What will it take to knock the United Nations off the pedestal that it occupies in the minds of American internationalists? Certainly not passivity in the face of genocide. The loathsome record of the UN fiddling while innocents burn in Bosnia, Rwanda and now Darfur has not dimmed the affections of the world body’s faithful devotees.
Nor do serial rape and institutionalised paedophilia seem to serve as disqualifiers, either. The multi-lateralist faith of the UN cheerleading squad appears to be unshaken by a sordid trail of sexual exploitation left by blue-helmeted peacekeepers from Kosovo to the Congo.
In 2001, a study by Save the Children revealed that United Nations missions throughout the world were plagued by epidemic levels of lecherous coercion. The NGO found that impoverished war refugees in West Africa and the Balkans were routinely pressured by UN staffers into trading fellatio for food.
In some instances, 12-year-old girls were forced to pay an excruciating price for survival by becoming the sexual playthings of United Nations personnel. Last September, Frenchman Didier Bourget testified at his rape trial in Paris that he organised underground child molestation networks while serving with several UN missions.
One might naturally expect that such stomach turning revelations would bring in train a slew of criminal prosecutions. Think again.
During the 1990s, the top United Nations official in Cambodia responded to similar revelations of rampant lascivious misbehaviour by his staff with the quip: “boys will be boys.” And this same instinct to cover up, rather than ferret out, has governed the UN’s institutional reaction to subsequent instances of salacious delinquency.
Adverse publicity and American political pressure finally moved the United Nations to announce a policy of “zero tolerance” towards sexual abuse in 2003. But like much of the rhetoric emanating from UN Headquarters, this was a toothless declaration that had zero effect on the scourge of prurient peacekeeping. The repute of the world body was besmirched yet further in 2005 by new reports of debauchery at missions in Burundi, Haiti, Liberia and above all the Congo.
The United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) is an outspoken proponent of the internationalist perspective in the debate over Washington’s stance on foreign affairs. Yet while the UNA-USA proudly proclaims its devotion the task of “providing information and educational materials,” its policy statements are much more notable for what they omit than what they contain.
The Association’s website abounds with bien pensant denunciations of Bush administration foreign policy. But the UNA-USA has refrained from any statement that would decry the sexual depravity that has marred so many United Nations operations.
The Spring 2005 issue of the UNA-USA’s quarterly magazine, Interdependent, features a puff piece interview with the United Nations Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations. But nowhere on the website version of this article is there any mention of blue-beret-wearing sexual predators who prey on the vulnerable victims of war throughout the globe.
This ‘business as usual’ attitude at the UNA-USA has been completely unaffected by the serial prostitution of children that has taken place on the watch of the United Nations. Legislation introduced last year into congress would have made further US support for peacekeeping operations contingent on the UN’s adoption of an effective code of conduct. But the Association urged its members to lobby against the United Nations Reform Act of 2005.
Thus the UN’s dereliction of duty abroad is matched by the moral purblindness of its apologists at home. In their passion to redeem the virtues of the internationalist theory, defenders of the United Nations tend to extenuate the vices that condemn the world body to practical impotence.
The seeds of corruption that infect the UN derive from an ethos of moral relativism that equates neutrality with righteousness. And this philosophy of impartiality promotes an aversion to ethical value judgements that renders the United Nations unable to make any practical distinction between liberty and tyranny.
Within the corridors of the UN there is no difference in status between democratic governments that rule by the ballot and despotic juntas that rule by the bullet. And through the abdication of universal moral standards, the United Nation’s internal institutional logic compels the adoption of policies that reduce it to the status of global laughing stock.
The result is a world body that cannot even define terrorism, much less address it. We witness such absurdities as a Human Rights Commission that is chaired by paragons of inhumanity such as Libya. And the General Assembly serves as a theatre of the absurd in which tyrants attempt to deflect attention from their crimes by lecturing free nations on political ethics.
The United Nations pollutes itself through its assertion of parity between fascism and freedom. As long as it confers equal status on Robert Mugabe and George Bush alike, then the UN will continue its slide into the abyss of irrelevance.
Yet deliverance might still possible, but only if the democratic world has the courage to be cruel to be kind. The moral relativism that pervades the United Nations must go, and the body’s most unsavoury members must go with it.
Article 6 of the UN Charter provides for the ejection of nations that systematically violate its terms. But this provision of the Charter also contains a catch-22 that requires the approval of both the Security Council and General Assembly before a miscreant can be expelled. And of course, the third-world thugs who run the UN through sheer numbers will never permit their diplomatic playground to be turned against them: at least not as things now stand.
But what if America – the UN’s largest single dues payer – were to make its continued financial largess contingent upon a cleansing of the Augean Stable that the world body has become? Even the most recalcitrant United Nations bureaucrats could not fail to be moved by prospect of Washington keeping a firm hand on the wallet that dispenses 25% of their annual budget.
Such tough American tactics would doubtless cause the UNA-USA to scream bloody murder. But the UN must develop the ability to differentiate between slavery and sovereignty if it ever wishes to shed the taint of tolerance for tyranny that warps its institutional value system.
The overwhelming majority of Americans will never apologise for their belief that representative democracy is morally superior to repressive autocracy. Nor should they. But only when United Nations recognises, and acts upon, this self-evident truth, will the internationalist creed be saved from its own excesses.
Ted Lapkin was Communications Director for former Republican Congressman Rick Lazio. He now lives in Melbourne, Australia and is Director of Policy Analysis at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
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