Friday, September 24, 2004

"You don't HAVE to HATE the United Nations..."

"...but you damn well better see it for the disaster it really is."

[Seems like everybody is talking about Dan Rather and CBS and Kerry's latest positional pirhouette. I thought it might be good to address an issue that is at the heart of a lot of problems faced by the U.S., which have facts and history that can at least be agreed upon by people of different politics, regardless of the different solutions they might prefer.]

To understand the contempt and antagonism felt by many Americans for the United Nations, it is essential to grasp the transformation of the U.N. from its origins to what it is today. In the sixty years since its opening, the world has endured a prolonged spasm of deconstruction.

"In 1945, 51 states had signed the Charter of the United Nations. Then, between 1954 and 1969, 53 newly independent states also became members of the United Nations. This reflected the triumph of nationalism and the end of the age of the European overseas empires." — The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

That quote gives just a hint of how much has changed since the founding. The tension between the United States and the U.S.S.R. dominated by the post-war period, But the end of the Soviet Union fractured all the old alliances and added a bewildering list of newly independent countries lining up to join the United Nations. The NATO military excursion into Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina (comprising formerYugoslavia) may be the last coherent action by that group in a form recognizeable to its founders. The European Common Market of the 1960's has been supplanted by the European Union; The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact have re-emerged as the Confederation of Independent States, and the Organization of American States is gradually being eclipsed by NAFTA, the World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

When the United Nations held its first sessions, its charter members numbered only 51, comprised mainly of those nations that had allied to defeat the menace of Fascism in World War II. This is precisely because the organization grew out of that effort, even to the extent of taking its name from proclamations issued during the war by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin after their conferences. The United Nations started its business as an alliance of nations mostly sharing similar cultures, representative governments, and cultural legacies roughly centered on Western Europe.

In increasingly sharp contrast, many of the new members emerged from former colonies of European nations, or regions previously under Soviet Union, or regions that were too poor to have attracted the interest of the two former groups. There is understandable mistrust, hostility and resentment from those groups toward the nations that had been colonial powers, and nations perceived to be exploitive of the "third world." In the fifties and sixties, those resentments were primarily manifested in the aloofness and obstructionism of the so-called "non-aligned" nations. Their "non-alignment" tended to mean they cynically played both sides, trying to get the U.S. and Soviets to outbid each other to woo them.

In times of crisis, though, most nations recalled the United States had after all, claimed no new territories as prizes, and had actually helped prevent starvation and plague in countries that lay prostrate after the War. They remembered also that the U.S.S.R. had behaved very differently. And in the clinches, if they didn't side with the U.S., at least they did not interfere in its efforts.

But the idea of autonomy for self-selecting ethnic or cultural groups gathered momentum in the 1960's, and became a global imperative. There may have been a lot of events and trends that encouraged groups to suddenly fixate on nationhood. The result was a rash of small nations that are NOT viable economically, nor capable of maintaining democratic self-government against the predation of monsters.

In the last three decades of the 20th century along with everything else that's gone on, there have been scores of small wars of national liberation, followed by counter-revolutionary power grabs, followed by opportunistic territorial seizures by neighbors, followed by coups, followed by juntas, succeded by presidents and dictators-for-life. At the start of the new millenium the world has a crowd of countries ruled by a tiny ruthless elite, dominating by torture, murder, imprisonment, confiscation, and extra helpings of murder and torture. And each of these has applied for and received the blessings of membership in the United Nations.

There are many reasons why countries headed by bandits, rogues, thugs, dictators, or murdering bastards are not excluded from membership. But whatever reasons are applied, the result is ever more coziness between the United Nations staff, and the delegates whose votes they need to keep pay rises and benefits coming. Sound familiar?Can you say "House Banking Scandal?"

Just for instance, under the United Nation's DIRECT supervision, Saddam Hussein had since the first Gulf War been using his nation's oil to pay corrupt officials of various nations to protect himself from justice. That farcically mis-named “Oil for Food” program was personally administered by U.N. Secretary-General Koffi Annan, who appointed his son to conduct much of the business, and personally approved the various corrupt contracts that provided obscene profits to corrupt officials of his and Saddam’s choosing. Billions of dollars that should have been used to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi population went instead to line the personal accounts of cynical, posturing politicians, who all the while loudly blamed America for the oppression of the Iraqi people.

All that, of course, only really came to light AFTER the fall of Saddam. But now we know why the U.N. and France, and Russia, and Syria were so energetic in opposing the war--- it shut down their private looting operation.

Because we're so well insulated from the harsh deprivations of other places, we Americans have difficulty grasping how commonplace it is for brutes, thieves, crooks, and murderers to end up as the head-of-state of a government. It used to be pretty much the standard career path, but we've become very civilized, and obvious brutality is not encouraged in the resumes of our leaders.

So, each of those emerging dictatorships sends a delegation to the United Nations, and those delegates enjoy the privileges and benefits afforded diplomats and ambassadors. In exchange for the international legitimacy this bestows upon the ruling thugs, those countries in turn cooperate with the United Nations bureaucrats in their ever-more self-serving and lucrative schemes. Just for starters, the dues assessed primarily upon the richest nations provide princely remuneration and perquisites for the bureaucrats and staffers of the U.N. itself.

The most successful of those bureaucrats is the present Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, by a long road. He is the FIRST S-G to have been elevated from the ranks of the U.N. bureaucracy itself, rather than from among the delegate-ambassadors sent from the various member states.

Think about that.

In a culture which penalizes failure, and constantly seeks scapegoats, what kind of person is elevated by the distilling process that rewards blandness, inoffensive vagueness, and amiable platitudes?

Kofi Annan emerged as the master of appearance of sincerety and concern and the master of elegantly rationalized restraint from actual commitment or action;

Just a couple of horrifying examples of U.N. actions that took place on Kofi Annan's watch:

In 1994 when Hutu in Rwanda began slaughtering Tutsi tribesmen by the tens of thousands week after week, Koffi Annan was at that time in a position to have ordered action to temper or halt that slaughter, and CHOSE NOT TO ACT. The United Nations withdrew its troops when ten soldiers were murdered. The United Nations pulled out and let the genocide proceed, let EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND victims to be slaughtered in three months. Many of them were killed with machetes and garden tools, when a few regiments with small arms might have protected them.

Just a few years later, AFTER Kofi Annan had been given the leadership of the U.N., when the United States lead a NATO coalition to stem the massacre of Muslims by Serbian Christians, the United Nations grudgingly agreed to send peacekeepers. In one instance, they declared the town of Sreberniça a "United Nations Safe Area," and left a batallion-strength guard of Dutch U.N. troops in close proximity. When Serb forces attacked, the Dutch commander requested air strikes.

After his fourth request, he was told that he had submitted the request on a form that is incorrect, and he must re-submit for it to be considered. Eventually, two Dutch F-16s bombed the Serbian positions, but it was far too late. Serb Generall Ratko Mladic and his troops had already taken the town and the surrounding area days earlier, and held 30 of the 350 Dutch troops along with some 20,000 Muslim men, women, and children.

The utter impotence and military bunglng of the United Nations (not any cowardice or lack of spirit by the Dutch troops) allowed Mladic and his murderers to slaughter an estimated 7,000 Muslim men in the four days from July 12 and July 16, 1995.

The Dutch troops were allowed to evacuate, but both the Head of the United Nations Mission to Bosnia, and the Dutch commander neglected to mention for the press or the watching world until long after, that a massacre was being conducted. The killing continued for weeks.
(The information about Srebreniça I'm citing here comes from URL:

There is a very concise outline of the history, discussion, U.S. domestic political debate and agreement about the question of intervention with and without U.N. approval or participation at the URL:


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