The United Nations Organization, like the League of Nations before, was conceived for the noble purpose of ending wars between nations. Yet, we have witnessed, almost non-stop, one war after another. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, there have been some 250 major wars in which over 50 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved.
In the history of warfare, the twentieth century stands out as the bloodiest and most brutal – three times more people have been killed in wars in the last ninety years than in all the previous five hundred years. No part of the world has escaped the scourge of war. Thanks to the war industry and merchants of death there is nowhere that modern weapons or armies cannot reach.
Here is a short list (and by no means an all comprehensive one): the Chinese Civil War (1946-49), the Greek Civil War (1946-49), the Korean War (1950-53), the Algerian war of independence from France (1954-62), the Vietnam War (1954-75), the Arab-Israel wars (1948-49, 1967, 1973), the DRC wars (1964-2002), India-Pakistan wars (1965, 1973), Cambodia wars (1967-98), the Ethiopian Civil War (1974-1991), Cambodia-Vietnam War (1975-89), the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets (1978-92), Iraq-Iran war (1980-88), the invasion of Lebanon by Israel (1982), the Falkland Islands War (1982), Sri Lanka Civil War (1983-2009), the civil wars in Afghanistan in the post-Soviet Era followed by invasion by the USA and its NATO Allies in the aftermath of 9/11 (2001-to-date), the First Gulf War (1991), Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-94), the Balkan Wars in which the Serbs attacked the Bosnians (1992-95) and the Kosovars (1998-99), Russian invasion of the breakaway Republic of Chechnya, the Bush-Blair illegal war on Iraq (2003-11), and the Libyan and the civil wars in Yemen and Syria with foreign players.
Our ancestors said ‘no’ to the Holocaust, and yet genocide became a reality in the Balkans for the Muslim Bosnians and Kosovars who were massacred simply because of their religion in the 1990s. In Rwanda, we saw a similar genocide in 1994 against the ethnic Tutsis. Rohingya Muslims and Hindus in Buddhist Myanmar (formerly Burma) continue to be killed for their ethnic and religious identities due to on-going genocide against them since at least General Ne Win’s time when he came to power in 1962.
In his must-read article “How to Fix the U.N.—and Why We Should” in the Foreign Policy (September 26, 2018), Turkish President Recep Erdogan said, “The main reason for the U.N.’s current troubles is the Security Council’s failure to keep its promise of promoting peace and security around the world. From Bosnia and Rwanda to Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, the U.N.’s top decision-making body has neither prevented atrocities nor brought to justice those responsible for heinous crimes. On the U.N.’s watch, authoritarian regimes around the world have used conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction against innocent civilians. Some regimes have even carried out genocide without facing consequences. The U.N. has also failed the millions of children who suffer from extreme poverty and malnutrition and, as Turkey knows all too well, has been unable to take necessary steps to ease the suffering of refugees.”
It has become difficult for religious minorities in many parts of our world. With the fascists and religious bigots in power in places like India, Myanmar, the Philippines and some parts of Europe the lives of hundreds of millions of minorities, esp. Muslims, have been marginalized. Freedom-seeking Kashmiris continue to be killed in Narendra Modi’s India.
Just as we have witnessed before in the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state of Myanmar with Muslim-sounding names of towns and places being replaced, India is doing its own branding. Recently, Adityanath Yogi, the Chief Minister of UP, has changed the name of a famous city of UP, Allahabad to Prayagraj. Earlier Yogi had made many changes in the names like that of Mughal Sarai to Pundit Deendayal Upadhayay Junction (named now after a RSS fascist), Urdu Bazar to Hindi Bazar, Ali Nagar to Arya Nagar, Miya Bazar as Maya Bazar, Islampur as Ishwarpur, Humayun Nagar as Hanuman Nagar, etc. He regards all Muslim-sounding names as being alien.
In an interview, Yogi said he has to change many more names. On his agenda is to change the name Taj Mahal to Ram Mahal, Azamgarh to Aryamgarh and to cap it all, as per him, the name India in the constitution should be changed to Hindustan.
In China, millions of Muslims and Christians continue to suffer because of their religion. In Xinjiang (formerly East Turkestan) the Chinese local governments have ordered pepper spray, handcuffs and electric cattle prods for Uighur internment centers. Restrictions have long been placed on Muslims in Xinjiang for the basic Islamic practices of performing prayers, fasting during Ramadan, consumption of halal food, wearing of headscarves by women and growing of beards by men.
Forget about Muslims, even the minority Jews are not safe in Trump’s America. On the Saturday morning of Oct. 27, 2018, eleven Jewish Americans were killed as they came to pray at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Six others were injured. The terrorist 46-year-old Robert Bowers, who has been arrested after the gun shootout with the police, reportedly wrote in the social media, “HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people,” referring to a Jewish refugee advocacy group that held a National Refugee Shabbat last weekend. Cesar Sayoc, the suspect who was arrested on Friday in connection with a series of suspicious explosive packages that were sent to top Democrats and CNN, is a die-hard supporter of Trump who attended a 2017 rally for President Trump.
Apparently, Trump’s hateful rhetoric against immigrants has energized the white supremacists as never before in the recent history of the USA.
What is America coming to and where is it heading to?
Thousands of Central American migrants, including men, women and entire families, are walking through southern Mexico, in the hope of reaching the USA. Low pay, rising prices for basics such as food, water and electricity and extortion demands from the local gang had made it impossible to make ends meet for most Honduran migrants. A few Nicaraguan families in the group are fleeing their country to escape political unrest and the violent government crackdown which has claimed more than 300 lives. Not too long ago, we have seen similar mass migrations from war-torn countries of Asia and Africa to Europe.
It goes without saying that if war and its threats between nations could be avoided, humanity would have a much better chance of surviving and prospering. Instead, it is insanely thought that conflict between nations can be resolved with war. But, none wins in a war except those involved in arms sales. It is no accident that many of the veto-wielding countries are the biggest arms sellers. Disorder and war between nations help the ‘merchants of death’ to maximize their profits. Weapons are not cheap either. In order to be prepared for war, governments are induced to buying weapons at an exorbitant price from the arms industry, which is enjoying bonanza years in the last few decades. So, while their people starve and suffer from all kinds of deprivations, a huge percentage of their budget is allocated to the purchase of arms.
Since at least 9/11, the UN, which is supposed to be our heartbeat, has been seen more as an organization that is either abused or manipulated by veto-wielding powers to serve their selfish interests than being an arbiter of peace and security for all nationals. It’s perceived weak against rogue nations that try to exploit the U.N.’s weaknesses to undermine the liberal international order. Take, for example, the case of Myanmar murderous regime that continues to be protected inside the UNSC by its big brother – China, and the case of Syria’s Assad regime enjoying similar protection from Russia. Remember, how President Bush Jr and his Secretary Powell misled the world community to justify US’s illegal war against Iraq in 2003? Consider also, the recent decision by Trump to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council; to pull out of UNESCO, the U.N. body for educational, scientific, and cultural collaboration; and to cut funding to UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians.
I am glad to note that some wise world leaders like Dr. Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia, Recep Erdogan of Turkey and Dr. Hassan Rouhani of Iran are speaking out in favor of a fundamental change in the UN to get us out of the vicious cycles of war and making the UN more democratic.
In his speech at the UNGA in September 2018, Dr. Mahathir said that wars are legitimizing killings and wanton destruction of everything. What is worse: “the killings are regarded as noble, and the killers are hailed as heroes. They get medals stuck to their chest and statues erected in their honor, have their names mentioned in history books. There is something wrong with our way of thinking, with our value system. Kill one man, it is murder, kill a million and you become a hero.”
Dr. Mahathir said that a reform in the UN organization is needed. He concluded, “Five countries on the basis of their victories 70 over years ago cannot claim to have a right to hold the world to ransom forever. They cannot take the moral high ground, preaching democracy and regime change in the countries of the world when they deny democracy in this organization.” He suggested that “the veto should not be by just one permanent member but by at least two powers backed by three non-permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly should then back the decision with a simple majority.”
President Erdogan wrote, “At a time when global leadership is desperately needed, it is crucial to improve the United Nations rather than destroy it. If the great powers are unwilling to assume responsibility; if a handful of countries that reap the benefits of the existing international system do not want to commit to reform; and if some of the U.N.’s architects, including the United States, continue to damage multilateralism by taking increasingly unilateralist steps, it will be time to redefine global leadership. We must end the monopoly of a small number of nations and promote the collective leadership of countries that aim to resolve key global challenges. If the great powers prove unwilling or unable to act, the community of nations—under the umbrella of the United Nations or other organizations—must do what is necessary.” He recommended that the monopoly of the Big 5 within the UNSC be abolished by increasing the number of its members to 20.
Inviting the US to return to the JCPOA instead of imposing sanctions and throwing threats, in his address to the UN General Assembly, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lambasted the US disrespect for its international obligations, citing examples of US and its allies’ wrong policies across the world, especially in the Middle East. He said, “The world is suffering from the recklessness and disregard of some states for international values and institutions. The message of our presence here is that the preservation of interests and security in the world in the least costly manner is solely possible through the cooperation of, and coordination among, countries. However, it is unfortunate that we are witnessing rulers in the world who think they can secure their interests better—or at least in the short-term ride public sentiments and gain popular support—through the fomenting of extremist nationalism and racism, and though xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition, as well as through the trampling of global rules and undermining international institutions; even through preposterous and abnormal acts such as convening a high-level meeting of the Security Council.”
Rouhani said that one cannot aspire to secure more peace and security at the cost of denying others’ peace and security. “We should not allow the breathing space for and growth of the line of thinking that holds others to ransom through the artificial creation of insecurity.”
He said, “We support peace and democracy in the entire Middle East. We consider nuclear knowledge an imperative and nuclear weapons prohibited.” “The most pressing crisis in the Middle East, however, is the question of Palestine. The passage of time cannot – and must not –justify occupation. The innumerable crimes of Israel against the Palestinians would not have been possible without the material and military assistance, and political and propaganda support of the United States. Israel, equipped with a nuclear arsenal and blatantly threatening others with nuclear annihilation, presents the most daunting threat to regional and global peace and stability.”
In his speech at the UNGA, President Erdogan said, “We believe that when we say, ‘The World Is Bigger Than 5’, we become the voice of the common conscience of the entire human race.” He asked: “Why should not all 194 countries in the world – in a rotational manner – have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council?”
“Limiting the reform of the United Nations to the budget only, will neither contribute to the solution of real problems, nor will it make anybody happy. There is a need for increasing the efficiency of this organization, which I deem very important for the future of the world, on its fundamental areas of duty which are security, development and social equality,” President Erdogan underscored.
“To ensure a peaceful and secure future for all, we have a duty to succeed in bringing the humankind’s struggle, starting with the pursuit of justice, to a conclusion with the establishment of justice. Today, if the assets of the wealthiest 62 people in the world amount to the assets of the half of world’s population of 3.6 billion people, then there is a significant problem that we need to do something about. If there exist 821 million people in the world that fall asleep hungry at night while 672 million are diagnosed with obesity, then there is a problem. If 258 million people across different geographies leave their places in search for more humane conditions and 68 million people are forcefully displaced, then there is a problem. If a baby born in Africa is nine times more likely to die in the first months of his/her life than a baby born here in this city, then there is a problem. Rumi, a shining beacon from Konya at the heartland of Anatolia which enlightens all souls across the world, said that justice means “bestowing things in its proper place,” meaning giving someone what he or she is due. Let us “bestow rights in its proper place” and make the United Nations the voice and implementer of the humankind’s expectation for justice. Let us establish a global administrative system that will serve as a shield to protect the downtrodden, lend a helping hand to the hungry and unsheltered, and fill future generations with hope,” President Erdogan said.
Underscoring that all that is said from the UNGA’s podium, all the analyses and proposals, can only make sense if they are put into action, President Erdogan said: “Likewise, according to Rumi, a cruel person is the one who does not fulfill his or her duties. If we want to make the United Nations the source of justice instead of cruelty, we have to dedicate ourselves more fully to the tasks bestowed upon us.”
Our world without the UN would be disastrous. We need it. However, as eloquently stated by the above-cited world leaders of our time, it needs critical reforms to be an effective global entity that is respected by all, and seen as just and serious arbiter of peace, and comes to the aid of the oppressed people against the oppressive powers, and is not seen as a platform to justify the crimes of the nuclear Brahmins and gangsters that have thus far rendered it useless.
Only by democratizing the global institute can such aspirations be met. Will the Gang of 5 allow such reforms?