Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Back in the 1930s, the League of Nations was exposed for the fraud it was when they refused to restrain Italy from invading Ethiopia. It was the death-knell for a still-born organization.
In the wake of World War II, the United Nations was born. Given more teeth (and the support of the US), it was a much more effective organization. From the defense of Korea from 1950-53 to the restoration of peace in Congo in 1960, the first Gulf War in 1990 and up to the East Timorese intervention in 1999, the UN proved to be a superior organization to the League.
But cracks were starting to show. The infamous "zionism=racism" resolution of the late 70s. Placing nations such as Libya and the Sudan on the Human Rights council. The complete ineffectiveness of the UN in Rwanda. Even as successes such as East Timor were occuring in full view of the public, the underpinnings of the UN were rotting.
And then came the Food-for-Oil scandal.
Hussein's blatant manipulation of the program, with the complicit agreement of UN officals and member nations, have exposed the UN for the bastion of corruption it has become. And now Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), a moderate Republican, has called for Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resign.
In his article in the Wall Street Journal today, he revealed that he and his investigative committee have discovered that not only did Hussein take in $21 billion through fraud, but that nations such as France and Russia were willing accomplices. That Hussein doled out lucrative oil vouchers to foreign officials and journalists. That some of this money may have gone to terrorists. That he substituted the food and medical aid with substandard replacements. And all this under the blind eyes of the UN.
Except they weren't blind. Benon Sevan, the UN director of the oil-for-food program, received millions of dollars in voucher bribes from Hussein to look the other way while he mainpulated the program. And Annan's own son, Kojo, received monies from the Swiss firm Cotecna, which was "monitoring" Iraq's imports under the program.
It's obvious that something is horribly wrong in the UN. And that Annan isn't going to do anything about it. Yes, he appointed Paul Volcker to investigate. But he has no power to compel testimony or documentation. Nor does he have the authority to levy penalties on those who withhold information. He is at the mercy of the very people he is investigating. And then, Volcker must present his "findings" to Annan, who will decide what to and not to release. In other words, it's a complete sham. Much like Bush redacted information about Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 Commission's report, Annan will be able to remove anything he doesn't like.
It stinks and it has to stop. Annan should step down, but how will that really change anything? The UN has become a bureaucratic nightmare, so riddled with feifdoms and corruption that it can't do what it is supposed to do. Between Bush basically ignoring the UN over Iraq and this, it has lost it's credibility.
So what now? Can the UN be reformed? Perhaps, but will the nations who profit from these schemes really want a transparent system installed? Or is it time to try again, to build another organization that can effectively execute the job the UN is supposed to be doing?
Or it is even possible to have an international organization like the UN stay effective? Each nation has its own agenda. The UN has no teeth unless the permanent members of the Security Council supply it. And those members are frequently at odds. All it seems to do at times is provide a convenient fiction that the nations of the world want to get along.
Whatever the case, the current situation cannot stand. The curtain has been pulled back once more. And the rot is still there.