More on the UN

Awesome article in the Observer via the Guardian Online on the UN by a former UN Human Rights lawyer:

Having worked as a UN
human rights observer in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti and Liberia, there are
two savage paradoxes for me here. The first is that, while the media
and conservative politicians and pundits have suddenly discovered that
the UN has been catastrophically incompetent, this is very old news to
anyone with the mud (or blood) of a UN peacekeeping mission on his
boots...

The
second searing irony for me is that the American neoconservative right
has occupied the moral high ground in critique of Annan, outflanking
the left, which sits on indefensible territory in his support. But if
prevention of genocide and protection of the vulnerable are not core
priorities on the left, then what is? If anyone's values have been
betrayed, it is those of us on the left who believe most deeply in the
organisation's ideals. I am mystified by the reluctance of the left
both in the US and the UK (the Guardian 's coverage, for example) to
criticise Annan's leadership. The bodies burn today in Darfur - and the
women are raped - amid the sound of silence from Annan. How many
genocides, the prevention of which is the UN's very raison d'être, will
we endure before the left is moved to criticise Annan? Shouldn't we be
hearing the left screaming bloody murder about the UN's failure to
protect vulnerable Africans? Has it lost its compass so badly that it
purports to excuse the rape of Congolese women by UN peacekeepers under
Annan's watch? Is stealing money intended for widows and orphans in
Iraq merely a forgivable bureaucratic snafu?

The article includes many detailed anecdotes of failure and corruption. 

It is time to fix the UN, or better yet, replace it.  Many UN defenders want to blunt attacks on the UN by somehow implying that UN critics are against international cooperation.  This is silly.  Attacking Enron for being corrupt does not mean that I am against the concept of gas pipelines, just as attacking Bernard Ebbers as corrupt does not put me in opposition to long distance telephony.  In fact, just the opposite.  It is clear that Kofi Annan is trying to protect the UN as an institution, even if it means that the UN is so passive it gets nothing done.  Just check out this quote from the above article:

Next to these tributes [in the Rwanda genocide museum]
is another installation - a reproduction of the infamous fax by the UN
Force Commander, General Romeo Dallaire, imploring the then head of UN
peacekeeping, Kofi Annan, for authority to defend Rwandan civilians -
many of whom had taken refuge in UN compounds under implicit and
sometimes explicit promises of protection.

Here,
too, is Annan's faxed response - ordering Dallaire to defend only the
UN's image of impartiality, forbidding him to protect desperate
civilians waiting to die. Next, it details the withdrawal of UN troops,
even while blood flowed and the assassins reigned, leaving 800,000
Rwandans to their fate.

 

  • Jack Tanner

    'if prevention of genocide and protection of the vulnerable are not core priorities on the left, then what is?'

    First and foremost, hating America.

  • It parallels the way that the Taliban regime became defensible the very instant their allies started flying planes into American buildings and a Republican president ordered a military action in response. Opposing the oppression of the vulnerable turns out to be all well and good, just as long as it doesn't get in the way of domestic political mudslinging.