Yesterday’s International Herald Tribune had an interesting article about the Financial Times’ travails. Describing the British newspaper scene, it was unusually blunt:
“In a country where nearly a dozen national newspapers tussle over scraps of news about the royals, sports and celebrity gossip, the FT is the reserved, outward-looking exception.”How true, how very true. This has not saved the FT from having various financial problems, but the point remains. Our newspapers are now seen for what they are: gossip rags.
Take the whole question of the United Nations. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General, having assured the world that the U.N. would be there or, rather, would return to Iraq to supervise the transition to democracy, has now rather peevishly announced that the Iraqi war was illegal and, presumably, any transition to democracy would be illegal, too. At the same time, he has threatened the existing transitionary government of Iraq that there could be no elections until the security situation was sorted out. The Prime Minister very properly informed Mr Annan that elections would go ahead in the spring and the security situation would be sorted out. And no thanks to the U.N., who had refused American protection, had their compound car-bombed, sustaining many casualties and has virtually abandoned the country. When will these people learn that being anti-American does not save you from terrorists?
How much coverage did any of this get? A little. Charles Kennedy cosying up to Annan got a great deal more. How much have we heard about the U.N. shenanigans over Darfur? Not a great deal. What about the unravelling oil-for-food scandal? Next to nothing. The U.N. is not treated terribly seriously. Its benevolence is taken for granted by many and when “mistakes” happen there is a bit of a hoopla. Then all become somnolent again.
We need to look at this whole question seriously. The EU wishes to build up its own political structure, demolishing in the process painfully acquired legal and political realities, such as parliamentary democracy, habeas corpus or separation of powers. In its place it is putting its own structures, which are based on rather vague, even waffly, notions of international law and international rules. Apart from handing power over to international bureaucrats and international lawyers, what does that mean? Very little, as international law is, apart from the obvious need for agreements on trade, shipping, air space and so on, an impossibility, there being no international agreement on legal and criminal basics.
All this was analyzed supremely well, as one would expect, by Professor Kenneth Minogue in his Bruges Group pamphlet: The Fate of Britain’s National Interest.
Since the publication of that paper, things have not improved. The U.N. remains at the heart of that nebulous ideology of international law that the EU is basing its own structural development on. Of course, the EU goes much further in that the project is actually an integrated European state in the making but its dangerously waffly legal and moral basis is similar to that of the U.N.
On what basis does Kofi Annan say that the war in Iraq was illegal? Apparently because it did not have the unanimous blessing of the Security Council. But the Security Council is not a legal body. It is merely a very uneasy political grouping, whose moral stature is doubtful. Two of the permanent members are Russia and China, whose own record in either legal or moral terms, is not worth examining. (Think Chechnya, Tibet, Falun Gong, media control.) Another one, France, is being revealed to have been so anxious to prevent the deposition of President Chirac’s friend Saddam Hussein that it forged documents to discredit the American operation.
Other, non-permanent members of the Security Council are often failed states with disgusting human rights records whose governments are dependent on Western hand-outs.
There are several problems with the U.N. The fact that it is a political organization in which individual nations’ interests predominate, while pretending to be the bearer of to torch of international legality and morality is one.
Another one is the principle of buggins’ turn on which positions are allocated. This leads to quite breathtaking examples, the best known of which is the Human Rights Commission, which is chaired by Libya and of which Sudan is a member, re-elected until 2007.
The fact is that the United Nations was created largely by liberal democratic states to promote liberal democratic ideas. This was immediately sabotaged by the Soviet Union and its many satellites. As time has gone on, the U.N. has become an organization the majority of whose members neither believe nor practice its supposed basic principles. The idea of elevating it into a supreme arbiter of world legitimacy and morality is not only preposterous, it is criminal.
Another American newspaper, the Wall Street Journal Europe carried yesterday a corruscating leader, entitled Kofi’s Legality. Among other matters, it sought to remind Mr Annan of “some recent history”.
“For example, there was that splendidly legitimate U.N. operation in Bosnia, where its blue-helmeted peacekeepers watched with indifference as Serbian soldiers rounded up for slaughter thousands of Muslim men in the so-called U.N. ‘safe haven’ of Srebrenice. Or Rwanda in 1994, where Mr Annan – then head of the U.N. peacekeeping office – shrugged off panicked warning calls from the U.N. commander on the gound, thereby allowing the slaughter of 800,000.”And so it goes. What of the U.N. camps in Rwanda, where the Hutu militias regrouped, terrorized the Tutsis and moderate Hutus and sallied forth on further slaughter? What of the U.N. troops’ behaviour in DR Congo, as mentioned by my colleague? What of the Security Council’s inability to come to some kind of a conclusion on Darfur because of French and Chinese interests in Sudanese oil?
Then, of course, there are all the successful expeditions that the U.N. blessed ex post facto: Kosovo, Ivory Coast and so on.
Finally, there is the small matter of the oil-for-food scandal, as well as the U.N.’s reluctance to do anything about Saddam before the invasion. Mr Annan would not like to have any of this investigated and, to divert attention, has produced the red herring of the “illegal war”, thus heartening every jihadist, as the WSJE points out, “hoping to disrupt the vote”.
An international legal system which has such a corrupt and immoral institution at its centre should not carry any weight. Yet it does and its so-called principles are evoked by the European Union in its ceaseless but doomed struggle with the United States for influence and with the member states for power.