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The United Nations and Israel

It's Time for Kofi to Get Out of Town

by George Jonas - January 29, 2003

In the fall of 2002, the Bush administration decided to move against Saddam Hussein through the United Nations. On Sept. 12, the President addressed the General Assembly. "If we fail to act in the face of danger," Mr. Bush said, "the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbours, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear."

The choice to move against Saddam through the UN rather than "unilaterally" via a U.S.-led coalition of Great Britain, Australia and others was partly motivated by a wish to save the venerable institution. Though by then the UN had long departed from its own founding principles -- many of its member states were in direct opposition to free speech or periodic elections -- some still hoped that the organization may be recaptured for its original purposes, such as defending the rule of law against dictatorships.

It's been alleged that the choice of "going the UN route" was urged on the Bush Cabinet by Secretary of State Colin Powell against the objections of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Be that as it may, it turned out to be the wrong choice. UN weapons inspector Hans Blix's report this week -- concluding that Iraq still hasn't shown "genuine acceptance" of the demand to disarm -- was too little, too late. While in September the President had overwhelming support for his call that the United Nations "fulfill its promise in our time" by authorizing military action if Saddam fails to disarm, within months the UN support dissipated, carrying with it much of the support for Mr. Bush's policy even at home. Far from enhancing the mission of challenging tyrants who threaten the world's peace, the UN subverted it. The momentum was lost; the task of dealing with Saddam became harder. In September, Mr. Bush could have confronted Saddam with a support of 81% of Americans if Iraq failed to co-operate with UN inspectors. Today he may have to do it with the support of about 52%.

None of this has been particularly surprising. As I wrote on Sept. 26, 2002: "Last week [ U.S. President George W. Bush] delivered a tough speech, which may jolt the United Nations into action. This could have the result of rescuing the UN from irrelevance and oblivion.

"Rescuing an institution that has elected the representative of Libya as the chairman of its Human Rights Commission is a dubious objective. Before Mr. Bush's speech, the UN was well on its way to share an urn in the mausoleum of history with the League of Nations. Doing away with Saddam is dandy, but doing away with Saddam at the price of saving the UN may not be such a smart deal."

By now it's evident that it was a lousy deal. The UN has graduated from occasionally exempting itself from its own founding principles to betraying them altogether. By now even doing away with Saddam won't serve the prospect of peace and democracy in the world as much as doing away with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's fiefdom. If the old League of Nations foundered because it showed itself to be irrelevant when faced with the aggression of dictators like Mussolini, the UN will founder because it has become a shield for every Mussolini of our day.

In fact, by now the UN is a link in the axis of evil. Its infamous 1975 "Zionism is racism" resolution may have been rescinded, but within six years the same institution conjured up the spirit of Durban with its thinly veiled threat to push the Jews into the sea. Today it's Le Corbusier's United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan that shelters the architects of the next Holocaust.

America is accused of "unilateralism" these days, not only by Hollywood's lefty confuseniks, but Canada's Foreign Minister, Bill Graham. Looking to the moral authority of the UN, an institution that chooses Colonel Gaddafi's realm to head its human rights commission, to balance the unilateralism of the world''s greatest democracy may seem like madness at first, but there's a method to it. Objections to "unilateralism" are more than just coded expressions of anti-Americanism. They're also coded expressions of opposition to Western values. They signal Europe's continued flirtation with statism, appeasement and anti-Semitism. They denote opposition to electoral democracy, free enterprise, individual liberty, trial by jury and even such post-Westphalian notions as national sovereignty.

It's the system of free liberal democracies that "multilateralists" hope to replace with a system of supra-national mandarins running the world through UN committees and international tribunals. They're prepared to rule in their own name and as proxies for a constituency of like-minded authoritarian regimes from Brussels to Beijing. Multilateralists envisage benevolent bureaucracies inspired by statism replacing sovereign nations of elected governments inspired by the rule of law.

As a bastion of multilateralism, the UN has become a menace -- a menace, above all, to its own original principles. By now, the institution's main role is to enable dysfunctional dictatorships to punch above their weight. Still, people who have high regard for the ideals that brought the UN into being continue to be on the lookout for saving graces. Some argue that the UN is a worthwhile institution, only it has been "hijacked" by coalitions of dictators, hate-mongers and their appeasers.

True as this may be, it's meaningless. It's like saying that Islam is a peaceful religion, only it has been "hijacked" by Wahhabi sheiks, theocratic ayatollahs, and followers of Osama bin Laden. The point about a hijacked entity, whether it's a commercial jet, a great religion, or an international institution like the UN, is that once it has been diverted, it's under the hijackers' command. At this stage, regardless of its benevolent origins, regardless of its innocent passengers and crew, it becomes an instrument of destruction. A hijacked airliner is a missile on its way to the Twin Towers. If it can't be rescued from its hijackers, it must be shot down.

The same goes for a hijacked institution. Irrespective of what action Mr. Bush contemplates against Saddam, America should cut itself loose from the United Nations. It should withdraw from the world body, then offer Kofi Annan and his cohorts a generous period -- say, six months -- to get out of town.


©2003 - National Post

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