Thursday, April 21, 2005

Fixing the UN

Sadly, the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are playing partisan games over the nomination of John Bolton to be US Ambassador to the United Nations, using ridiculous, trumped up charges to try to derail his candidacy. In the meantime, the UN remains a festering cesspool of hypocrisy and corruption desperately in need of reform. The numerous problems besetting this organization include:

-A general record of ineffectiveness in confronting aggression and genocide. From the Balkans to Rwanda, Iraq to Darfur, the UN has proved almost completely impotent in the face of defiance by brutal dictatorships. Only when the United States has been able to act under the UN banner (Korea, First Gulf War) has the organization been effective.

-The UN Commission on Human Rights includes 6 of the world's 18 most repressive dictatorships.

-While many politicians and commentators carried on about the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal as if it was the worst event since Auschwitz, most of the same people were conspicuously silent on the vile conduct of UN peacekeepers and administrators in the African nation of Congo. Numerous local women and children were sexually abused and exploited, and one high-ranking official even ran a pedophilia ring.

-Finally, of course, there is the Oil-for-Food scandal. Corrupt UN bureaucrats and countries such as France and Russia allowed Saddam Hussein to rake in billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues while profiting themselves in the process. The UN has set up an independent inquiry into the scandal. However, two of this committee's top three investigators have just resigned over not being allowed to follow up leads.

Claudia Rossett, the journalist who has done so much to expose the Oil-for-Food scandal, aptly summarizes the situation in her April 20 column:

We have learned step by step--via details unearthed by the press, not conflict-of-interest disclosures by the U.N.-- that the secretary-general's own son, Kojo Annan, received payments during the course of the program from one of the Oil for Food contractors on the receiving end of last year's U.N. hush letters, Switzerland-based Cotecna Inspections SA. Last month the Volcker inquiry, in an interim report, said these payments routed through various conduits might have totaled more than $480,000.

We have seen signs that Saddam, via Oil for Food, corrupted officials and businessmen worldwide--though apart from legal investigations in the U.S., this aspect of the scandal in countries such as Security Council member states Russia, France and China, not to mention such crossroads of Saddam's commerce as Switzerland and Syria, has barely been scratched.

Now we have the charges by U.S. prosecutors that Koreagate's Tongsun Park shuttled millions in bribe money from Saddam Hussein to two high-ranking U.N. officials, referred to in the complaint as "U.N. Official #1" and "U.N. Official #2." Outside the U.N., the hunt is on to discover the identities of this duo.

And how is the U.N. handling the possibility that some of its high-ranking officials may be under investigation for sitting on illicit millions in secret payoffs from a former totalitarian regime under sanctions? In any private company, or any democratic government, this would fill top management not only with dismay, but with an urgent mission to ransack the place to the rafters, immediately.

John Bolton has his faults, no doubt. But he is a blunt, plain-spoken truth teller. He is exactly the kind of UN Ambassador we need in order to help salvage something from the wreckage of that organization. The United Nations is badly in need of reform. If radical change does not come soon, the UN is destined to become League of Nations 2.0.


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