assert
its voice in the name of global humanity to challenge the legitimacy of
Bush's war.  

This is also a defining moment for the United Nations, in which the UN
itself as an institution must choose how it defines its relevance on the
world stage.  Those of the UN system who seek "relevance" only in
relation to Washington's narrowly-defined power will seek participation
in, rather than challenging the legitimacy of, the U.S. war.  They
believe that being sidelined by the U.S. represents the greatest threat
to the United Nations.  And indeed, their participation (however
negligible) and their endorsement (however reluctant), will very likely
guarantee that officially they are not marginalized, not excluded by
Washington.  However much they may quietly deplore the undermining of
the United Nations, the violations of international law, the breaching
of the UN Charter, all inherent in this unilateral U.S. war, they seem
prepared to acquiesce to war, to guard against exclusion from
Washington's war tent.  

The tactic may work; it may prevent the United Nations from being
dismissed as "irrelevant" by Washington opinion-makers. But those UN
officials take a different risk-- that of losing their ability to speak
on behalf of those disempowered voices that make up the 94% of the
world's people who do not live in the United States.  Those who serve at
the center of the UN system have an obligation as international civil
servants to implement the UN Charter -- especially its fundamental
mission of "saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war."
Their work is to protect the peace, however difficult that task --
through negotiations, fact-finding, inspecting, shaming, reporting --
even if it means challenging the will of the most powerful UN member
state.  Regardless of concerns of "relevance," they must not become
champions of war.

Others in the UN system, who define relevance in global terms not
limited to the Washington beltway, will take a different decision. Those
UN leaders will stand defiant of the U.S.  They will speak out against
the violations of international law, the undermining of the United
Nations, the breaching of the UN Charter, that are all inherent in the
launching of a preemptive war.  They may not have the power to stop the
war alone. But they will give voice to those around the world who have
no other voice, whose governmental or civil society voices have been
stifled by fear of U.S. power, retaliation, or the Yemen precedent, and
who look to the United Nations as the voice of the global conscience.
They will speak out to defend the role of the United Nations as a check
on all violations of international law, UN resolutions and the UN
Charter -- whether rooted in Iraq's unfulfilled disarmament obligations
or in Washington's preemptive war -- even if the global organization
cannot be a contending power in its own right.  Their voices will
protect the real relevance of the global organization as it acts on
behalf of "the peoples of the United Nations."


Interviewing David Cromwell about "Private Planet"

(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, "Title," is about?
What is it trying to communicate?

Capitalist society, so we are told by authority, is inextricably linked
with 'democracy', 'efficiency' and 'openness'. But rational examination
of the post-WWII historical record reveals the appalling gap between the
'peaceful' intent of Western power and its ruinous effects. Victims
abound - in SE Asia, Indonesia, Latin America, as well as at home in the
'rich' West: all 'beneficiaries' of a centralised state-corporate system
built upon global poverty, environmental destruction and injustice.

The corporate attempt to privatise the planet is camouflaged using
neutral-sounding words and phrases such as 'globalisation', 'neoliberal'
and 'free trade'. Globalisation is being sold to the public by
politicians, the business community, and the media as 'inevitable',
'civilised' and 'just'. It takes considerable effort to strip away the
euphemism and jargon to reveal the reality: that globalisation, in
essence, involves the subordination of the well-being of people and
planet to short-term corporate profit.

Meanwhile, the planet is warming at twice the rate previously suspected.
One-third of the world's ecosystems have been lost in just twenty-five
years because of human pressure. And billions of people still live in
absolute poverty. At the same time, global markets and transnational
capital flows are growing apace and wealth is being concentrated amongst
a few elite interests, not spread around the globe.

Could there be a connection between all these factors? And, if so, what
can be done?

History proves that ordinary people have the power to change things: the
abolition of slavery in the United States; the promotion of workers'
rights by trade unions; the suffragette movement, giving women the right
to vote; the victories won by peace, feminist and black activists in the
1960s; the demand to cut greenhouse gas emissions; popular protest at
Seattle, Washington, Prague and Genoa to drop Third World debt and
supplant global capitalism with fair, sustainable policies . None of
these progressive developments were driven by the largesse of big
business or politicians, but by the force of popular pressure.

In Private Planet, I examine how and why the forces of globalisation are
opposing ecological sustainability, human rights and social justice -
and draws on examples from around the world to show what we can do to
reverse the process. For make no mistake about it - centralised state
and corporate power is vulnerable to significant grassroots awareness
and activism. There is ample cause for hope and cautious optimism.

(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the
content come from? What went into making the book what it is?

I started seriously researching and writing the book a month before my
first son, Sean, was born in September 1998. At first sight, perhaps,
not the most logical time to start a book project and certainly not
particularly feasible without a very supportive (and/or resigned!)
partner. But becoming a father for the first time was certainly a
motivating factor in preparing and writing the book: an attempt for me,
at least, to get a grip on some of the forces that are shaping society
and our future for us and future generations.

The book's wide-ranging content was shaped, obviously, by my upbringing
and my experiences. I come from a working-class background in the west
of Scotland. My father, especially, was (and is) a significant influence
on my political (and other) education. As a graduate in geography, and
someone with a keen interest in nature, he instilled in my brother and
myself a great love of the Scottish countryside: both the natural and
human forces that have molded it. Perhaps this is where my concern for
the environment, a major topic of 'Private Planet', originates.

In 1988, a year of exceptional weather in the United States and
elsewhere, I happened to be based at the National Center for Atmospheric
Research in Boulder, Colorado. Although I wasn't involved in climate
research then, I became aware of the climate problem for the first time.
Ironically, I then spent the next five years working as an exploration
geophysicist for a major oil company, Shell, in The Netherlands: an
educational experience to see from the inside, and from the bottom of
the pile, how one large transnational corporation works! I left in 1993
to take up a research position in oceanography and climate in

All through these different periods, I was starting to see connections
between poverty and injustice, corporate power and climate change,
western foreign policy and propaganda. Being somewhat naive, foolhardy
even, I thought I might try to research such connections - all, at root,
symptomatic of the systemic failure of modern society - and present them
in an accessible way. I'm not an expert (but what is an 'expert' anyway,
and why trust them?!) in any of the topics covered, but with the advice
of a number of helpful campaigners, writers and activists, I thought I'd
make a stab at it.

Around the time of the WTO meeting in Seattle, in December 1999, I
completed the manuscript and sent it off to the publisher, Jon
Carpenter. His response made it clear that I was some way off way from
fulfilling my objectives! I needed to draw the links between subject
areas more closely. I continued to work on the book for over a year, now
with a second son, Stuart, born in August 2000. The book was finally
published in September 2001, just a few days before 9-11, in fact.

(3) What are your hopes for Private Planet? What do you hope it will
contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you
have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave
you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if
it was worth all the time and effort?

The principal aim of Private Planet was, to be honest, a selfish one -
to see if I could write a book that at least attempted to make links
between the environment, social justice and the cancer of capitalism. On
those terms, it's hard for me to gauge its success, though it has been
quite warmly received by people and publications I respect. One sign of
success, for me, is that writing the book led to me meeting up with the
writer and media analyst David Edwards, who has become a great friend
and collaborator. Indeed, last year we set up MediaLens.org (with
webmaster Phil Chandler): we've been sending out regular media alerts
that challenge the mainstream media, in particular the British
left-liberal media. The underlying aim is not to change the mainstream
media, but to enhance critical public awareness and compassion for
others. At root, that's what counts to me as 'success'.

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