The Guardian May 10, 2000

Iraq: Interview with Denis Halliday part III

"We are seeing a global institution, the only one we have falling apart 
and being seen world-wide ... to have been absorbed by the United States. 
It has become a creature of the United States and that's a great, great 
tragedy", said Denis Halliday, discussing the fate of the United Nations 
Organisation. Denis was the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources 
Management when he resigned in 1998 after working with the organisation for 
30 years. While in Australia on a speaking tour, he spoke to Anna Pha. This 
is the third and final part of the interview. (The first two parts appeared 
in The Guardian on April 19 & May 3.)

Anna Pha: What is the situation regarding the "no-fly zones" in 

Denis Halliday: The Americans and the British have arbitrarily 
declared these "no-fly zones". There is no basis for it, there is no UN 
resolution, it's just a fiction of the American mind.

And they feel free to overfly this part of Iraq, it's the majority of Iraqi 
air space, they have left a small corridor over Baghdad.

They overfly, the Iraqis are very sensitive to sovereignty and their 
rights, and they fire back. 

The Americans fly so high that these anti-aircraft guns have no impact.

The Iraqis try to lock on with their radar. But of course it's a gesture, 
they can't reach these aircraft.

Once the Americans sense they are being fired at they feel free to bomb 
whatever they find in that area. They bomb equipment, buildings... They 
have killed about 160-170 civilians, animals, sheep...

It's a grossly illegal practice, it terrifies the people, particularly the 

These jets make a hell of a noise and they are there every day. The New 
York Times offers reports  three or four lines  that the Americans 
bombed Iraq again.

They flew about 30,000 sorties in 1999. It is more sorties than in the WW2.

It's a quiet, discreet war that never ends and nobody bothers. The media's 
just given up.

The media in Britain and the United States and maybe in Australia has 
become part of the establishment. In the US the media is owned by this 
military-industrial complex that is in business to have good wars and sell 
good weapons at good prices. It is very difficult to get the truth through 
the media in the United States.

AP: Would you like to say more about situation at the UN?

DH: The Security Council is the body that has the authority under 
Chapter 7 of the Charter to impose sanctions.

The Security Council has completely been corrupted by the United States.

The US being the only superpower has led to severe problems in the UN at 
all levels, including the General Assembly. We miss, frankly the Soviet 
Union which provided some balance.

One hopes that Europe will rise and provide some balance. Right now there 
is no balance. The US is in total control and uses it blatantly.

They use the United Nations when it suits them for their own foreign policy 
and vested interests. They use bribery or corruption or whatever you want 
to call it, but they control the United Nations, and in particular the 
Security Council.

So they ram through their provisions, the others may abstain, Britain 
usually goes along because Blair seems to be completely wedded to Clinton. 
The abstentions don't stop them.

We've seen in my view the corruption of the Security Council.

You have to recognise that the Council was created by the five victors of 
the Second World War. They retained for themselves veto power, and 
permanent seats. And that has not changed.

Reform of the Security Council is greatly needed and this would be the view 
of the entire membership of the General Assembly. It is needed because 
there is no democracy, for whatever it's worth, in the Security Council.

It is dominated entirely by the North. There is no regional representation. 
Latin America, Africa, South Asia, Australia, New Zealand are totally 
unrepresented, except for these brief two-year slots which are largely 
meaningless in the context of veto and permanent membership.

So reform is terribly important and it has to be adjusted so that the South 
is in fact represented and has power and the world then has a body which is 
representative, which makes the decisions which impact on everybody else. 
We don't have that now.

It's one of the great disappointments of the United Nations today.

As I travel around the world as I now do, I hear again and again this 
lament that the UN is finished.

The perception is that it's gone, it's been sold to the Americans, the same 
Americans who actually don't pay the bill. They still owe $1.6 billion. 
It's outrageous.

They have the power  of trade and military might  and there it goes.

AP: And the role of NATO ...

DH: What happened in Yugoslavia and Kosovo is indicative of the 
disregard and lack of respect that the US has for the UN. Knowing that they 
could not get an agreement in the Security Council to attack Kosovo, they 
just by-passed the UN and went straight to NATO, which they control.

Europe, I think, has paid the price, since the debacle of Kosovo.

The Europeans were horrified to see Americans bombing from 15,000 feet and 
creating a much bigger problem than exists already.

The massacre of Kosovars tripled under the bombing by the NATO countries.

Europe has now, right or wrong, decided to start its own military alliance 
under EU auspices. Albright's reaction was quite amusing  `how dare you, 
but of course we know that you won't upset NATO'.

The implication is that the United States in its arrogance expects to 
control Europe as well as everybody else, including Australia.

Though I am against military alliances, I'm hoping to see a European 
peacekeeping alliance, particularly if that's what we must have as opposed 
to NATO.

NATO has become one of the more dangerous and aggressive alliances which 
should be stamped out and the Americans should be kicked out of Europe. 

They have no place there, they don't belong there. Currently they don't 
play a responsible role and everything they do is very much self-serving.

I think regional entities in themselves are probably good. I can see a 
Security Council which would be made up of regional entities with prominent 
seats like Europe, or Australia-New Zealand, South Asia, Africa.

AP: What about Australia's role?

DH: Many of us expect Australia to be an independent country. We 
don't see that unfortunately. We see that Australian foreign policy 
slavishly follows the American line. This is very disappointing.

The fact is that Australia has a huge responsibility. They have this link 
to Washington which they should use in a positive sense to try to convince 
Clinton to end economic sanctions and the genocide [in Iraq].

You've got Australian veterans here who were in the Gulf War, came back and 
are ill today because they were exposed to depleted uranium (DU) shells and 
uranium dust.

This is a very serious problem. I think your government has neglected its 
responsibilities and these men and women deserve to be heard and they 
deserve to be protected and given health care.

In the United States many thousands have died due to DU exposure in the 
Gulf War. American kids are being born deformed from fathers who served in 
the Gulf War.

This is a crisis which has not emerged publicly, it should emerge.

Australian veterans of the Gulf War are in deep trouble and they deserve 
the attention of the government and the populace of this country.

AP: The question of human rights ...

DH: Human rights  it is a very intriguing issue.

Everybody points the finger at Iraq and says that the government has 
undermined the human rights of the Iraqi people.

I would agree that the human rights situation in Iraq is bad. But these are 
human rights in American terms, which is civil and political rights.

They are very much diminished under the Baath Party system. But what is 
much more important under the conditions which prevail in Iraq today, more 
important than civil and political rights perhaps, is the right of life.

It's the United Nations, and the UN economic sanctions and member states 
who have taken away the basic human rights of the Iraqi people.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration  those basic rights of education, 
housing, employment, health care  are life.

That is what the UN's taken from the Iraqi people.

Much more serious, much more profound than the government in Baghdad 

But in Australia, as in the USA when people think of human rights they 
think of political and civil rights. They can't visualise a situation 
perhaps where that becomes less important, as when you are faced with 
starvation, lack of work, lack of housing, which is the Iraqi plight.

The answer I think is to lift sanctions, allow Iraq to build its economy. 
It is the only way you can restore a standard of living and well being.

Secondly, the way to reassure everybody against the perception of great 
danger from the government and President Saddam is to sustain the military 
inspections and military controls, not just in Iraq, however, on the entire 
Middle East process, which is part of Resolution 687.

Then open the dialogue to change the relationship and reintegrate Iraq into 
the community, local and international, and start on rebuilding that part 
of the world. It can be done.

All of us are responsible for what is happening in Iraq. As citizens of 
democracies we have the opportunity to speak out.

We should do that. It's our obligation.

Back to index page