George W. Bush made no secret of his disregard for the United Nations, railing that "we really don’t need anybody’s permission" just prior to the invasion of Iraq. Bush followed that statement by ordering UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq a few days before the invasion, despite the fact that the head of the effort, Mohamed ElBaradei, would subsequently win a Nobel Peace Prize for the work Bush so unceremoniously ended. In his State of the Union speech in 2004, months after the invasion, Bush doubled down on the permission remark and seemed to specifically rebuke the Security Council when he said "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country".
In addition, Bush continually advocated for reducing US funding of the United Nations and, in a move characterized by David Corn of The Nation as giving the UN "the finger", Bush nominated UN-hater John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN. As Corn pointed out, Bolton was known for his statement that "If the UN Secretariat building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference."
Despite the fact that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush, Obama is continuing to disregard the UN on many fronts. Consider the following examples:
– Last October, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions stated that US reliance on missiles fired remotely from drones "may well violate international humanitarian law". Rather than simply ignoring the warning, Obama instead appears to have gone a step further and now even has US citizens on his list for extrajudicial executions.
– When the UN’s Goldstone Report found evidence of both Hamas and Israel committing war crimes, Goldstone openly invited the Obama administration to detail its objections to the report. Instead, Obama did nothing while the US House voted 344 to 36 to reject the report as biased against Israel.
– Despite a report from the UN that the US still maintains secret prisons in Afghanistan and a very dubious denial of them by the US head of detentions in Afghanistan, Obama has put into place a Bush-era denier of prisoners’ rights to head all US policy for prisoners.
– On Wednesday, the UN announced that it would not participate in relief efforts in the Marjeh area because of US "militarization of humanitarian aid".
While not engaging in the openly hostile rhetoric of Bush, Obama has continued Bush’s policy of disregarding UN findings. Are these the actions of an administration pursuing a policy of peace?
The Preamble to the UN Charter seeks "to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained" as a means to preventing "the scourge of war". Obama would do well to read the entire Charter and reflect on the US role in the preamble’s goal "to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours".