Monday, July 19, 2004

Mail Bag III: The U.N.

[You say] the UN is a useless club for other countries (dictators?) to lecture the US and accomplish nothing; also, the UN is not the same as the world (from another of your messages): The UN is an assembly of representatives of the world's governments. I may be wrong, but, as a result of the expansion of democracy in the last 2 decades, the UN has now a large majority of democratically elected governments. In this sense, it represents the world's will (in the same way that the US Congress represents the will of the American people).

Now, if this is true, how can one say that its debates are useless? And how can one consign it to oblivion simply because it doesn't happen to assent to one's wishes?

According to Freedom House, "electoral democracies constitute 120 of the 192 internationally recognized independent polities." But to say that the U.N. represents "the world's will" in the way that Congress represents the American people's will is false. The U.S. people directly elect their Congress. A little under two-thirds of the people in the U.N. elect their leaders. Those leaders then appoint representatives to the U.N. And the U.N.'s work is often done at the level of committees which are elected from among the representatives. So the relation that the U.N. bears to the people of the world is more like that of a U.S. Senate subcommittee. And those can be pretty far off base.

The UN has noble ideals, but a rotten reality. Consider the outrageous decision, on the eve of the Iraq war, to name a delegate from Libya to head the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). Thirty-three of the UNHRC's 53-member nations voted in favour of Libya and 17 abstained, even though Libya is still under UN sanctions for supporting international terrorism. This is the conscience of the world community? Ghadafi's regime, which the U.N. itself has accused of summary executions and systematic use of torture, should sit in judgment of Denmark and Japan and Singapore?

Instead, the U.N. General Assembly has been obsessed with condemning the Jewish state -- along with Turkey, the sole real democracy, till now, in the entire festering Middle East. Driven by its Arab bloc, supported by Third World dictatorships, and with the increasing support of EU nations currying favor with the Arabs, the U.N. has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than any other nation on Earth, while excusing Palestinian terrorism and ignoring the catastrophic human rights violations of Israel's regional enemies.

The UNHRC especially has a history of singling out Israel and recently all but endorsed terrorism against its civilians through a resolution supporting "armed struggle ... by all available means." But it was at the infamous World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001 where the years of festering U.N. anti-Semitism flowed out in public in raw displays of anti-Semitism, including intimidation, harassment and hate-filled speeches. The conference was hijacked by those whose only interest was to bash Israel at what was supposed to be a forum against world racism.

Attempts even were made to revive the infamous "Zionism is racism" resolution passed by the General Assembly in 1975 (and only repealed in 1991 after a campaign by Bush Sr.) -- a resolution UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called "a low point" in the U.N.'s history.

Given its blatant anti-Semitism, the U.N. should remove from its entrance the famous phrase that ostensibly defines its mission: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." This, after all, is a quote from Isaiah.

For another example, see the recent ICJ decision ordering Israel to tear down its security fence. In the last four months two Israelis have died in suicide attacks, compared with 166 killed in the same time frame at the height of the terror. Israel finally finds a nonviolent, changeable way to stop terrorism, and 14 judges in The Hague rule it illegal -— in an opinion read by a chief judge representing China, which massacred hundreds of its own citizens who were demonstrating peacefully in Tiananmen Square. In the decision, the word "terrorism" appears not once (except when citing Israeli claims).

The decision is based on the phony pretext that the 1949 cease-fire line is in fact Israel's boundary. That has yet to be determined. The Palestinians -- who claim all of Israel -- have never accepted that boundary. But based on that, the court declared itself “not convinced” that Israel needs this barrier for its security. It said the fence violates Palestinian “humanitarian” rights such as “the right to work, to health, to education and to an adequate standard of living as proclaimed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

What about Israelis' right not to get blown to smithereens while riding the bus to work? What about the rights of Isreali Palestinians, who are as often victims of these bombers?

As a U.S. newspaper columnist (Charles Krauthammer) wrote this week, "Yes, the fence causes some hardship to Palestinians. Some are separated from their fields, some schoolchildren have to walk much farther to class. This is unfortunate. On any scale of human decency, however, it is far more unfortunate that 1,000 Israelis are dead from Palestinian terrorism, and thousands more horribly maimed, including Israeli schoolchildren with nails and bolts and shrapnel lodged in their brains and spines who will never be walking to school again."

Even if it had not been hijacked by anti-Semites and anti-Americans, and even if it were not hopelessly corrupt (the pre-war Iraq food-for-oil bribery scandal is a great example), The U.N., like the Geneva Conventions, is simply out of date. It is set up to deal with problems that have changed and mutated, while the organization itself has not.

Its charter is meant to regulate a world of nation-states. International relations generally now stabilized throughout much of the world. The U.N. could still perform some useful role and exercise some authority -- as it did in East Timor -- in places where they are not (such as the recent wars in West Africa), if it had the balls to actually get up off its ass and claim that authority.

But nothing in the U.N. charter allows it to get involved in inter-national crises without an invitation. And the current leadership of the U.N. clearly has no stomach for that sort of work. So Saddam butchers the Kurds and the Shiites and nobody at the U.N. lifts a finger. Yet these kinds of dlaughter are what causes the most suffering in the world today. Neither does the U.N. have any mechanism to deal with extra-state forces like international terror. Yet these, not nation-state wars, are driving the current crisis in the world, and I am willing to bet they will remain the fountains of global violence for the rest of my lifetime and yours.