The Use and Abuse of the UN in the Gulf Crisis

by Erskine Childers
published in MER169

Is the United Nations at “a new threshold” in its history as a result of the Security Council actions in the Gulf crisis? This needs careful assessment. There has long been a tendency to veer from indifference to short-term exploitation of the UN and then, if this does not turn out well for the United States, to fall back to UN bashing.

There is one basic fact. The government of Iraq committed an act of aggression under international law and the UN Charter’s Article 2.4: It used force against the territorial integrity and the political independence of a state recognized in the community of nations.

Report of the UN Mission to Assess Humanitarian Needs in Iraq

published in MER170

Conditions in Iraq in the aftermath of the US military assault have been difficult to ascertain. The most authoritative report to date is that of the UN mission led by Undersecretary-General Martti Ahtisaari, which spent March 10-17 in Iraq. The mission, which included representatives of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other UN programs, had intended to examine conditions first in Kuwait and then Iraq, but the Kuwaiti authorities requested it delay its arrival there until a UN Environment Program mission had completed its work.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Dilemmas of Relief Work in Iraq

by Atallah Kuttab
published in MER174

The allied attack on Iraq in January-February 1991, and the hardship inflicted on the civilian population, prompted many UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to mobilize relief efforts in the country. I spent seven weeks in May and June leading a relief team in southern Iraq. Relief work was already underway in the Kurdish north, in the center (Baghdad) and in the largely Shi‘i south.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

From the Editors

published in MER180

“Propaganda to Journalism” was the New York Times headline on a year-end story about mass media in former Socialist countries, without the slightest self-consciousness about how US coverage of events like the Somalia intervention exemplifies “journalism to propaganda.” Perhaps there have been equally bizarre landings in the history of the US Marines -- Beirut, for instance, in July 1958, when they splashed onto a beach full of sunbathers and Coca-Cola vendors. In this latest patriotic spectacle, troops landed in camouflage uniforms and greased faces, only to find their high-tech night vision goggles rendered useless, even hazardous, by the glare of the television camera lights.

From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement

The Somalia Precedent

by Patrick Gilkes
published in MER185

The US decision to intervene in Somalia in December 1992 came well after the two-year-old crisis had finally hit the headlines. The power vacuum that followed the flight of Siad Barre from Mogadishu in January 1991, and the subsequent civil war in the capital, particularly the fighting between November 1991 and March 1992, attracted little attention despite the country’s collapse into anarchy. [1]

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

How Safe Is the Safe Haven?

by Ralf Backer , Ronald Ofteringer
published in MER187

More than 10 million landmines have been scattered in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1975. Fifty percent of these were made in Italy. During the Iran-Iraq war, vast areas like Haj Omran and Penjwin were mined by both sides. After the Anfal campaign in 1988, Iraqi troops heavily mined the remnants of destroyed villages and booby-trapped them to prevent access by villagers and Kurdish fighters. The last round of mining started during the Gulf crisis in 1990 when Iraqi troops laid hundreds of thousands of mines near the Turkish border to hinder a possible allied attack from Turkish territory.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

An Interview with Muhammad Sahnoun

by Joe Stork
published in MER187

Muhammad Sahnoun is a former Algerian diplomat who served as the special representative of UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in Somalia prior to the US military intervention there. He is presently a fellow at the International Development and Research Center in Ottawa. Joe Stork spoke with him in Washington, DC in August 1993.

You are from a country that went through a national liberation struggle and which has historically taken a strong position against intervention. Yet you’re a practitioner of intervention. Do you see this as a new period requiring actions of this sort, or is this something that’s long overdue?

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

An Interview with Mark Duffield

by Joe Stork
published in MER187

Mark Duffield visited Croatia and Bosnia between January 9 and 22, 1994, as part of a study of complex political emergencies. Joe Stork spoke with him on January 28, 1994.

In your field report you refer to the failure to provide protection as representing a political failure of historic consequences.

Bosnia and the Future of Military Humanitarianism

by Mark Duffield
published in MER187

Mark Duffield was in Bosnia and Croatia from January 9 to January 22, 1994 as part of a larger study of complex emergencies. The following is condensed from his “first impression” field report.

The war in former Yugoslavia has displaced over 4 million people. Nearly 3 million of these are in Bosnia, where half the population has been uprooted. From a humanitarian perspective, the war in Bosnia presents itself as the blockade and terrorization of civilian populations. While access can be negotiated, as the war has spread across central Bosnia this has become increasingly difficult. Food supplies have fallen to critical conditions.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.