Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

This weekend, the US will attempt to kill off the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the multilateral body with responsibility for enforcing the Chemical Weapons Convention. In what the activist George Monbiot, in this week’s UK Guardian describes as an international coup, the US this Sunday will finally seek to oust the director-general of the OPCW, a Brazilian called Jose Bustani, after a sustained campaign over the last few months to get Bustani to resign.

Bustani’s record at the OPCW, Monbiot points out, is exemplary. In the five years he has been in the post, two million chemical weapons and two thirds of the world’s chemical weapons facilities have been destroyed; and the number of state signatories to the Convention has risen from 87 to 145. So successful has Bustani been that last year he was unanimously re-elected to the job by member states, and even received a plaudit from Colin Powell over his “very impressive” work. Yet, since January 2002 he has faced charges from the US State Department of ‘financial mismanagement’, ‘demoralisation of his staff’ and, more tellingly, ‘bias’ and ‘ill considered initiatives’.

After failing in March to carry a vote of no confidence in Bustani, the US have finally taken the gloves off. In direct contravention of the Convention, they have called for a ‘special session’ of member states this weekend where they will try and get rid of him, by using familiar US tactics: threatening to withdraw funds unless other member states support them. Monbiot reports Bustani as saying that the Europeans are so scared the US will abandon the Convention they are likely to support US demands, which means the only effective resistance to the US move would come from the UK government. Given Blair’s increasingly sycophantic relationship with Bush, this seems implausible, which means the US are likely to get their way.

US dissatisfaction with Bustani is twofold. First, they are unhappy with the impartiality with which the OPCW examines facilities. Just like Iraq, the US has refused to accept inspectors from countries it considers hostile, and has controlled access to sites to those inspectors it has let in. Perhaps more significantly, it does not want Bustani to succeed in getting Saddam to sign up to the Convention - something Bustani believes is achievable with UN Security Council backing – because Bustani’s success would take away their only excuse for war on Iraq. In Monbiot’s words, “Bustani must go because he has proposed a solution to a problem the US does not want solved”.

As Jim Lobe and Tom Barry point out in a recent edition of Foreign Policy in Focus, the US are increasingly willing to abandon four decades of multilateralism in foreign policy in favour of a self interested ideology that is being driven by fundamentalist right wing think tanks like The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who have extremely powerful allies within the administration such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, and his chief deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.. Such a fundamentalist vision is driven by several core beliefs that include: an almost messianic belief that the US and Israel are the same and face the same enemy; that the PLO is a terrorist organisation and need not be negotiated with; that the war against terror will not be completed until Saddam Hussien has been politically – and like members of Al Qeada probably literally – destroyed; and that diplomacy and moderation have no role in this new world vision.

It is bad enough that the US administration should exercise such double standards, hypocrisy and corruption when it comes to any form of multilateral agreement they do not wish to abide by. As Monbiot says, their attempt to oust Bustani and close down the OPCW means that no multilateral organisation is safe from US bullying. But what is even more worrying is that the US should use such lawless tactics to overtly and actively court the destabilisation of the Middle Eastern region in the name of a fundamentalist agenda. This abandonment of multilateralism means, not only that no organisation is safe from the long reach of US influence – wherever in the world they are based, but that such an agenda should be used to promote regional war, with its own potentially devastating global implications.

George Monbiot: A War Against the Peacemaker:

U.S. Middle East Policy: "Enough is Enough":
http://www.fpif.org/commentary/2002/0204pnac.html