Veto hypocrisy: The real history of US at the UN

A United Nations Security Council (UNSC) motion condemning the Syrian regime's bloodshed and caling for a “transition to democracy” was vetoed on February 4 by Russia and China.

United States officials condemned the move as “disgusting and shameful” and a “travesty”.

The moral outrage expressed by the US was faithfully reported by the corporate Western media, which paid little attention to Washington’s own voting record in the UNSC.

The UNSC has five permanent and 10 rotating members. The five permanent members the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China have the power to veto any resolution.

Since 1970, the US has used its veto more than anyone else. It has blocked scores of resolutions supported by an overwhelming majority of United Nations member states.

Some examples of resolutions blocked by the US include ones aimed at: eliminating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (and preventing the spread of the nuclear arms race to space); protecting the rights of developing nations in trade agreements; protecting the environment; ratifying a convention on the rights of the child; and introducing international cooperation on Third World debt.

The US also continues to hold out on formally ratifying (along with Russia and China) the International Criminal Court, a mechanism that would make it harder for the Assad regime to engage in indiscriminate killing.

The US has proved itself time and again to be a “rogue state”, adopting a hostile stance that has severely hindered efforts to improve development in the global South.

The US has also used its veto to benefit some of the worst human rights offenders in the international community if the regimes were US allies.

Throughout the 1970s and '80s, South Africa's apartheid regime was repeatedly aided and abetted by the US veto. Draft resolutions condemning South Africa’s racist system were routinely vetoed by the US, which saw the oppressive apartheid regime as a useful proxy in the region.

Moves to impose sanctions and end military collaboration with South Africa were greatly hindered by US intransigence, which eventually forced the post-apartheid regime to adopt disastrous neoliberal economic policies.

When the UN tried to censure the US for its unlawful activities in support of right-wing Nicaraguan “Contras” (who were waging a bloody conflict against a popular government), Washington expressed its contempt for world opinion by vetoing every resolution on the issue.

Former US president Ronald Reagan’s dirty war against the democratically elected Sandanista government involved acts of terrorism and was flagrantly in breach of international law.

Yet the US veto allowed it to continue without serious UN intervention until Washington's imperialist foreign policy aims had been met and the anti-imperialist Sandinistas were out of power.

The main beneficiary of the US veto has been Israel, which is also the leading recipient of US military aid. Israel is the key US client in the Middle East, allowing Washington to more effectively project its power in the oil-rich region.

For decades, the UN General Assembly has voiced consistent opposition to racist and human rights-abusing Israeli policies. Scores of resolutions have been tabled criticising Israeli aggression.

These resolutions have been supported by an overwhelming majority of UN member states (excepting US allies such as Australia). Yet the Israeli state and its high-tech military continue to act with impunity in part thanks to the US veto, which has scuppered virtually every resolution relating to unlawful Israeli activity.

The automatic US veto in favour of Israel has become such a fixture that it even has a name: the Negroponte Doctrine, named after John Negroponte, one of Washington’s most infamous hatchet men in the war on democracy.

From President Barack Obama's first days in office, he proved himself a willing adherent to the doctrine. The US vetoed UN censure of the savage Israeli assault on Gaza in January 2009. About 1400 Palestinian civilians were killed in this atrocity.

Since then, Obama’s UN representatives have vetoed several other UN motions, including: a 2011 resolution calling for a halt to the illegal Israeli West Bank settlements; a 2011 resolution calling for Israel to cease obstructing the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees and another resolution calling for an end to illegal Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights.

Unfortunately for the world, the foreign policy of the most powerful nation continues to fail to match its lofty rhetoric with practice.

The infamous US double standard is found in the nation's conception of itself as a moral beacon to the rest of humanity a nation with a benevolent mission to spread freedom and democracy across the globe.

These ideological blinkers create a special sort of blindness, sanctioning all manner of imperialist, predatory acts. And the mandarins of US diplomacy can indulge in the rankest hypocrisy without feeling the need to hide their heads in shame.

Because the US enjoys a special moral status, in their world view, the laws that apply to others simply do not apply to them.

In the past decade, we have seen the double standard at work in almost every big issue with which the US has concerned itself.

In relation to Syria, the discrepancy between rhetoric and reality suggests, once again, that Washington’s true motive is not concern for Syrian citizens or the democracy struggle, but to further its own hegemonic ambitions in the region.