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I'm a Conservative Troglodyte who puts more emphasis on common sense rather than political parties.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

The United Nations' Continued Futility

If you dwell in the enduring delusion that someday the shroud of unearned substance will be torn from the grasping mitts of the United Nations like a larcenist working a subway car filled with a catatonic elderly bridge club, you and I are of the same ilk.
Diplomad and New Sisyphus haven’t exactly done much to convince us that our position is ill-founded. In fact, they have done quite the opposite. Their insight, though frustrating, has been invaluable. Quite frankly, it’s astounding how beneficial blogs have been when it comes to transference of speculation to anecdotal proof, or conjectural rhetoric to plain fact. The worthiness, value, and “purpose” of blogs have focused, quite correctly, on how they affect the behavior of the media.

It’s bigger than that.

The attitude towards bureaucratic cesspools such as the United Nations has always been bogged down in innuendo and assumption. As a result, criticism existed, primarily, as a “blunt stick.” With insight from those inside the loop, the supposition sharpens that stick. Provided the blogs in the know keep a credible reputation with their readers, the once disparagement of the United Nations based on reading between the lines takes on a much more clear process of reading the lines. The United Nations can’t compete with that. The press that triumphs the United Nations can’t continue on that path lest they lose their own credibility to a greater degree. And, the politicians within the US Congress who run interference for the United Nations end up focusing on something more dear to them than the United Nations…their own posterior.

That was my train of thought when I went digging around in the United Nations press releases today in procrastination of a snow covered sidewalk.

I stumbled on a January 19th press release covering the Secretary-General’s remarks at a press conference on special session of the General Assembly to commemorate the liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps. This is the first time the United Nations has done so. That’s quite remarkable considering that the chief motivation of the United Nations in the shadow of World War II was in response to the atrocities of the Holocaust. In fact, one of the reporters even asked why this remembrance was taking place on the 60th anniversary as opposed to the 50th or the 10th. Ambassador Dan Gillerman of Israel (also, present of course) was candid in his response when he said:

“Well, I don't know why it has not happened before. But all I can say is that we are very, very happy that it is happening, if “happy” is a word one could use for such a solemn occasion. I think that maybe we are at a point in history where the changes in the world are reflected also at the United Nations…”

He added a diplomatic addendum to that comment. However, his contempt was unmistakable in the above three sentences.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan preceded the press conference with some comments setting up the questioning. In his comments he used the cliché, yet powerful, statement that “we must make sure that those horrible atrocities never ever happen again anywhere in the world.” These sentiments were reiterated by General Assembly President Jean Ping in his comments as well.

When the press conference was opened up for questions from attending reporters, the following stuck out like a sore thumb. It’s extraordinary that it was asked, even if it could have been more comprehensive and inclusive of mass graves in Iraq, and the ten re-education camps presently in North Korea. However, check out the question below, and the absolute tripe of an answer that followed:

Reporter: Mr. Secretary-General, it is certainly admirable to say “never again”, but just at this moment you yourself have a commission in Sudan investigating whether there is a genocide. What more can be done? This certainly will put a spotlight on the issue, but in practical terms, what more can be done?

Secretary General Kofi Annan: What more can be done in Sudan or to prevent genocide and gross violations of human rights? I think this is one of the issues also that the High Level Panel's report has taken up, raising the issue of responsibility to protect, and arguing that where governments are either unwilling or unable to, the international community does have a responsibility, and the [Security] Council will have to assume responsibility. Will that happen? That is a question that we are all grappling with now. And the issue of Sudan is also before the Council, but I hope that with the work of the Panel, and the discussions going on in the Council, and the commemoration of the 60th anniversary, we will become increasingly aware of the need to act or to do something to prevent such atrocities from happening or occurring. Of course we are grappling with the situation in Sudan and the Council has considered all sorts of options, and is fully seized of it, and in fact we are still searching for other actions that the Council may take.

I need not dissect the response from Kofi Annan on the inaction in Sudan. It hangs out there like a pair of sneakers tied together and hanging from the high tension wire. It serves no purpose and is uncomfortable to look at. As Diplomad and New Sisyphus have confirmed for us time and again, the United Nations is light years ahead of everyone in “considering options,” “grappling with the situation,” and “assuming responsibility.”
Unfortunately, (if I may quote from The Princess Bride) I don’t think that word means what you think it means Mr. Secretary-General. “Assuming responsibility” entails some sort of substantive action. Writing letters, forming committees, and holding press conferences displays little responsibility or demonstrability. It does, however, display the United Nations in their true frame...thanks to those in the loop who have hung the picture for us here in the blogosphere.

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