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The U.N. Anti-Avengers?
It will take more than superheros to change the U.N.


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Brett D. Schaefer

The United Nations recently announced that it is teaming up with Marvel Comics. The unlikely partnership will publish a comic featuring the usual Marvel superheros working mask-in-glove with U.N. peacekeeping forces and agencies such as UNICEF. Their mission: to bring peace to war torn nations and rid the world of disease.

No doubt the Marvel heroes — if they really existed — would pursue these objectives with single-minded dedication. But it’s doubtful they would achieve them with the U.N. as a sidekick.

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Over the years, the U.N. has often been a den of thieves and thugs — a legion of villains rather than of heroes. In the past few years alone, Turtle Bay has seen an avalanche of scandals and crimes. Some of the more notorious include:


The Oil-for-Food scandal. Perhaps the largest financial swindle of all time, it was overseen by top U.N. officials. While the scale of thievery was unusual, the practice is commonplace. Numerous investigations have found the U.N.’s multi-billion dollar procurement programs are riddled with corruption and mismanagement.

Abusive peacekeepers. Hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers have been charged and dismissed by the U.N. for preying on those they are supposed to protect. The range of their crimes extends from soliciting prostitutes and demanding sex from desperate women in exchange for food, to rape and pedophilia. Far too few actually face justice for their crimes.

Coddling criminal regimes. The U.N. Human Rights Council has ignored some of the most egregious human rights crimes around the world and even voted to end scrutiny of human rights abuses in Belarus, Cuba, Iran, and Uzbekistan. Could it be because some of the worst abusers have seats of honor in the Council itself?

AWOL in the war on terrorism. The U.N. cannot even agree on a definition of terrorism, much less fight it effectively. Of course, it’s hard to be heroic when so many member nations support terrorist groups and objectives.

Considering this decidedly unheroic record, the U.N. could certainly use some super friends to clean up the messes it has made. Here are some suggestions for the first comic episodes:

1. “Cocooning Cruelty” — Spider-Man swings into a meeting of the Human Rights Council, webs up representatives from Cuba, China, and other rights-abusing nations, and introduces a motion to condemn rights violations in “some country, any country other than Israel.”

2. “Clobberin’ Time in the Congo” — Bored by the daily cocktail parties in the U.N.’s penthouse suite at Hotel Metropol, The Thing ventures to eastern Congo and smashes an arms-dealing ring run by U.N. peacekeepers.

3. “Nukes Not Yours” — While the Security Council debates just how strongly to word its next round of letters to Tehran and Pyongyang, The Avengers sneak out and forcefully dismantle the nuclear weapons programs in North Korea and Iran.
Of course, if superheroes were real and decided to pursue these worthy missions, the U.N. would hotly condemn them for acting “unilaterally.” The entire pantheon of Marvel heroes would have to twiddle their thumbs until the U.N. issued a comprehensive, “consensus” set of regulations to keep them from going “too far” in fighting injustice.

The very notion that today’s U.N. is eager to embark on heroic struggles against evildoers defies reality. But reality is no check on propaganda, which explains why the organization is so keen to team up with Marvel. The U.N.-themed comic will be distributed free to one million U.S. school children in hundreds of schools. The U.N. also plans to translate it into other languages and distribute them around the world.

Why? A U.N. communications officer explains that the comic will make the U.N. “more accessible” to young people who will “get excited if they know their heroes like Spider-Man will work with the United Nations to address these issues, peace and security.”

Marvel Comics became a publishing powerhouse because their superheroes had flaws and were therefore more “realistic” than their competitors’ offerings. How ironic that Marvel’s “realistic” heroes will be used to burnish the image of an often ineffective organization, subject to corruption, lacking in accountability, and serving as a soapbox for the world’s most despotic nations.

Ironic, but — sadly — not surprising. After all, these are the same guys who previously thought it would be a good idea to kill Captain America.

Brett Schaefer is Jay Kingham Fellow in Interna­tional Regulatory Affairs at The Heritage Foundation.



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