Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Institutionally corrupt

It is good to see that, at last, the US Marines have got some coverage, with the Daily Telegraph today, featuring the efforts of the Bonhomme Richard in delivering aid to the tsunami-stricken town of Meulaboh.

Even then, the Telegraph reporter could not resist a jibe, noting that a team of journalists was on board the hovercraft that delivered supplies, a television cameraman was in the cockpit and more journalists were waiting on the beach.

Public relations, says the Telegraph, is playing an important role in the mission at a time when the US armed forces' global popularity is at a low ebb because of the conflict in Iraq.

The comments are less than charitable when one considers that the Bonhomme Richard was dispatched from its base in Guam before most of the international community had woken up to the scale of the disaster. The generosity can be seen from the Telegraph’s own report that

The mission began when marines went into Ace Hardware - an American do-it-yourself chain - near the US naval base on the Pacific island of Guam and bought more than £50,000 worth of timber, plastic sheeting and other supplies on a credit card.
A similar tale of generosity is reported on the Diplomad Blog which recounts how sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln also put together their own money to buy toys and stuffed animals from the ship's store, which they brought to the USAID/IOM tent. They were given to children who were brought in.

At least there was no danger of BBC journalists cluttering up the beaches, giving publicity to the Marines, and neither would they have spent any time on the page coverage given by the Telegraph, here,here, here and here, to the dire carryings-on of the United Nations.

One story reports how Kofi Annan, described by some as the "secular Pope" is now more vulnerable than ever, because of growing scandal over his organisation's mismanagement of sanctions and humanitarian aid to Iraq.

Another records how vital core functions were ignored: the performance of UN headquarters was not audited, and there were no checks of Iraq's contracts to sell oil and buy humanitarian supplies. It is from these contracts that Iraq was able to skim off hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of illegal funds.

Yet another reports how the UN suffered one of the most far-reaching indictments in its history yesterday after investigators found it guilty of systematic mismanagement and incompetence in running the $56 billion (£30 billion) oil-for-food programme in Iraq. And then there is the story of how UN peacekeeping troops guarding refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo sexually abused girls as young as 13, giving out scraps of food or money in return for favours.

In this latter context, you can bet that, if US troops had been involved, the BBC would have been right on the case, with maximum, lead story coverage.

Anyhow, springing to the defence of the UN is David Hannay, the former British ambassador to the UN, co-author of a report calling for widespread reform of the UN, and a rabid Europhile. It is highly instructive to see how the tranzis all stick together and support each other, the UN and the EU all gorging from the same trough.

Said Hannay, "much of the criticism of Mr Annan was unfair or misinformed," which is exactly what his ilk say of criticism of the EU. Therein lies the parallel for, divorced from even nominal democratic accountability, these trans-national organisations are institutionally corrupt. It is no surprise that their apologists stick together.

What are we to make, therefore, of the Telegraph's last story on this subject, which has the UN vowing not to squander the disaster aid that has so generously but rather rashly been entrusted to it? That is rather like the EU saying its is going to bring an end to its corruption. All one can do is rely on that splendid, all-purpose phrase – Yea, right.

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