"This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years .... It could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification."
Note the phrase "lawless use of force". There are dozens of countries in the world with brutal dictators that the US could have deposed -- arguably Saudi Arabia would have been a more appropriate choice than Iraq, as they *did* have links to al Qaeda. That is not the issue, however. The issue is whether the US had the *right* under international law to attack Iraq. Kofi Annan clearly implies that the answer is no.
Today, the US administration is fundamentally in violation of international law, and fundamentally opposed to what the UN stands for. Realistically, the Bush administration should have withdrawn itself from the UN long ago -- not because the UN is a worse guardian of world peace than the US, but simply because the Bush administration entered office with plans which were fundamentally opposed to international laws and commitments. The Bush administration has shown itself to have no respect for international law and it has no business in the UN if it has no intention to abide by its charter.
Really, if the UN was allowed to function like a meaningful organization, they would have a board of judges that could decide whether or not the US (or any other country) has violated "club rules" and kick them out of the UN, but the US has hobbled the UN to such an extent that it cannot even enforce its own membership lists, which is why it is so painfully hypocritical when our politicians complain of UN ineptitude and of countries like Syria serving on UN committees. (Note that they don't complain about Israel...)
Have no doubt that the UN is intentionally hobbled by the US. If it serves the purpose of the US, then it serves that purpose by design. Likewise, when it is useless, then it is useless by design.
This is because the primary purpose that the UN serves for the US is to provide legitimacy for self-serving actions. Either the UN approves of what the US wants (after bribes and threats), or the US sees that approval is unlikely, in which case the UN is flogged by the US administration and by reporters who are foolish enough to think that having a different opinion than the current US administration makes one an enemy. Essentially, whether the UN approves of what the US does or not, both approval or "inability to respond" provides a level of justification for otherwise unjustifiable acts.
Today, Bush will return to the UN like the cat that killed the canary, with an aura of smugness, a hint of arrogance, and no sign of remorse or regret for his actions. Once more, he will attempt to hold the UN for ransom, threatening its credibility if it doesn't act. (And hinting at lucrative contracts for those countries that do...)
However, the evidence shows that there are no weapons of mass destruction. There is no link from Iraq to Al Qaeda. Iraq didn't violate the terms of its peace agreement with the UN. In truth, the issue of credibility shouldn't lie with the UN, but with the President of the United States.
Mr. Bush goes to the UN today not only seeking politically expendable soldiers and money, but also legitimacy. Legitimacy for the right of the US (and only the US...) to violate international law when it sees fit in order to conquer and economically control other countries.
What is the word used to describe the granting of approval to otherwise illegal acts when faced with threats, bribery, and intimidation? That word is appeasement.
Admittedly, leaders of the world have previously sought international legitimacy for foriegn invasions, but to humanity's credit, they usually don't get it.. There have been exceptions, but I would challenge anyone to point out a single exception in the history of this planet which we should be proud of.
At the end of the debate, either we shall see a determined, freeminded, independent UN assert itself on the world stage, or we will see handshaking, backslapping, and numerous attempts at justifying an act of evil, done for the "greater good". At that point, we can fully expect a speech not too different than this one:
"I believe it is peace for our time... Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."