Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Surprise, surprise

Martha Stewart went to prison (not for long, admittedly) for not telling the truth to federal investigators about a supposed crime that she was not even being accused of; the chief executive of Boeing has had to resign because he was having an affair with a senior director, though there was no question of sexual harassment or improper pressure.

I could cite a long list of others in the private sector who are being forced out or punished not for real crimes like the various high-ups in Enron but for a slight mis-step or dubious misbehaviour. Who, after all, apart from Harry Stonecipher, his wife and his mistress really care about his affair, as it did not affect his work or hers?

Now let us look at the organization that claims to be the ultimate moral arbiter in world politics. Yes, of course I mean the United Nations.

The second of the three reports the Paul Volcker commission is planning to produce this year has finally, after much leaking, appeared and you’ll never guess it, but it has “exonerated” the SecGen, Kofi Annan.

Actually, it was more a question of no documents being found that would point to the SecGen directly. The shredders must have been working overtime.

While he has been at the helm the biggest humanitarian exercise, the food-for-oil scheme has collapsed into fraud and grand larceny, that has involved, among others, some of Mr Annan’s closest advisers, Iqbal Riza and Dileep Nair, respectively Annan’s chief of staff until last December and head of the United Nations' watchdog group, the Office of Internal Oversight Services.

Two high-ranking UN officials have already had to be suspended though we understand that the organization using our money will pay their legal expenses, presumably because the huge salaries they received for many years, the various perks plus the money they managed to skim off during the food-for-oil scheme cannot cover it.

Finally, there is the involvement of the SecGen’s own son, who was paid a retainer for several year by the Swiss company Cotecna, that had been tasked with monitoring the scheme and a fine mess they made of it, too.

Ah but there is no evidence that Kofi Annan intervened in any way with the choice of Cotecna. But there is excellent evidence that son Kojo’s involvement has been in public knowledge for at least six years. And what did daddy do? He had a one-day internal enquiry that dismissed the matter out of hand as being untrue and a wicked libel.

Paul Volcker’s report does rather mildly criticize the SecGen for that and for not realizing that there could have been a clash of interests there. Poor chap, how could he realize that? Such an innocent.

Let us add to this all the other scandals: the behaviour of the UN troops in Africa and the Balkans, the accusations of sexual harassment of staff within the UN itself, the complete inefficiency and concentration on their own creature comforts shown by the UN’s people after the Tsunami, the knowledge we have of the UN’s failure in Rwanda (that was on Boutros’s watch but Annan was directly responsible), the farcical situation whereby some of the world’s worst tyrannies are members of the UNCHR, and so on.

One cannot help asking oneself: what will it take for SecGen Kofi Annan to do the honourable thing and resign? And if he will not do it, what chance is there of any other highly paid, corrupt, unaccountable UN official doing the same?

What is the point of all those high-falutin’ reform proposals if we know, and the present situation shows it all too clearly, that nobody, but nobody will ever be held to account, no matter what crimes are committed in the name of transnationalism?

Remember that next time some ridiculous politician or commentator or just some fool who has nothing better to do except to go on yet another anti-American demo starts bleating about morality equalling multilateralism and the source of it being the United Nations.

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