The United Nations and the 1991 Gulf War

The United Nations

The following resolution was adopted at a Bevin Society Conference on 7th April, 1991:

  1. The United Nations is not, and could not be while the Veto system exists, a body through which international law might be established.
  2. The United Nations was established for the purpose of ensuring a permanent dominance in world affairs of the three major military powers of 1945 and two other states which they chose to include in their world oligarchy. Economic power then coincided with military power, but it no longer docs. The great military powers are now in relative economic decline. The divergence of economic and military power, combined with the United Nations system which gives priority to the military power of its founders, is a fundamental source of disorder in the contemporary world.
  3. The Gulf War was not a law enforcement operation. It has not made the world safer. Its effect has been to blight the prospect that the ending of the Cold War would usher in a generation in which the world would develop through peaceful competition led by two great economic powers which are committed against militarism.
  4. The state of Kuwait is a British imperialist contrivance developed for a purpose which has nothing to do with the welfare of the people of Arabia. Britain first cultivated the al-Sabah clan in order to get a foothold against the Ottoman Empire, then for the purpose of restricting Saudi development, and finally constituted the clan into a state for the purpose of separating Arab oil from the Arab people and keeping it under Western control. What makes the despotism of the Emir despicable is not the lack of democracy for Kuwait nationals, but the restriction of nationality. In the era of the League of Nations, nationality was declared by the International Court to be the inherent right of all who were subject to a state. People born in and long-term residents of states should have the option of citizenship. In Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990, less than 40% of those who lived in the state, and by their work enabled it to function, had Kuwaiti nationality. And ‘liberated’ Kuwait, being under some Western pressure to make democratic gestures, has announced a programme of halving the population as a preliminary measure.
  5. The United Nations decided to restore this despotism by force, at immense cost to the civilian population of Iraq, after Iraq had made clear its willingness to negotiate a withdrawal, while continuing to turn a blind eye to the Indonesian annexation of East Timor and the slaughter of up to half its people, despite a Security Council resolution admitting a right of self-determination in the people of East Timor. This demonstrates that the United Nations is not only not a body which establishes law, but is a body which fosters disorder in the world.
  6. The United Nations fostered the rebellions which occurred at the end of the Gulf War, reckoning by this means to overthrow the Ba’ath Government at the cost of only Iraqi lives. When the Ba’ath Government, despite the immense damage done by United Nations bombing to its apparatus of State, managed to reorganise and to suppress the rebellions, the United Nations washed its hands of all responsibility in the matter, but shed crocodile tears of humanitarian concern.
  7. The United Nations is likely to constitute an ongoing danger to peace and progress in the world unless it is compelled to reform. The essential reforms are an abolition of the Veto and the development of the Security Council into a body representative of the General Assembly.
  8. The Security Council should still include permanent powers, but without a Veto. Representation should be a balance between power and numerical democracy. America, Russia, China, India, and Japan should have permanent seats. And either the EC should have a permanent seat, or Germany should have a seat as well as Britain and France. Motions to wage war should require a heavily weighted majority. And disputes between states likely to lead to war – such as the Kuwaiti provocations of Iraq early in 1990 – should be made subject to compulsory arbitration, also by a weighted majority.
  9. Amendment of the United Nations Charter is subject to Veto. Reform is therefore unlikely unless some powerful states threatened to withdraw, if the Veto is not abolished. But a dissolution of the UN would be preferable to continuing it in its present form. It really is time World War 2 was ended.


Explanatory Note:

The official terminology of the United Nations is fundamentally at variance with ordinary language in many respects. The very name “United Nations” is a misnomer. It is not composed of nations, but of states. It can take no cognizance of nations in the ordinary sense, but officially presumes all states to be nations. Nationality is defined as follows in a 1930 decision of the International Court: “A man’s nationality is a continuing legal relationship between the sovereign state on the one hand and the citizen on the other. The fundamental basis of a man’s nationality is his membership of an independent political community” (See Introduction to International Law by J. G. Starke. Butterworths, 1989, p 340). Nationality is membership of a state, on this view, though it does not necessarily involve the right to vote in electing the Government of the state. The Government of Kuwait denied nationality in this sense to over sixty per cent of the inhabitants of Kuwait. There were about 700,000 Kuwaiti nationals, of whom about 50,000 had the vote on the rare occasions when elections were held. And there were about a million people who were officially decreed not to be nationals, even though many of them were born in the state. This was in gross violation of the International Court ruling that, while a state may deny democratic political rights to an individual member of it, it may not deprive him of nationality.



This article appeared in May 1991, in Issue 23 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs.  You can find more from the era at