Julia Gillard and Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr are basking in Australia’s victorious bid for a place on the United Nations Security Council. Carr said the win, “reflects Australia’s positive standing in global affairs and the significant contribution Australia makes to international peace and security.” This is code for Australia’s position as regional bully of the Asia Pacific and staunch ally of US imperialism.
Lenin famously called the post-WWI League of Nations a “thieves’ kitchen”, a forum for the imperialist powers to jockey for position and carve up the spoils of world domination. The United Nations Security Council, established post-WWII, is an even more concentrated expression of this. The permanent “veto” countries are the world’s premier nuclear-armed military powers.
There are 117,000 UN troops deployed around the world, across four continents, many of them soldiers for the big imperial powers given the Orwellian misnomer of “peacekeepers”.
The UN Security Council authorised the 1991 Gulf War, which left over 100,000 Iraqi people dead. The Council then agreed to sanctions, which caused the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children between 1990 and 1998.
The NATO led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was ratified by the Security Council, which authorised an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to manage the occupation.
Divisions on the Security Council over the invasion of the war in Iraq in 2003 reflected competing imperialist interests amongst the different veto countries. France, China and Russia all had vested interests in the Hussein regime, or in halting a further US military build up in the Middle East. But the US was still able to use Security Council resolutions on Saddam’s “disarmament obligations” to provide a fig leaf of legitimacy for the murderous invasion.
Similarly, a Security Council resolution enforcing a “no fly zone” over Libya in 2011 was used by Western powers to initiate military action aimed at installing a NATO-allied regime.
The financial institutions set up by the UN such as the World Bank and IMF have consistently been used to force poorer countries to vote with the US at the UN. In the first Gulf War, developing countries were warned not to vote against invastion. Yemen was one of the few that refused to buckle. Within days the US had stopped its $135 million aid programme to Yemen, and the World Bank and the IMF blocked Yemeni loans which cost the impoverished country around $2 billion.
This appointment will be the fifth time that Australia has held a seat on the UN Security Council. During the first appointment beginning in 1946, Australia played an important role supporting the creation of Israel. H. V. Evatt, an Australian politician, was also the president of the UN General Assembly at the time. Evatt guided the 1947 partition plan through the UN. Nearly a million Palestinians were expelled from their homes and wave after wave of killings took place.
The UN Security Council has also been used to shore up Australia’s imperialist agenda in the Asia Pacific.
Australia’s central role in the UN-backed occupation of East Timor, for example, has helped facilitate economic exploitation and provides a strategic foothold in the region. Oil exploration is controlled by Australian multi-nationals like Woodside and BHP. The IMF has restructured East Timor’s agricultural industry around exports, rather than feeding a population in desperate poverty.
Australia and the US provide funding, arms and training to an Indonesian paramilitary squad “Detachment 88” operating in West Papua. West Papuan independence activists continue to be arrested and tortured.
Julia Gillard is bending over backwards to facilitate US military build up in the region, part of a strategy of encircling China. In April, it was announced that 2500 US troops will be stationed in Darwin for six months of the year. A recent decision to sell uranium to India, being promoted as a “foil” against China, is also part of this process.
Australia’s brutal treatment of refugees and Aboriginal people consistently draw sanction from UN committees for their breach of treaty obligations. Human Rights lawyer Ben Saul has lodged a formal complaint to the UN Human Rights committee against the indefinite detention of 60 refugees deemed a risk to Australia’s security by ASIO. The Commonwealth has missed several deadlines to respond to the UN about Saul’s complaint.
It shows the lie of Bob Carr saying Australia will use its position on the Security Council to promote human rights and “good global citizenship”.
Instead, Australia will be right at home amongst the world’s ruthless imperial powers on the Security Council, all angling for more power, influence and profit on the world stage.