Politics & Policy

U.N.: What Is It Good For?

Turtle Bay dithers as Syria piles on Sudan's Darfur atrocity.

Why do we continue to participate in a vast international charade?

Maybe Sudan will finally be able to do what a couple of Intifadas and the systematic mass murder in Rwanda could not. Maybe the latest Sudanese genocidal atrocity, hot on the heels of the Iraqi Oil-for-Food scandal–not to mention the last Sudanese genocidal atrocity–will finally convince Americans that the risible, anachronistic, dysfunctional and quite likely criminal enterprise known as the United Nations is an international calamity that is doing far more harm than good.

Sudan’s Islamic theocracy is a grievous, recidivist human-rights offender, as previously recounted on NRO by Freedom House’s Nina Shea. Having already succeeded in the extermination of two million non-Muslims (i.e., Christians and Animists) in south and central Sudan, the regime of General Omar Hassan al-Bashir, through its agents of death known as the Janjaweed, have set their sights on the western Darfur region.

There, the resident tribes, though Muslim, have eschewed the fundamentalist Salafist Islam (much like Saudi-brand Wahhabism) enforced by the government. (Islamic militants, it should be noted, have even less tolerance for what they regard as Muslim “apostates” than they do for garden-variety infidels.) In a campaign of murder, maiming, rape, and all-out terror, nearly a million and a half residents have been driven from their homes, tens of thousands have been killed, and the ultimate death toll, as Shea has reported, may ultimately exceed the 800,000 tallied in the infamous ethnic cleansing of Rwanda.

While the killing proceeds day after day, the U.N. dithers day after day. Initially, the Security Council spent untold weeks trying to decide whether what was underway in Darfur was really, strictly speaking, a “genocide,” or merely a lot of people being killed in the same place at the same time. Perhaps they should simply have asked General Bashir, who plainly has some expertise in this area. Nonetheless, having evidently exhausted that legalism as a justification for its torpor, the U.N. is onto yet another scintillating exercise.

As reported in the New York Times on Wednesday, the United States has placed on the table a resolution (you may recall how well those worked in Iraq) raising the specter of “sanctions” (oh my goodness) against Sudan’s sharia-crats and its oil industry if they persist in their unseemly failure to hold the barbarity in Darfur down to a dull roar. But the resolution is stalled over a knotty problem.

The original U.S. draft, you see, said the Security Council “shall take” action in the very likely event Sudan ignores it. This upset China and Pakistan, which do big oil business with Sudan. So those two notoriously staunch defenders of human rights are holding out for “shall consider“–the semantic leap from take to consider possibly being enough to persuade them not to vote for, but to abstain from, the resolution so it can go through. In any event, we’ve now courageously agreed to modify this latest exercise in hand-wringing, ensuring for Darfur whatever additional weeks of delay it requires 15 disparate countries to consider sanctions, versus to decide what sanctions to take. The shrill sound you just heard was either the last dying screams of another western tribesman or General Bashir laughing his head off–I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, another story Tuesday, this one from Germany’s Die Welt. (The original German report is here; an English report about it, from Agence France Presse can be found here.) Sudan, you’ll be shocked to learn, is closely allied with another bastion of human dignity, Syria. In June–amid the Darfur extermination–the pair apparently drilled in joint military exercises. Exactly what tactics were they practicing? According to the German report, Syria, at Sudan’s suggestion, used Darfur residents as human guinea pigs for chemical weapons testing–in furtherance of the two nations’ quest to become WMD powerhouses. Dozens are said to have been murdered.

I should mention the widely reported hypothesizing that Syria may have received chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein’s deposed regime in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq; that Syria is undoubtedly assisting the Baathist element of the Iraqi terrorist resistance; that the CIA and international proliferation experts have recently expressed concerns that Syria is actively attempting to develop nuclear weapons to go with its already thriving chemical program; and that, for all the attention grabbed by Hamas and Arafat, it is Syria that may pose the greatest immediate, existential threat to Israel. But if I mentioned those things, I might be taken by unnamed intelligence sources for a Likud-controlled neocon who should be investigated by the FBI on suspicion of believing Iran is dangerous, Saddam cavorted with terrorists, and other equivalent felonies.

I would note this, though: I don’t know if I’d be holding my breath waiting for Turtle Bay to plumb the depths of the Syria/Sudan chemical-weapons partnership. Reflecting its deep concern for the human condition, the U.N., you may recall, has an esteemed component it portentously calls the “United Nations Commission on Human Rights.” The U.S. was, indeed, a founding member. But a while back, we could not garner enough votes from member nations to maintain our seat. We were replaced by…Syria. Evidently, other commission members like Sudan, Uganda, and Libya (a recent chair of this prestigious body) thought that was fitting. (See the account of Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., here.)

Meanwhile back in Sudan, it should be noted that for all its energetic work to try, however ineffectively, to get the world to do something about Darfur, the State Department this spring made the mind-numbing decision to remove Sudan from the list of countries considered uncooperative in battling terrorism. Anomalously, it kept Sudan on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. When you start thinking the state sponsors of the world’s most urgent problem should somehow also be thought of as cooperating to root it out, perhaps you are keeping too many lists. In terms of the clarity of America’s message to the world, though, we do seem to have come a long way from “Either you’re with us, or you’re against us.”

Why were we clear then, right after 9/11, but not now? Because when we felt threatened enough, we knew enough to throw overboard the hypocrisy, the sanctimony, the America-bashing and the self-delusion of what passes for U.N. diplomacy. It didn’t mean we didn’t care about allies, or coalitions, or international relations. But it did mean we were not going to allow action in matters of basic, life-and-death importance to be fettered by an asylum in which the inmates–including the planet’s most despicable despots–are not only running the joint but have run predictably amok while thousands upon thousands die.

The first and second Iraq wars, the G-8, NATO, and various other international conglomerations illustrate that we are fully capable of forming ad-hoc coalitions of responsible, interested, contributing nations to attack, with reasonable expeditiousness, the world’s problems. The U.N., to the contrary, is running official, organized cover for the likes of Bashir, Assad, and Saddam.

How is it that we (whether the “we” is the U.S. or the world) are better off with the U.N. than without it? What is it internationally that we can’t accomplish were we suddenly to refuse to pay the U.N.’s price of corruption, extortion, and distortion? If the U.N. can’t stop a tin-pot like Bashir from a second genocide in a decade, if it can’t stop its Human Rights commissioners from trying out their chemical weapons on innocent humans, what good is it? If it can’t be mended, it ought to be ended.

Andrew C. McCarthy, who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others, is reachable through www.bendorassociates.com.


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