In today's Wall Street Journal, there is an editorial written by none other than the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. In it, Mr. Annan seems desperate to reiterate the importance of the United Nations in tackling the worlds difficult problem spots. I'm going to post pieces of the article, and my comments in between.
Our Mission Remains Vital
By KOFI A. ANNAN
February 22, 2005; Page A14
In the past year I have read many attacks on the United Nations -- quite a few, but by no means all, in the pages of this newspaper.
That pains me, because I have served the U.N. all my life. I have done, and am still doing, everything I can to correct its imperfections, and to improve and strengthen it. And I believe profoundly in the importance of that task, because a strong U.N. is of vital importance to humanity.
If this were true, then why did he allow Cuba to represent Latin America, Zimbabwe to represent Africa, and Saudi Arabia to represent the middle east on the UN Human Rights Council? Is this his idea of reform? Does he not realize that these three regimes are guilty of atrocious violations of human rights that to this day remain unchecked or unchallenged? What is the freaking point of having the worst offenders in charge of maintaining the HRC? Unbelievable.
When the appalling disaster of the tsunami struck in the Indian Ocean, killing at least 150,000 people and destroying the livelihood of millions, President Bush acted quickly to form a core group of nations with available military forces in the region. That was the right thing to do. It got the relief efforts off to a flying start, which was essential.
But a week later, when all involved came together in Jakarta to plan and coordinate the multinational effort, everyone, including the U.S., agreed that the U.N. should take the lead.
That's not the tune that Jan Egeland was singing when the US was sending an aircraft carrier to help out a day after the Tsunami hit. Remember back then, we were the "stingy" nation. Now the UN wants to take credit for, um, what exactly? Forming a committee? I'll turn it over to the Diplomad blog who was on the ground in the Tsunami affected areas and saw the UN action first hand-read this entire post, here is an excerpt-
The puffery about the UN Joint Logistics Centre is just that puffery. The UNJLC, as of today, is still not completely functional in Indonesia. To be fair, they seem to have brought in some good people (some not so good) who should do a credible job coordinating the much-reduced relief activity anticipated in the days ahead as US, Australian, and New Zealand forces depart. It is not clear, however, that the Indonesian military couldn't do it alone, but, international donor politics demand a UN stamp.
And the 300 trucks? Notice how the UN press release rolls together IOM and UN. It would be akin to stating, "Between them the United States and Mexico have 12 aircraft carrier battlegroups." Technically true, but . . . The overwhelming majority of those trucks are IOM's -- arranged and paid for by USAID. The Indonesian Minister of Defense noted, January 16, "The U.S. Military [in Aceh] has been the backbone of the logistical operations providing assistance to all afflicted after the disaster. We'd like to pay tribute to the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen of the U.S. Forces deployed in Aceh throughout the relief effort." He didn't say the UN.
The press release is vague about who provided shelter and malaria control. For good reason: the UN has done VERY little of that. USAID and the USN have done the majority of it. Same with the claim about reaching hundreds-of-thousands of people with food aid. The UN didn't do that; the Aussies and we did that. It was US, Australian, and New Zealand C-130s, and US boats (both USN and leased by USAID) that moved the food to Aceh and Medan. It was USN and USMC helos and LCACs that moved it out to the affected areas. The UN-leased helos -- paid for largely by the Japanese -- have only just begun to operate.
Kofi then attempts to argue that the main reason it is important for the UN stamp on the relief operations is "because it is in no one's pocket. It belongs to the world." Ok, whatever Kofi. It belongs to the world yet the US pays for over 40% of its operating budget. Why don't you just admit that you want the UN to have a stamp on the relief effort so you can attempt to justify a reason for the UN's existence.
Mr Annan then decides to use another great example of the usefulness of the UN- Iraq. You have GOT to be kidding me.
Nope, he's serious. Observe.
Another example of the U.N.'s importance -- a more difficult one, because of its sharply divisive political context -- is Iraq.
More difficult? Tap away there dance man...
Indisputably, the war in Iraq two years ago caused many people on all sides to lose faith in the U.N. Those who favored military action against Saddam Hussein were disappointed that the Security Council did not -- as they saw it -- have the courage to enforce its own resolutions.
It's not that they didn't have the courage, they couldn't enforce them if they wanted to without military back up from the US. Those resolutions weren't worth the paper they were printed on. This is such a ridiculous statement.
And those who opposed it were frustrated at the U.N.'s inability to prevent a war they thought unnecessary or premature.
Like, Um Iraq maybe? Is Kofi aware that Iraq was the head chair of the nuclear disarmament committee during the late 90's? Again, why would Saddam vote to have himself removed?
Kofi lists multiple examples of how the UN's "expertise" was needed to help with elections and the drafting of their constitution. I'm not sure why, but hey at this point why bother trying to figure it out. Unsurprisingly Kofi glosses over the UN controlled Oil-For-Palaces-and-Payoffs Program in Iraq.
Of course the U.N. is far from perfect -- even if some of the recent allegations made about it have been overblown. The interim report of Paul Volcker's independent inquiry has helped put the Oil For Food program in perspective. Some of the more hyperbolic assertions about it have been proven untrue.
All one needs to do to expose how ridiculous that statement is need look no further than the website devoted to UNSCAM- Friends Of Saddam-
An excerpt from the site-
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.)
Kofi wraps up this head-shakingly daft essay with the following pleas and excuses-
The U.N. cannot expect to survive into the 21st century unless ordinary people throughout the world feel that it does something for them -- helping to protect them against conflict (both civil and international), but also against poverty, hunger, disease and the erosion of their natural environment.
And most people of the world realize that if they are depending on the UN to save them, well, they are pretty much screwed.
And in recent years, bitter experience has taught us that a world in which whole countries are left prey to misgovernment and destitution is not safe for anyone. We must turn the tide against disease and hunger, as well as against terrorism, the proliferation of deadly weapons and crime -- starting, urgently, with decisions from the Security Council to end the abominable crimes in Darfur and bring war criminals to international justice.
They might make up another committee! I'm sure the head hunters in Darfur are absolutely shaking in their boots at the thought of another UN committee!!!
This September, we have a real opportunity to make the U.N. more useful to all its members. Leaders from all over the world are coming to a U.N. summit in New York. I shall put before them an agenda of bold but achievable proposals for making the U.N. work better, and the world fairer and safer.
Do you think that in this proposal he will propose suspending the chairs of Cuba on the HRC? Methinks not.
I know that Americans want to do that as much as any people on earth. More than any other people, they have the power to do it -- if they listen to and work with others, and take the lead in a concerted effort. I believe that they will give us that lead. I look forward to September with hope and excitement.
So, what are you saying Kofi? We in the US can help people as long as we listen to say, Libya lecture us on prison abuses? This country does not need to listen to the UN lecture us about anything anymore. We did that for years and we ended up with two smoking craters in New York. That game is over with. We have tried to keep the UN relevant, but when over half of the members of the organization hail from entirely corrupt and abusive regimes, there is simply no point.
Until the UN looks in the mirror and proposes certain requirements for admission in to the circle, it will continue to be a useless body that exists solely to satisfy the conscience of disillusioned liberals and appease corrupt dictators.
And that's your tax dollars at work.