The UN Veto Waltz

Listen – can you hear that? If you concentrate hard you might just catch the gentle beat permeating today’s testosterone fuelled noise of rattling sabres. Do you hear, it’s familiar 1,2,3 – 1,2,3 – it’s a waltz, a tune of days gone by. We see a silhouette of a Russian and a Chinese man, lit by a solitary spotlight as they whisk and weave their way around a filthy Syrian hospital ward. The smaller one in his Cuban heals, seems bashful but never doubt Vladimir Putin’s willingness to strip off for the camera and ripple his muscles to prove his machismo. His partner, the newly none-elected CEO of China PLC cuts a less familiar pose and his name, Xi Jinping, like the previous leader and the one before that, will, I’d wager, be forgotten by most of you, within the hour.

They say the new Supreme Leader is a Maoist, despite presiding over an organisation that doesn’t shy away from using the levers of power and security, and the blood, sweat and tears of its people to improve the capital interests and privileges of the inner party elite. This Neo Bourgeoisie, who still declare, without any irony, and despite the 70 richest parliamentarians having a combined net worth of over $100 Billion, that they remain committed advocates of that dried up and faded husk of an idea that was communism?

Of course communism died spectacularly in Russia a quarter of a century ago. But it’s ill preserved and stinking corpse is regularly wheeled out by nationalists, to support their improbable claims that we had it better under the Soviets. Indeed, Vladimir Putin, a former Colonel in the KGB, and a man not known to suffer criticism easily, is now regarded by many as a Neo Stalinist.

Anyway, back on the dance floor Putin and Xi Jinping continue their veto threatening waltz until the mood and the music suddenly changes as UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon is illuminated on a side stage crooning his Karaoke version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” But it all sounds rather hollow and out of place, when we look into Moon’s eyes and realise there isn’t a hope in hell now of al-Assad listening to his “stop fighting and start talking” mantra, since the Syrian burned his very last bridge to surviving this war by using nerve gas on his own people. Yet Moon’s plea seems more about the future of the UN, than about saving one more tyrant from yet another, undignified end, like Muammar Gadaffi and Saddam Hussain.

Our couple barely lose a step during Moon’s speech and smile knowingly at each other. As long as they dance together the world can do little. Putin whispers something about stifling the spread of radical Islam, although we know it is mostly about preserving Russia’s last foothold in the Med: the naval base at Tartus, the airbase at Tadmur and their key surveillance installation at Latakia. And yet China’s interest in propping up al-Assad is unclear. $500 million a month to al-Assad’s war effort in exchange for oil credits may suggest an economic dimension, above a quiet desire to establish more influence in a volatile region, without meddling in the affairs of other countries. The subtext of other countries is China itself of course, Tibet, rampant human rights abuses and their growing problem with Islamic radicals in the far west of the country are all seen as reasons why China doesn’t criticise al-Assad for murdering his own people, just in case the spotlight shifts onto them.

Should my question go even deeper? How many deaths is enough? While governments and parliaments tear themselves apart over what to do about 1500 nerve gas deaths, this represents less than 1.5% of the 100,000 plus deaths so far. But even this figure pales into insignificance, when we look at what two key influences of these world leaders did to their own people, through purges, ethnic cleansing, mass murder and deliberately induced famines. Together, Mao and Stalin killed more people than any other tyrant, war or event in the entire history of the world. Some say 100 million perished, while others will argue 125 million or more. An astoundingly big number, which even eclipses into second place, that terrible plague of the middle ages, the Black Death and it is significantly higher than the final total for both the First and Second World Wars put together.

So what hope of help or compassion can the battered citizens of Syria realistically expect from the world, or more importantly these two UN veto wielding members, when one of them looks back almost wistfully at the management skills of Joseph Stalin, while the other, a neo Maoist, rules a country where Mao’s Portrait still looks out over that enduring symbol of oppression, Tiananmen Square, and his malevolent image continues to be celebrated on almost every banknote? And yet, two more fundamental questions would be: Why are we surprised to learn that the UN, that very body set up after Hitler to protect nation from nation, but not nations from themselves, is so impotent in Syria, when it failed to save a single victim from the Red Death of Mao or Stalin and why does it still regularly fail to save people, when they discover they are ruled by un-hinged and murderous leaders?

And yet this is not about them it is about us. The UN was not born to be held to ransom by any one country, or alliance of countries. So I would suggest that its charter and the outdated use and abuse of the veto awarded only to the colonial powers present at its birth, is no longer fit for purpose. So I call on all the leaders of the world to either change it or invent something new, before we see yet another ill-matched couple dancing around more innocent corpses in the name of domestic popularity, hegemony or some other short term gain.


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