Is the United Nations attempting self-parody?
How else to explain the announcement that a panel has been elected to decide which complaints will be heard by the UN Human Rights Commission at its annual meeting in Geneva this spring -- and that three of the five members are Cuba, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia?
Placement on the diplomatically-named Working Group on Situations virtually guarantees that these abject human rights abusers won't be criticized, censured or sanctioned no matter what crimes they have committed, are committing or plan to commit.
If any senior UN officials are troubled by this system, they are too discreet to say so publicly.
The composition of the broader Human Rights Commission remains no less Orwellian. Currently, it includes not only China and Russia but also Sudan, just elected to another three-year term despite Khartoum's role in what the United States government calls genocide against black Muslims in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
Last week, members of a separate U.N. commission appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan demurred. They said they were unable to find “sufficient evidence” to conclude that those responsible for the mass murders, rapes, home burnings and ethnic cleansing acted with “genocidal intent.” Instead, they said that what had taken place were “crimes against humanity with an ethnic dimension.”
Predictably, Sudanese officials announced that the UN had “exonerated” them.
Then there is the World Heath Organization, a United Nations “special agency.” WHO's Director General has just awarded its prize for “best anti-smoking and nutrition” programs to al Manar – the television station owned and operated by Hezbollah, among the world's most lethal terrorist organizations.
In fact, Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization other than al Qaeda. Al Manar routinely broadcasts programs to millions in the Middle East inciting suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq and against Israelis wherever they may be found.
The U.S. government has placed al Manar itself on the “Terrorism Exclusion List” and even France has banned the TV station for violating that country's hate laws. (Examples: in November, al Manar ran programs accusing Jews of spreading AIDS in the Middle East; earlier, it ran dramatizations depicting Jews using the blood of Christian children to bake holiday pastries.)
But in the view of the World Health Organization, al Manar is doing important work by warning viewers that smoking is bad for the health – and, incidentally, instructing them that massacring infidels in good for the soul. A catchy slogan for both campaigns might be: “Blow up! But don't light up!”
The U.N. was not supposed to be such a burlesque. Between aggressors and victims, the U.N. was not meant to be neutral.
But, over the years, the UN fell into bad habits. When the Khmer Rouge was slaughtering the population of Cambodia, the UN failed to act. When genocide against the Tutsis was carried out in Rwanda, the UN sat on its hands. Actually, it was worse than that: A small UN force that was in the country was pulled back -- lest anyone wearing a blue helmet be killed along with the intended victims.
When mass murder was waged against the people of Bosnia and Kosovo, the UN exacerbated the situation. Srebrenica was the site of the worst case of genocide in Europe since World War II. In July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army invaded a UN safe area – and with no opposition from UN peacekeepers -- separated Muslim families and murdered over 7,000 men and boys.
Yet when President Clinton intervened militarily in Bosnia and Kosovo, it had to be without UN authorization.
The UN turned a blind eye when Afghanistan was hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists. As Somalia collapsed into anarchy, it fecklessly negotiated with war lords who were interested only in stealing foreign aid from the mouths of starving children.
And then, of course, there is the steady drip of revelations regarding the UN Oil for Food Program in Iraq, the largest financial swindle in history. In recent days, questions have arisen, too, about the impartiality of the UN's own investigation into this scandal.
On top of that are disclosures about UN peacekeepers in the Congo sexually abusing girls as young as 13.
Where terrorism is concerned, the UN has shown little interest. On the contrary, a General Assembly resolution virtually licenses the mass murder of civilians by those who claim to represent “national liberation movements.”
What does trouble the UN? Shashi Tharoor, a senior official, says that it is “the exercise of American power” that “may well be the central issue in world politics today.”
Is it not high time at least to consider alternatives to the UN, to explore the possibility of developing new organizations in which democratic societies would work together against common enemies and for common goals?
Free Iraq could be a charter member along with liberated Afghanistan, democratic Taiwan (barred by Beijing from having even “observer status” at the UN) as well as Israel, the UN's perennial whipping boy. The emerging democracies of Eastern Europe would surely sign up as well.
A little competition would be healthy for the UN, an organization whose current policies and practices mock the intentions of its founders, an organization that American taxpayers may not be willing to underwrite indefinitely.