Time was when speeches at the United Nations were met with a collective ho-hum from just about everybody. But yesterday’s opening of the annual General Assembly’s “General Debate” garnered unprecedented attention. The world’s media were camped on the U.N. doorsteps and, according to somebody’s rule, the crowds of protesters were camped down the street and out of sight, though not out of sound.
Despite the need for the occasional U.N.-eze translation device, what Americans get for their $5 billion a year was painfully clear. First came Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He proclaimed that the Arab-Israeli conflict was the most important conflict on earth today. Why? Because it was “emotional” for “people far removed from the battlefield.” Translation: Anti-Semites from all over the world get emotional about the existence of a Jewish state. Annan’s solution to all this feeling was for the Security Council to end the Israeli “occupation.” Until that time, it was quite understandable that “other conflicts” all over the globe won’t be resolved. Translation: Deliver up Israel on a U.N. carving board or the blood-thirsty mobs will not be satiated. While he was at it, Annan couldn’t resist a dig at the pope. He complained that the feelings of the mob were also provoked by “insensitivity towards other people’s beliefs or sacred symbols — intentional or otherwise.” What the secretary-general did not mention in his final major address before retirement, as he pontificated about the demands of our age, was the word “democracy.”
Then there was French President Jacques Chirac. He took the opportunity to announce to the world he didn’t really mean it when he assured the United States he would support sanctions against Iran if it failed to comply with the last Security Council ultimatum. Said Chirac: “Dialogue must prevail. Let us talk in order to enter into negotiations.” This, of course, is the same person who promised to take a leadership role in filling southern Lebanon with French soldiers who would disarm Hezbollah. He subsequently pushed the Italians to take over, while trying to get a way with providing a few men in rubber dinghies.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad out did himself in the pathological-liar category. He talked about truth, though he disputes the Holocaust. He talked about peace, though he supplied Hezbollah with the 3,900 missiles shot into Israel less than two months ago. He talked about justice, though the Iranian criminal “justice” system includes crucifixion, stoning, and cross-amputation of the right hand and left foot. He talked about the dangers of nuclear weapons, though he is hell-bent on their acquisition. And he talked about the evils of Zionism, though he doesn’t have a problem with self-determination for non-Jews.
The real surprise of the day, however, was President George W. Bush. Last year at this time the president issued a list of reforms he expected from the U.N. in the near future: a new human-rights body which didn’t count abusers among its members, a comprehensive treaty against terrorism, meaningful institutional reforms in the area of oversight, accountability, efficiency. Not one of those demands has been met, but instead of issuing a failing grade, the president said nothing at all about U.N. reform. On Iran, the most he could muster was “Iran must abandon its nuclear-weapons ambitions.” No talk of sanctions. No mention of consequences for Iran’s obvious refusal to abandon those ambitions. On Hamas he said “the world is waiting to see whether the Hamas government will…pursue an extremist agenda.” Waiting to see? Just how many rocket attacks, kidnappings, speeches inciting racial hatred and violence, or murders does it take be an extremist? And on the Palestinian-Israeli front he said “the Palestinian people have suffered from…the daily humiliation of occupation” — the exact language of…yes, Kofi Annan.
No doubt, given the hostility of the U.N. forum toward America, nothing but obsequious babble from an American president would be well-received. Which is exactly the real and present danger of the U.N. — only by running from who we are will we win a popularity contest at the U.N. It is a competition we shouldn’t have entered.
– Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and at Touro College Law Center. She is also editor of www.EyeontheUN.org.