Friday, December 10, 2004

Is It Time for the UN To Go?...............


Many people are beginning to wonder.

John O'Sullivan writes today in the New York Post-

December 10, 2004 -- WHICH of the fol lowing recent news stories is the odd one out:
(a) United Nations accused of cover-up of sexual harassment by senior official.

(b) U.N. soldiers in Africa accused of sexual trafficking in minors.

(c) Son of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan accused of profiting from U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal until early this year.

(d) U.S. Senator urges Kofi Annan to resign after his committee discovers that the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program transferred $21 billion to Saddam Hussein.

(e) U.N. "High Level Panel" of eminent persons urges greater powers for world body.

The answer is, of course, news headline (d).

No one is ever asked to resign for wrongdoing at the United Nations. Indeed, since Minnesota Sen. Norman Coleman suggested that the secretary general should fall on his sword for presiding over the Oil-for-Food scandal, there has been a positive rush of diplomats and governments from all over the world to his defense.........

Americans tend to be baffled by these reactions. They look at the multiplying scandals around the United Nations and wonder how the man in charge can avoid being held responsible for any of it by other countries.

But the explanation is simple: Kofi Annan is the symbol of the United Nations' lack of accountability. He is never held responsible for what goes wrong, because the United Nations is never held responsible, either. It sails in a cloud of noble idealism over the actual failures, hypocrisy, corruption and outright criminality that attend some U.N. actions on the ground below.

And there is a polite consensus outside the United States not to notice the glaring contradictions between idealism and reality. Too many influential people and institutions have invested too much in the United Nations and the U.N. system to see its flaws clearly.

The UN, in this humble Americans opinion, is a complete and total joke at this point of its history for the following reasons.

1.) In January of 2003, The UN held its conference on Disarmament. The rotating chairs to head the conference went to -you ready for this?- IRAQ and IRAN. Iraq, the country that would figure prominently in the discussion at the conference, the one that everyone was trying to disarm so that they would not develop and use WMD's, was in the head chair of the conference. Fox gaurding the hen house, plain and simple. Don't get me started on The UN and Iran with their nuclear program, that will just upset me.

2.) The UN Human Rights Commission is chaired by (shaking head) -are you ready for this?- fine protectors of human rights such as Cuba, Sudan, Libya, and China. Libya was put in charge of the Commission in 2003 despite the fact that they were still under UN sanctions for the Lockerbie bombings. José Miguel Vivanco, a regional director with Human Rights Watch- "The world's worst human rights violators protect themselves, and one another. They act like a true mafia." For instance, Argentina, which used to vote to condemn Cuba's human rights abuses, announced that it will abstain this year. The announcement came only days after international human rights groups declared that Cuba's violations reached a new high last year, with the execution of three people who were trying to flee the island on a hijacked boat, and the imprisonment of 75 peaceful dissidents.

3.) The UN Failure in Rwanda- Despite pleas from the UN peacekeepers on the ground in Rwanda, the UN failed to act to stop the slaughter of over 800,000 people. Belgium, one of the UN forces main military contingents, withdrew all of its forces after ten of its soldiers were killed. Peacekeepers actually backed off from protecting a school, allowing a few hundred children to be slaughtered.

4.) And the big one....The UN Iraqi "Oil-for-Payoffs-Weapons-and-Diplomatic-Immunity" program, otherwise known UNSCAM. This site created by the Commissar has perhaps the best round up of all the information. From the site-

"After the 1991 Gulf War, the U.N. imposed economic sanctions on Saddam's regime. Concerned that the sanctions were hurting the people of Iraq, in 1996 the Security Council established the Iraq Oil-for-Food Program (OFP). Under strict U.N. control, Iraq would be allowed to export oil and import food and humanitarian supplies.

Over time, the program grew. Over seven years, $65 billion worth of oil was sold through the program and $38 billion of goods was imported into Saddam-controlled Iraq. Inspectors, monitors, and local bureaucrats oversaw oil sales, imports, and distribution of the humanitarian aid. The other $27 billion went to Kuwaiti war reparations, to the UN for administrative costs, and to Kurdish-controlled Iraq.

Saddam evaded and abused the sanctions program as much as possible. He smuggled oil out of Iraq. He demanded kickbacks from both sides of the OFP: purchasers of oil and suppliers of goods. The GAO estimates that he earned $10 billion from smuggling ($5.7Bn) and kickbacks ($4.4Bn).

For years before the 2003 Iraq War, much of this was known, and ignored by the U.N. and the U.S. Indeed, there was constant global pressure to abandon or ease the sanctions; various Security Council Resolutions increased the amount of oil that could be sold and broadened the list of goods that could be imported. In 2001, the OFP did tighten up the oil pricing policy, and thus reduced the margin on the kickbacks required from oil purchasers.

Various U.S. agencies reported on the graft and kickbacks throughout 2002 and 2003, with modest attention. The lid blew off the OFP scandal on January 30, 2004, with the publication in Al-Mada, a Baghdad newspaper, of a list of 270 alleged recipients of oil allocations from Saddam. Reportedly the recipients of these vouchers had the right to buy Iraqi oil and could then re-sell it at a tidy profit. The names included oil companies, small trading companies, politicians (many of them vocally pro-Saddam), and at least one U.N. official, Benon Sevan, the head of OFP. (By my estimate, the published list of oil vouchers, in total, was worth about $800 million, one part of the puzzle, NOT the whole thing.)

There is obviously a need for a United Nations type of organization, but the current one is infested with dictatorships and career diplomats who do nothing to further the welfare of the world or even their own constituents. Certain nations pack certain committees so that they clear themselves of any wrongdoing. Right now, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) set up in Palestine is one of the only relief agencies of its kind and level of funding. While I agree that Palestine needs help and funding (even though Arafat died with billions of dollars of Palestinians money), how come there isn't a relief agency set up North Korea? How come the UN doesn't have the same level of relief agency set up for the Sudanese getting slaughtered and starved by muslim militants? The United Nations has become what it replaced, the League of Nations- an ineffectual institution which hinders progress and democratic change in the regimes it represents.

Suggestions for its replacement have been something along the lines of a League of Free Nations, composed of only those nations who value liberty, individual freedom, and self-determination in government. Then we can move the UN building to France and let them play with it.

But it is very difficult to accept the premise that the UN is currently capable of doing anything but be increasingly hypocritical.

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