There is a (probably apocryphal) story of a two-term Louisiana Congressman running for reelection. He was accused of corruption by the challenger. “Yes,” he admitted on the stump, “I’ve stolen money. But after four years I’ve got all I need for life. If you vote for my opponent it’s gonna take another four years for him to get all he needs. Keep me on the job, and from here on out I’ll work for you!” The story recounts, he was re-elected by a landslide. Apparently UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan must have heard that story, for it is precisely the tack he is taking in defense of his stunningly corrupt mismanagement of the UN.
An unrepentant Annan, in the face of a firestorm of criticism by independent investigator Paul Volcker, said that while all of this is “deeply embarrassing,” he has no intention of resigning. Instead, Annan, with stubborn arrogance, insists that this is a “golden opportunity” for his package of reforms. Annan brushes aside the charges of corruption – which include the involvement of two of his sons and virtually all of his closest professional associates – by spreading the blame. “The responsibility for the failures must be broadly shared,” Annan pontificated, deftly deflecting the responsibility he purported to accept, “starting, we believe, with member states and the Security Council itself.” Certainly member states participated in the corruption but it is unlikely that Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin held anything more deadly to Annan’s head than a passbook to a Swiss bank account.
While Volcker’s probe focused on the infamous Oil-for-Food program, especially the siphoning off at least $10.2 billion into Saddam Hussein’s pockets during a period when the UN had imposed sanctions upon the Iraqi people, there are many, many more UN offenses for which Annan and his cohorts need to stand accountable. Virtually every UN-supervised program that involves money is suspect. Nepotism and cronyism have been the norm for so long that they have become acceptable career paths. Program results have been faked, fabricated, or simply ignored if they reflect unfavorably on a person or program. The UN leadership has for years reveled in its tax-exempt, immune-from-prosecution diplomatic status while committing massive fraud and bribery. Now they profess indignation that member states do not support bogus reform programs.
Meanwhile, those people that the UN pretends to represent: the downtrodden, the oppressed, the imprisoned, and the helpless, are not only ignored, as in Sudan – where the UN leadership cannot bring itself to say the word “genocide” – but are actually exploited. As investigators report from several African and Balkan UN missions, the cases of child rape, sexual exploitation, and overall neglect are so compelling to bring tears. But they will not bring legal action against the perpetrators.
If we are surprised by these revelations we have only our own naiveté to blame. Many in America especially have voluntarily donned blinders rather than admit that the UN is what it is: ineffective in its mission, corrupt from top to bottom, and, most damaging, responsible for the deaths and abuse of millions of human beings it is sworn to protect. Yet what can we expect from an organization that requires only status of nationhood for admittance? Some of the vilest, most repulsive thugs, terrorists, criminals, and human rights abusers sit protected in the Turtle Bay offices while their regimes commit atrocities of unspeakable brutality, most often against their own citizens.
We see regularly in the UN scenes in which chronic human rights abusers like Saddam’s Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria are actually given leadership positions in committees whose purpose is to investigate and reveal the very abuses that they are committing. Yet there are many in the world, including far too many in America, who are so willfully ignorant of these massive transgressions and so passionate for the supra-national government that the UN seems to represent, that they excuse, exculpate, and transfer blame from those who deserve it to those who don’t. Before the Oil-for-Fraud scandal was broken by investigative reporters like Claudia Rosett, many accused the U.S. and UK of responsibility for thousands of children’s deaths in Iraq because of UN sanctions. Now we know that the money for food and medications – approved under the UN program – was illegally diverted to Saddam Hussein and used to bribe toady UN member states. Saddam bribed the gatekeepers and used the money to build palaces and prop up his dictatorial state.
There is a bizarre mindset among these people that the UN organization itself transcends the character makeup of its members. It defies reason to believe thuggish nations suddenly become humanitarian democrats, and freedom lovers, simply by gathering in the General Assembly. When Mafia crime families meet to divide up the spoils they don’t transform themselves into a community improvement society.
A recent example of this self-delusional mindset could be seen in the wild criticism leveled at Ambassador John Bolton, who was to be dispatched with broom in hand to clean up the UN. While that may prove to be Mission Impossible, at least President Bush is bright enough and possesses sufficient morally responsibility to recognize rampant corruption and ineffectiveness when he sees it.
Annan’s supposed “reforms” are the same kind of empty gesture that was supposed to reform the UN many times in the past. It amounts to no more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The prospect of genuine reform terrifies entrenched UN leaders, who have grown accustomed to the hedonistic life style of Manhattan – and having their bills paid part by U.S. taxpayers. Ambassador Bolton is absolutely right to insist on full accountability from the UN and would be well served to demand, on behalf of a righteously indignant America, that the shield of diplomatic immunity be yanked away from these crooks – and, further, that they be brought to justice. It is past time to recognize that the UN leadership is a criminal gang itself. If someone does not prosecute the criminals at the UN, he should apologize to Enron.
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